Imagine Visiting Carlsbad, California

By Terri & Martin Hirsch Created: May 19, 2011 Last Updated: May 23, 2011
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Imagine a city that has a family-friendly, hands-on Music Museum, has the 27-acre working ranch of the late Leo Carrillo, and is home to the only Legoland Park in the United States!

Located on northern San Diego’s coastline, 35 miles north of the San Diego Airport and 60 miles south of Disneyland, is the charming city of Carlsbad, California. We flew into San Diego and took a 45-minute bus shuttle to the West Inns & Suites.

This 86-room boutique hotel features two fine dining restaurants, a fitness center, an outdoor heated pool, Jacuzzi and a business center. It is also a dog and cat friendly hotel with pet beds and treats. West Inns & Suites offers a complimentary hot buffet breakfast as well as fresh baked cookies and milk at bedtime. Within steps from the hotel’s lobby are the highly acclaimed fine dining restaurants, West Steak and Seafood and Bistro West.

Music for the Making

On our first day we toured the Museum of Making Music located in the National Association of Music Merchants Building. The Museum tells the story of music-making from the 1890s to the present. It features five galleries and displays of over 500 vintage instruments, with hundreds of audio and video clips.

We took a journey “through” vintage and modern instruments and listened to samples of sounds and songs spanning a century of American popular music. By using push-button kiosks we heard the music of John Philip Sousa’s Stars and Stripes, jazz by Louis Armstrong, Ragtime, the Beatles, and Glen Campbell singing “Galveston.”

The Music Museum’s Interactive Area allows adults and especially children to play and experience the making of music on a variety of instruments. The Music Venture fieldtrip for students to see, hear, play, and learn about musical instruments while touring the museum galleries was excellent.

Chow Down to Head for the Ranch

Our next stop was The Landings Restaurant located next to the terminal building at the Carlsbad’s McClellan Palomer Airport. We watched small planes take off and land as we enjoyed an excellent lunch. Carlsbad’s McClellan Palomer airport offers a full schedule of daily commuter flights to and from the Los Angeles airport on United Express. They are planning a new airline, California Pacific, for the future.

After lunch we visited the Leo Carrillo Ranch, a California Registered Historical Park. During the 1930s to 1940s, anyone visiting the ranch would stop at the Caretakers Cottage and introduce themselves. This day, we entered this Cottage to see a video about the life of Leo Carrillo, best known for the role of Pancho in the 1950s television series “The Cisco Kid.” The show was translated into more than a dozen languages and fan letters poured in from all over the world.

The Carrillo Ranch has about four miles of unpaved sloping trails which wind through open spaces of fresh water marsh and grasslands. In the 1930s Carrillo introduced wild birds to the Park, including the peafowl.

Today peafowls were all around us as we walked through the Ranch. The old barn and stable complex was on the hillside. The lower level included a bullpen, corral, windmill and wash station. Adjacent to the lower porch were six horse stables. This barn is being converted into a modern theater and meeting area.

We entered the bedrooms of Leo and his wife where the original clothing worn by Leo Carrillo, restored photographs etched by him, and many family and friends’ photos were on view. The upper patio, which serves as a wedding chapel, had a shower and bedroom. Continuing our walk we came upon the cabana and the pool, bordered by a man-made, white sand beach.

During that time well water was pumped by a windmill into the pool from a nearby well. This area, and the stone barbeque, was the sites where Carrillo hosted large groups of Hollywood guests at his magnificent fiestas. His guests included Clark Gable and Carole Lombard, Danny Thomas, Will Rogers, and Conrad Hilton.

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