An artsy seaside community in Orange County.

By Travel + Leisure
April 21, 2013

Despite what impression you may have gotten from watching or hearing about Fox’s “The O.C.”, this beachy stretch of California offers plenty of casual, family fun. Originally founded as an artists’ colony in the 1900s, the seaside town has a beautiful beach (crowded with families year-round), a sea lion rehab center, and lots of restaurants dishing up super-fresh seafood for grown-ups and kids.

Montage Laguna Beach

Montage aims for an experience you might find in Positano, crisp service and the smell of the surf. The location is exceptional: 240 rooms on 30 acres with a panoramic view of the Pacific. The shingle-style architecture, all twists and turns and gables and porches, is incurably romantic, though interiors are also impressive, as they include a prominent collection of art from early in the 20th century, including works by William Wendt, Jean Mannheim and other air painters who put Laguna Beach on the map. For dinner, choose from one of three restaurants—Studio, The Loft, and Mosaic Bar & Grille—and then retire to the lobby to hear the resident pianist.

Pacific Marine Mammal Center

Visit injured and sick sea lions; they’re rehabilitated here.

Wahoo's

Take the kids to this local chain to introduce them to blackened fish tacos served the authentic California way—with cabbage, salsa, and cheese in hot corn tortillas.

Pacific Edge Hotel on Laguna Beach

Stay right on the beach at the affordable hotel, whose once-shabby rooms have been nicely renovated; many still contain full kitchens.

Anastasia’s Café

Attached to a clothing boutique and gallery, this tiny café serves excellent poached eggs, but the caramel French toast may appeal to even the pickiest eaters.

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