I'm staying with my brother for about 5 days in Carlsbad and I really want to take advantage of my time here. Im looking for fun, inexpensive things to do that aren't very touristy (for example, I don't want to go to Disney Land or Knotts Berry Farm). Also, I wouldn't mind driving about an hour or so. Cool views, hiking spots, interesting museums or anything else would be appreciated!
My favorite hiking spot is Torrey Pines State Park. If you're looking for some more challenging hikes, Iron Mountain and the "Potato Chip Rock" hike are inland and pretty cool. There's also a hiking trail in Carlsbad where you can do a little hike to an extinct volcano that's pretty cool. It's called the Calavera Nature Preserve. If it's museums you're looking for, head to Balboa Park in San Diego where there are museums for everything from art to aerospace, Japanese gardens, etc. Plus Balboa Park itself is really nice to walk around during the day.
Definitely check out the meditation gardens at the Self-Realization Fellowship in Encinitas. I know that sounds super religious, but the gardens are open to the public every day except Monday and they are incredibly beautiful with amazing foliage, beautiful views of the cliffs and coastline, and koi ponds. Plus it's a really serene place to hang out.
The beaches around this area are all really nice so you can't go wrong really, but I do warn you the ocean is colder than you might think. If you want to go swimming without freezing in the ocean, the Alga Norte Community Park aquatic center is only $5 to get in and is actually a really nice place to hang out and swim or just lay in the sun.
There's a farmer's market in Carlsbad on Wednesday evenings that's fun to go to, but I really recommend the Thursday evening Oceanside Sunset Market. It's every Thursday night and there are booths with just about every type of cuisine imaginable. You can get an affordable dinner from any kind of food from around the world, and they also always have some sort of entertainment like a live band or other performer.
Some of my favorite restaurants in the area....
Mentioned in this answer:
Check out groupon or living social for discounts.
In Carlsbad: walk/bike along beach on Pacific Coast Hwy, listen to live music each evening at The Coyote Bar & Grillaround outdoor fire pits, visit flower fields Palomar Airport Rd., farmers market on Wed,
Complimentary tour of Gemological Institute of America (gemological institute) facility,
Ocean on PCH. Peaceful, serene, beautiful. Free.
Relax and have fun!
Mentioned in this answer:
Devil's Punchbowl Natural Area, in San Diego county... Gorgeous. Waterfall at the end of a bit of a adventurous hike. Pack a lunch, lots of water, and wear your suit! Good times!