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Discover Orange County

November 05, 2000|DENNIS McLELLAN

Looking for a new neighborhood to explore? Here are a few suggestions, culled from recent articles. Complete articles can be accessed at


Laguna Beach: Landscape Is Right for Exploring Art When you're cruising down Coast Highway in Laguna Beach, it's easy to overlook the stretch of shops just north of the Laguna Art Museum. Locals call it Gallery Row. The two blocks of North Coast Highway between Myrtle Street on the north and Aster Street/Cliff Drive on the south has long been known for its collection of art galleries. But a number of new fine-art galleries--and a new restaurant--have revitalized the area in recent years.

A visit to Gallery Row would not be complete without a stop at the Laguna Art Museum and a short walk down Cliff Drive to Heisler Park, which offers spectacular views of Laguna's rugged coastline and the tide pools below the steep cliffs. (A stairway at mid-park takes you down to the beach.)

This stretch of North Coast Highway has had a gallery presence since 1929, when the Laguna Art Museum moved to the corner of Cliff Drive and the highway, according to Peter Blake, owner of the Peter Blake Gallery (326 N. Coast Highway, [949] 376-9994. Hours: 11 a.m.-5 p.m. daily).

But more important than numbers, Blake said, "is the quality of work being shown. The people doing business here now are less commercially minded and more about just showing great work. We recently got one of the top galleries in the country, out of San Francisco, to open a satellite here." That's Campbell-Thiebaud Gallery, which showcases contemporary figurative art. (353 N. Coast Highway, [949] 494-4600. Hours: 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Wednesday through Friday, 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday).

Other galleries include Len Wood's Indian Territory, Elena Zass Gallery and Campbell-Thiebaud Gallery. Nicholson's of Laguna Beach sells antiques.

Gallery Row is also home to several landmark Laguna eateries including the Royal Hawaiian and Las Brisas.

For more than 80 years, the one-story Craftsman bungalow next to the venerable Cottage Restaurant was just that: a house. Now it's home to Madison Square & Garden Cafe, which has become one of Laguna's most popular breakfast and lunch destinations (320 N. Coast Highway, [949] 494-0137. Cafe hours: 7 a.m.-4 p.m.; closed Tuesdays during the winter; gift shop hours, 7 a.m.-5 p.m.). Order your food at the counter to the right. Getting there: From the San Diego Freeway (405), take Laguna Canyon Road (133) to Laguna Beach. Turn right on Coast Highway. Gallery Row is on North Coast Highway, just north of Main Beach between Aster Street/Cliff Drive and Myrtle Street. There's a lot of metered parking (25 cents for 15 minutes) and a parking lot ($6 for all day) between Cliff Drive and Jasmine Street.

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