If all you’ve seen of Laguna Beach is what Lauren Conrad and co. have shown you, take on this day trip, whether en route from L.A. or San Diego or settling in for a weekend.
I’m from New York and Cleveland so I was more than thrilled when my parents decided to relocate to Southern California 10 years ago. My first few visits there were filled with trips to Beverly Hills (I couldn’t wait to see where Julia Roberts uttered the infamous “Big mistake. Big. Huge. I have to go shopping now!”) and Disneyland (don’t judge), but in the past few years I’ve really enjoyed spending time in Laguna Beach. Over the years I have compiled, what I think, is the perfect day’s itinerary.
10 AM – Sweet Start
I’m not a coffee drinker so I’m always on the hunt for some hot chocolate, no matter the weather. Scandia Bakery Coffee Shop on Forest Avenue does the trick and offers up slews of confectionery delights and tasty morning treats.
11 AM – Shop Hop
There are plenty of charming shops and galleries on these twisted streets in which to spend your time. Two of my favorites are on Forest Avenue, Tuvalu and The Laguna Colony Company. Tuvalu has everything for the home from signs (with sayings that border on cliché except for the fact that they’re charmingly hand painted) to gorgeous linens and pillows to big-ticket furniture items. I can’t wait to win the lottery so I can get going on buying and decorating my beach house. Among other adorable gifts, TLCC has some great one-of-a-kind jewelry.
12 PM – Lunch
For lunch it’s Zinc Café on Ocean Avenue. I had to drag my parents in because, like most people who often stroll through Laguna, they have their favorite spots and were reluctant to try a new one. But one bite of the eggplant lasagna and there was no looking back. Zinc also has a little market, so if you prefer you can take something to go and eat at the beach.
2 PM – Seaside Stroll
Speaking of the beach, after lunch is the perfect time to take a stroll where you might spot some paramotors, like we did. But gazing into the water is your best bet for a sight to remember. I’ve kept my perfect record for always spotting marine life from these shores.
3 PM – Perfume Pause
When you’re ready for more shopping I’d suggest stopping into The Fragrance Shop located in a little alley off South Coast Highway between Legion Street and Laguna Avenue. Inside you will (hopefully) meet Lennart, who’s hilarious and knows everything there is about pure scented oil. They mix their own custom blends in the shop inspired by the native smells of Laguna, or they’ll customize a scent just for you. I wear my “Laguna Rain” every day.
4 PM – Ice Scream
If your sweet tooth is calling after smelling up a storm, head down the block to Peppertree Lane where you’ll find Gelato Paradiso tucked away. On our first visit, my father gave this proprietor the third degree to ensure the frozen treats were up to par. Turns out everything down to the tiles on the floor were imported from Italy and they hand make every batch onsite daily. Tutto bene!
5 PM – Scenic Slot-ins
Up for more exploring? Here are some more hidden gems:
Crescent Bay Point Overlook is a few blocks north of the shops in Laguna, on Crescent Drive and off the PCH. This quaint little overlook, nestled among some gorgeous real estate, offers sweeping views of the seaside.
The grounds of Montage Laguna Beach, a luxury resort, are open to the public and they’re gorgeous. There’s an underground parking garage off Wesley Drive, or you can park on the street. It’s so well manicured you’ll wear out the battery on your phone taking photos. There are several pathways down to the beach as well.
Badlands Park, which lies a little bit south of the Montage and 800 feet above Laguna, offers dramatic views. The spot was a beach over 10 million years ago. I didn’t believe it, but there’s a plaque explaining the erosion. On a clear day, you’ll have a stunning view of Catalina Island.
7 PM – Dinner
Sup at one of these yummy spots:
For great seafood and an ocean view, The Beach House.
For live music or a cozy side room seat by a fireplace, Lumberyard.
For authentic home cookin’ (if you’re not lucky enough to be visiting your parents who’ll cook dinner for you!), Eva’s Caribbean Kitchen.