Palomar Airport, A Great Place To Go

Let’s Go: McClellan-Palomar Airport By LAURA GROCH The San Diego North County (CA) Times

Most of us tend to avoid airports unless we have to travel, but a few hours at McClellan-Palomar Airport in Carlsbad makes for a pleasant, inexpensive family outing, even if you throw in the cost of breakfast or lunch.

The 487-acre airport, named for area aviator and civic figure Gerald McClellan, is one of North County’s little treasures. It’s a great place for wide-eyed youngsters and veteran aircraft fans to see a variety of planes landing and taking off, from small private jets to larger commercial shuttles to antique biplanes. Watch from ground level behind fences around the runways or climb the steps to the recently enlarged Palomar Airport Cafe for a more comfortable viewpoint.

The cafe is a mainstay not only for those waiting for or arriving from flights, but for nearby companies whose employees want a quick bite. The menu runs from breakfast staples to house specialty sandwiches (fresh grilled mahi-mahi, anyone?), burgers and salads. And yes, low-carb selections are available.

Find a seat next to one of the big windows, place your order and enjoy a view of the runway as you munch. On a recent visit, the cafe hosted a dad with a couple of little ones in tow who were waiting “for Mommy’s plane to come in.” Fortified with french fries, the kids enjoyed plane-spotting until Mom’s shuttle arrived. Older children might also appreciate seeing the uniformed commercial pilots close-up as they relax in the cafe after their flights. The airport is a base for regular commuter runs to Los Angeles (United Express) and Phoenix (America West).

If you prefer, you can wander around and looky-loo at the private aircraft parked in hangars nearby. Also close to the cafe is Barnstorming Adventures Ltd., which operates biplane, air combat and warbird rides (760-931-1674). The planes are often parked outside for easy viewing.

Last, you can pick up a souvenir at Carlsbad Aircraft Pilot Supplies, a shop under the cafe that sells pilot supplies as well as T-shirts, mugs and posters.

WHAT: McClellan-Palomar Airport and the Palomar Airport Cafe

WHERE: 2198 Palomar Airport Road, Carlsbad

DIRECTIONS: From I-5, exit Palomar Airport Road and head east about 3 miles. The airport is at Yarrow Drive. From inland communities, take Highway 78 to San Marcos Boulevard, turn left at the light, and continue west about 5 miles. San Marcos Boulevard becomes Palomar Airport Road.

CALL: (760) 431-4646 for airport information. Call the Palomar Airport Cafe at (760) 438-9669.

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