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Trip of the Week

The 100-Year History of Carlsbad

August 30, 1987|MICHELE GRIMM and TOM GRIMM | The Grimms of Laguna Beach are authors of "Away for the Weekend," a travel guide to Southern California.

CARLSBAD, Calif. — This city's Victorian train depot is the place to be Sept. 12 when the Los Angeles-bound Amtrak makes its first scheduled stop in more than 25 years.

It signals the start of 1887 Day, a festive family event that celebrates Carlsbad's 100th birthday.

Arriving on the train at 10:15 a.m. will be the town's special guests for the all-day party, 50 kids from the San Diego Center for Children, a home for children with emotional behavior problems. They'll be met by a brass band, clowns, mimes and townsfolk dressed in costumes of the 1800s.

Afterward there will be a community picnic and puppet show just across the railroad tracks in Rotary Park.

At 1:30 p.m. the action moves two blocks west to the Alt Karlsbad building, a historic landmark at the site of a mineral well that's responsible for the town's name.

After homesteader John Frazier tapped the well in the early 1880s, its water was found to have the same chemical properties as that in the famed European health spa of Karlovy Vary (Karlsbad, in English), Bohemia (now part of Czechoslovakia).

Czech dancers and a polka band will entertain and you can tour the history gallery in a Hanseatic-style building. A special attraction will be a 200-ton, 16-foot-tall sand sculpture depicting Karlovy Vary.

Music and Dancing

At 3 p.m. Carlsbad's intersection of State Street and Grand Avenue will be active with square-dance groups, barbershop quartets and roving clowns and magicians. Fifties' music and an old-time country dance is planned for the evening in Rotary Park.

Carlsbad's birthday bash is a good reason to discover the attractions of this San Diego County coastal town that has tripled in size in recent years to nearly 38 square miles. It now extends south along Interstate 5 and goes inland to include the La Costa fitness resort.

Other new accommodations overlook the ocean and are close to the spruced-up downtown. Make a short driving tour of landmarks, then park and go for a stroll on the city streets that lead to bluffs above the Pacific.

Get to Carlsbad from Los Angeles by driving south on Interstate 5 to the junction for California 78 and Vista Way. As you exit the freeway, turn left (west) onto Vista Way and go left again at Hill Street.

You'll be on the old coast highway, now designated San Diego County S21. After crossing Buena Vista Lagoon, a bird sanctuary, you've entered the city, and the street name changes to Carlsbad Boulevard.

On the right is the campus of a college-prep boarding school, the Army and Navy Academy, a Carlsbad landmark for 51 years. Much older is the 1887 home in Magee Park that's just down the block at Beech Avenue. Built by town co-founder Samuel Church Smith, it's now the Carlsbad Historical Society mini-museum.

A society member is on hand Saturdays from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., but any weekday you can enter through the back door through the city's Parks Department to look around. Pick up a guide-map to landmarks as well as two historic walking-tour brochures.

60-Year-Old Church

Among the other vintage buildings in Magee Park is the Shipley-Magee Barn, built by later owners of the house. There's also a 60-year-old church still used for weddings that served as Carlsbad's first city hall, police station and library.

As you continue south on Carlsbad Boulevard, go around the corner on Christiansen Way to see the town's oldest place of worship, the 1896 redwood chapel of St. Michael's Episcopal Church.

Across from the Alt Karlsbad and Frazier's Well you'll see the attractive Carlsbad Mineral Springs Hotel that opened in 1930 and has become a retirement home.

A better-known landmark for travelers is the Twin Inns, a grand Victorian that was a family-run roadhouse serving chicken dinners for nearly 70 years. Built in 1887 by town co-founder Gerhard Shutte, the building was recently renovated and reopened as Neiman's restaurant.

If you're disappointed not to find country-style fried chicken on the menu anymore, go for Sunday brunch when it's prepared from the original recipe and served with fritters. Many other items are included in the all-you-can-eat fare that costs $12.95; children 10 years and younger, $5.95. Neiman's brunch hours are 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.; no reservations.

Across the street is one of the town's new lodgings, the Carlsbad Inn Beach and Tennis Resort, a time-share development with 60 rooms available for nightly rental. A double costs $95. The tennis courts haven't been completed, but there's access down the cliff to Carlsbad State Beach. Information: (800) 874-2431.

Carlsbad Boulevard veers to the ocean and another new place to stay overlooks the highway and water. It's Tamarack Beach Resort, also a time-share, but with 21 hotel rooms that can be rented for $85 a night. Reservations: (800) 334-2199.

Staying at the Beach

On the beach, a block from the highway along Ocean Street, you'll find a 49-room favorite of vacationers, the Beach Terrace Inn. Rates from $96 to $137. Information: (800) 662-3224.

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