If you are visiting Southern California with your kids, maybe you have heard of a little amusement park outside San Diego: Legoland. You may think this place is just for aficionados of those tiny rainbow bricks, but you would be mistaken. Here in Carlsbad, you can also visit the famous flower fields (from March to May), the beautiful and kid-friendly beach, and it’s a mere hop, skip, and jump to San Diego Safari Park. Now that I have your attention, where would you want to stay? The best Legoland hotel for families (or anyone in all honesty), in my humble opinion, is the Grand Pacific Palisades Resort.
The Legoland area has 3 major hotels within walking distance of the park: the actual Legoland Hotel (and soon to be opened Castle Hotel), the Sheraton in Carlsbad, and the Grand Pacific Palisades Resort. With the Sheraton, you do get a special entrance to Legoland (right by the water park), and the Legoland Hotel seems to be for die-hard fans, as they have all sorts of Lego secrets hidden in the rooms and appropriately-themed rooms. So why pick the Grand Pacific Palisades Resort?
Benefits of the Grand Pacific Palisades Resort
From the Grand Pacific Palisades Resort, you can walk easily to Legoland park via a not-so-secret walking entrance. Because you are outside the park, the pace is quieter. It feels like a respite, returning to your room at the end of the day. They offer free on-site parking (a boon to staying closer, as you pay $20 to park for the day at Legoland), and an excellent restaurant, Karl Strauss.
The other amenities really sell this resort, though. They have a kids’ club, playground on site, basketball courts on site, an adult pool and a family pool. At the Activity Center, they have a few arcade games and you can borrow ping pong accessories. They also offer a free shuttle service anywhere within five miles, which includes the Wednesday evening farmers’ market in Carlsbad.
Oh, and then they have activities. Did you ever see the movie Dirty Dancing? Have you ever kind of wished they still had resorts that offered group games, dance classes, ice cream socials, and crafts? This place has a ton of that. Every day there is a new activity (we enjoyed a sangria social), and each evening they offer a free movie at 6 pm.
While the resort grounds are lovely, the rooms could use a little updating. The bathrooms have tubs (always a plus when traveling with kids), but otherwise decorations are sparse. They all come with refrigerators, coffee makers,TVs and DVD players. You can upgrade to a condo which does boast a kitchenette.
The Resort Grounds
Simply beautiful. The adult pool overlooks the flower fields. Though we visited in January before the flowers bloom, I can just imagine a riot of color. In my head, it looks like a less deadly poppy field from Wizard of Oz.
Everything is easily walkable, and very family-friendly. You pick up a wristband from the concierge after check in, and then can access towels and other activities from the Activity Center, located across from the family pool.
Did I forget to mention that there is a splash pad?
Or a playground onsite?
Food is offered at two different spots at the hotel. The first is a grab-and-go cereal and granola bar (or lollipop spot if you are three and my daughter). Pretty basic, inexpensive. You can buy ice cream and beer and wine there as well as other options.
Karl Strauss Brewing Company is just a few steps outside the front door of the hotel. They offer a fairly traditional prix fixe breakfast buffet, but will also supply coffee and cereal to go. Kids always enjoy a make-your-own waffle station, and here they also fortify waffles with whipped cream and chocolate chips. My husband would have enjoyed the omelet station, and I am always more than happy with a bagel and some fruit. Good fuel for a busy day at Legoland.
Lunch or dinner at Karl Strauss, though, are really excellent. Brewed fresh at their main brewery in Pacific Beach, the beer here just reminds me of all the good things in Southern California. They have several small batch and limited releases, but I love their usual lineup of Red Trolley and a solid Columbia Street Amber. The food, too, really compliments the beer well, and is delicious independent of an adult beverage. Try the Piggy Bank Mac on Tap, a mouth-watering macaroni and cheese with bacon, Andouille, and black forest ham. If you’ve put in some serious steps during your day at Legoland, spring for the Beer Dipper. Beyond a traditional French dip, this behemoth on a toasted baguette has black garlic-horseradish cream and stout cheddar, all to dip in a porcini beer au jus. As my mother would say, it is not “first date food,” but it is soooo delicious.
Why is Grand Pacific Palisades the Best Legoland Hotel for Families?
So, I have a few criteria for choosing where to stay with my kid. I like a place that we don’t have to drive everywhere; it’s family-friendly but not so overrun that there is no space in the pool; and they have decent food options and a variety of room options without costing an arm and a leg. Grand Pacific Palisades fits the bill and then some. They have room types for larger families, plenty of options to save money by bringing in your own food (they also have barbecues you can use), and they have a great onsite restaurant.
The service from everyone was super friendly, and they were very accommodating. Besides visiting Legoland, this hotel has plenty for adults to enjoy as well. Kids can play on the playground or in the splash pad while you relax.
Best Time to Go?
If you can swing it, January and February are pretty nice months, particularly during the week. Keep in mind Legoland does close certain Tuesdays and Wednesdays, but the Sea Life Aquarium is still open. Crowds are much less, and you can get great deals (like Kids Stay Free).
The Carlsbad flower fields bloom between March and May, so for some extra botanical beauty, try to schedule a visit then, too.
How can I save Money on a Legoland Hotel?
Check the Legoland website. They often have deals including ticket discounts, Kids Eat or Stay Free, etc. If you cannot find the deal you want, check Groupon or Living Social. The hotel does sell discount tickets to attractions, but the deal through them is not as good as a Groupon ticket discount.
If you’re heading to Southern California with your kids this year, you will probably be checking out some of the amusement parks. In general, Legoland is awesome for families with small kids. If you need the best Legoland hotel for families, look no further than Grand Pacific Palisades.