Pageant of the Masters

Pageant of the Masters is a Southern California Tradition

Getting Ready for a Scene at Pageant of the Masters
••• Getting Ready for a Scene at Pageant of the Masters. Courtesy of Visit Laguna Beach

The Pageant of the Masters in Laguna Beach is an enigma. It's hard to describe. When someone tells you about it, it may sound boring. Who wants to go out just to see a bunch of people recreate original, artsy-fartsy paintings? What's so exciting about that?

Reasons to See the Pageant of the Masters

The twist at the Pageant of the Masters is that real people pose to look exactly like their counterparts in those works of art.

And the effect is jaw-dropping: Those three-dimensional bodies suddenly look as flat as any painter's canvas.

It's an experience that's hard to describe adequately. Perhaps this will help. The picture you see above is not two people looking at a painting. It's two staff members inspecting two living, breathing women to be sure they're in the right spots and ready for their "scene." In a feat no less magical than last year's Academy Award winner for special effects, paint and light make those three-dimensional humans and the scenes they are in look flat.

If you're still feeling a bit baffled, watch the video at the Pageant of the Masters website.

During the performance, about 20 artworks go on display. A professional orchestra plays an original score to provide background music.

TV Trivia: In an episode of the television show Arrested Development, character George Sr. gets out of prison for an afternoon.

He is supposed to participate in the "Living Classics" pageant. Dressed as God, he tries to escape from the stage, and a comic chase ensues.

Tips for Pageant of the Masters

Smoking, cameras and audio recorders are not allowed. Children less than four years old are not admitted.

If you live in SoCal, you know this, but in case you don't: Even on the hottest days, it can get chilly fast when the sun goes down.

Check the forecast and bring layers.

If you're going to Laguna Beach, you may want to stay longer than just a couple of hours. Find out what else you can see and do — for a day or a weekend — in this guide to Laguna Beach. And if you're looking for more things to do in the summer, you'll find them in this guide to Fun Things to Do on a Summer Night in the LA Area.

Festival Art Show

Along with the Pageant of the Masters, Laguna Beach hosts the Festival Art Show. It's a rigorously juried show of original works in all media. The festival takes place in a six-acre canyon park near the ocean and is open daily.

A Pageant of the Masters ticket or ticket stub gives you unlimited free admission to the festival. If you don't attend the Pageant of the Masters but want to see the artwork, the festival charges a small admission fee. Laguna Beach residents with ID receive free admission, as do children under the age of 12.

Around the same time of year, you can also attend the Sawdust Festival, which is an arts and crafts festival held nearby.

Pageant of the Masters Tickets

Everyone who attends the Pageant of the Masters must have a ticket, regardless of age. No babies-in-arms permitted.

You can order Pageant of the Masters tickets online or by calling the box office at 800-487-3378 — but do it early.

Tickets go on sale to the general public in December. The best seats sell out by January for performances starting in July.

If you find you've procrastinated too long, you may be tempted to buy tickets from someone standing on the street. Sometimes, they're just regular people who can't use the tickets they bought. Other times, it can be risky, but if you're determined, these tips may help you keep from getting cheated:

  • Know what the ticket looks like. Politely ask someone if you can see theirs.
  • Bring a seating chart. Unscrupulous scalpers may show you an altered one.
  • Bring cash.
  • Test the seller by asking if they'll walk to the gate with you. If they're reluctant, it could mean the tickets are counterfeit, and they don't want to be around when it's discovered.
  • Be patient. You may get a better deal if you wait until just before the show starts.

    You may also find Pageant of the Masters tickets for sale on eBay, an even more risky way to get them. If you decide to try it, be sure the seller has an excellent feedback rating, with more than just a few entries. Try to get the seller to give you a physical address where you can contact them in case of trouble.

    What You Need to Know About the Pageant of the Masters

    Shows are every night, from early July through early September. The venue is in Laguna Beach, California. 

    Pageant of the Masters
    650 Laguna Canyon Road
    Laguna Beach, CA
    Pageant of the Masters Website

    Festival of Arts and Pageant of the Masters is held near the intersection of Pacific Coast Highway (CA Hwy 1) and Laguna Canyon Road. A detailed map is on their website.

    Parking can be hard to find. You'll be less frustrated if you check their website before you go.