Me casa, es su casa! Ah, try to imagine the early days of California and the beautiful, sprawling rancheros that existed, surrounded by soft rolling hills and fertile land. Picture sturdy adobe structures, grand stables and rich land dons riding off into the golden sunset. Now toss in a few dozen colorful peacocks, and you’ve captured the essence of the historic Leo Carrillo Ranch in Carlsbad.
This place is a slice of authentic San Diego history not many know about, but definitely should. Originally the home of movie star Leo Carrillo during the golden age of Hollywood, he built this Old California-inspired ranchero as a retreat for himself and his family. In 1937, Leo scooped up 840 acres of prime Carlsbad real estate (with ocean views!) at the unbelievable price of $77 per acre (OMG!) He immediately began construction of 18 structures for his ranch, and over time, increased his spread to 2,538 acres.
Leo loved peacocks, so he decided to populate his get-a-way with dozens of peacocks who roamed around freely. The friendly fowls loved the place so much they never left. Today scores of them are still hanging around the place, descendents of Leo’s original birds. And, that’s what really gives this place its charm!
Leo was quite a guy and appeared in close to 100 movies with huge classic film stars like Clark Gable, Henry Fonda and Bette Davis. Many of the movie posters can be seen in a converted farm house that’s now the visitor center and where you can watch a short video about Leo, his movie career, and his contributions as a conservationist.
Leo passed away in 1961, and his heirs sold much of the land. Thanks to the City of Carlsbad, his home and several buildings were preserved, and the site is now a Historical National Landmark that opened to the public in 2003. Located in a 27-acre canyon, there are lots of tree-lined trails to discover (so wear comfy shoes). And, of course, you’ll have the company of countless brilliantly-colored peacocks who are extremely photogenic and just as proud of their home as Leo was.
This is one of my favorite San Diego staycation tips. I learned about it from a friend of mine who’s getting married there (yes, they do events because the site is that gorgeous!) What is your favorite San Diego staycation place to go?