Wheelchair Accessible Lavish Laguna Beach
By Angie Harris
© 2004

Angie Harris explores a classic Southern California beach town.

Just a short drive from where I live in Anaheim, California is Laguna Beach, a city famous for its annual Sawdust Festival and Pageant of the Masters. I thought readers would be interested in hearing about the access of one of Southern California’s prettiest beach towns.

Driving into Laguna Beach is usually a treat most of the year, but during the art festival months of July and August, expect bumper-to-bumper traffic and a limited number of blue parking spaces.

I drove there in August for the Sawdust Festival (935 Laguna Canyon Rd.). After a bout with heavy traffic, I found someone (non-disabled) leaving a blue space and pulled right in. Lucky!

I rolled across the parking lot and bought my ticket. About two hundred artists display a wide range of creative, handmade pieces here, which includes paintings, leatherwork, sculpture, pottery, glassblowing, clothing, jewelry, and more. The art festival is nestled on a somewhat rolling lot where the maze of paths is strewn with sawdust. At times the hilly nature made it tricky to navigate in my wheelchair. 

The grounds of the festival are landscaped with lush plants and a waterfall. There is plenty of shade to cool yourself on a hot day there, and if you tire of arts and crafts, there are also live musicians, entertaining visitors with everything from Hawaiian to bluegrass and reggae music. Magicians and jugglers also roam the grounds entertaining young and old alike. An accessible bathroom is available on the grounds, but it is not a unisex restroom.
There’s no reason to go hungry at the Sawdust Festival. It offers a good choice of everything from burgers to fish and chips, along with ethnic foods, sodas, and ice cream.

The Pageant of the Masters (650 Laguna Canyon Rd.) is the big nighttime draw in the summer in Laguna. It consists of elaborately designed theatrical productions of famous "living pictures" enacted by the residents, who practice all year long. These productions feature realistic costumed displays (depending on the re-enacted paintings). The paintings change every year, but you can count on Da Vinci’s The Last Supper being the show’s big finale. I didn’t attend the 2003 event, but you can obtain wheelchair seating for 2004 by calling 949/494-1145 or visit www.foapom.com

Funds raised are donated to the Festival of Arts Foundation, which provides scholarships to local art students and organizations. 

While visiting Laguna Beach, you might want to check out its main beach, located in the center of town. There is easy access to the beach (including restrooms), and a self-propelled beach wheelchair is available from the lifeguard headquarters (175 N. Coast Highway).

The center of town also features a range of specialty shops and fast food eateries where you can choose from pizza, burgers, or Mexican food.

For some of Laguna Beach’s most spectacular scenery take the accessible trolley up the hill to Heisler Park. The park is situated in North Laguna along the bluffs of Cliff Drive. You won’t find prettier seacoast views than there, and there are also plenty of accessible paths and picnic benches to enhance your visit.
For additional information, contact Laguna Beach Visitors and Conference at 949) 497-0746.

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