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Laguna Beach
A Picture Perfect Getaway To
Laguna Beach

Story and photos (unless otherwise noted) by Greg Aragon

f a picture is worth a thousand words, then how can one describe the spectacle of the Pageant of the Masters? The answer is that it can't truly be described; it must be seen in person to fully appreciate its magnificence.

Located in Laguna Beach, the Pageant is a world-renown stage show that recreates and brings to life famous paintings with a group of live, motionless models and beautiful backdrops, set within huge picture frames on a massive outdoor stage, with a professional orchestra, live narration, and sophisticated lighting.

I recently visited the spectacle with a friend and we also experienced the historic Hotel Laguna while in town.

Pageant of the Masters poster at Laguna Beach
Laguna Beach boasts a world famous pageant and an historic hotel

Set on the sand, steps from the ocean, Hotel Laguna was built in 1888 as the first hotel in Laguna Beach. Today, after more than 125 years, the hotel is still welcoming guests with lots of old fashioned charm.

Our 2nd floor room overlooked the water. To get to there, we strolled through a bright and stately lobby with marble flooring, vintage photography on the walls and a piano in the corner. We then walked past the elevator and opted for the old wooden stairs to absorb more of the hotel's historic allure.

Hotel Laguna at Laguna Beach
Hotel Laguna has been welcoming guests for more than 125 years

In our vintage room we found cozy, minimalist comfort with a king bed, large TV, quaint bathroom with tub/shower, and an incredible view of the ocean. It was a beautiful July day and the beach below was bustling with colorful sunbathers and swimmers. The sight was so tempting, we quickly unpacked and joined them.

view of the beach from the window of one of the rooms at Hotel Laguna
The rooms at Hotel Laguna offer great beach views

After the swim, we waited a few minutes at the bus stop in front of the hotel and took the city's free trolley to the Pageant of the Masters, located a few blocks away.

summer trolley service at Laguuna Beach
Laguna Beach offers visitors free summer trolley service

The 82nd annual 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. In addition to the art, the event offers free daily art workshops for the whole family, live Jazz and blues, wine tastings, cooking classes, restaurants and more.

Pageant of the Masters at the Irvine Bowl Park
The Pageant of the Masters is part of the Festival of Arts, art and artists celebration

But the highlight of the festival is the Pageant of the Masters, where each night a 90-minute show of tableaux vivants or living pictures take the 2,000-seat Irvine Bowl Park stage in the corner of the festival grounds. The “pictures” are remarkable re-creations of classical and contemporary masterpieces, “painted” with real people (including a bunch of adorable kids), who are painstakingly made-up with costumes and makeup to look exactly like images in classic paintings. The painting are then filled with authentic backdrops and wrapped by giant picture frames.

When the curtain is lifted, each 90-second-long picture is accompanied by an orchestra, with an original score; a live narration; and sophisticated lighting. The theme of the "paintings" at this year's Pageant of the Masters is “The Pursuit of Happiness,” and it explores the many sources of happiness, both ancient and modern.

Winslow Homer's 'Snap the Whip'
The Pageant recreates famous paintings with real people (photo courtesy of
Pageant of the Masters)

The first "painting" of the night was an amazing recreation of Winslow Homer's 1871 oil classic, "The Country School." This work depicts a small, rural country school house with barefooted kids reading books and listening to a beautiful young teacher.

Another fabulous work on display is 1891's "The Moon at a Vacation House" by Japanese artist Chikanobu, which shows colorful geisha's girls strolling beneath a full moon, past bonsai trees and a bamboo house. Then there was the playful "Snap the Whip," by Homer, which depicts a group of children playing a game in a field in front of an old red schoolhouse.

the painting 'Betsy Ross Presenting Flag'
"Betsy Ross Presenting Flag" is one of the highlights at The Pageant (photo courtesy of Pageant of the Masters)

My favorite masterpieces of the night was "Betsy Ross Presenting Flag" by American painter Edward P. Moran. Painted on oil in 1917, this beautifully detailed piece shows Betsy Ross and two children presenting the US flag to George Washington.

Back at the hotel we had a nightcap at the property's signature OceanView Bar & Grill. In the morning, we walked to the beach from the back of the hotel, through its lush Rose Garden with gazebo and lawn. While laying on the sand we got a good look at the "Laguna Beach Riviera," a stretch of beach lined with hotels. And standing out amongst these structures is Hotel Laguna with its classic early Californian and Spanish architecture.

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!

Hotel Laguna
Hotel Laguna was originally built during California's 1880's travel boom

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

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 is $4 – $10. Pageant of the Masters has performances nightly at 8:30 pm. Ticket prices range from about $20 for the least expensive to about $225 for premium Saturday night seats. For more information, call (949) 494-1145 or visit www.foapom.com

Related Articles:
Laguna Beach "State-Cation"; Images of Laguna Beach; Searching for Blue Whales at Long Beach; The Queen Mary; Top 10 Things to Do at Catalina Island; Escape to Catalina Island; 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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