Discover Water Wonders in Carlsbad Village

Written by Cori Solomon

June 26, 2024
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Dive into a world of aquatic adventures beyond the beach in Carlsbad, CA. Explore lagoons, rivers, and mineral springs in Carlsbad Village. Read on for everything water related you can do when you visit Carlsbad Village.

Finding the element that uniquely defines a town enhances the experience of that city. In the case of Carlsbad, CA, water is the distinguishing character. Although Carlsbad borders the Pacific Ocean and offers wonderful beach opportunities, the water referred to is not just the ocean as I thought when first visiting Carlsbad. It also involves a lagoon, a river, and mineral springs. Carlsbad Village emerged from this central theme. Based on this premise, let me show you the best things to do in Carlsbad Village.

History of Carlsbad, CA

Carlsbad’s history with water dates back to 1883, when Captain John A. Frazier, a merchant sailor, settled on a government homestead and discovered a mineral alkaline aquifer after digging two wells on his property. Those waters worked wonders on his rheumatism.

A small village named Frazier Station developed around the train depot for the California Southern Railroad. Frazier would offer his water to passengers. It brought more travelers to the area to indulge in these recuperative waters. People often made the journey a day trip destination for a visit to Frazier Farm and the beach.

In 1885, Gerhard Schutte bought Frazier’s land and became the town builder. Schutte and partners started advertising the alkaline mineral water to promote the town.

After completing a chemical analysis, they discovered that this water was similar to the world-famous spas at Karlsbad in Bohemia. The partners named their enterprise the Carlsbad Land & Mineral Water Co. They also renamed the town Carlsbad.

Corrosion condemned the wells in the 1930s. In 1955, Kay and Chris Christiansen became interested in restoring the well. Kay Christiansen met Ludvik Grigoras, who expressed interest in reviving the well in 1991. The formal reopening of the well as Carlsbad Mineral Water Artesian Well occurred in late 1995.

The well lies in the heart of Carlsbad Village at 2802 Carlsbad Blvd.

Statue of Captain John Frazier

Statue of Captain John Frazier. Photo by Cori Solomon

Twin Inns—Carlsbad Landmark

After settling in the area, Gerhad Schutte erected a large home, and one of his partners, D.D. Wadsworth, built a mirror-image home 200 feet north on the same street. The Queen Anne-styled homes were later leased for commercial purposes, with individual rooms rented out and meals served under the name of the Twin Inns. In 1919, Chef Eddie Kentner acquired the business and offered meals at all hours of the night. During prohibition, there was a speakeasy in the basement. Over the years, it has gone through several incarnations, with different restaurants calling the Twin Inns home. The Wadsworth home was raised, leaving Carlsbad Village with only one Twin Inn.

Carlsbad Village Victorian Style Twin Inns.

Carlsbad Village Victorian Style Twin Inn. Photo by Cori Solomon

Agua Hedionda Lagoon Foundation and Discovery Center

The Spanish pronunciation of water is agua. In the case of Agua Hedionda Lagoon Foundation and Discovery Center, it is the water of the lagoon, which spans 1.7 miles inland and 5 miles wide. You will discover a sanctuary for many ecosystems and watersheds when you visit. The lagoon comprises four habitats: marshlands, upland plant communities, Intertidal mudflats, and subtidal.

The foundation was established to prevent more housing development and to promote education and outreach. The Discovery Center opened in 2006. The building initially housed a model home for the adjacent housing development. The builders donated the building to the foundation after all the homes in the development sold out.

The Discovery Center offers live animal ambassadors, walking trails, exhibits, and gardens that immerse you in Carlsbad’s natural wonders. I found the center a wonderful place to educate people and children in this ecological reserve. Walk along Raptor Ridge, meet the Pergrin, Kestrel, and Owls, or visit Tortoise Terrace and the Chicken Courtyard. For me, it was stepping out of my comfort zone by holding a Gecko. I found their skin exceptionally soft.

Cori Solomon at Aqua Hedionda Lagoon Foundation Discovery Center holding a Gecko

Cori Solomon at Agua Hedionda Lagoon Foundation Discovery Center holding a Gecko. Photo by Andy Harris

Carlsbad Village Murals

Even the murals of Carlsbad reflect water. From the Alley Art Wall to the painted chair, water is symbolized. My favorite, Catnap by Michael Summers, depicts big cats in the multicolored rain.

Carlsbad Village Murals - Catnap by Michael Summers

Carlsbad Village Murals include Catnap by Michael Summers. Photo by Cori Solomon

Bring Out the Flowers

If you visit Carlsbad Village in the spring, you must visit The Flower Fields of Carlsbad.  It is all about the beauty of ranunculus springing forth in rows of pink, yellow, red, and orange, wowing your senses. Besides the ranunculus, find sunflowers, cymbidiums, and poinsettias in bloom.

Ranunculus at The Flower Fields of Carlsbad Village. Photo by Cori Solomon

Taste of Carlsbad Food Tour

Food tours are one of the best ways to familiarize yourself with a city. Since they are usually walking tours, you get the lay of the land. Many guides like to give you a glimpse of the local flavor, culture, art, and architecture. Taking a Taste of Carlsbad Food Tour introduced me to the city’s food establishments while adding local history, art, and water, giving me a rounded yet engaging picture of all that is Carlsbad.

In my case, we sampled Old World dishes, including generations-old recipes from Cicciotti’s Trattoria Italiana & Seafood. From Italian delights to French crepes and authentic Italian Gelato, Carlsbad offers a wide variety. Our guide, David Jenson, filled us in on the lovely Victorian architecture and old-fashioned storefronts of downtown Carlsbad. He also educated us on the historical significance of Carlsbad as we walked down Grand Ave to Carlsbad Blvd, enjoying the majesty of the historic landmarks like the Twin Inns and the Carlsbad Mineral Spa. Both again represent the significance of water in Carlsbad.

Wine Tasting

I had eyed Carruth Cellars over the years while visiting Carlsbad. Established in 2006 by Adam Carruth, this urban tasting room is a perfect stop at the end of the day or after dinner. Carruth Cellars’ motto is, “We buy grapes from the country and make wine by the beach. We call it bringing grapes to the people.”

Most of the grapes come from Northern California. Harvested grapes are brought to San Diego County via temperature-controlled trucks.

Favorite WinesUnicorn Blend, which combines 60% zinfandel, 15% cabernet sauvignon, 10% merlot, 10% petite sirah, 5% sangiovese, and the Claret, a blend of merlot and cabernet franc.

Carruth Cellars

Carruth Cellars Tasting Room. Photo by Cori Solomon

Napatini Bistro & Wine Bar

Bringing California Wine Country to Carlsbad is the essence of Napatini Bistro & Wine Bar. Having lived in the Bay Area and experienced wine country, Gary and Lynn McLean moved to Carlsbad and, like many, delved into a second career.

Gary and Lynn McLean Napatini Wine Bar

Gary and Lynn McLean inside their Napatini Wine Bar. Photo by Cori Solomon

Napatini is where you can discover wines with 1-ounce pours or have a glass of wine. It is also a place to share wine with friends and family. The social aspect of a wine-centric experience is the basis of enjoying wine at Napatini.

Favorite Wine: Altagracia Eisele Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon.

Napatini Wine Bar, Carlsbad, CA

Napatini Wine Bar. Photo by Cori Solomon

Where to Dine And Enjoy Carlsbad Treats

Carlsbad Village restaurants offer a plethora of dining experiences, whether in the heart of the village itself or close to the beach. Here are some of my favorites during my visit.

Norte Restaurant

This family-owned restaurant has been around for 40 years. The restaurant lies adjacent to the Carlsbad Inn, about a block from the beach. Norte exudes charm and authenticity. The patio courtyard of the Spanish-styled building is a delightful place to enjoy authentic Mexican cuisine for lunch. For me, atmosphere is part of the dining experience; Norte has that and more.

Norte Restaurant

Norte Mexican Restaurant. Photo by Cori Solomon

The Goods

The Goods, an artisan donut shop using locally sourced ingredients, is a breakfast experience you cannot miss. The donuts come in an incredible array of flavors. With my allergies, I was in heaven because they had gluten-free donuts and yummy ones such as Vermont Maple Bacon.

The Goods Carlsbad Donuts

Rows of donuts at The Goods. Photo by Cori Solomon


A visit to Carlsbad must include dining at Campfire. My first visit was several years ago when they were open for lunch. The outdoor area is ideal for summer dining. The interior is a mix of architecture. Post and beam modern meet airplane hanger.

Campfire Restaurant Interior

Campfire Restaurant Interior. Photo by Cori Solomon

The name campfire reflects the fact the people congregate around a fire, and many entrees are live fire-cooked. Chef Eric Bost creates a very eclectic American fare menu with roots emphasizing California and its various landscapes of flavors.

Chef Eric Bost of Campfire

Chef Eric Bost standing in the Campfire restaurant. Photo by Cori Solomon

Fire has many components, including wood, and that wood informs the cooking. The cuisine is wood-driven with flavor building. It is an energetic restaurant yet family-driven.

Campfire Restaurant Humus Appetizer

Campfire Restaurant Humus Appetizer. Photo by Cori Solomon

If you want to taste more of Chef Eric’s cuisine, dine at Michelin-starred Jeune et Jolie, a modern French bistro inspired by California. The restaurant boasts an open kitchen, and that kitchen is part of the restaurant’s ambiance. The camaraderie of the staff is always present.

Michelin Star Jeune et Jolie Kitchen

The kitchen at Michelin-starred Jeune et Jolie. Photo by Cori Solomon

Café Topes

Although a little off the beaten path yet close to Carlsbad Village and the beach, when you enter Café Topes, you immediately know it is a local hangout.

Cafe Topes

Exterior Patio of Cafe Topes. Photo by Cori Solomon

This family-owned café serves its take on traditional breakfast. Café Topes is open for breakfast and lunch.

Cafe Topes Veggie Scramble

Cafe Topes Veggie Scramble. Photo by Cori Solomon


If you want authenticity in your dessert, GelatoLove is the place. The Gelato is created daily from scratch with all organic and natural ingredients. It is a rare authentic gelato Emporium outside of Italy.  The clean, modern lines of GelatoLove’s interior offset the colorful array of Gelato and drew me in, making me want to sample all the different flavors. Many of GelatoLove’s flavors are gluten-free.

GelatoLove in Carlsbad Village

Exterior of GelatoLove in Carlsbad Village. Photo by Cori Solomon

Where to Stay

If you are looking for an old-world, family-style ambiance, the Carlsbad Inn Beach Resort offers this. Ideally located in Carlsbad Village, you can walk and discover the beachy and artsy flavor of Carlsbad. The Inn offers many amenities, including beach access.

Carlsbad Inn

Carlsbad Inn. Photo by Cori Solomon

Articles Related to Visiting Southern California

When You Visit Carlsbad Village, CA

Water is the sustenance of life. For Carlsbad, it is the essence of the inner workings of this city in San Diego County. From coastal habitats to ocean enjoyment and mineral water, Carlsbad offers an aquatic way of life. We invite you to explore Wander With Wonder to learn more about our favorite places in Southern California. Looking for a beach adventure? We have great itineraries and stories about our favorite beach vacations.

Written by Cori Solomon

Cori Solomon, an award-winning freelance writer/photographer, based in Los Angeles, California, who focuses on travel, art, food, wine, and pets. She often highlights the story behind the restaurant, chef, winery, winemaker, or artist. Her background in real estate and art both play a role in her writing, whether it is the architectural splendor of a building, a historical-artistic rendering, or the artistry of a winemaker or chef. Since Cori often travels with her dogs, Salukis, she has a keen eye for pet-friendly stories. Wine is central to Cori, who founded the 50-member LA Wine Writers. Cori has earned her WSET Level 2 Award in Wines and Spirits, received the NASA American Wine Specialist Certification and a NASA Spanish Wine Specialist Certification. Cori is a member of the IFWTWA, NATJA, SATW, TWC, TravMedia, CWA and DWAA. You can see Cori's website at


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