It's pageant season in Southern California, but not the kind that requires high-heeled beauties to strut their stuff across stages. In Laguna Beach, "pageant" means the grand annual showcase of live stage masterpieces dubbed the Pageant of the Masters. From early July to the end of August, thousands of art aficionados and culture enthusiasts will fill the coastal town of Laguna Beach and its neighboring communities to watch still artworks reenacted in live scenes. Edgar Degas, Henri Toulouse-Lautrec, John Sloan, and Leonardo Da Vinci are a handful of the famed artists that usually have a piece or two "brought to life."
In addition to the pageant, the Festival of Arts also takes place at the same time and is undoubtedly California’s premiere fine art show. Nearly 150 Orange County artists will showcase a juried selection of paintings, photography, printmaking, sculpture, handcrafted woodwork and glass creations.
The pageant’s theme this year is "The Pursuit of Happiness,” and The Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel is the official hotel partner of the pageant and festival. The resort is one of a handful of elite properties I appreciate that spurs envy to any guest who doesn't call California home. Perched on an epic bluff of sloping green gardens, this Ritz property overlooks the placid Pacific Ocean from just about every windowsill. Surfers glide along waves in the early mornings while beach-goers run, play, and lie along the mile long stretch of beige sand in the afternoons. The view is classic, chic California, only enhanced by the equally elegant, refined Ritz-Carlton.
One of my favorite spots to take in the awe of the ocean and continue my personal pursuit of taste bud bliss is from RAYA, the resort's well-noted Pan-Latin restaurant stewarded by Chef Richard Sandoval, whose international restaurant empire spans from Mexico to Qatar. RAYA's Chef de Cuisine Steve Wan, a Ritz-Carlton chef for more than a decade, continues to unfurl fun and masterful dishes, such as lobster tacos pinned with mini-clothespins and piloncillo prawns sprinkled with candied pepitas. The desserts are playful as well, and the Chocolate churros or deconstructed Carrot Cake are not to be missed. The best tables are right in front of the massive arched windows that offer postcard-perfect ocean views, particularly at sunset.
Two packages can be enjoyed during the 2015 Pageant of the Masters season. Both are part of the resort's 52 assorted Bucket List Experiences, a year-long campaign exclusive to the property and aimed at creating unforgettable memories for guests. The Pageant of the Masters Pursuit of Happiness package includes overnight accommodations, two Premier Loge Center tickets to the Pageant of the Masters performance, and Admission for two to Festival of Arts.
The Behind the Velvet Rope package includes backstage passes to the pageant, a guided tour of the festival, and an exquisite ocean view room from July 8 through August 30, 2015. For guests that enjoy the Ritz-Carlton Club Level privacy and perks, there’s another reason to book a room this summer: the Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec exhibit.
Only accessible to Club Level guests, this exhibit, on loan from the Galerie Moderne, features a handful of Toulouse-Lautrec’s works. Toulouse-Lautrec is regarded as a peer of Post-Impressionist elite that includes Cézanne, Van Gogh and Gauguin. One of Toulouse-Lautrec’s early paintings of a young laundress sold for more than $20 million at Christie's auction house in 2005. If experiencing exceptional art is part of your Bucket List for the summer, then The Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel is indisputably the resort to relish.