By LARRY ANTHONY PANNELL
The small artist community of Laguna Beach is the Riviera of the West Coast. Its pristine white beaches, clear blue water and numerous rocky coves offer seclusion and a sense of privacy. Located halfway between Los Angeles and San Diego, this seaside village is an oasis in the concrete jungle of Southern California.
To reach Laguna, you have to drive the famed Pacific Coast Highway as it winds and dips its way along the countryside, skirting the Pacific Ocean. The alternative is a 10-mile drive through Laguna Canyon, surrounded by the peaceful hills of the coastal range.
If you choose the canyon route, as you near town to your left are the grounds of the Sawdust Festival, and just a couple hundred yards further on the right lies the Festival of Arts. The festivals offer various the display and sale of modern works of art, from paintings and sculptures to handmade clothing to blown glass and everything in-between, all from local artists.
The Sawdust Festival was created in 1967 by local artists. Eclectic works of art housed in a diverse range of display booths constructed by the artists themselves. As you wander through the narrow passageways of the sawdust-covered grounds, music fills the air and transports you to a simpler time.
The Festival of Arts began in 1932 and is a more modern setting than the rustic Sawdust fair. As you roam from booth to booth exploring the grounds. your eyes are filled with the colors, shapes and forms created by the region’s most talented artisans.
The Festival of Arts is also the locale of the Pageant of Masters. which was first introduced in 1933. The pageant offers a live performance of approximately 1,200 volunteers, 500 of which are cast or work behind the scenes. The cast are positioned, donned in period clothes and painted with makeup recreating famous works of art. The recreations include paintings, sculptures and statues, culminating with an interpreta5tion of Leonardo da Vinci’s “Last Supper.”
The Sawdust and the Festival of Arts are joined by a slew of other art festivals throughout the year, including the Art-a-Fair, also held in the canyon. It includes 100 gifted artists displaying their work, giving workshops and demonstrations.
All the festivals take place during the summer, Christmas and during holiday periods. The town is also filled with a plethora of quaint shops and art galleries.
In recent years, Laguna has become a foodie destination as well, with a wide variety of restaurants ranging from pop-up taco stands to small mom-and-pop cafes to five-star establishments.
Lodging options are just as diverse, and include a myriad of hotels, inns and resorts. Some are nestled in canyons, others on hillsides overlooking the ocean, and still others sit on the sandy beach.
The Ranch at Laguna Beach is located in the quiet and serene Aliso Canyon, a five-minute drive from the center of the city, away from the hustle and bustle of downtown, yet close enough to enjoy everything that Laguna has to offer.
As a member of the prestigious National Geographic’s Unique Lodges of the World, this exceptional gem was ranked among the Conde Nast Travelers top 10 Reader’s Choice Awards in 2019. A Forbes recommendation and AAA 4 Diamond rating further accents the resort’s impressive portfolio of attractions.
The Ranch hosts a GEO-certified nine-hole golf course, replete with a country club, a patio restaurant and a bar that overlooks the course. There is also a well-appointed pro shop with lessons available.
The resort’s boutique Hudson Salon and Spa offers therapeutic massages, anti-aging facials and innovative Cryoskin body toning therapy from Paris to zap away unwanted fat.
The Ranch’s premiere Harvest Restaurant has both indoor and outside patio seating, and executive chef Kyle St. John’s cuisine offers a farm-to-table menu inspired by locally grown produce, some of which is produced on the premise in the resort’s garden and orchard.
St. John also oversees the beachfront Lost Pier Café, located minutes away on Aliso Beach for casual, beachside breakfasts, lunches and desserts.
The 1,600-square-foot treehouse suite, suite huddled on the hillside overlooking the canyon, has a wrap-around deck, scenic floor-to-ceiling windows, a gourmet kitchen, its very own gazebo, and, most of all, a sense of luxurious privacy that is seldom found so close to the hustle and bustle of Los Angeles.
It’s little wonder that Laguna Beach has earned the unofficial tital of California’s Riviera.
…Nov. 27, 2020