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Laguna Beach

It’s easy to love Laguna: secluded coves, romantic cliffs, azure waves and waterfront parks imbue the city with a Riviera-like feel. But nature isn’t the only draw. From public sculptures and art festivals to free summer shuttles, the city has taken thoughtful steps to promote tourism while discreetly maintaining its moneyed quality of life (MTV’s reality show Laguna Beach being one drunken, shameless exception).

One of the earliest incorporated cities in California, Laguna has a strong tradition in the arts, starting with the plein air impressionists who lived and worked here in the early 1900s. Today it’s the home of renowned arts festivals, galleries, a well-known museum and exquisitely preserved arts-and-crafts cottages and bungalows that come as a relief after seeing endless miles of suburban beige-box architecture. It's also the OC's most prominent gay enclave (even if the gay nightlife scene is a shadow of its former self).

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