With the last of the crazy-busy summer weekends coming up – i.e. Labor Day – it’s likely you could find yourself stranded in traffic. I’m not talking about a lot of cars moving in one direction or another, I am talking about that horrible, parking lot-style traffic that does its best to stall you out just as you’re trying to get your last moments of summer fun in gear. One place I tend to find this happening and with predictable regularity is along Interstate 5 either on the way to or from San Diego.
Rather than sit and sweat it out the last time we got stuck in that North County, San Diego nightmare, we turned off the freeway into nearby Carlsbad, CA. Our first choice was the beach, of course; however, as mentioned it’s still summertime, and maybe a last-minute decision to head to the beautiful Carlsbad coastline at 2p.m. on a Saturday afternoon wasn’t the best plan. Actually, since it wasn’t a plan at all, we just cut our losses (and we’ll see you next time, rocky beach!) and headed inland a few miles for our plan B destination… or make that our plan “LC.”
Leo Carillo Ranch Historic Park has been on our “places-Huell-Howser-has-been-so-we-need-to-check-it-out-too” list for some time now, and we finally found our perfect opportunity to stop in for a visit. Thanks to the Friends of Leo Carillo Ranch, Inc., admission to Rancho de Los Quiotes (or sometimes spelled Kiotes) – translated it means “Ranch of the Spanish Daggers” – is free to all; there are even 90-minute tours available on the weekends should you want to get a look inside the many historic adobe structures preserved on-site (with several other restorations still to come and/or ongoing). While we didn’t take a formal tour (we were with a very informal four-year-old after all), we managed to get a brief peek inside a few of the buildings as one of the tours wrapped up, and we got to talk to one of the docents about its art, furnishings, hand-painted tiles, and other memorabilia on display.
Carillo purchased the property back in the 1930s. He had been seeking a place that he could re-create the old California-style working rancho, which was a piece of the state’s history that he felt was rapidly falling by the wayside. You can read up more on the land’s history here.
If you don’t know, Leo Carillo played Pancho from 1950s television series “The Cisco Kid“, along with portraying dozens of other roles in television and film for more than three decades. Suffice it to say that the cowboy theme played very well with T, as did the fact that the man who once owned and lived on this ranch used to be on television. What can I say, our kid likes – OK, loves – TV. And cowboys.
I don’t really know what else to say about our visit other than that it was a pretty cool way to spend an hour of our time. Leo Carillo Ranch is remarkably secluded, tranquil, and scenic and not just in a historical way but an artistic one as well. It’s a haven for California history buffs, Spanish-style architecture lovers, and pop-culture memorabilia freaks alike, yet it’s also a great place to set the kids free for an hour to wander through the shady paths with the 40+ peafowl that populate the grounds. Leo Carillo Ranch also provides a gorgeous backdrop for taking photos with its man- and nature-made designs of hand-crafted adobes, flora, and antique windmills and other preserved structures on-site.
If you find yourself in the Carlsbad area wondering what there is to do other than the obvious beach or theme-park destinations, head inland for a trip back in time to Leo Carillo’s version of California. It’s a day out that may not have cost us anything, but we definitely left Leo Carillo Ranch richer for the experience.
Leo Carrillo Ranch is a registered California Historical Landmark and a designated Historic National Landmark that opened to the public in August 2003. It is connected to Carlsbad’s citywide trails system via the 4-mile long Rancho Carillo Trail. Park hours are Tuesday-Saturday 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.; Sundays 11 a.m. – 5 p.m. (closed on Mondays and on city holidays). Guided tours are 90 minutes in length and depart from the front gate Saturdays at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. and Sundays at noon and 2 p.m. Leo Carrillo Ranch is a 27-acre historical park with irregular earthen and paved surfaces; it is recommended that visitors wear appropriate shoes for the uneven terrain within this historic park. Admission to the park is free.