By Stan Wawer, Staff Writer
It was early May, weeks before the crowds of summer. My wife and I sat sipping champagne on the balcony of our elegant room at the Surf & Sand Resort in Laguna Beach.
The sun was setting on the horizon. The tide below us crept up the sand, inching its way toward the resort. I don’t know about you, but the constant rush of surf puts me in Dreamland.
No wonder artists discovered Laguna in the 1920s and took up permanent residence. The Hollywood crowd followed in the 1930s, giving Laguna its reputation as an “artists colony.”
The Festival of Arts was started in 1932 and eventually grew to include the world-famous Pageant of the Masters. This year the pageant runs from July 9 to Aug. 30.
A nightly event highlighted by exquisite tableaux vivant, the pageant features local residents who transform themselves into figures from famous artworks, re-creating multiple pieces live in front of the audience.
The art colony is still a magical place, its time-warped ambience as inviting today as it was 50 or 60 years ago.
The Laguna Art Museum is one of the state’s oldest. It showcases unique exhibitions as well as the largest permanent collection of artwork by California artists.
Dozens of art galleries offer a wide variety of original artwork. Historic Gallery Row is just north of downtown.
Gone from Laguna Beach is the town’s icon, “The Greeter.” Eiler Larsen, the beach town’s colorful character, spent 33 years waving to motorists on South Coast Highway. Two statues honor Larsen.
Beautiful beaches and ideal weather continue as Laguna Beach’s premiere attractions. Its oceanfront is lined with parks, steeply rising hills offering a scenic backdrop. The inland access route, Laguna Canyon Road, travels through one of the state’s matchless canyons.
The main beach features a boardwalk, basketball courts and beach volleyball. In the summer, you can watch a basketball game or volleyball match any time of the day.
Laguna Beach also offers an eclectic list of excellent restaurants.
The oldest continually running playhouse on the West Coast, Laguna Playhouse is a must-see for theater aficionados.
The Pacific Marine Mammal Center, a rescue center in Laguna Canyon, offers up-close viewing of marine mammals. After treatment, healthy animals are released back into their natural habitat.
But this weekend, my wife and I just wanted to relax and enjoy the soft ambiance of Laguna Beach.
Sitting only 20 feet from the blue waters of the Pacific, all 165 beautifully appointed rooms at Surf & Sand have a view of the ocean from private balconies.
Guests can enjoy 500 feet of pristine sand on Bluebird Beach to sunbathe, explore tide pools, do morning yoga or relax at the Aquaterra Spa.
The Surf & Sand Resort isn’t for everyone. Everything about it is pricey. But if you can afford the price tag, it’s as good as it gets. (888) 869-9299 or visit www.surfandsandresort.com.
The resort is offering guests a three-day, two-night “Art of Relaxation” package, running in conjunction with the Pageant of the Masters.
The package includes tickets to the pageant, plus transportation to the festival and a special menu in Splashes Restaurant crafted by Executive Chef Lewis Butler.
“The arts have always been an integral part of the Laguna Beach experience,” said General Manager Nick Bozych.
The “Art of Relaxation” package is expensive, priced from $1,200. It is available Sunday through Thursday.
For those on a tighter budget, the Inn at Laguna Beach offers a midweek special through June 30. Guests get 25 percent off ocean-view rooms with balconies and breakfast. Call them at (800) 544-4479 or visit www.innatlagunabeach.com.