Back East it's called Indian summer: autumn's unseasonably dry and hot periods. But in Laguna Beach, you could call it the perfect season, those dreamy October days when the weather is warm, the skies blue and the ocean smooth as glass.
And those aren't the only advantages of visiting Laguna Beach in the fall. There are far fewer people, especially at midweek, when your footprints in the sand might well be the only ones along secluded stretches of pristine beaches. Traffic along PCH is lighter, it's easier to snag reservations at the best restaurants, and many of the city's beachfront lodging properties start to offer special low midweek rates.
But the end of summer doesn't mark the end of Laguna's active lifestyle. In fact, it's just getting started. There's plenty to do in October, from myriad outdoor attractions and activities to a full slate of entertainment and cultural events.
It's also the time when blue whales arrive along the coast, on their way from North Pacific waters to the coast of Mexico, where they will mate and give birth. The ocean off Southern California harbors the world's largest concentration of blue whales, sometimes as many as 2,000 in any given year.
The world's biggest mammal can sometimes be seen from shore, with Crescent Bay Point, Heisler Park and the coastal path along Montage Laguna Beach among the best places to take your binoculars. Or get even closer on whale-watching boat safaris that run out of Dana Point and Newport Beach.
October is also a great time to visit Laguna Art Museum, which presents a full slate of autumn activities. Featured events include a gala opening night reception for the museum's fall exhibitions (Oct. 17). There's a public conversation with the director of the J. Paul Getty Museum (Oct. 22) and a talk by David Ligare (Oct. 29) as the artist kicks off his three-month "California Classicist" show at the museum. Autumn is also the season for the 17th Annual Laguna Beach Plein Air Painting Invitational (Oct. 17 to 25), a nine-day extravaganza that features the nation's top landscape painters.
The Laguna Playhouse carries the torch for live theater on the lower Orange County coast and is the oldest continuously operating theater on the West Coast. The theater's 2015-16 season kicks off with the world premiere of "I'm Still Getting My Act Together," a "hybrid musical" about a female singer-songwriter making a comeback, which continues through Nov. 1. The theater also presents a holiday show called "Sister's Christmas Catechism —The Mystery of the Magi's Gold" (Dec. 14 and 21). The Playhouse season resumes in January with the U.S. premiere of "Act 3 . . ." starring Rita Rudner, and then "Louis and Keely: Live at the Sahara," a musical about Louis Prima and Keely Smith in 1950s Las Vegas.
If eclectic sounds by the surf are your thing, check out some of the live music venues scattered up and down the coast. The Cliff Restaurant and its firepit lounge boasts live tunes five nights a week, everything from jazz and blues to rock and Hawaiian. Happy hour at The Cliff ($2 off drinks and half-price appetizers) stretches from 3 to 6 p.m., Tuesday to Thursday. Among other places to catch live performances are Mozambique, The Deck on Laguna, Marine Room Tavern and the White House Restaurant.
With the summer high season now history, hotel rates plunge along the coast, especially during the middle of the week. An Ocean Horizon King room at the luxurious Montage Laguna Beach is $200 cheaper on a Wednesday than a Saturday night in October. The romantic cottages at Casa Laguna Inn & Spa are a hundred bucks less at midweek than on weekends. An Ocean View King room at Surf & Sand Resort is nearly half price on weekday nights in October.
Overnight guests can also snag great rates when they book a special package tied in with activities or meals. The "Billabong Standup Paddle Board Package" at the hip Pacific Edge Hotel includes accommodations, two paddle board lessons, a DVD of the classic surf film "Endless Summer" and a bar of organic board wax to remember your getaway in Laguna Beach.
The Inn at Laguna Beach offers a "Best of the West" package that includes two nights at the hotel plus a dolphin and whale watching boat tour, a private docent-led tour in Laguna's marine protected area, and a visit to the Pacific Marine Mammal Center.
Best of the west could well describe all that Laguna Beach has to offer for autumn and beyond.
Snap photos of your Laguna Beach getaway and post them on Instagram with the hashtag #MyLagunaBeach for a chance to be featured on Visit Laguna Beach's social channels. For more information on events and attractions, go to www.visitlagunabeach.com/events.