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Chances are, if you’re coming to Carlsbad on a family vacation, you’re here for just one thing: Legoland California Resort. One of Southern California’s tamer theme parks, the tot-friendly fantasyland of building blocks and its summertime water park are not the only attractions, however, in this North County beach town.

Outside the entrance to Legoland, just off the I-5 Freeway, Carlsbad Ranch is celebrated for planting over 50 acres of brilliantly colored flower fields, which bloom impressively every spring on a hillside within view of the Pacific. Heading west toward the surf, Carlsbad Village has a laid-back atmosphere, with family-friendly restaurants, cafes, shops and bars all along the main drag.

Time for the beach? Head out to the boardwalk running beside Carlsbad’s long, sandy stretch of sand. Farther south, Batiquitos Lagoon is a rare tidal wetland, where myriad waterbirds can be spotted on a nature walk. For a wilder animal kingdom, detour east to suburban Escondido, home of the world-famous San Diego Zoo Wild Safari Park, another family-friendly favorite attraction.