What can you say about Laguna Niguel? That it has the most elegant beach name of any city not located on a beach? Or that the name comes from Rancho Niguel, the area of land granted to Mexican ranchero Juan Avila in 1842, which was named after a local Indian village called Niguil? How's about, if you want to live here you better have a buttload of money? Yes, elegance, thy name is Niguel.
A young city in most every way—it turns 16 this December—it's not a place that's eager for others to discover it. Rather, Laguna Niguel is all about its homes, soccer and Little League fields. That's not to say one can't have fun in Laguna Niguel. I would never not say that.
There are things to do in Laguna Niguel. Some people even do them. So, if I may urge you, do.
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Best Museum Orange County Natural History Museum. Plenty of pinned, stuffed, fossilized (including "Waldo," an 8-million-year-old pseudo-walrus that lived here when oceans washed across most of the region) and living Orange County creatures are on display. There are also artifacts from the area's two native tribes, the Acjachemem (Juaneo Mission Indians) and Tongva (Gabrielino Mission Indians). Aliso and Wood Canyons Wilderness Park entrance, 28373 Alicia Pkwy., Laguna Niguel, (949) 831-3287.
Best Wildlife Aliso and Wood Canyons Wilderness Park. With an array of native wildlife and plants, this qualifies as the city's most impressive natural park. It's a popular mountain-biking and hiking destination, with 30 miles of trails covering more than 3,500 acres of varied terrain. 28373 Alicia Pkwy., Laguna Niguel, (949) 923-2200.
Best Sandwiches Apple-A-Day Health Food Company. The "Works" is what makes this health-food store's sandwiches so yummy: mayo, shredded Monterey jack cheese, tomatoes, alfalfa sprouts, sunflower seeds and soy "baco" bits. The Valley avocado, egg Delight, hummus (with avocado) and Laguna tuna (dolphin-safe, of course) are some of their more memorable offerings, which come with fruit salad or tossed vegetable salad. If you choose the latter, be sure to get the honey-sesame dressing. 30262 Crown Valley Pkwy., Ste. A, Laguna Niguel, (949) 495-3250.
Best Bagelry I Love Bagels. Owned by Howard Amster, who descends from a long line of bagel bakers, this South County phenomenon has mostly withstood the process of natural selection (the exception being the small Lake Forest location that shut down not too long ago) with its wide variety and just-right bagel consistency. An added bonus: everyone who works behind their counters seems genuinely nice. 28985 Golden Lantern, Laguna Niguel, (949) 249-9300; 32371 Golden Lantern, #6G, Laguna Niguel, (949) 443-3300.