Laguna Beach for Work for a Week
February 18, 2020 7:57 AM   Subscribe

Hey ya'll, I've told my boss I have to get some required training in California during the first week of March. Training is in Mission Viejo, but I've booked my hotel in Laguna Beach (because fuck yeah sunsets on the beach for six nights). I have some questions.

Am I going to hate myself for the traffic I'll face to/from Mission Viejo in the mornings/afternoons? Google maps says traffic can be 25-45 minutes, which I'm comfortable with. Rental car, podcasts, and hey buddy, as soon as we get back to the hotel we'll grab a beer and stroll along the beach.

Theoretically I'll be back to my hotel around 5:00-5:30. I'm a big fan of galleries, museums, restaurants, pubs, local attractions, etc. Seems like Laguna Beach has all of that. I'm going to check out Crystal Cove Park, tide pools, Top of the World. If I could catch some live music that would be nice. What else should I see?

I land at LAX around 11am Sunday. It's about a 90-minute drive to Laguna Beach. What should I do in LA or on the way? Worth it to add about an hour to drive to my hotel down the Pacific Coast Highway?
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints to Travel & Transportation around Laguna Beach, CA (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
If you have time, then yes to driving from LAX to Laguna via the Pacific Coast Highway. You'll see like 10 different beach towns, and the different ways that the cities have managed the highway, probably see some cool cars if you are into that, and there are decent places to stop along the way.

There is a toll road (I think) that cuts over partly to Mission Viejo, but honestly the traffic will be survivable and staying near the beach is what you go to CA for. The inland is just normal suburbia and dusty hills, not really anything special. As long as you are an early riser, it should be fine.
posted by The_Vegetables at 8:43 AM on February 18 [1 favorite]

Laguna Beach is also very pretty, the coast changes from mostly flat each to very hilly and rocky as you go south from LAX, and in Laguna you get the best of both.
posted by The_Vegetables at 8:46 AM on February 18

The drive should be about what Google says. Pack good sunglasses, early-morning sunlight can be brutal when there's no marine layer. You're already prepared with podcasts, you'll be fine.

Since you're in no hurry when you land, I'd suggest doing something in LA for lunch and then a leisurely drive south. Yes, PCH is generally pretty delightful, though I've never driven the stretch between Santa Monica south to Seal Beach - the port at Long Beach is a fairly gnarlsome obstruction so the highway comes inland to avoid it, and I don't know what that traffic is going to be like on a Sunday. But then again, you're not in a rush. I recommend seeing LA from street level, it's way more interesting than from the freeways.

What to have for that lunch will depend on your interests. I often direct visitors to Sawtelle/Japantown or Little Tokyo or Koreatown if you can't get world-class Japanese or Korean food where you live. I have a Texan's opinion of SoCal Mexican food generally, and kind of suspect there will be some tiny beloved taco/burrito/mariscos places in the beach cities that are more recommendable than anything I've had in LA proper. But really, almost anything you could wish for you can get and terrible places mostly can't afford to stay open, so google/yelp for anything that you'd love to have.

You can get In-N-Out in MV, don't do what everyone does and go to that loud-ass crowded one (they're all crowded) by LAX. There's also a Dairy Queen in Aliso Viejo, which used to be my pit stop when I was back and forth between LA and SD a lot, if you don't have regular access to DQ.

Irvine tends to be a pretty popular tour stop for medium and large-venue music tours (also a good comedy spot, for local comics working out new material or mini-touring, as well as national acts), you might check listings to see what's going on.

I've never been, but it's on my wish list for when I'm in the area: there's a park in Laguna Beach called Top Of The World Park. The photos I've seen are pretty impressive. You'd have to squeak it a little to get there for sunset, but it seems like it's relatively on your way so might be worth the detour.
posted by Lyn Never at 9:02 AM on February 18 [1 favorite]

How fun!

I wouldn’t skip the gnarly LA/Long Beach port; traffic will be light on Sunday and it’s really special, with one spectacular bridge already in place (the Vincent Thomas) and another spectacular one on the Long Beach side still under construction: the New Gerald Desmond bridge (you’ll drive by on the old Gerald Desmond bridge). That’ll deposit you in Downtown Long Beach and put you in position to drive across town near the water and rejoin PCH on the east side of Long Beach. (Honestly the stretch of PCH from, say, Torrance to east Long Beach is the opposite of scenic.)

If you haven’t eaten already by the time you make it to Corona del Mar (just a few miles from Laguna Beach), maybe stop at the Shake Shack. It’s right on PCH, on a bluff overlooking Crystal Cove and as picturesque as you’d expect.
posted by notyou at 9:31 AM on February 18

This is right near where I grew up.

I'd say a few things:

- Sort out your parking situation in Laguna Beach with the hotel before you arrive (perhaps ring and ask?); weekend afternoons can be tricky and you don't want to deal with parking blocks away.

- Definitely check out the beaches other than Main Beach - they will all be quieter and many will be walkable from your hotel. Further south there's a great pier/beach situation at San Clemente.

- If there's no Persian food near you normally, you're in luck, because there is a TON in Orange County and the rest of southern California. Irvine is probably the closest place with a good selection of restaurants. They're all great.

- Quite a few hikes in the hills up above Laguna. Check out this site for trail details.

- Mexican food: Taco Loco on South Coast Highway in Laguna Beach is worth a visit. Skip Las Brisas in Heisler Park - but do replace it with South of Nicks. In Mission Viejo check out Taco Mesa.

- Careful driving on Laguna Canyon Road at night - it's improved a lot in the last few years but sadly it still gets its fair share of drunk drivers. Lots of blind entrances too.
posted by mdonley at 9:42 AM on February 18 [1 favorite]

Taco Loco is one of my favorite restaurants. Total hole in the wall. Blackened tofu is the bomb!
posted by gryphonlover at 2:11 PM on February 18

You should definitely do the First Thursdays Art Walk in Laguna! It's the first Thursday of every month so perfect timing. The galleries are open later and lots of them have complimentary snacks and wine!

Dana Point Harbor is fun to walk around and it's a short drive from Laguna. Getting in and out the canyon can be a pain for sure but you should be fine if you allow time for traffic and March will be light on tourists so that helps.
posted by scrubbles at 9:04 PM on February 18

Check the tide maps and go to the northernmost section of Crystal Cove at low tide and you can get into the sea caves. Careful where you put your hands--there's a crab in that crevice!
posted by Scram at 8:30 AM on February 19

You already booked the hotel, but I may be more inclined to book close to where you're training and then drive to Laguna Beach or Newport Beach or Huntington Beach or wherever each night. They each have their nice points, and the variety may be nice. Same amount of driving, but half of it will be happening later after you've enjoyed those sunsets when traffic will be a lot lighter, so the commute won't be as bad, and you can take your time in the morning before heading in.

Wouldn't work as well if you want to be able to stumble back to the hotel after a few beers or if you're concerned you won't want to make the drive if you don't have to make the drive. Laguna is real nice. I'd love to live there if I didn't have to drive anywhere for work.

I guess I'm in the minority based on other responses, but I don't think PCH is too interesting through the South Bay and into Orange County. It's basically an unending stream of strip malls and suburbs, so I'd be more inclined to look to where you want to get to and use the freeway to do that.
posted by willnot at 4:59 PM on February 19 [1 favorite]

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