If you’re visiting Southern California and looking for the best activities, seasonal events, restaurants, and other ocean or art-related activities, this list of 101 things to do in Laguna Beach has you covered. In addition, there are some tips & tricks to help improve your vacation along with what to avoid so you don’t fall into typical tourist pitfalls.
Nothing informs the present like the past, and knowing Laguna Beach’s history is integral to understanding what makes it special today. With that in mind, Laguna Beach has roots as an artist colony. In the late 1800s and early 1900s, artists from San Francisco made the pilgrimage south each summer to Laguna for the landscape and art.
Over 100 years later, creatives are still drawn to Laguna Beach, and Plein Air artists abound in parks and on beaches. Laguna Beach is home to more than 100 galleries and studios, showcasing a wide array of innovative art. Nature and art–along with the intersection of the two–is what defines Laguna Beach, and this is evident in everything from the culinary arts in Laguna’s many exceptional eateries to public installations to the city’s world-famous art festivals. That’s really the throughline of this list of 101 things to do in Laguna Beach; most entries revolve around the various arts and outdoors…
1. Pillage Pirate Tower Treasures – We’ll start with our favorite spot in all: Victoria Beach. This is home to the infamous pirate tower landmark. Local lore abounds about this medieval-looking tower, which was built in 1926 by an eclectic resident above the beach. Go at low tide in order to access the legendary landmark.
2. Forage on Forest – Now a permanent pedestrian promenade, Forest Ave features outdoor dining, art installations, retail, and more from Pacific Coast Highway to Glenneyre Street. Easily accessible across from Main Beach, you’ll find some of Laguna Beach’s best restaurants in this area. Among the highlights are 230 Forest Avenue for California cuisine and Brussels Bistro for Belgian beer and comfort food. Other excellent options abound.
3. Beat the Beach Crowds – If you visit Laguna Beach during the peak of summer season, you’ll see two types of seas–one being the ocean, the other of humanity. Main Beach gets notoriously crowded, and it’s one of the weakest beaches in Laguna, anyway. Head for one of the quieter alternatives–see our List of the 10 Best Beaches in Laguna Beach, California for superior, less crowded alternatives.
4. Off-Broadway… Off Broadway – Laguna Playhouse is the oldest continuously operating theater in California and has presented many premieres of renowned productions featuring notable performers. The award-winning and critically acclaimed Playhouse invites you to enjoy the magic of live theater as in an intimate setting just steps away dining, shopping and the beach.
5. Trek to the Top of the World – Alta Laguna Park or the Top of the World offers a breathtaking, almost-aerial vista of Laguna Beach’s coastline and canyons. Drive up and enjoy a picnic–or hike here from Laguna Canyon Road or Aliso Viejo.
6. Creature Creepin’ Cruises – No matter when you visit, you can spot aquatic life off the coast of Laguna Beach, with several species of seals, whales, and dolphins appearing year-round. In particular, the whale watching is exceptional, with cruises to see different types depending upon the season. Check out our Southern California Whale Watching Tips for more info and recommended cruises. (Technically, these depart out of nearby Dana Point, but they count since they venture into Laguna’s waters.)
7. Wine Tasting – Laguna Canyon Winery offers wine testing sessions that can be booked in advance. The award-winning winery’s grapes are selected from vineyards in Napa and Sonoma Valleys for high quality and robust flavor.
8. Treasure Island Park – Avast! The grounds outside Montage Laguna Beach are home to this pristine public park. Maintained by the hotel, this area has the same 5-star attention to detail, with gorgeous flowers and landscaping. It’s a great area for picnicking or simply strolling–or you can head down to the beach itself. There are also “fancy rabbits” around the hotel that tend to come out shortly after sunset, so be on the lookout!
9. Festival of Arts – Over 100 juried artists from Orange County exhibit their original fine art at the juried Festival Art Show. That’s not all–you can browse and purchase art, partake in artist-led workshops, tours, and a variety of special events for one admission price at Laguna Beach’s Festival of the Arts.
10. Sawdust Art Festival – Not to be outdone, the Sawdust Art Festival features hundreds of local artists, demonstrations, workshops, live music, entertainment, food, and drinks. The festival runs every summer from late June through August, with other events held throughout the year.
11. Eat Across from the Ocean – Laguna Beach has many great restaurants and many oceanfront restaurants. With limited exceptions, the two categories are mutually exclusive. While a large number of the waterfront eateries serve good food, few are great–instead relying on the spectacular views. For superlative cuisine, look for options across PCH or downtown.
12. Las Brisas – One of the aforementioned “limited exceptions,” Las Brisas has been a Southern California landmark and Laguna Beach institution for almost 100 years. Located up the stairs from Main Beach at the edge of Heisler Park, Las Brisas is an iconic stop for a spectacular view and signature margaritas.
13. Muscle Beach – While that iconic beach is in Venice, Main Beach Park in the heart of downtown is home to its own athletes. Two half-court basketball courts and sand volleyball courts are available to the public. Partake in a pickup game or watch talented teams compete in volleyball or basketball.
14. Laguna’s Longest Beach Stroll – One of the strengths of the California coastline is its many pocket beaches and craggy cliffs. The unfortunate byproduct of this is that long walks on the beach aren’t exactly easy, with one exception: the stretch between Brooks Street Beach and Main Beach, which is almost exactly one mile. Add on the hike through Heisler Park and you can bump that up to 1.5 miles.
15. Hike through Heisler Park – We call Heisler Park the Crown Jewel of Laguna Beach, and for good reason. In addition to the stunning views, offers spectacular views of the Laguna Beach coastline, beautiful flowers, and stunning public art pieces, Heisler Park also offers a slice of life in Laguna Beach. Locals walking dogs, practicing yoga, playing lawn bowling, enjoying a post-meal stroll, painting, or just lounging around.
16. Pacific Marine Mammal Center – This marine mammal rescue and rehabilitation center is the best in Orange County…it’s also the only one. But still, the best. Stop in to see the animals up close, for feedings, and even rehab procedures. Admission is free, but donations are accepted–and recommended. Pacific Marine Mammal Center does great work. (You might also want to check their calendar to see if any releases or special events are occurring during your visit to Laguna Beach.)
17. Art Abounds – To paraphrase Billy Mack,
love Christmas art really is all around in Laguna Beach. The city has over 100 unique works of public art that were commissioned by and for Laguna Beach. You’ll find these in both obvious and unexpected places, everywhere from the benches lining the walkways to the actual ground you’re walking on. If you want to do an art stroll, maps can be picked up at the Official Laguna Beach Visitors Center. (Oh, and there’s specific art celebrating Christmas and love, so those things are all around, too.)
18. Living Classics Pageant – You know the episode of Arrested Development in which George plays God and George Michael plays Adam in a piece of living artwork? (Probably not since Arrested Development is criminally underrated and was cancelled for lack of viewers.) Well, that was based on a real event: Pageant of the Masters. During this, live event in the summer performers recreate famous works of art.
19. Superlative Steak – Love ducks and cows? Then award-winning Selanne Steak Tavern is the place for you! This classic American steakhouse is owned by Anaheim Duck legend Teemu Selanne and is located in a quaint, historical home built in 1934.
20. Take the Trolley – One of the biggest headaches in Laguna Beach is parking. This can be sidestepped entirely by parking outside of the city-center and taking the free open air trolley service, which is comfortable and efficient. Rather than fretting over finding a spot or hiking back to your car, ride the trolley in style to wherever you need to go. (Trolley stop signs have a QR code for real-time tracking, or you can visit the site here.)
21. Park Like A Pro – Speaking of which, you can park like a pro with the Laguna Beach Mobile Parking App. With that, you can track every parking spot to see whether it’s occupied or available. Better yet, head to ACT V parking lot on Laguna Canyon Road, where you can park inexpensively all day long and take the trolley into town.
22. Sunset Serenades and World Music Series – Enjoy a free concert in Heisler Park’s Rockpile Amphitheater every Friday night during May, June, and September. The theater is located right next to the gigantic whale statue in Heisler Park, and offers great sunset views and live music.
23. See Sea Life in Diver’s Cove – Just north of Main Beach is Diver’s Cove, which is home to some of Laguna’s best scuba diving and snorkeling. Rent equipment from a local surf shop and see some sea life.
24. Farmers’ Market – Local farmers and vendors set up shop downtown every Saturday until noon to sell their fresh foods and goods at the Farmers’ Market. Purchase everything from locally grown vegetables, delicious fruits, beautiful flowers, freshly baked breads and much more. Located at the Lumberyard Parking Lot. Rain or shine.
25. Mosey Around the Montage – Ever wanted to check out some of the world’s most expensive real estate? The Montage Laguna Beach is far and away the city’s nicest and most expensive hotel, and sold a few years ago for a record-setting sum. Visit the hotel and you’ll see why it’s worth so much. (While on the ritzy side, the Montage is also laid back and welcoming–typical of Laguna Beach’s California coastal cool.)
26. First Thursday Art Walk – As the name suggests, this art walk occurs on the first Thursday of every month. This free educational monthly art event is held from 6pm to 9pm, and celebrates city’s the diverse cultural art scene. Dozens of local galleries participate, with artist greetings, demonstrations, live music, and more.
27. Back Roads by Bike – La Vida Laguna offers a variety of guided tours and outdoor activities, including an electric bike back roads tour. This easy and historic loop bypasses busy streets, going through quaint Craftsman neighborhoods and gardens, Heisler Park, the charming downtown commercial district, and through Bluebird Canyon to experience the rolling inland hills.
28. Road Trip Game, Revisited – As a child of a certain era, my family always played games on road trips. One of those we called “Car Count” which, as the name suggests, involved counting a certain type of car that we passed or passed us (depending on which parent was driving). Now you can revisit this exciting game while hanging around Main Beach or walking through town. As the unofficial headquarters of Rivian, you’ll see more of these EVs in the “wild” than anywhere else in the world. Take that opportunity for friendly family competition.
29. City Hall – Free art installations and exhibitions are coordinated by the local Arts Commission, and accessible during normal business hours. A great and convenient stop on a walking tour of downtown.
30. Laguna’s Best Museum – Just steps away from the Pacific Ocean and Heisler Park is Laguna Art Museum. Through its permanent collection and special exhibitions, the museum aims to be the premier mu