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Laguna Beach is Southern California's premier seaside destination, midway between Los Angeles and San Diego. A year-round retreat for art lovers, nature enthusiasts and beach goers, Laguna Beach features seven miles of soft sand and surf.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Winter Fantasy 2012

As the warm summer heat slowly cools to crisp winter temperatures, the Sawdust Festival grounds prepare their own transformation of a Winter Fantasy wonderland. We have been attending the Sawdust Art Festival Winter Fantasy for the last four years. On the third weekend of November we loaded our gaggle of spunky kids in the car and headed out to the canyon to see Santa on his special visit to Laguna Beach. Adorned in our warm winter coats (warm enough for the not-so-cold Southern California temperatures) we make a beeline for Santa's house in the Towne Square. The front entry of the grounds is designed to look like Santa’s town square in the North Pole including Santa’s house, his sleigh, the reindeer barn and decorated Christmas Trees (all decorated by different non-profit community organizations). After we finished telling Santa what we wanted for Christmas (I asked for a day off) and grabbed a few photos in the Towne Square we meandered down the aisles of the festival to see what we could find for the people on our holiday list. You never know what unique treasures you’ll find.

First up was a booth featuring a mother, daughter and son-in-law team of artists. Jane and Patty work with fused glass making tea light candle holders, star ornaments, serving plates, earrings and much more. The brightly-colored glass danced in the sunlight and grabbed my attention. I am a sucker for the use of color in creating a visual treat and I certainly was seeing that here with the Slowsky’s work. Jane and Patty have been working in fused glass since 1981 and have shown at the Sawdust Festival for 43 years! If you are looking for the perfect stocking suffers for Mom, be sure to stop by and see the earrings, ornaments and candle holders here. 

Jane moved from Denver to Laguna Beach in the late 1940s after visiting family and falling head over heels in love with Laguna. Patty, her daughter, was born and raised here and also met her husband, Laguna Beach native, John Enfield. John is also an artist and you can often find him in the booth whittling away at his latest creation. Clearly John is a wood worker and his specialty is carving and shaping beautiful cutting boards, chopsticks and other items. I thought the cutting boards with inlayed designs were ideal for the foodies and chefs on my list.

Jane and Patty Slowsky

John B. Enfield

Next we wandered into Steve Dennis' booth where the tall walls were lined with brightly-colored birdhouses. Don't get the wrong idea, these aren't your ordinary birdhouses, these are made from repurposed wood, garden tools and other trinkets. Much of the wood is 100 years old and carries with it all the character of that time. Steve crafts all of the houses by hand and each one is a one-of-a-kind piece of art. These are perfect for not just the garden enthusiast on your list but also for the home decorator who values pieces with turn of the century and mid-century sensibilities. Steve does not show at the summer festival, so be sure to catch him at this year's Winter Fantasy.

Steve Dennis

Over at Alex Fritz's booth we fell in love with his intricate lamp work glass. He has a wide selection of bottle stoppers ranging from swirl and spiral designs to tidepool and critter-inspired ones topped with frogs and geckos. He also has a collection of custom wine glasses featuring his detailed glasswork on the stems. If you think you might recognize Alex’s work you are probably correct, he has exhibited at Art-a-Fair for the last three years, and this is his second year at Sawdust Winter Fantasy.

As you make your way through the festival grounds you’ll hear live music from strolling carolers or from one of the three outdoor stages.

There really is something for everyone at the Sawdust Art Festival Winter Fantasy so load up your kids or grab a friend or two and head out this weekend to the Sawdust Festival.

Open weekends through December 9th
10am to 6pm
Tickets: $6 Adults, $5 Seniors, $3 Children (6-12)

For a full listing of daily events click HERE 

Bring an unwrapped gift for Toys for Tots on Sunday November 25, December 2 or December 9 and receive free admission.

By Anne-Marie S.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

14th Annual Plein Air Invitational

For the past 13 years, the nation’s top plein air painters have been welcomed to Laguna Beach for a weeklong landscape painting festival.  They will be competing for prestigious prizes and participating in  public paint outs, environmental awareness activities and educational events.

The week kicked off with the highly popular Quick Draw event in Heisler Park. Last Sunday, the 40 artists had two hours to complete a painting. The works were immediately taken to the Laguna Art Museum where they were displayed, still wet, and available for auction.

Greg LaRock

Billyo O'Donnell

There are many more opportunities for you to watch these talented artists in action this week:

11:00 a.m.-2:00 p.m. Heisler Park, Laguna Beach. Open to the public for viewing. The LCAD Next Generation Paint Out is designed to cultivate the next generation of plein air painters. This event also aims to deepen Laguna Beach’s reputation as an arts destination by giving the community and guests the opportunity to view the work of young artists from Laguna College of Art + Design.  Participating students will have just three hours to create a work of art at Heisler Park in Laguna Beach. These works will then be hung at Laguna Art Museum and judged by Mr. Jean Stern, Executive Director of The Irvine Museum. The paintings will be on display at the October 20 Collectors’ Soirée, and the top three winners will be invited to attend the celebration where they will be presented with scholarship awards sponsored by LCAD.

Sponsored by the Crystal Cove Alliance Art Council - 8:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m.  Crystal Cove State Park; Open to the public for viewing, $15.00 parking fee. At the north end of Laguna Beach lies the magnificent Crystal Cove State Park, which boasts 3.2 miles of beach and 2,400 acres of pristine coastal habitat. The participating plein air artists will be at the Park’s famous Historic District on Thursday, October 18 to paint the beautiful landscape and cottages, and bring awareness to the Park’s protected environment. Spend the day at the park, watch these master painters in action, and then head on over to the Shake Shack or Beachcomber Café for a leisurely lunch. Other activities at Crystal Cove State Park include exploring tidepools and sandy covers, hiking, mountain biking, scuba diving, swimming, surfing, tours, and more.  This event is sponsored by the Crystal Cove Alliance Art Council, a part of the Crystal Cove Alliance which is the non-profit Cooperating Association partner with Crystal Cove State Park dedicated to education, conservation, and restoration.

6:00 p.m.-10:00 p.m. Laguna Art Museum-Museum members $125.00 | Non-members $150.00, Dressy casual attire | Complimentary valet parking. Nearly 400 guests attend the Collectors’ Soirée annually at Laguna Art Museum. Join us for this exciting party where you will have the exclusive opportunity to view and purchase, in advance of the general public, the artworks created throughout the week by forty of the nation’s top plein air artists.  The evening’s highlights include delicious food courtesy of 24 Carrots Catering, lively cocktails, wine by 14 Hands Vineyard, gorgeous flowers by Laguna Nursery, and live music by the Dan Reckard Trio. The prestigious artist awards will be announced, and works created during the Kids’ Paint Out and LCAD Next Generation Paint Out will be on display during the evening. New this year! Enter for the chance to win a gift basket courtesy of St. Regis, which includes a two night stay at the St. Regis, Monarch Beach, golf for two, and spa treatments. Valued at $2,730. Each raffle ticket is $25.00 and can be purchased at the event. Reserve your Soirée tickets now as this party sells out quickly!

For a full listing of events: HERE 

For a full list of participating artist: HERE

Friday, October 12, 2012

Three Cheers, Old Chap, for 39 Steps

Laguna Playhouse  presents the Olivier & Tony Award-winning play; Alfred Hitchcock’s The 39 Steps. With a four-person cast playing over 150 characters, the show is a mix of comedy and suspense that will thrill you up to the closing dramatic moments.

“The original 39 Steps was not funny. The 1915 novel by John Buchan is a thriller, and the 1935 Alfred Hitchcock film is a noteworthy precursor to the psychological suspense genre known as film noir. However, when Patrick Barlow re-imagines Hitchcock’s The 39 Steps for the stage, he made it a farce—a style of comedy based on inane plots, mistaken identities, linguistic acrobatics and easily identifiable characters,” says Lauren Simon, Artistic/Literary Manager at the Laguna Playhouse.

The set is minimalistic and as the first character is introduced on stage you know you are watching a heavily-influenced Hitchcock production. It’s the over dramatic back lit silhouettes, over pronounced accents, and long pregnant pauses punctuated by synchronized movements across the stage that make this film-noir for the stage. You can’t help but laugh at the way in which the main character, the boring Richard Hannay, is thrust into a whirlwind spy/murder mystery when a woman is killed in his flat. As he runs from the law in pursuit of the truth, he encounters a plethora of characters along the way (played by the other three cast members). One of my favorite scenes was one when Hannay is running from the law by jumping from train car to train car in the dead of night. But there was no train on stage here, only large trunks, fog, dramatic lighting, sound effects and superbly choreographed movement and acting.
Of course the play pays tribute to the great Hitchcock. You’ll notice references to North by Northwest, Rear Window (listen carefully or you may miss this slyly placed one), The Birds, Vertigo, Psycho and more. In fact, if you are a Hitchcock aficionado you’ll notice that verbatim dialog from Hitchcock’s 39 Steps is kept in the play. This was by far one of the most enjoyable and unique plays I have seen come to the Laguna Playhouse. I grew up on Hitchcock films and enjoyed the pithy physical humor and witty dialogue of the play. It was impressive to see four actors work as one well-oiled machine to bring the film-noir to life on the stage.

Alfred Hitchcock’s 39 Steps
Now playing thru October 21st
For Tickets 

By Anne-Marie S.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Culinary Tours in Laguna Beach

Get a taste of Laguna Beach’s history paired with the town’s delectable delights, on a tour with Flavors of Laguna. 

The Laguna Beach Visitors & Conference Bureau Takes Home the Silver in the 2012 International Magellan Awards

Travel Weekly announced the winners of the 2012 Magellan Awards. With entries from across the U.S. and around the world, the Magellan Award winners represent the best in the travel industry and salute the outstanding travel professionals behind it all. The Laguna Beach Visitors & Conference Bureau received the only silver Magellan Award for Best Mobile App for a Destination.  

“We are honored to receive this prestigious award.  Spearheading a mobile app for Laguna Beach had been on our radar for more than a year.  Working with Phondini Partners as our app developer and in cooperation with the City of Laguna Beach and our Board of Directors, it came to fruition,” said Judith Bijlani, President & CEO of the Laguna Beach Visitors & Conference Bureau. The gold Magellan was given to Visit California completing the category sweep for the State.

Receiving over 550 entries, the Magellan awards is the premier awards program honoring a broad range of industry segments including Hotels and Resorts, Travel Destinations, Cruise Lines, Online Travel Services, Airlines and Airports, Travel Agents and Agencies, Tour Operators and Car Rental Companies, the Magellan is the award to win if you are in the business of travel according to industry professionals.

“In 2012, creativity reached new heights among marketers and designers in the travel industry,” said Arnie Weissmann, editor in chief of Travel Weekly. “This year’s Magellan entries were inspiring overall, and those who ended up in the winner’s circle truly represent the best of the best.”

The Magellan Awards are judged and overseen by a one-of-a-kind panel of top travel professionals representing the best names and most accomplished leaders from the industry.   In determining winners, entries do not compete with one another, instead they are judged against a standard of excellence based on the long experience of Travel Weekly. To uphold this high standard of excellence, a category may have multiple winners, or may have no winners at all.

For a complete list of silver and gold winners, please visit  

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Laguna Riviera, Charm that Stands the Test of Time

The story of Laguna Riviera dates back to 1914, when only a few homes and stores dotted the hillsides of Laguna Beach. It was then that a family, The Williats, from Los Angeles fell in love with this beachside community and decided to build a home. Then in 1938, when visiting Laguna Beach they decided to make a permanent move and bought the Brickles Farm House, which was the future site of Laguna Riviera. In the ‘50s and ‘60s Laguna Riviera took shape to what guests now know and love. The mid-century architecture that is reminiscent of a cruise ship came out of the Williat’s love for travel. They chose to build the hotel that way, so when one stands out on one of the terraced decks  pointing out toward the ocean, you are able to gaze out at a spectacular unobstructed view.  

As Laguna Beach became popular with the Hollywood crowd in the ‘40s, ‘50s and ‘60s, many celebrities began frequenting Laguna Riviera. One of their most noted guests was Hanna Barbara. The current owner and grandson of original owners, Kort Pearson, remembers Hanna doing Yogi Bear impersonations while visiting to entertain the guests. Author Pearl S. Buck wrote several of her novels from the deck off of room 508. President Richard Nixon was also a frequent guest of the hotel before and after he became president.

The sense that I got when visiting Laguna Riviera was that the guests who return year after year to the hotel are the ones that the owners truly cherish.  “People became my friends when we were kids because they came here with their parents year after year. They came here for 10-15 years and then we all went away to college. Then 10 years later they began showing up with their kids. Literally people have been coming here for 50 years,” says Kort Pearson. In fact, families become attached to certain rooms and book their reservations a year in advance to ensure they get the same room year after year. That’s the kind of special place Laguna Riviera holds in the hearts of its many guests.

Laguna Riviera has just over 40 rooms, many with ocean views, private decks and kitchens. As a guest you receive complimentary continental breakfast, free WiFi and HBO. You also have direct access to the beach with complimentary chairs, towels and umbrellas.

If you have a larger party and are looking for a more intimate and private stay, you can rent the Beach Bungalow. This is a free standing 1,500 sq. ft. house built in 1932 that still retains much of its original charm (original handcrafted front door, fire places and a custom built-in china hutch) with all the modern conveniences you would expect. You have panoramic views of the ocean from the living room, and a private deck from which you can feel the spray of the waves crashing below you.

With its rich history, Laguna Riviera is a place that you grow nostalgic for and yearn to return to. It is the instilled memories of long summer days and the sound of crashing waves lulling you to sleep that keep bringing people back to Laguna Riviera year after year.

825 South Coast Highway
Reservations: 1-800-999-2089
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By Anne-Marie S.