If you grew up in the 1950s, chances are you watched a western television show called “The Cisco Kid,” which featured a character actor named Leo Carrillo as Cisco’s sidekick Pancho. Carrillo was born in Los Angeles in 1881, and despite his Hispanic surname, was a Los Angeles native who traced his American roots back several generations.
A great great grandfather served in the Portola Expedition that extensively explored California in the 18th century, and his great uncle was a three time mayor of Los Angeles. Carrillo’s father served as police chief in Santa Monica. Leo was a college graduate who began his career as a cartoonist for a San Francisco newspaper before becoming an actor who worked in more than 90 films.
He was seventy when he landed the television role of Pancho for which he is most remembered. While Carrillo pursued his acting career, he was simultaneously building a working ranchero and personal retreat in Carlsbad.
Leo, his wife and his daughter are long gone but his ranch remains and has been open to the public since 2003. It is maintained by the City of Carlsbad and connects to the citywide trails system via the 4-mile long Rancho Carrillo trail. The 27-acre ranchero lies in a canyon near the intersection of Poinsettia Land and Melrose Drive, and contains beautifully restored adobe buildings, antique windmills, a reflecting pool and other structures that call up memories of California history. There are a host of native plants and dozens of colorful peacocks who live on the property.
We spent an hour and a half here exploring the nooks and crannies and finding many fun surprised. I loved that it was not crowded and we were given free rein to explore on our own. We saw were lucky to spot the white peacock and a ton of babies which definitely added to the experience. It was a lot of fun looking in the old homes and rooms and I recommend having one of the tour guides walk you around to gain some background about the structures you're exploring. The guides are volunteers so donations help support their activities.