Residents of Laguna Beach are known as Lagunatics, a nickname that seems especially appropriate in summertime. Who else would get into costumes every night, go out on stage, and not move a muscle or say a word?
They're part of a cast of folks who volunteer to pose as figures in famous artworks re-created in the Pageant of the Masters, a renowned Southland event since 1933.
This show of "living pictures" is a highlight of the city's annual Festival of Arts that begins Wednesday and continues through Aug. 28. Added enticements are the Sawdust and Art-A-Fair, two other arts-and-crafts shows that open this weekend and run through Aug. 31.
Laguna Beach has long been known as an art colony, but another attraction for visitors is its stunning coastline of sandy beaches, secluded coves and rocky cliffs. For a panorama, head to the 500 block of South Coast Highway and Laguna Village, a cluster of open-air shops plus patio dining on the bluff top.
An equally impressive view of the town that's built on gentle hills sloping to the sea is from Heisler Park along Cliff Drive. You can picnic on the grassy lawn and watch boats from Newport Beach and Dana Point race along the horizon.
Drink and Dine
Or drink and dine with the same grand view at Las Brisas, a stylish Mexican seafood restaurant and cocktail spot. A pathway leads down to Main Beach Park, Laguna's "Window on the Sea" that frames the seasonal crowd of sunbathers and swimmers.
The same Pacific beach scene is awarded to drivers who arrive via the main route into town, California 133, which ends at Coast Highway and the ocean. Reach it from Los Angeles by driving south on Interstate 5 or 405.
Then exit on the short Laguna Freeway (California 133) that becomes the rural and winding Laguna Canyon Road and leads to all three sites of the summer art shows. (To help alleviate traffic problems, the city has parking lots along the canyon road and runs trams to the festivals and beach.)
First is the Art-A-Fair, celebrating its 20th year and displaying the works of 150 artists from Orange County and elsewhere. Down the road, look for false building facades that mark the Sawdust Festival with the creations of 175 artists and craftsmen, all Laguna Beach residents.
Just beyond is the veteran Festival of the Arts and the works of 165 artists who must live between Newport Beach and San Clemente to participate in the show.
All three sites open daily at 10 a.m. The main festival closes at 11:30 nightly, the Sawdust and Art-A-Fair at 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 10 other nights.
Entry to the Sawdust costs $3, seniors $2 and free for ages 14 and younger. Art-A-Fair visitors pay $3, seniors $1.50 and free for ages 12 and under.
Admission to the Festival of Arts is $2, seniors $1 and free for children 12 and younger with an adult. Free entry also is given to ticket holders for the Pageant of the Masters.
13 Motionless Men
The nightly two-hour show is staged in an adjoining outdoor amphitheater. This year it begins with a replica of a 1986 commemorative silver dollar and a woman holding her pose as the Statue of Liberty. The traditional finale features 13 men depicting Leonardo da Vinci's "The Last Supper."
A few of the 2,662 seats for each performance are still available. Also, any presold tickets returned for the night's pageant are put on sale again at 10 a.m., first come, first served, until the show begins at 8:30 p.m. Line up at the Festival of Arts box office, 650 Laguna Canyon Road.
Seats cost from $9 to $30. Call (714) 494-1145 for more ticket information during box office hours, 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. until the show opens Wednesday, then 10 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.
Art-minded visitors will be disappointed that the Laguna Beach Museum of Art is still closed while work continues on its million-dollar expansion; a September reopening is anticipated. However, a stroll up and down Coast Highway leads to artworks of all kinds in dozens of Laguna galleries.
The town also boasts at least 20 antique shops, and Richard Yeakel has four stores of French, English, American and nautical pieces from the 15th to 18th centuries. For Chinese art and antiques, Warren Imports is internationally known.
You'll also discover a cornucopia of gift shops, ranging from the landmark Pottery Shack to off-beat Chicken Little's. Laguna Mercado, Forest Avenue and Lumberyard malls are the town's main trio of shopping plazas.
The vintage Hotel Laguna has been spiffed up considerably by new owners, and its patio bar on the beachfront is still a local favorite for watching sunsets over the ocean. Or head to the Towers' Art Deco lounge with mirrored ceilings that reflect the mesmerizing Pacific nine stories below.
It's atop the Surf and Sand Hotel, the town's best seaside hostelry with 160 deluxe rooms and suites. For more homey accommodations, try Laguna Beach's first bed and breakfast, the 11-room Eiler's Inn, or a smaller B&B, the Carriage House. Also charming is Casa Laguna Inn at the south end of town with 18 rooms and new owners.
For a treat, dine in the Surf & Sand's Towers restaurant where continental fare is served with style and ocean views. More informal is the hotel's Boardwalk with fresh fish specialties.
Other popular spots along Coast Highway are the Royal Thai, Tortilla Flats, Gauguin's Bistro, Partners Bistro and the venerable White House Tavern that opened in 1918. Closer to the art festivals along Broadway/Laguna Canyon Road are the Red Tail, Golden Peacock, and Broadway Bar & Grill.
Return to Los Angeles via California 133 to Interstate 5 or 405, or head north on California 1, the coast highway.
Round trip from Los Angeles for art and summer fun in Laguna Beach is 110 miles.