Laguna Beach and all of its beauty was discovered somewhat by accident. The early settlers who began occupying the area after the Civil War discovered little land than leant itself to farming or ranching. It wasn’t until the 1900s that these settlers discovered that people from all around wanted to visit their area because of its beauty and therefore needed a place to stay. Sections of beach were built on and rentals were placed along them. The idea grew as many people were looking for a place to escape the summer heat, and from this the tourist industry began in this area.
This was quickly followed by groups of visiting landscape painters began migrating into the area in the early 1920s. By the time painter Norman St. Claire visited from San Francisco in 1903, Laguna already had become a popular tourist destination with a hotel: the Hotel Laguna. St. Claire added to the prestige of the area through his paintings and his stories to friends who lived in the south. Other Plein Air artists like William Wendt and Frank Cuprien also moved to Laguna Beach, giving the area its large artist’s edge.
The continued influx of large varieties of people into Laguna Beach added to the town’s diversity. Hollywood stars, retirees, gays, hippies, yuppies, and most lately the very-well-to-do have made Laguna Beach their home and added to the local culture.
Over the years, art galleries, museums, and festivals began to evolve out of this creative little community. The creation of an open public beach park in the 1960s helped Laguna Beach become a full-fledged resort town. Its newest addition is the Montage Laguna Beach, which draws its own Hollywood crowd, including sometime-resident Heather Locklear and hubby Richie Sambora.
Locals and visitors alike can stroll around Laguna Beach, explore tide pools and enjoy the sunsets over the Pacific—just as the Indians, Spaniards and early artists who recognized Laguna’s charm did in times gone by.
What else is there to see and do while in Laguna Beach, besides its beautiful scenery?
1. Laguna Art Museum – Located just steps from the Pacific Ocean in Laguna Beach. Museum visitors can enjoy continuously changing exhibitions of works by historical, contemporary, and emerging artists and browse through the Museum Store and Art Rental and Sales Gallery.
2. Crystal Cove State Park – Located just north of Laguna Beach, this beautiful stretch of land features rustic, overnight campsites, a stretch of coastal cliffs and a beachfront cove sandwiched between Pacific Coast Highway and the Pacific Ocean. Crystal Cove is used by mountain bikers inland and scuba and skin divers underwater. The beach is popular with both swimmers and surfers.
3. OC WildLife & Beach Tour – A 4-hour land tour through paradise shows the beauty of Southern California’s beaches. Here you can see seals and sea lions up close, explore the sea life in the tide pools, or experience a nature preserve where you can see thousands of migrating birds. Learn about the importance of wildlife and conservation. The tour helps you see the quaint town of Laguna Beach with its fabulous restaurants and shops.
4. South County Adventure Tours Surfing & Kayaking Tours – Offering a knowledgeable local touch to specific points of interest with a great time in mind, providing great guides, and personal attention. Guides know the ideal locations for your surfing ability and are able to cater to any skill level – advanced or beginner.
5. Festival of Arts – Year-round activities including arts and crafts displays from a multitude of artists, a puppet show, a junior art exhibit and the Pageant of the Masters. California’s finest summer art event is staged in a six-acre canyon park near the ocean in Laguna Beach.
6. Pageant of the Masters – Presented in July and August since the early 1930’s, these colorful events have won worldwide recognition. The Festival is a juried exhibit of fine, strictly original works by 160 gifted artists, while the Pageant is a spectacular stage production of living art re-creations
7. Lagunatics – A fall event, Lagunatics has been an annual tradition since 1992. The cast features local personalities, politicians, and an amazing array of talent with credits from Broadway to Las Vegas’s largest showrooms to Southern California’s finest theatres.
Although Laguna Beach may have never served as great farm and ranch country, it certainly is a place of unique character that can’t be missed.