Laguna Beach is home to a large collection of artists and art work. If you have any doubts, just drive along PCH and count all the art galleries. You won’t go very far without seeing one. In addition to art galleries and art museums, Laguna Beach is home to three popular summer art festivals: the Sawdust Art Festival, the Festival of Arts, and the Art-A-Fair. The Sawdust Art Festival (originating in 1965) is perhaps the most popular. Granted, the Pageant of the Masters (associated with the Festival of the Arts) is pretty popular too, you just have to be prepared to spend some cash for decent seats. (At this point, you have probably noticed that I am not a huge fan of spending money.)
The Sawdust Art Festival takes place in an enclosed outdoor environment, which gives it a “fairy village” vibe. In fact, as you walk around you might get a little worried that a fairy might jump out and bite you on the ankle. (I hear that that is what they do.) The floor is covered with wood chips, which isn’t exactly sawdust, but it is a close cousin.
The art largely consists of local paintings, photography, and ceramics. The art sometimes feels a little less like art and a little bit more like crafts. You can also find some jewelry, which can give the place a little of a swap meet feel. Combine the artsy-crafty-swap meet feel with the local glass blower demonstration, the diverse array of locals enjoying decently priced alcholic beverages, and one or two “Real Housewife” lookalikes, and you have MAGIC. In all seriousness, the Sawdust Festival does provide an excellent environment to get sloshed.
We decided to stay away from the drinks and focus on food. The food is slightly overpriced, but we found a generous Greek plate of gyro, salad, and fries for $10. Seating can be hard to come by though, so be on your best behavior when you snag a table.
The entire experience felt a little too expensive. But you can reduce the cost with a half off deal from Costco, and by arriving early (before 11 am) and parking at the metered space. Otherwise you can find $10 pay parking nearby, or $7 parking a shuttle ride away. Expect to spend an hour or two on the Festival grounds.
The Art-A-Fair festival and the Festival of the Arts are a short walk from the Sawdust Festival, so consider them the next stop. You may also consider vising the festival grounds in the Winter when they hold “Winter Fantasy” .
Total Cost: Parking $10, or $7 or less with a meter. Admission: $7.75 for adults.
Address: 935 Laguna Canyon Road, Laguna Beach, CA.