But believe it or not, even La Jollans like to mix it up and try something different. For us, the answer was simple — Laguna Beach. An easy drive straight up Interstate 5, it’s less than two hours away, making it a perfect weekend getaway.
Although the drive was a piece of cake, we were ready to get out, stretch our legs and have some fun — so we headed straight for the coast. The city’s seven miles of coastline is breathtaking, and because of its size, Laguna has an intimate, charming feel. Downtown Laguna is steps away from the beach, so visitors can easily go shopping, see a movie or grab a bite when they want to take a break from the beach scene.
After we wrapped up our beach hike, we headed to Three Seventy Common — having already heard rave reviews about this new restaurant. Our table was on the second floor with a great vantage point overlooking the entire scene. Shortly after we arrived, chef/proprietor Ryan Adams greeted us with a glass of light and fruity white sangria. He also took the time to point out his favorites, which included a kale salad with stone fruit, currant, walnut and citrus. If only all salads tasted like this.
Choosing two entrees proved to be a tough task. In the end, we selected a halibut dish and bacon-wrapped meatloaf — polar opposites, and equally impressive and chock full of flavor. The entrees were also a perfect size — not too big and not too small. When our waiter, James, started talking up the dessert choices, we politely declined. Why spoil it by eating too much? But James wouldn’t take no for an answer. Before we knew it, there was a delicious-looking dessert called Grandma B’s chocolate cake — with vanilla bean ice cream on the side — staring us down. Three Seventy Common is located at 370 Glenneyre St.
After wrapping up dinner, we decided it was time to check into our room at the Surf and Sand Resort. A luxury hotel that sits right on the beach, the Surf and Sand doesn’t disappoint. From the moment we stepped into our room, we knew one night wouldn’t be enough. Our guest room was spacious and comfortable, but it was the huge balcony with its oceanfront view that grabbed our attention.
Wandering around the hotel, we quickly discovered there was a lot to do — a swimming pool with ocean views, all the services you can imagine designed to help you relax at Aquaterra Spa, coastal fine dining at Splashes and cool cocktails at 15FiftyFive. When asked why guests fall in love with this resort, assistant general manager Joanna Bear summed it up succinctly.
“This is a fantastic place to come when you want to unwind, unplug and relax,” she said. “But if you’re looking for fun things to do, there are all sorts of opportunities. We’re literally walking distance from art galleries, restaurants and boutique shops.”
Speaking from a visitor’s perspective, that’s a plus. We didn’t use our car once.
For those trying to decide what time of year would be best to visit Laguna Beach, the answer is: any time. The region plays host to events all through the calendar, like the Pageant of the Masters in July and August, the Laguna Beach Plein Air Painting Invitational in October, the Laguna Beach Music Festival in February or the Sawdust Art Festival in both summer and winter. The area also features year-round events, like the free First Thursdays Art Walk, which showcases dozens of galleries and studios — a must-see for art lovers.
For more information on what’s happening when, as well as lodging, dining and event information, visit www.lagunabeachinfo.com.
Year-round in Laguna Beach
• Sawdust Art Festival Winter Fantasy
• Laguna Beach Music Festival
• Hospitality Night
• Holiday Tree Lighting
• Laguna Beach à la carte — food and wine festival
• Spring into Art weekend workshops
• Village Laguna Charm House Tour
• Pageant of the Masters
• Festival of the Arts
• Sawdust Art Festival
• Fete de la Musique
• Laguna Dance Festival
• Laguna Beach Plein Air Painting Invitational
• Open Artists’ Studios
• Laguna Craft Guild Art Show
— Marc & Darlynne Menkin own Where You Want To Be Tours, www.wheretours.com