A Winter Fantasy in Laguna Beach

One of SoCal's most festive shop places boasts Santa and other festive touches.

CHRISTMAS VILLAGE: DVRs start to fill up right about now with a variety of seasonal programming. There are the cooking shows on how to truss a perfect turkey, there are the craft shows on making homemade ornaments, and there are the travel shows that spirit viewers away to tiny mountain towns in the Alps. Most of us probably don't have a ticket for the Alps this year (if you do, we're only slightly sort of jealous) but there is a fine way to get a dose of that beribboned yuletide feeling in small, village-type setting. Oh, and enjoy some unique Christmas shopping to boot. We're talking about the Sawdust Art Festival in Laguna Beach, which actually goes by the name of Sawdust Winter Fantasy each late November and early December. The wee clutch of fairytale buildings, the eponymous sawdust on the ground, and the craftspeople blowing glass and weaving, lend that travel show air to the non-stressful-shopping proceedings.

YEP, NON-STRESSFUL: The Sawdust, which has been around in one form or another for nearly a half century, is very much about one-of-a-kind goods. So, think ceramic mushrooms for the gardens or glittery stone pendants. The atmos is pretty chilled -- unless you happen to turn a corner and see Santa before you, a sight that sometimes inspires happy clapping -- and the selection is both funky and fine-arts-y. (Let's add "big" to that, too; there are over 170 artists in all.) There are a few spots to nosh, too, within the winding alleys that make up the Sawdust village. Nope, we're not saying that you should turn off the travel shows, but spending an hour or two at this Laguna Beach landmark can be a little overseas trip without the overseas part.

DATES: The Sawdust Winter Fantasy runs weekends through Sunday, Dec. 9.

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