Thankfully the world has evolved and although gay bars will always be needed, wanted and loved, it’s now not unconscionable for everyone, no matter of who they love, to party,...
- Things to Do
- Plan Your Trip
Laguna Beach has an incredible LGBTQ history, one that continues to evolve. Here are a few ways to make the most of your time visiting Laguna Beach.
Spend a couple days immersing in the culture, enjoying the beaches, trails and abundance of nature, and spoil yourself at a few of our many bars and restaurants, all while soaking up that perfect sunlight that our city is known for.
Start your day with coffee and a bite at The Grove on Forest. Located at the historical Lumberyard mall, the neighborhood coffee shop has a tempting breakfast menu that includes everyone's favorite; avocado toast (made on toasted seven grain with cream cheese, avocado, roasted red bell peppers, arugula, red onion and goat cheese), as well as other unique toast combinations such as their Deviled-Egg Toast (made with toasted rustic levain, house deviled egg spread, tomato, red onion, champagne vinaigrette, and micro-Dijon greens). Their coffee menu will not disappoint.
Then head over to The Hive, the newest hotspot in Laguna Beach, to explore local boutiques and experience some one of a kind commissioned street art. Roughly a 1-acre center with about 10 tenant spaces, the recently rebranded art hub has lots of plans to transform the area, starting with it's newest tenant, Laguna Beach Beer Co., which is helping bring the center new life. Stop for a few beers here and then enjoy some of the freshly painted murals and explore the current tenants, including Laguna Beach Candle Co., and Silver Jeans.
Continue with a beer inspired lunch at Brussels Bistro (open for lunch Saturday and Sunday), an underground spot with European flare, famous for their Belgium beer and mussels. With ten Belgium beers on tap and many, many bottles to choose from, it's the perfect place for an authentic Belgium experience without having to leave the comforts of the beach. Their menu isn't limited to mussels, although they pair perfectly with their beers. Make sure to leave room for dessert because you guessed it, they have waffles, and the toppings (including Nutella) are worth the cheat day.
Or if people watching is more your thing, visit Sapphire Laguna, and enjoy lunch outside in their patio. The menu at Sapphire Laguna provides a worldly selection of comfort foods, using the freshest possible local ingredients, where no passport is required. If you happen to be there on the right day, look out for Laguna's newest Greeter, who dances at the corner of PCH and Brooks Street welcoming you to town.
Get a beard trim or clean up your fade at Logan Bros. Shaving Co.,one of the best old school yet totally fresh barbershops in Orange County. Make sure to check out their own brand of grooming products including beard oils and pomade. Afterwards, walk down South Coast Highway towards Main Beach and enjoy some of the local shops including Simple, a lifestyle clothing boutique made for the luxurious Southern California lifestyle, and Soul Project, where you can pick up some really rad t-shirts sporting some Laguna lingo and also board shorts and an array of clothing. Once on Forest Avenue, stop by the famous Candy Baron, a place sure to put a smile on your face, for some sweet treats. Grab a bucket and fill it up with all that your heart (and wallet) desires. Most of the candy is paid by weight, so be mindful when filling your bucket.
Also make time for shopping at North Menswear, a super trendy shop with hipster curated finds. And for those who might need an afternoon adult refreshment during their shopping experience, visit The Seahorse, a neighborhood beer and wine bar that is located inside Pearl St. General in the Pearl District of Laguna Beach. The historic building has had many incarnations since 1926 when it first opened as a liquor store and hardware store. In 1946 it became The Seahorse, Laguna's first gay bar, having to operate as a secret watering hole for decades. Today, The Seahorse celebrates diversity and inclusion as all are welcomed to enjoy the craft and micro brew beers, wines by the glass & bottle and creative bar food.
For those looking for a more romantic way to start the evening, head to West Street Beach, Laguna's "gay beach" where you can sit on the sand and take in the sunset. There are a set of stairs that lead down to the beach so be mindful that the only way off the beach is to climb back up the stairs, unless you walk along the coast to the nearby beaches where the main road is more accessible.
Or if you're more inclined to continue with libations, head to The Rooftop Lounge (famous for their mojitos and 360-degree views) for sunset drinks. The Rooftop Lounge offers a front row seat for a spectacular sunset in addition to a killer happy hour menu. Try their champagne or ginger mojitos (half-off during happy hour, M-F 3pm-5pm). Mozambique offers another great rooftop option for happy hour, sunset cocktails and even dinner. This venue is famous for their live music so you can either stick around or come back later in the evening to dance the night away. Reggae Sundays (5pm to close) are epic at Mozambique.
If you're looking for fine dining, splurge at The Loft at Montage, which features light and airy décor with a six-foot wood-burning rotisserie and an interactive cheese gallery which features over 50 cheese selections from both regional and international cheese makers.
End your evening with after dinner drinks and possibly karaoke at Laguna's oldest gay bar, Main Street Bar and Cabaret. This sole ranger of LGBTQ bars in Laguna Beach is an icon and a must visit, if even just to support the community with a drink. What will most likely happen though is that you will find yourself falling in love with it's quirky charm and super sweet bar staff, and staying until closing hours.
Start your day with some sand time at Main Beach, Laguna's "Window to the Sea". Here you can rent a boogie board, join a volleyball game or just catch some rays to help you get your morning started right. At Main Beach, the tide pool area is located in the northern section of Main Beach, which makes for a unique experience. Please remember to protect our tide pools -- do not disturb or remove any marine life from these areas. Continue your balanced morning with some fresh tea (including boba tea) at Harmony Tea Bar. The tea bar uses natural, organic and locally sourced ingredients (when possible) and can make anything from a traditional cup of Bao Zhong oolong tea to a handcrafted cup of cold-brewed milk tea, filled with delicious honey boba.
Make your way to Eva's Caribbean Kitchen, another hidden gem in Laguna Beach. The Guyanese cuisine has similarities to that of the rest of the Caribbean, yet is diverse and reflects the ethnic make up of the country and its colonial history, including dishes from the Africans and creoles, East Indians, Amerindians, Chinese and Europeans (mostly British and Portuguese). There are no street signs, but once inside you'll enjoy a large selection of more than 385 rums (including rum flights) as well as a menu filled with the owner's family recipes.
Or try South of Nick's Mexican Kitchen + Bar, for another sampling of Laguna Beach's diverse ethic dining options. At Nick's Mexican Kitchen, expect traditional Mexican cuisine including a fresh catch menu and elevated, next-level favorites like their dual-flavored Enchiladas Divorciadas (chicken enchilada with mole sauce, cheese enchilada with poblano cream sauce, Monterey jack cheese, sour cream and onions).
Hike to the historic Pirate Tower at Victoria Beach for some pirate-inspired Instagram stories. The tower is sixty feet tall and seems to have been birthed directly from the sandstone cliffs that surround it. It was built in 1926 as an enclosed staircase to the beach for William E. Brown, a senator from Los Angeles who later sold his dream home to a retired naval captain, Harold Kendrick, in the early 1940s. The tower today has switched hands a number of times and is kept under lock and key, but don't be afraid to explore the tower's base, only accessible during low tide. Or end your epic Laguna Beach visit with some hiking in some of the 20,000 acres of wilderness just waiting to be explored through hiking, biking or even docent-led tours. And easy flat hike to Barbara's Lake, the only fresh water lake in Orange County, is a great option.
By David Duran, award winning travel writer who has contributed to such publications as Travel+Leisure, Jetsetter, The New York Post, Fodor’s and Southbay Magazine. In addition, he has written for every major LGBT publication in the US as well as several others overseas. Find him at mrdavidduran.com and @mrdavidduran.