American actor, cartoonist, conservationist and preservationist Leo Carrillo may have been born in Los Angeles, but his roots are firmly grounded in San Diego’s Old Town. Carrillo’s family was well established in San Diego, and in 1937 when Leo had the opportunity to re-create an Old California-style working ranch, he jumped at the opportunity.

Now located in Southwest Carlsbad, the Leo Carrillo Ranch still retains its quaint hacienda-style charm. In 1977, the city of Carlsbad acquired 10.5 of the original 2,538 acres to preserve and protect the most critical original buildings from Leo’s original layout. Now open for all the public to enjoy, the Leo Carrillo Ranch represents it’s founder’s proud Hispanic heritage and stands as a reminder of California’s rich Spanish past.

When To Go:
To best enjoy the natural beauty of the grounds and its architecture, try visiting the ranch on a sunny afternoon when the flora and fauna are at peak activity.

What To Bring:
Sunglasses and a hat are good to have handy, as much of the ranch is exposed to sunlight. Comfortable and sturdy shoes are a must, as the terrain can often be rugged and sloped.

Don’t forget your camera! There are tons of amazing photo opportunities so make sure you’ve got a lot of room for some keepsake photos.

What To Do/See:
If you choose to do a self-guided tour, you’ll want to set aside at least an hour and a half to see everything. Walk over the Old North Bridge and observe the weir complex, head towards Caretaker’s Cottage and pick up a copy of the ranch guide full of valuable information. The Visitor Center also features a 10-minute long video about the life and accomplishments of Leo Carrillo.

Don’t miss the beautifully hand-crafted adobe buildings or the antique windmill that used to power the old swimming pool. (Sadly, it doesn’t work anymore, but the pool and windmill still remain for visitors to enjoy.) One of the park’s biggest highlights are the remaining structures from the ranch’s active days. There’s a cattle chute, a blacksmith and foundry shop, a hay barn, and a working tractor called “Big Red.”

Tip: Check out the “Bride’s Arch” for some awesome picture opportunities.

If you or your little one are budding nature enthusiasts then be on the lookout for a whole host of local fauna. Birds of Paradise, bougainvillea and agave can be found throughout the ranch grounds as well as dozens of different trees decorating the paths and walkways.

Tip: Check out some of the awesome sights at the Leo Carrillo Ranch with their online tour guide.

Are your little ones getting the holiday bug? Check out the Toyon trees lining the sides of Palm Lane. These trees are more commonly known as Christmas Berry, and have vibrantly red berries dotting their branches.

Your kiddos are sure to love the abundance of peacocks wandering the grounds, as these colorful creatures often make their presence known through loud screeches and displays of their large plumes.

Tip: If you’re going on a self-guided tour, most of the buildings on the grounds are closed to public access. This is to protect their structural integrity and the artifacts contained within. However, if you attend one of the docent-led tours, some of the buildings are open for further exploration. Guided walking tours are offered on Saturday at 11:00am and 1:00pm and on Sunday at 12:00pm and 2:00pm lasting approximately 90 minutes.

Admission and self-guided tours at the Leo Carrillo Ranch are free!

Monday – Closed
Tuesday-Saturday 9:00am – 5:00pm
Sunday 11:00am – 5:00pm

Leo Carrillo Ranch Historic Park
6200 Flying Leo Carrillo Lane
Carlsbad, Ca 92009


— Scott Wardell

Photo credit: City of Carlsbad via Flickr