10Best Day Trip: Visit Laguna Beach

Art, Beach and Cuisine in Laguna Beach

By Gina Douglas Tarnacki,

Looking for a relaxing beach town respite from the sprawling, busy metropolis of Los Angeles? Head 50 miles south along the coast to Laguna Beach, California. Laguna Beach became famous from the MTV show of the same name, Laguna Beach, but this town is definitely not just for teenyboppers. Boasting a walkable downtown area with over a dozen art galleries, many gourmet eateries and a stunning piece of coastline, Laguna Beach will inspire your creative side, bring out the beach bum in you and please your palate by the time your day trip to Laguna Beach is through.

The coastline of Laguna Beach — Photo courtesy of jcarbaugh

When it comes to the art galleries of Laguna Beach, you are in SoCal after all, so why not spend your time browsing California-inspired art? Here are some perfect places in Laguna Beach to do so at:

Laguna Art Museum: This museum has been around since 1929 and what makes it unique is that it only houses California art, either created by Californians or depicting the state in some way. If you're expecting to only find depictions of beaches and palm trees, think again as Laguna Art Museum displays collections from every type of art style and period. 307 Cliff Drive 92651 Phone: (949) 494-8971

Wyland: This internationally-acclaimed artist has his flagship gallery in Laguna Beach. Wyland’s work is typically colorful and luminous, highlighting ocean waves and the playfulness of animals that live in the ocean's waters. He has also painted murals on the sides of many buildings to raise awareness for environmental conservation – and the Laguna Beach gallery is home to his very first one. 509 S. Coast Hwy Phone: (949) 376-8000

Wyland mural outside the Laguna Beach Wyland gallery. — Photo courtesy of gorik

After you see the way Wyland vibrantly captures the ocean, go experience it for yourself. Main Beach, located at the west end of Broadway is a great place for swimming as the waves often don't break until they're almost to the shore, meaning some calmer waters to swim in compared to other Southern California beaches.

Once you've gotten your fill of saltwater and brushed the sand from your clothes, head to dinner. Laguna Beach has a wide-range of restaurants. Here are some popular ones for a memorable night out:

Studio: The restaurant building looks like a relaxing cottage and the ambiance inside matches with soothing, muted décor and a panoramic ocean view – plus it has a stellar menu of French dishes with California cuisine twists. Time your meal here with sunset and settle in for a romantic dinner. 30801 S. Coast Hwy 92651Phone: (949) 715-6420

Tabu Grill: An exotic and seductive oasis awaits you at Tabu Grill, a top-of-the-line Laguna Beach restaurant with a tropical and eclectic decor. Tabu Grill offers ideal cuts of meat and an array of seafood options plus uses in-season ingredients which you can watch being prepared in the open kitchen. 2892 S. Coast Hwy Phone: (949) 494-7743

Nick's: This popular Southern California chain has a location in Laguna Beach and is great for families or anyone looking for a more laidback atmosphere. The cuisine is California comfort food and consists of an array of items from fresh seafood to baby back ribs. 440 S. Coast Hwy Phone: (949) 376-8595

Extra Tips for a Day Trip to Laguna Beach

Transportation: Train – Take the Amtrak from Los Angeles down to Laguna Niguel, then take a bus or taxi to downtown Laguna Beach. Car – If taking a car from L.A. there are public parking lots in downtown Laguna Beach, though most cost a fee. Metered street parking is also available.  

Restaurant Reservations: Laguna Beach restaurants fill up fast, especially on the weekends, so making a reservation is recommended.