Things to do in Laguna Beach

Located halfway between Los Angeles and San Diego, Laguna Beach is one of Orange County’s best-kept secrets. With a totally unique topography that differs to other California coastal cities and with its seven miles of coves and beaches where visitors can explore sea caves, tide pools, ocean side bluffs and of course, sandy beaches, Laguna Beach is the ideal destination for a beach getaway. But beyond the beach, Laguna is also home to more than 20,000 acres of protected wilderness, making it optimal for hiking and outdoor activities. Experience world-class dining, boutique shopping with endless “made in Laguna” options, and an abundance of art that the city is truly best known for. When visiting a destination, it’s easy to get swept up in the standard “must-see” lists that are easily found online. Next time you make your way to Laguna though, consider adding a few other options (from our curated list below) to your itinerary which will make it possible to experience the beach city more like a local.

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Beach brewed beers

Founded in 2014, Laguna Beach Beer Company is the brainchild of two Laguna Beach natives and childhood friends. The actual brewery is just a few short miles away in Rancho Santa Margarita, but as of May 2018, the brewery opened up their marquee location in Laguna Beach’s art district which includes a taproom and kitchen. With 17 of their own brews on tap in addition to some guest brews, you won’t struggle to find a favourite. Pair your beer with some bites or a full meal from their killer food menu.

Photo: Pawel Kadysz

Photo: Greg Ortega

Instagram-friendly murals

Laguna Arts District has a new creative hub. The Hive houses commercial tenants such as Laguna Beach Beer Company (see above) and McClain Family Cellars Tasting Room. In addition, it’s also home to retail and more. It’s a creative ecosystem that thrives with creators, students, makers, observers, enthusiasts and consumers. The Hive also provides space for well-known large-scales artists to paint murals on the facades of The Hive businesses, and the end results are spectacular. After some wine, beer or both, spend some time walking around to all the different businesses located within the art complex and then flex your pose skills for Instagram in front of some of the city’s newest murals.

Photo: Carl Ibale

Trade your flip flops for hiking shoes

Sometimes the beach is just not enough. If you are wanting more outdoor activities beyond the beach, consider taking a hike on one of the many trails located throughout Laguna Beach. In South Laguna, consider the Valido Hiking Trail, which has a trailhead located inside a residential neighbourhood (so make sure to check for posted parking signs). The hike offers several single-track sections, a creek crossing, lots of stairs and when you crest the ridge and continue a few hundred yards more to Aliso Peak, you will see some of the most stunning coastal views in Orange County, including the blue waters of Aliso Beach. The hike also continues and leads to longer hikes that can take you up to Niguel Peak and beyond. Valido Trail though is rarely crowded and is highly recommended for the not only the views but for a great workout.

Photo: Bradley Ziffer

Photo: Jay Sadoff

Discover your inner artist

For nine weeks during the summer, Sawdust Art Festival draws more than 200,000 visitors where guests are invited to shop along sawdust-covered paths in a hand-built village of fine art and eclectic craftsmanship. Sawdust also offers a year-round art program onsite, Sawdust Art Classes, featuring a comprehensive array of art and studio workshops taught by working Sawdust artists. From beginner to advanced, Sawdust artists teach their trade hands-on. From learning how to wire wrap stones to silk scarf painting to photo enamelling to gemstone bracelet workshops, the options are endless. The Sawdust Art Festival is a nonprofit organization dedicated to educating the public and promoting art created by local artisans in Laguna Beach and is one of the experiences the city is best known for.

Photo: Annie Spratt

Bike through a quieter side of Laguna Beach

Best known for their kayak tours, surf lessons and paddleboard tours, La Vida Laguna, a mostly water-based tour company also has a really cool electric bike tour that allows visitors to experience the beauty of Laguna Beach via a relatively easy and historic loop that bypasses the busy streets. Ride along through the quiet Craftsman home neighbourhoods and gardens, access amazing view corridors and stop at Heisler Park to experience some of the city’s incredible public art. The tour concludes in the charming downtown commercial district. Biking on an electric bike is a fun and easy way to explore a different side of Laguna Beach.

Photo: Jessi Pena

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Discover California art

Laguna Art Museum is a museum dedicated to California art, caring for and exhibiting works of art that were created by California artists in addition to works that represents the life and history of the state of California. The museum is unlike any other museum in the state as it collects California art and only California art, and ranges across all periods and styles nineteenth-century to present day. A visit here provides a unique opportunity to get to know the state of California through incredible works of art, plus, it’s just a beautiful way to spend an afternoon.

Photo: Anna Kolosyuk

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Catch a show at this iconic playhouse

Harrison Ford famously got his acting start at the Laguna Beach Playhouse, a historic Equity theatre located in the arts district of Laguna Beach. The playhouse is known for its year-round season of comedies, dramas, musicals, stand-up comedy and family fare. As a member of the League of Resident Theatres, Laguna Playhouse often features stage and screen stars who come to Laguna Beach for its pristine beaches, upscale lifestyle and fine dining, all which are located within steps of the theatre. Film star Melanie Griffith recently had a limited run performing in The Graduate at the playhouse. Check out their list of upcoming performances so that you can include a show during your visit.

Photo: Matthias Wagner

Learn about Laguna’s gay history with a glass of wine

The Seahorse, a tiny neighbourhood beer and wine bar, is located inside Pearl St. General, in the Pearl District of Laguna Beach. Since 1926, when it first opened as a liquor store and hardware store, the historic building that houses The Seahorse has had many incarnations. In 1946, it became The Seahorse, Laguna’s first gay bar, having to operate as a secret watering hole for decades. Today, The Seahorse celebrates diversity and inclusion as all are welcomed to enjoy the craft and microbrew beers, wines by the glass & bottle and creative bar food.

Photo: Brian Chan

Photo: Tyler Nix

Sing your heart out at Laguna’s oldest gay bar

Laguna Beach was once home to many gay bars and clubs, but as times evolved and the city became more welcoming of everyone, regardless of their sexual orientation, the gay bars began to disappear as the city is now home to bars that are visited by an eclectic mix of people. But, there’s still one really amazing gay bar left, and it happens to be Laguna’s oldest gay bar. Main Street Bar and Cabaret, is a Laguna Beach icon. Expect lots of drag shows and karaoke in addition to super friendly bar staff and roster of loyal patrons who frequent regularly. It’s cute and quirky and if visiting, it’s worth stopping by for a drink or two, even if just to support them as they are the last gay bar standing, and they need to always be a part of the Laguna Beach experience.

Photo: Sandy Millar

Hike down a flight of stairs to a beach paradise

Laguna’s Main Beach was once the “gay beach” for years, and although the city is extremely gay-friendly, Main Beach is now their major tourist attraction and beach. There’s still an unofficial “gay beach” that truly is more secluded and more picturesque than Main Beach though. West Street Beach is a wide cove just south of Aliso Beach Park and at times is very popular with queer locals. There are no shops, bars or cafes nearby, so it’s best to pack a picnic before headed down the stairs to your own (almost) private paradise. If you happen to be visiting over the 4th of July celebrations, West Street Beach hosts one of the biggest and unofficial vacation gatherings for the LGBTQ community in Southern California.

Photo: Alondra Salgado

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