Summer Fun on Catalina Island
Author: Jill Weinlein (More Trip Reviews by Jill Weinlein)
Date of Trip: May 2017
While in California, be sure to plan an overnight on Catalina Island. Just 26 miles by boat from Long Beach on the Catalina Express passenger boats to the Mediterranean style city of Avalon. This picturesque town is just one mile wide and one mile long. With a population of a little over 3,600 people, it’s a fun place to explore the sights, enjoy the beach, rent a bicycle or golf cart, and get a bite to eat.
One of my favorite spots to stay overnight is just steps from the sand at the boutique two story Pavilion Hotel. Located in the heart of Avalon and within walking distance to the Catalina Express boat terminal, it’s a garden oasis with a center courtyard dotted with palm trees and drought tolerant plants. Comfortable upholstered lounge chairs are arranged in pairs offering guests an outdoor area to rest, read a book, and relax during the complimentary sunset wine and cheese party. Another popular social spot is an array of rattan chairs surrounding a sextagon shaped firepit with the names of the Channel Islands chain.
I spent one night in a Deluxe King room (number 315) on the ground floor towards the back of the property. Near the front door is a semi-private small patio with two chairs. Inside the renovated room is a large king size bed with luxury linens and a very comfortable mattress. In the evening, housekeeping comes in for turndown service, leaving a piece of chocolate and bottle of water. The room has is a flat screen television, a small refrigerator and coffee maker with tea and coffee.
The bathroom is clean, yet small and dated with an older shower and tub combination. My room had one sink in the dressing area and white bathrobes.
Guests wake up to a complimentary breakfast offering hot and cold items in the library/reception room. There were various stations with small quiches, applewood smoked bacon, savory sausage, bagels, toast and pastries, yoghurt, fresh-squeezed juices and gourmet illy coffee.
The staff was friendly and offer luggage storage for guests catching a boat back to the mainland later than 11 a.m.
Sights To See
Be sure to see the new Chihuly Exhibit inside the 18,000 sq. ft., Catalina Island Museum. Dale Chihuly is an American sculptor who transforms glass pieces into exquisite art. His work has been shown internationally and is now in Southern California in Avalon. Chihuly’s most iconic works, including Seaforms inspired from the sea, Red Reeds (found also at the Clinton Library), Mille Fiori (Bellagio lobby), the Sea Blue and Green Tower, and a awe-inspiring 18-foot chandelier hanging from the soaring lobby ceiling are featured in the museum open daily from 10am-5pm. This exhibit is at the Catalina Island Museum until December 11, 2017.
The Island Spa is an ideal spot to soak up some sunshine, take in harbor views, go for a swim or relax in a hot tub before and after a massage or facial. Located in the historic Spanish style El Encanto Center, the spa offers a gift shop, exercise studio, treatment rooms, cafe and seperate locker rooms with sauna and showers for men and women.
Take in a Movie
In the evenings, on the ground floor of the iconic Catalina Casino (built not as a gambling casino, but a dance pavilion) is a large movie theatre showing a feature film nightly. On some evenings an organist plays on the original organ brought to the Casino in the late 1920s. The musical show begins one hour before the movie.
Be sure to dine at The Avalon Grille, just doors down from The Pavilion Hotel, before seeing a movie. Besides offering great people watching, harbor and casino views, it’s one of the nicest restaurants in Avalon. I took advantage of the Dinner & A Movie Special. I received a free movie pass when I mentioned to my server Ryan that I was seeing Beauty and The Beast. With each entree purchase between 5–6 p.m., guests receive a pass ($15 value). The center bar inside the restaurant makes a special martini in honor of Philip K. Wrigley, the son of William Wrigley Jr. who purchased Catalina Island in 1919. It’s made with 3.5 ounces of Hendrix Gin and a dash of Vermouth.
Today, the Santa Catalina Island Company is owned by descendants of William Wrigley Jr. They continue to attract Southern Californians, boaters, cruise line passengers, and visitors from around the world seeking a relaxed getaway offering a fun, small town vibe.