Carlsbad — More than you expect

Story & photos by Barbara Beckley

Say “Carlsbad” and most of us think of Legoland. Rightfully so. This sleepy beach town, about 90 minutes to the south, was pretty much unknown until Legoland California put it on the map in 1999.

Except for golfers. Carlsbad has been top-of-mind with golfers for decades. So much so, that the city is known as “The Golf Manufacturing Capital of the World,” with more than 35 golf companies including Callaway, TaylorMade, Titleist, Cobra, and Fujikura shafts calling it home!

No surprise then, that when I stayed at Carlsbad’s Park Hyatt Aviara Resort Golf Club & Spa, I learned the resort predated Legoland by two years, opening in 1997 as a posh golf attraction, boasting California’s only coastal golf course designed by legendary Arnold Palmer.

I’d always been curious about the Park Hyatt, hidden as it seemed to me, in the no man’s land of rolling coastal hills off the I-5 midway between Alhambra and San Diego. It turned out to be elegant — and fun. It is set on 200 acres adjacent to Batiquitos Lagoon Ecological Reserve and overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Worth the splurge when you’re visiting nearby Legoland (the Park Hyatt has a Legoland package), love to golf, or just to pamper yourself.

For golfers, next month — March — is the perfect time to visit. The resort is hosting the 2020 LPGA Kia Classic golf tournament March 23 – 29. This is the eighth consecutive year the championship 18-hole Arnold Palmer-designed Aviara Golf Club has hosted this prestigious competition of the world’s top women players. Expected players include World No. 1 Jin Young Ko, Lexi Thompson, Brooke Henderson, and Danielle King.

For Legoland fans, April is the prime time to visit. The attraction’s biggest addition ever — The Legoland Movie World — is set to open in April. Based on the Lego movies, the new two-acre theme park will immerse visitors in the world of Bricksburg, with interactive experiences including the signature Emmet’s Flying Adventure ride. Staged on a triple-decker flying couch, it promises to be an incredible experience, with 180-degree turns and flights over Middle Zealand, Cloud Cuckoo Land, and Pirates Cove.

I was lucky to be at the Park Hyatt during the 2019 LPGA Kia Classic. I felt very “pro,” as I participated in the “Behind the Ropes” VIP Experience, following top seeds Jaye Marie Green and Celine Herbin from hole to hole right on the green. Then watched from the patio Skybox at the Aviara Golf Clubhouse overlooking the 18th hole, as 20-year-old Nasa Hataoka of Japan won the tournament. Both experiences are part of the Park Hyatt’s $500 LPGA Classic VIP package. But even outside the ropes it’s easy to watch the players because this layout isn’t overly crowded. And this year, 2020, there’s a new enhanced viewing area on Hole 16.

“We aim to be fan-friendly so everyone can watch the players up close and personal,” Tournament Director, Kia Classic, Lindsay Allen told me. Being a journalist, I took him at his word and talked myself into the NBC Golf Channel’s portable broadcast studio — inside a large truck in a parking lot away from the golf course — for a quick look.

The Park Hyatt is also food- and activity-friendly. Dining at the golf club’s Argyle Steakhouse, I was pleasantly surprised when the Steak Knife Concierge appeared armed with a box full of knives to make a Crusader proud. “Pick one,” he smiled. I did. But I hardly used it. My 18 oz. bone-in-rib eye, with a phenomenal truffle butter crust, was so tender. Easy to see why the Argyle is considered Greater San Diego’s best steakhouse.

Yoga on the lawn and a group tennis clinic with tennis pro Steve Halverson helped work off the calories the next day. Nice to know, the tennis program offers complimentary racquets and tennis shoes if you forgot yours. I also took a peek at VeraVia, an integrative health and wellness program that uses the resort for its week-long retreats, designed for top executives and other high-stress folks. I sat in on the “Mind Body Stress Workshop,” part of its introductory “1 Day Wellness Experience.” My take away? Relax, stay focused, and think positively.

It was easy to be positive looking out my guestroom window seeing beautiful Batiquitos Lagoon Ecological Reserve framed by rolling hills and the Pacific Ocean glistening in the distance. On the table in front of the window, a miniature (and edible) golf green added its own scenic charm.

The lagoon and the 1.6-mile Lagoon Trail is just a short walk — or free resort shuttle ride — from the resort. Encompassing 544 acres, it’s one Southern California’s few remaining tidal wetlands and is a protected coastal wetland habitat. The wide flat trail can accommodate strollers and wheelchairs. The Batiquitos Lagoon Foundation Nature Center is open most days, depending on the volunteer docents’ schedules, offering free activities including guided nature walks, a trail guide for do-it-yourselfers, a daytime speakers’ series, and bird watching and counting.

Jewelry enthusiasts, like me, will be thrilled to know that Carlsbad is headquarters to the Gemological Institute of America (GIA), the world’s leading authority and educator on diamonds, colored stones, and pearls. It’s open to the public, with exquisite gem and jewelry exhibits including the signature “Tower of Brilliance,” the world’s largest crystal octahedron, created by D. Swarovski & Company.

For more, go to www.visitcarlsbad.com, www.parkhyattaviara.com, www.lpga.com.


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Mar 2020


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