Leo Carillo


I am a sucker for historical sites. I just love wandering through and imagining what life was like in another era. I also love seeing the creativity and imagination that people used to overcome challenges without the technology we have available today. Yes, I feel a little bit like a 64 year-old tourist when I insist that N pull over to read a plaque or when I snap photos that are perfectly suited to forcing future grandchildren to patiently page through a boring, smelly photo album while I sit uncomfortably close to them on my floral sofa and describe every detail of a trip while chuckling at memories that only I find funny. N will likely be grumbling to let them go play outside while I point out one more unforgettable tombstone or restaurant. Whatever. They should feel lucky that I have preserved so much history to pass on to them, the little brats.

Leo Carillo was a 1930’s actor with enough money that he could play “Rancher” on a life-size scale. He bought 2,500 acres in what is now Carlsbad, CA and refurbished an existing adobe hacienda. Then he added a pool, stables, cantina, hay barn, and a lot of animals. He hosted many mid-century stars and probably had awesome fiestas at his ranch when he wasn’t shooting new episodes of The Cisco Kid in Hollywood.

We drove up to Carlsbad believing that Leo Carillo Ranch was actually a historic Mexican ranch. We didn’t really mind when we found out it was actually the 1940’s Disney-like re-creation of a working cattle ranch, but it did take away some of the authenticity. We still had a good time wandering around the city-owned historical site.




Caretaker’s House



Clearly, from the etchings he left in the adobe on several of the buildings, we know that Mr. Carillo was not only a performance artist, but quite talented in the visual arts as well.


I couldn’t resist.

Oh Hai

Oh Hai!



We did manage to stumble into a wedding at the main Hacienda, but luckily they hadn’t started the ceremony and were still setting up. We did also get to chat with several beautiful peacocks, all whom were very comfortable with human visitors. Of course, other than wedding guests trickling in, we were the only visitors under the age of 55 at the ranch, and possibly the only residents of the United States. If you’re in southern California and have a spare morning or afternoon, swing by to walk through. I wouldn’t recommend bringing young children, because I think they would be a little bored. Unless, of course, they enjoy chasing peafowl around.


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