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Laguna Beach
A Pageant of Painting Partners and An Ocean-Front Paradise
Story and photographs by Greg Aragon

knew I was in for another fantastic time when I returned to Laguna Beach last week for the annual Pageant of the Masters and Festival of Arts, and to stay at historic Hotel Laguna. The Pageant never disappoints and the hotel has become one of my favorite ocean-front gems.

the beachfront at Hotel Laguna, Laguna Beach
Hotel Laguna offers historic luxury on the beach

The theme of this year's Pageant is “Partners.” The history of art is filled with stories of solitary artists abandoning society to pursue their creative expression. For the 2016 Pageant of the Masters, the organizers searched for stories of compelling collaborations that led to the creation of unforgettable artworks. This year's performance is filled with provocative and passionate tales of some of art’s dynamic duos – artists and patrons, models, muses, even dance partners.

a painting at The Pageant of the Masters
The Pageant of the Masters recreates classic paintings with real people

Before attending the show, a friend and I checked into a charming 2nd floor room at Hotel Laguna. Overlooking a quaint courtyard and the beach about 100 yards beyond, the vintage room was cozy and efficient, featuring a king bed, large TV, bright bathroom with tub/shower, and an awesome view of the beautiful white sand.

To get to our quarters we strolled through a bright and stately lobby with marble flooring, classic photography and a piano in the corner. We then past the elevator and opted for the old wooden stairs to absorb more of the hotel's notable allure. After unpacking we hit the water.

To get to the beach, we walked through the hotel's lush rose garden and down the steps of its signature restaurant, The Ocean View Bar and Grill. Here we spread our towels and got a good look at the "Laguna Beach Riviera," a stretch of beach lined with beautiful hotels. Standing out amongst these structures is Hotel Laguna with its classic early Californian Spanish architecture.

Heisler Park
Hotel Laguna is a short walk along from serene Heisler Park

Set on the sand, steps from the water, Hotel Laguna was built in 1888 as the city's first hotel. Today, after more than 125 years, the property is still welcoming guests to beach-front luxury, with lots of old fashioned charm. The hotel, which was originally constructed during the California travel boom of the 1880s, was demolished and rebuilt and reopened in 1930 with fresh white paint, side Spanish arches and a bell tower that never had a bell!

view of the coast from Heisler Park
Heisler Park boasts walking trails, tide pools, public art and awesome vistas

A short walk on the sand from the beach is Heisler Park. Stretching about a half-mile along coastal bluffs, this oceanfront park has walking trails, gardens, a marine refuge with tide pools, picnic tables, barbecues, lawn bowling greens, stunning vistas, and a bunch of awesome sculptures, such as blue whale, giant time pieces, and mariners of the sea.

After an afternoon on the beach, we stood in front of the hotel and caught the free Laguna Beach Summer Trolley to the world-famous Pageant of the Masters and Festival of Arts, located a few blocks away.

the writer on a Laguna Beach summer trolley
The free Laguna Beach summer trolley goes to all the spots in town

Now in its 84rd season, the world-renown stage show incredibly recreates and brings to life famous paintings with a group of live, motionless models and beautiful backdrops - all set within huge picture frames on a massive outdoor stage, with a professional orchestra, live narration, and sophisticated lighting.

Located in a rustic Laguna Beach canyon, two blocks from the ocean, The Pageant is something that must be seen in person to fully appreciate. The 90-minute-long nightly performances are highlighted by tableaux vivants or living pictures on a stage in the 2,000-seat Irvine Bowl Park.

One of my favorite "paintings" of this year's show is "The Kiss on the Hand" by Gerolamo Induno. This 1877 oil masterpiece features a gentlemen kissing the hand of a lady in front of a horse and carriage. Another impressive recreation is the 1903 "Outdoors in the Summer Winds" by Carl Larsson. This colorful oil mural depicts a group of people walking past a lush countryside of flowers, plants and trees. Like all the paintings in the performance, it is practically impossible to tell that there are real people on stage.

Now in its 84rd season, The Pageant of the Masters must be seen in person
to fully appreciate

The pageant is part of the larger Festival of Arts, a summer-long celebration of art and artists. This year’s festival showcases the works of 140 of Orange County’s best original painters, sculptors, ceramists, jewelers, and photographers. The festival also offers free daily art workshops for the whole family, live Jazz and blues, wine tastings, cooking classes, restaurants and more.

Hotel Laguna is located at 425 South Coast Highway, Laguna Beach, CA 92651. For more information and reservations, call (949) 494-1151 or visit:

The Festival of Arts and the Pageant of the Masters runs through August 31. The address is 650 Laguna Canyon Rd., Laguna Beach, 92651. The festival is open daily, 10 am – 11:30 pm. Festival admission ranges from $5 – $12. Pageant of the Masters has performances nightly at 8:30 pm. For tickets and more information, call (949) 494-1145 or visit:

Related Articles:
A Picture Perfect Getaway to Laguna Beach; Laguna Beach "State-Cation"; Images of Laguna Beach; Searching for Blue Whales at Long Beach; The Queen Mary; Winter Escape to Redondo Beach

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Let Greg know what you think about his traveling adventure.

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Feedback for Harry Potter at Universal Studios

Going to Universal Studios Hollywood to see the Harry Potter "land" is on my bucket list!!

-- Nancy, Hawaii

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Feedback for A Spring Escape to Maui And Hotel Wailea

I leave here April 21 for Maui and can hardly wait. It'll be my 15th trip, more or less and I love it, and your pictures.

-- Ellie – Port Ludlow, WA

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Hi Greg,

It's not a forest of banyan trees in Lahaina by the harbor. It's one huge tree, about 140 years old. It's an important landmark of Lahaina, and one of our favorite views.We always stay at the Pioneer Inn, overlooking the harbor and the banyan tree. Every evening thousands of mynah birds fly into the tree, chattering and fluttering until they settle down for the night. Otherwise, great article.

-- Virginia – Northridge, CA

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Feedback for Hilton San Diego Resort & Spa

Very nice story, Greg.

-- Maris Somerville – Los Angeles, CA

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