Paddleboards stacked on Carlsbad Lagoon's beach.
  • Paddleboards stacked on Carlsbad Lagoon's beach.
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I love vacations so much that I’ve made the effort to take one every month the past year. But why spend tons of money traveling to far-off destinations when we San Diegans have so much to explore in our own backyard?

My latest weekend adventure was in Carlsbad, where I was free from all my home responsibilities: the dog, kids, cooking, cleaning, the long list of chores... just 15 minutes from home.

"Aqua cycles" are available, too, for the less adventurous.

I’ve lived in North County San Diego since 1998, and this vacation was the first time I've been to the Carlsbad Lagoon. Weird, right? My kids have been many times, but this time I selfishly indulged in some stand-up paddle boarding (except for me it was kneeling paddle boarding). We picked up a picnic lunch at Chandler’s and sat on the “beach” to eat while watching the boarders, jet skiers and kayakers play.

After getting a short tutorial, we paddled out on our boards, staying off to the side of the lagoon clear of the jet skiers. I have to say this is a great upper-body workout. That one's checked off my bucket list.

What else to do

Because I’m a local I tend to take the beach for granted, but now on vacation I had every reason to go. Both the Hilton Garden Inn and Cape Rey Resort offer guests a beach pack that includes chairs, towels and umbrella. While lounging at the beach, it occurred to me there are quite a few “B” things to do in Carlsbad – beach, boarding, boating, beer drinking, biking. (Not to mention the golfing, Legoland, wine tasting, fishing, hiking and museums.)

Here are my picks:

  • - Walk on the beach south from Offshore Surf Shop to Terramar (just past Cannon Rd.), where I stop and watch the sunset or surfers
  • - Shop at the antique mall and Aranelle boutique on State Street
  • - Watch a play at the New Village Arts Theater
  • - Indoor cart racing at K1 Speed
  • - Golf at Carlsbad's $65M public golf course, the Crossings
  • - Free summer jazz concerts in the parks

Where to stay

Coastal on a budget: South Carlsbad State Beach Campgrounds are a fun option, but must be reserved through reserveamerica.com (can be reserved six months in advance).

If you are looking to come out in the summer, it might be challenging to get a space unless you're at your computer exactly six months in advance. ($50 for an oceanfront space, $35 for inland spot.) There are pay showers, a small market, and each camping space has a fire pit.

Sleep in, get room service. It doesn't have to get much harder than that.

Coastal affordable: Directly across from Carlsbad Beach is the Hilton Garden Inn. A complementary 24-hour shuttle takes you anywhere within a 5-mile radius. Room rates start at $129 a night.

Coastal luxury: Cape Rey Resort is also across from Carlsbad State Beach, and has a spa, concierge and décor throughout from local artists and photographers. Rooms start at $199 a night. The fire pits on the patio are one of my favorite girls' night out spots.

Chandler's restaurant at Cape Rey Resort.

The beach picnic lunch comes from Chandler's and they have mouth-watering dinners too – California cuisine menu. (I recommend the swordfish.) Portions aren't oversized but satisfy, and foodies won’t be disappointed. The bar offers specialty mixed drinks.

Village of Carlsbad favorites

Budget dining: Pollas Maria, Knockout Pizza, Pizza Port, O’Sullivans Irish Pub

Finer dining: Paon, Vigilucci’s (2 in Carlsbad), Jay Gourmet, Blue Ocean Robata and Sushi Bar

Wine tasting: Relm or Paon Wine Bar (there are five sommeliers at Paon!)

Beer drinking: Green Dragon Tavern, 83, Compass, Pizza Port, “train beer” at the Village Pub

Carlsbad sunset.

When I go on vacation to places like Hawaii, Napa or Switzerland, I invariably end up saying “I love it here so much I want to move here.” It's reassuring, though, that I already live near one of my favorite vacation spots.

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