Hansen: Offbeat Laguna walking tour

Living in Laguna Beach means you have to play tour guide when people come to visit, which usually means milling around downtown, buying overpriced ice cream cones and trying not to look like a tourist.

Not anymore.

Determined to break the cycle, I've developed an alternative walking tour to keep things interesting. With all due respect to the official tours, I wanted something, well, a little different.

I usually begin at the Wells Fargo building, 260 Ocean Ave., because I like grand entrances. What better than the amazing marble spiral staircase? I always like to take people up to the free art exhibits on the second and third floors in the elevator, then walk down the staircase as if I own the bank.

After that, I go over to Broadway. There are a couple very odd, very cool things to see.

Of course there's Coast Hardware, 240 Broadway, where I like to show people the amazing collection of salt and pepper shakers. I know that sounds borderline "Hoarders," but don't judge until you've seen them.

After the hardware store, I take visitors to the Laguna Travel Service, 260 Broadway. I don't actually go in but instead just stand on the sidewalk, stare at the store and imagine it's 1967.

It's not hard. Trust me.

If you continue up the street, you will come to Modern Studio Furnishings, 290 Broadway. Go in and introduce yourself to the friendly owner, Mike Embury. Have him show you "the rug."

You have to see it or, more accurately, feel it. Sprawl on it like you're in front of a fire. He won't mind.

It's a shag rug, but this is not your cheesy uncle's shag rug. It's a beguiling, hand-woven polyester marvel that would look good with candlelight and imagination.

OK, maybe the rug thing is just me, but for some reason I'm drawn to it, and hey, this is my tour.

Right next door is a very mysterious building with an amazing, intricate door. According to the Laguna Beach Historical Society, it used to be the post office way back when. Now, it has covered windows and high-tech security cameras.

Allegedly, it's owned by a Howard Hughes-type guy who deals in fancy art. We don't know.

But it's a cool building.

The last spot is Hi De Ho Comics, 350 Broadway. Even if you're not into comics, it's worth checking out. If nothing else, talk to the workers because — um, how can I say this? — they're a little twisted. In a good, indie way.

Next, turn right and go toward City Hall and the police station. Out front, right past the odd "People's Council" art, is the gold fire hydrant. Wait a few minutes (because this seems to happen about every few minutes) and someone will come out and start polishing it.

Again, we don't know why, but it's an odd sight — someone polishing a gold fire hydrant.

Next go down Forest and stop in front of The Vault clothing store, 361 Forest Ave. Then look across the street to Envy, a woman's clothing store, and check out the eerie second-floor window. Tell me if you don't see a ghost behind the stained, really sad shade.

It's true. I have a picture.

Next, skip down to the library but don't go in. Go toward the underground parking and find the Friends of the Library Bookstore, 363 Glenneyre St. It's small but has decent second-hand hardbacks at very reasonable prices, from only a quarter to $4. Laguna readers have good taste, plus they take care of their books.

After that, go toward Coast Highway and walk into the lobby of Hotel Laguna, 425 S. Coast Hwy., where they have some nice old photos of Laguna. My favorite is a group of actors outside the Playhouse, maybe from the '30s or '40s. One lad is on the balcony, looking forlornly down at a couple below like a third wheel.

Also, be sure to check out the guestbook encased in glass. It lists some of the visitors from July 4, 1931, with the admonition: "Guests without baggage are required to pay in advance." Like today, guests came from all over: North Hollywood, Pasadena, Philadelphia, Beverly Hills, Baton Rouge, Berkeley and many other places.

From there, it's a short walk down Coast Highway to Browns' Park, 551 S. Coast Hwy., the little enclave that has the great "Sight and Sound" art piece by Raymond Persinger. Ponder the words. It will make you feel smarter.

Backtrack toward Main Beach and head up to the Indian museum, 305 N. Coast Hwy., officially called Len Wood's Indian Territory. Ask for the deluxe tour so you can experience the museum section. If you've never done it, do it. Even if you have, do it again.

The little baby Indian basket papoose thing always freaks me out a little, not sure why. Maybe too many cowboy and Indian movies when I was a kid. I always walk out feeling guilty.

So that concludes our trip.

You can finish on Main Beach if you want and give new tips to the tourists, or sometimes if I want more exercise, I go to Heisler Park for some lawn bowling.

DAVID HANSEN is a writer and Laguna Beach resident. He can be reached at davidhansen@yahoo.com.

Copyright © 2019, Daily Pilot
EDITION: California | U.S. & World