With seven miles of sweeping coastline, family-friendly attractions, hiking, and shopping, Carlsbad is an obvious destination for tourists from all over the world. But what about for a local? With my sister by my side, I ditched my car and jumped on the Coaster for a full day on foot touring around the Village by the Sea.
A short walk from the Carlsbad Village train station, the small-batch coffee roaster Steady State focuses on specialty brews that go far beyond your typical cup of joe.
What started as a passion project for owner Elliot Reinecke has evolved into a light-filled community hub with a relaxed coastal vibe. A rotating selection of single-origin beans highlights each variety’s unique tasting notes, ranging from floral to fruity to nutty.
We opted for the Cold Fashioned, a non-alcoholic, caffeinated take on the classic cocktail. It was unexpected and refreshing with spicy sassafras, earthy bitters, and sweet honey, served with a twist of orange peel over ice.
The shop’s menu constantly changes with the seasons, but a year-round favorite is the Honey, Please, a latte sweetened with local Vista honey and topped with freshly ground cinnamon. It pairs delightfully with their in-house selection of Prager Brothers pastries.
Only a few minutes down State Street we were welcomed by the Barille family inside their art deco-style doughnut and coffee shop, The Goods.
The blue-velvet banquette seating with marble-topped tables enticed us to sit awhile, so we spoke with owner Jacquie and her daughter-in-law Aeriel about their most popular flavors, like the Boston cream and Tahitian vanilla doughnuts.
Everything is made in-house and baked in batches throughout the day, ensuring their doughnuts are always fresh. And with gluten-free and vegan varieties available, there’s a treat for everyone.
The s’mores doughnut, a customer favorite, is a nostalgic nod to summer beach bonfires with marshmallow cream filling, chocolate ganache glaze, graham cracker crumbs, and toasted marshmallow topping. The weekly farmers’ market sets up right outside their door, inspiring seasonal sourcing and creative flavors like the strawberry cheesecake doughnut.
Our sweet tooth satisfied, we waved goodbye and set out for the beach, but first we packed for a picnic a few doors down.
11am—Visit Vigilucci’s Market to Buy a Beach Picnic
We stopped into Vigilucci’s Market, a throwback deli counter stocked with local and imported specialty foods used in made-to-order panini, cheese boards, and salads.
For a day at the beach we picked the Calabria panini filled with spicy salamis, sweet roasted peppers, sharp provolone, and tangy vinaigrette. With a side of briny olives and cold Italian sodas in hand we were set.
After a short walk west on Grand Avenue, we posted up on the sand for lunch and watched the surf.
We left the sun and salt of the beach in search of shade and something sweet at Gaia Gelato.
Located in the Village Faire courtyard, the shop stands out for its Italian-style interior and welcoming team behind the counter. A quick glance at the display case and it’s easy to tell this gelato is the real deal.
Cousins Paola and Christina moved to Carlsbad from Rome with a mission: to craft honest food made from the best ingredients. Everything is homemade down to steeping fresh mint leaves for their mint chocolate chip gelato.
We watched through a large window overlooking the kitchen where every step of production is on display, and were invited to try a fresh batch of honey lavender gelato. It was just the right balance of sweet and floral, a brilliant complement to the warm day. In need of an afternoon pick-me-up, we decided to share an affogato, hot espresso poured over our choice of rich, nutty hazelnut gelato.
Recharged, we were ready to head over to State Street to cruise the farmers’ market.
After a full day of exploring, we arrived at Campfire, a live-fire restaurant with indoor and outdoor dining spaces, complete with a fire pit and nostalgic camping gear to set the mood.
We chatted with general manager Matthew King about owner John Resnick’s unique vision to create a dining concept that embodies all the elements of that innate camaraderie built around a campfire.
We sat at a communal table with a front-row view of the open kitchen as the bar filled up for happy hour.
Leigh Lacap manages the inventive bar program and finds inspiration for his cocktails directly from the kitchen. The smoked honeydew cocktail with dry sherry and floral vermouth was an excellent aperitif for the evening.
Chef Andrew Bachelier keeps the menu sharp with a market-driven approach that shapes the cuisine daily.
Our first dish showcased roasted beets, sweet pea tendrils, and citrus with avocado and spicy harissa yogurt, a stunning and fresh start to our meal. Next up was a rich smoked duck breast with toasted almond, tart cherry, and vanilla-infused cauliflower puree. A well-balanced combination, it was an ideal ending to our meal.
Our day in Carlsbad left us inspired by the passion each business has for their community. These businesses support each other and foster relationships with their neighbors, creating a collaborative environment that’s something to be proud of. Don’t be fooled by the laid-back vibes, this city is a thriving destination perfect for your next day trip if you don’t already call it home.
Get there on the Coaster, book tickets at gonctd.com/coaster/