While not your usual Southern California beach vacationers, the herd of elephants visiting Dana Point starting today through Nov. 7 will spend time at all the local tourist spots, including the beach, resorts, parks and Dana Point Harbor. The herd, some 30 life-sized, hand-painted baby elephant statues, is part of Elephant Parade, an open air art exhibition created to bring awareness to the plight of the Asian elephant.
Dana Point has the honor of being the first American city to host Elephant Parade, which has previously visited London, Amsterdam, Singapore and Milan. The opening ceremony starts tonight and lasts throughout the weekend at Doheny Beach Park, where the entire herd will be showcased along with an opportunity to meet several of the elephant artists. Kids can make their own mini elephant with an Elephant Parade Kit (fee) or participate in an elephant coloring activity.
Beginning Aug. 29, the elephant statues will be on display for 10 weeks around high-traffic pedestrian areas and at Dana Point resorts: Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel; St Regis, Monarch Beach; Laguna Cliffs Marriot Resort & Spa and Doubletree Suites by Hilton Doheny Beach-Dana Point. The resorts will also showcase smaller “tribute” half-size baby elephants.
Nov. 10-16, the herd will gather again at Lantern Bay Park in Dana Point for closing ceremonies and an auction on Nov. 17 where some of elephants will be sold with proceeds going to The Asian Elephant Foundation.
Elephant Parade was formed in 2006 by father and son Marc and Mike Spits after they returned from a vacation in Thailand where they visited the world’s first elephant hospital and met Mosha, a baby elephant who lost part of her leg after stepping on a landmine and was subsequently fitted with a prosthetic leg. The elephant statues are painted by well-known artists, conservationists and celebrities, like Khloe Kardashian.
If you’ve never been to Dana Point, don’t miss a stroll in the Dana Point Harbor and arguably the best sunset view of Catalina Island at the outdoor 180Blu patio bar at Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel.
Kristi Marcelle is a travel writer and regular contributor at Ciao Bambino and CBS Los Angeles. She loves planning travel adventures with her family, a good glass of wine at the whining hour and the Green Bay Packers. Follow her on Twitter @kristimarcelle.