The lazy days of summer are coming to an end. But even if the kids are back in school, there are still great opportunities to take a weekend day trip in the Southern California area. One of the best things about this part of the country is that you are just a short drive from the desert, the mountains and the ocean — so enjoy an afternoon in the seaside community of Laguna Beach.
The beach town is known for more than its 2004 MTV reality show, Laguna Beach, it's home to a colony of artists — writers, painters, sculptors and photographers — who are inspired by the stunning landscape and the thriving patronage of the arts. So after almost a decade away, we decided to take in an afternoon and evening of scenic views, delicious food and an evening of entertainment.
After finding metered parking at the Sawdust Festival (a more affordable option than the $25 valet parking), we decided to enjoy the half-mile walk to the beach and downtown area. It was an easy stroll over to Main Beach Park, which was fairly crowded on a Sunday with beachgoers, joggers and basketball players. We hit the stairs just to the right of the beach to grab a few snapshots of the surf and the gorgeous sunshine. We then headed to the downtown area to grab a meal at Sushi Laguna, where service was attentive and the fish was fresh — and we opted for the outdoor dining, which put us in a cozy corner away from any crowds. One pandemic note on this particular restaurant, they are automatically adding 15% gratuity to your bill — our waiter let us know ahead of time before we ordered our meal.
Then it was off to the Irvine Bowl, just across the street from our parking at the Sawdust Festival, to watch Laguna Beach's must-see summer event: the Pageant of the Masters. Leave ample time to check out the vendors and artists in the outdoor venue's lobby before the show. Many of the creators are there in person and can speak to you about their work — it's an honor to get their insight. This year's show theme is "Made In America: Trailblazing Artists & Their Stories," where the work of artists, like Winslow Homer, Mary Cassatt, Norman Rockwell, Daniel Chester French, Luis Jimenez and John Nieto, is recreated using humans as models set to live orchestral music. It's unlike anything you've ever experienced and it's a true Orange County summertime tradition.
- You will want to rent binoculars or bring your own to see everything up close, no matter where you are sitting in the bowl.
- Although masks are not required in this venue, you will be in crowds entering and exiting the performance area. We chose to wear our masks, as did about 55% of the crowd — so use your judgment on what makes you the most comfortable in this situation.
- Food and snacks are more limited compared to pre-pandemic years, so go enjoy the restaurants in the Laguna Beach area before the show.
- It can get chilly by the beach, so bring a light sweater to bundle up after the sun goes down.
The Pageant of the Masters runs through Friday, Sept. 3 at the Irvine Bowl. For tickets and more information, visit their website.
Before you go, check out: The Best Way to Spend a Few Hours in Chattanooga, Tennessee — From Trains to Delicious Southern Biscuits
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