Carlsbad – Orange County Register

Even though I’m a California girl through and through, I have, for the past few years, lived in the south (New Orleans, specifically), where summer-to-early fall can be hot. Humid. Horrible.

To make those balmy days tolerable, I frequently drag my husband (a southern boy and the reason for that relocation south) back to California for some coastal breeze. I’ve shown him Los Angeles, Santa Monica and much of Orange County. But a new favorite getaway? Carlsbad – quaint, cute, casually upscale and a short Metrolink ride away from almost anywhere in Southern California.

Not familiar with Carlsbad? Many Californians aren’t either. And those who are might say it’s a quiet resort town, compared to the exciting horse race vibe of Del Mar or, say, the pulsing nightlife of San Diego’s Gaslamp Quarter.

But in recent years, Carlsbad has refused to be the ignored stepchild in this county of plenty.  In less than two decades, the population has grown from 78,0000 to 113,000 – small enough to feel exclusive, but thriving enough to feel contemporary. And that has brought a stream of hipster restaurants, specialty breweries, wine shops and influential artists.

“I know people like to think of us as a sleepy little town,” said Sam Ross, executive director for Carlsbad Tourism. “But really, we’ve got a lot going on.”

Let me just cut to my favorite part of any getaway… The food.

Carlsbad has Campfire, the restaurant industry’s answer to  “glamping.” It offers the feel of camping, with picnic tables and outdoor fire pits, minus the pitching a tent and rolling out sleeping bags part. And the food is beyond charred weenies and s’mores.  Try the smoked Mary’s half chicken, the smoked pork belly…

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