Leo Carillo Ranch Historic Park in Carlsbad, California | RTX Traveler Magazine

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The Leo Carillo Ranch Historic Park represents history, culture and Hollywood in a way that could only be harmonized in southern California. This state park manages to be at once peaceful and entertaining while echoing the values of conservation and preservation that were so important to its founder.

Leo Carillo was nicknamed “Mr. California” for his passion for his heritage and home state.  As a stage, television and film actor whose entertainment career spanned four decades, he is most well-known for his portrayal of Pancho in The Cisco Kid television series from 1950-56.

While he wasn’t busy charming an audience from the screen or stage, he found his passion in conservation and preservation of southern California’s cultural, historical and natural resources. He was ardently proud of his Spanish California heritage and did all that he could to ensure that future generations could enjoy the natural and cultural gems of the areas he called home.

It was this passion that led him to purchase land that he would convert into a working rancho, as an honor to his heritage and also a retreat for his family from the city. The ranch was constructed from 1937 to 1940 and Carillo realized his dream of having 2,538 acres to call his own. Ranch hands managed several hundred head of cattle and dozens of horses in the same space where Carillo and his wife often hosted parties for friends and colleagues in the entertainment business.

In 1977, nearly two decades after Carrillo’s death, the city began acquiring land from the ranch. Several restorations later, in 2003, the rancho opened to the public as a city park  where visitors can explore 27 acres of the original ranch including several restored adobe buildings from the 1930s, walking trails and about two dozen peacocks.

The peacocks are a delightful attraction of the ranch. They are all descendants of the six birds that Carillo originally brought to the ranch due to fond memories from seeing peacocks at his uncle’s ranch when he was a child. These bright birds make for interesting and beautiful photographs, and truly rule the roost at this residence as they can be found on rooftops, porches and even lounging by the pool. Keep an eye out for the rare white peacock born on the ranch nearly 10 years ago.

Begin your visit to the ranch at the visitor’s center located inside the barn. The helpful staff will show a short video about the life of Carillo and creation of the ranch before giving you a map and sending you out for a self-guided tour. Throughout the park’s easily navigable trails, you may hear the peacocks calling to one another with sounds quite similar to a cat’s meow. A very loud cat’s meow. It won’t be uncommon to happen upon a peacock, or several of them – known as a muster or ostentation rather than a flock – just be sure not to feed them, even if they try to convince you otherwise.

The restored living and entertaining quarters complete with a pool, bar, outdoor kitchen and lush gardens make it easy to picture what it may have been like to party with the Carillos so many decades ago. Today, the space can be rented for events and weddings.

While the buildings are kept closed most of the time, there are guided tours offered on Saturdays and Sundays where visitors can get a glimpse of the inside of the historic adobe structures. Check the ranch’s calendar for events like “Dinner & A Movie” where you can watch Carillo star in one of his feature films after enjoying a barbecue with local film buffs.

Leo Carrillo Ranch Historic Park
6200 Flying Leo Carrillo Lane
Carlsbad, CA 92009
(760) 476-1042
www.carrillo-ranch.org
www.carlsbad.gov
Park hours:
Tuesday – Saturday: 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Sunday: 11 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Closed on Mondays and on city holidays.
 
90 minute guided tours
Saturday: 11 a.m. & 1 p.m.
Sunday: Noon & 2 p.m.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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