LOS ANGELES - If you are like most people, when you saw the LA dateline most likely three things came to mind; Hollywood, Disneyland and not so appealingly, traffic and smog.
Happily, we timed our long weekend visit to Southern California when the latter was not an issue. As an added plus, we left Minnesota on the eve of the coldest days of the winter, so far.
Since my very first memory of going anywhere really "big"' was a trip to Disneyland, I wanted to see what was new. Only this time our focus wasn't on the Magic Kingdom but the adjacent theme park, Disney's California Adventure.
From the moment you walk through the gate, this experience is about celebrating all things California. The Golden State's rich history with the origins of everything from Disney movies to Hollywood filmmaking is well represented here.
While all that is cool, for me the biggest wow took place on a ride appropriately called "Soaring Over California." After fastening one's seat belt, a multi sensory trip over the state's spectacular natural beauty ensues. You can even smell the fragrant pines of the Sierra mountains. Really, nobody does this kind of thing better than Disney.
After a day of being immersed in make-believe, it was time to experience the real magic of Southern California. And in my humble view, there isn't a more beautiful spot than the coastal towns around Laguna Beach.
The Ritz-Carton Laguna Niguel sits atop a perch which boasts one of the most spectacular views of Southern California. While it has been there for more than a quarter century, the resort has kept current with the times and changing tastes of its guests. The hotel offers a perfect marriage of traditional Ritz-Carlton service with contemporary fresh decor and creative cuisine.
Highlights include the beautiful Ritz-Carlton Spa and the the unique concept of Eno, which features wine flight pairings, international cheeses and chocolate. Does it get much better than that? No wonder so many of the resorts return guests who live in Southern California consider the Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel their home away from home.
Nearby Laguna Beach offers an eclectic mix of art galleries,shopping and dining to accommodate all tastes. Don't miss Las Brisas for post card views and equally stunning margaritas... grab a seat on the patio if you can.
Another highlight, less than ten miles away, is the Mission at San Juan Capistrano. This impeccably restored treasure with its fragrant gardens and magnificent ruins are well worth the trip. I can see why the swallows faithfully return here each Spring... and hopefully I can do the same.
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