Visiting Leo Carrillo Ranch and Northern San Diego County

On Independence Day weekend I had two wonderful day trips. One day my family and I headed to the mountains and visited Idyllwild and the other day we stayed coastal in San Diego County. After a stop in San Clemente we spent the rest of the day exploring the north county towns of Oceanside, Carlsbad and Encinitas.

After Camp Pendleton we turned off the freeway and headed down Highway 101. We passed through Oceanside and saw beautiful views of the Pacific and lots of beach-goers. It was a busy day in the coastal town and we decided to explore it more another time. We continued on to Carlsbad where we stopped at Leo Carrillo Ranch.


Leo Carrillo was a famous actor in the Golden Age of Hollywood.

Actor. (Newscom TagID: dpphotos056937) [Photo via Newscom]

Born in 1880 near Olvera Street in Los Angeles he enjoyed a lengthy career that spanned from vaudeville to television. A great lover of his home state he was nicknamed Mr. California and became its goodwill ambassador. He served on the Parks commission for 18 years and was instrumental in the acquisition of Hearst Castle and Anza-Borrego. He had a true love of the land and in 1937 acquired Los Kiotes, a ranch in Carlsbad. For almost three decades he spent much of his time at the ranch. After his death most of it was sold off but a 10 acre portion was acquired by the city of Carlsbad. Now a state park it’s open to visitors.


As a fan of classic Hollywood I’d long been eager to visit the ranch. In fact, I had attempted a visit a few years ago only to find it closed (it’s closed on Mondays). I’m so happy I was finally able to visit as it’s truly a slice of paradise.


Several structures remain including his ranch house, his wife’s cottage, the barn and stables. The barn currently houses the visitor’s center where there is a small exhibit on Carrillo’s film career.

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There’s also a short video that I highly recommend watching. A brief overview of Carrillo’s life and ranch it will give you a newfound appreciation for this former star.

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The ranch is also home to large population of peacocks carrying on a tradition that started during Carrillo’s tenure there. Not afraid of humans you’ll find them crossing your path repeatedly as you walk around.

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The ranch is a slice of paradise in the midst of an ever growing city. I’m so happy it’s been saved for generations to enjoy.

After our visit we were quite hungry so we continued south to Encinitas where we came across Union Kitchen & Tap. Located on Highway 101 it’s a restaurant and bar serving upscale comfort food.

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Places like this can often be hit or miss and Union Kitchen is definitely a winner. The cheddar scallion biscuits with marscapone honey butter were out of this world and I ate more than my fair share. I also loved my local green salad which was fresh and flavorful.

After dinner, we decided to go elsewhere for dessert and headed across the street to Chuao Chocolatier. You may recognize Chuao as their bars are widely sold from Target to Crate & Barrel. Already a fan I had no idea they had a retail shop.

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In the shop they also sell drinks, gelato and truffles. I had a scoop of gelato there and grabbed some mini bars for the road. While in Encinitas we also learned of a local pie shop and, of course, had to stop by.


Betty’s Pie Whole is located adjacent to a quaint nursery that was, unfortunately, already closed for the day. Since it was late afternoon, Betty’s had already sold out of several flavors but we still managed to grab an apple crumb and a banana cream.


Both were delicious and I definitely want to go back.

Northern San Diego County is a beautiful spot containing several unique places to visit. I feel I’ve only scratched the surface and can’t wait to return to explore more.


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