A short walk from the bustling downtown Laguna Beach, this park is an amazing hidden oasis. The grassy bluff and the sandy beach with giant rocks and hidden caves makes this park a favorite spot for photographers, sunset watchers, picnickers, and even sea birds. There are also a variety of art stands selling local artwork.
Crystal Cove State Park spans 3.2 miles (5.15 kilometers) of beach and over 2000 acres (809.37 hectares) of wilderness. Visitors to the park can relax on the beach, hike or go horseback riding on the many trails that criss-cross the verdant landscape. Explore tide pools and hidden coves as well as canyon flora and fauna. Finally, the crystal clear waters have been designated as an underwater park and are great for scuba diving, skin diving, and underwater photography, thus covering all aspects of outdoor exploration.
Founded in 1920, the Laguna Playhouse is rich in history and local color. Used as a neighborhood center of culture and entertainment during World War II, the theater has long been a fixture in the Orange County arts scene. Even now the theater is known for offering fantastic live theater productions.
Balboa Island seems to have the best of both worlds: a lazy, relaxing island atmosphere, yet only minutes away from the mainland. From festivals and parades to chic boutiques and restaurants that run the culinary gamut, this man-made island offers the ideal vacationing spot. Boats and cruise ships ply through clear blue waters, while the sprawling promenade is lined with a melange of stately, waterfront cottages. Its sleek boulevards are ornamented with soaring palm trees, whereas a string of attractions like markets, patio-fronted coffee shops, quaint and cozy bookshops, and the Balboa Island Museum & Historical Society lend it a touristy appeal. The island is also a stronghold of adventurous water sports like surfing and offers something for everyone, no matter your interests!
If you are driving south along the coast for the day from L.A., this gallery is ideally situated near the popular Fashion Island shopping center, not even a mile from the Pacific Coast Highway. The subject of much controversy among Orange County's art crowd over the past few years, the museum expanded to almost double its original size when the Newport Harbor Art Museum (same location) and the Laguna Art Museum consolidated to form this larger complex, scandalizing the art-loving Laguna Beach community. The permanent collection focuses on late 20th-century and California art, but the museum enjoys exhibitions that have included works from artists such as Rico Lebrun and Pablo Picasso. The Plein Air Café serves lunch, and a meal will earn you free admission to the museum.
This place recalls the days when a Saturday night date meant a trip to the local amusement park, complete with a ride on the ferris wheel and a few games of skill where a boy could win a teddy bear for his sweetheart. It opened in 1936 and has remained a Newport Beach institution to this day. It's not that big, so don't count on a full day of activity, but it is a nice place to spend a couple of hours. Nights are especially festive here, so bring the family, a group of friends or special someone. There is no entrance fee, but each ride requires tickets.
Laguna Beach has long been a center for art. Creative types flocked here in droves to work their magic along Laguna's pristine shores. The Laguna Art Museum continues this proud heritage with an impressive list of year-round exhibitions and programming. Within these hallowed halls, you'll find classic and contemporary works by artists both fledgling and world renowned. An emphasis is placed on artists hailing from California, but the museum's scope is global nonetheless.
While in Laguna Beach, be sure to visit the oceanfront gallery of Wyland, an artist well-known for his paintings of marine life. Nicknamed the "Marine Michelangelo," the first thing you'll be amazed by is the variety of mediums used in his art. Murals are seen on the exterior walls while bronze sculptures loom over the front entrance. The inside overflows with even more: Lucite sculptures, acrylic sculptures, oil paintings, abstract art, brush art, photographs, bronze tables, portholes and mirrors.
This large, 95,000 square foot (8,825 square meter) eco-friendly facility is known as the Soka Performing Arts Center. Located on the Soka University of America campus in Aliso Viejo, this state-of-the-art center features a concert hall and theater both fully equipped with incredible acoustics designed by the same man who did the Walt Disney Hall in Los Angeles and the Suntory Hall in Tokyo. See amazing student performances as well as professional groups year round at this stunning venue.