It’s okay to be a cheap date. As long as you do it right. Even in luxurious Laguna Beach — a coast lined with expensive beach resorts, towering mansions and swanky restaurants — you can still plan a classy outing without emptying your wallet.

When Laguna Beach is mentioned to someone who has never been there, they often think of the reality show on MTV, which followed the lives of a group of wealthy teenage residents who threw parties at their multi-million dollar homes overlooking the ocean and dined at only the hippest of restaurants. This city has so much more to offer and some of the most wonderful places to see don’t cost a penny.

Begin your date in the afternoon by heading down to Pacific Coast Highway. Once you hit Main Beach, off Coast Highway and Broadway, park along the street and start walking — there is a lot to see.

Laguna Beach is an artist’s heaven. Throughout the year there are a number of art festivals in various places around the small beach town. In July and August, a show of "living artwork" hits the stage at the Pageant of the Masters. Famous paintings are recreated with the help of actors who freeze on stage in front of their scenery, in the exact positioning of the characters in these well-known works of art.

Even when there isn’t a festival going on, art is still one of the main attractions for visitors and locals. As you walk along the streets of little shops and cafes, visit some of the over 40 free art galleries in Laguna Beach. Stop by the Wyland gallery to see the vibrant blue ocean scenes, (which are also painted on some of the walls around town), or drop in and see Richard Macdonald’s beautiful life-like sculptures at Dawson Cole Fine Art and Sculpture Garden.

You can also see art in the making any given day by the beach. There are always local artists, parked with their easels, looking out at the ocean and creating their latest work of art. And just take a look at the panoramic view to easily see why.

Before the sun goes down, grab some food at the La Sirena Grill on Mermaid Street. It is easy to miss this hole-in-the-wall Mexican food joint, but the food is definitely worth a second glance. Have a cup of the sweet and refreshing strawberry watermelon juice, take your carne asada or chicken burrito to-go and get back in the car. Continue south on Pacific Coast Highway until you see the Montage Resort on your right hand side.

With rooms ranging from 500-7,000 dollars a night, the Montage looks like an exclusive resort from the outside and people often pass it by not realizing that its beach is open to the public. Walk to the top of the descending staircase, where the view of the resort is breathtaking. Families have picnics on the rolling grassy fields, yet the moment they leave, the perfect blankets of green grass look as though it has never been stepped on. Picnic tables and benches are scattered along the edge of the cliffs over looking the ocean. Sit down at one of the benches and enjoy your food. You will have a front row seat to the most beautiful sunset painted across the sky.

Even after the sun has gone down, the resort still sparkles. Spotlights from the cliffs light up the ocean, and all of the lights from the city behind you twinkle. As you walk back up to the car ready for your evening to come to a close, you can be content in knowing that the person you are with is swooning over the romantic date you have planned… not even realizing that you are a cheap date.

What & Where
Pageant of the Masters
(650 Laguna Canyon Rd; 949-494-1145)
Wyland Gallery (509 S. Coast Hwy; 800-995-2631)
Dawson Cole Fine Art Gallery (326 Glenneyre St; 888-972-5543)
La Sirena Grill (347 Mermaid St; 949) 497-8226)
The Montage Resort (30801 Coast Hwy; 949-715-6000)