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CIVR Blog: Stand up paddling Catalina

Avalon Harbor's calm waters are perfect for stand-up paddling.

Avalon Harbor’s calm waters are perfect for stand-up paddling.

Stand-up paddling has become one of the more popular Pacific sports. Little known a decade ago, the sport has taken water sports by storm, with participants hitting the water on lakes, rivers and protected bays. Stand-up padding is more challenging in the open ocean, especially when wind and currents fight against you, but many paddlers are more than up for the challenge.

This new sport has become increasing popular on Catalina Island, where the leeside of the island offers many protected bays for novices to perfect their skills and paddling a few hundred yards out provides a challenge for more advanced paddlers.

For the last couple of years, one of the most challenging stand-up paddle races has been the Island to Island Waterman Relay, which takes competitors from the start at Santa Barbara Island, across 28 miles of open ocean and then finishes at Isthmus Cove at Two Harbors on Santa Catalina.

The Waterman Relay, scheduled this year for Oct. 11, also includes categories for outrigger canoes and paddleboards, which means it attracts some of the top competitors in those sports as well.

 

CIVR Blog: Catalina Air Show

Daredevil flyers will take to the skies during the Catalina Air Show.

Daredevil flyers will take to the skies during the Catalina Air Show.

Catalina Island’s connection to aviation stretches back more than a century to when the first amphibious landing took place in Avalon Bay in 1912. Since that time, aviation played a crucial role in Catalina Island’s development as a tourist destination. Passenger service to the island was introduced in 1919 and continued to be way thousands of visitors arrived on the island for decades. Today, Catalina Flying Boats and Island Express continue the commercial aviation tradition on the island. Although they don’t carry passengers, as Catalina Island’s freight forwarder Catalina Flying Boats serves an essential role on the island, bringing freight to the island each day aboard their historic DC-3. Island Express brings thousands of passengers a year to Catalina in their fleet of helicopters.

Santa Catalina’s aviation history also comes to life each fall at the Scheyden Catalina Air Show. Featuring heart-stopping acrobatics, skydivers and awe-inspiring pilots, the air show provides hours of thrills. The airspace above Avalon Canyon and the clear blue sky above the waters off Avalon Harbor provide the perfect stage for these daredevils and great viewing can be had all along the Avalon waterfront.

The Scheyden Catalina Air Show will be held on Oct. 4. VIP packages are available, including a performers’ dinner Friday night.

CIVR Blog: JazzTrax on Catalina Island

JazzTrax in the Casino Ballroom is one of Catalina Island's most popular events.

JazzTrax in the Casino Ballroom is one of Catalina Island’s most popular events.

Catalina’s fall schedule is full one. Festivals, concerts or sporting events happen nearly every weekend, but one of the most popular events happens over two weekends in October. JazzTrax has brought some of the top names in smooth jazz to the island for nearly three decades and shows no signs of slowing down.

Each weekend of JazzTrax on Catalina Island includes unforgettable concerts in the Casino Ballroom. Saturdays and Sundays have relaxing afternoon concerts and Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings feature smooth jazz headliners taking the stage. A few years ago JazzTrax added unplugged concerts on Thursday nights, allowing jazz fans to get up close and personal in intimate concerts by some of the top names in jazz. This year, those Thursday Unplugged concerts are at the Descanso Beach Club. On Friday and Saturday nights the fun continues with late night concerts at various venues around town.

Mindi Abair, Keiko Matsui and Dave Koz are just a few of the names that will be headlining this year’s  JazzTrax. Seating is available concert style as well as at tables. Concert goers can choose single session tickets or the full weekend for both Oct. 9-12 and Oct. 16-19.

CIVR Blog: Avalon Pleasure Pier

Avalon's green Pleasure Pier attracts visitors and locals alike

Avalon’s green Pleasure Pier attracts visitors and locals alike

Catalina Island’s Moorish-inspired architectural wonder is known throughout the world – its red tile roof and distinctive circular shape creating a landmark that instantly identifies Catalina’s place. While the Catalina Casino is Avalon’s most iconic landmark, it is far from its only one.

The Avalon Pleasure Pier, with its unique vibrant shade of green, is a magnet for visitors and locals alike. In the summer months, an extension is added to its 400-foot length, providing additional wharfage for water taxis, tour boats and Avalon Harbor patrol boats. Whatever the time of year, it’s the perfect spot for a stroll, offering wonderful views of Avalon, the scent of salt air and the susurrus of the sea.

Avalon Seafood, at the end of the pier, and Eric’s, at the foot of the pier, are both perfect spots to grab a beer and bite – and take part in some serious people watching. The pier is also home to several businesses, including Catalina Adventure Tours and Catalina Discovery Tours, both of which offer semi-submersible excursions to Lovers Cove. Island Water Charters, which offers parasailing and tubing adventures, makes it home here, as does Catalina Divers Supply, the island’s oldest dive shop. Joe’s Rent A Boat rents skiffs, paddleboats and paddleboards. You’ll also find Los Angeles County’s Baywatch Avalon lifeguards, the Avalon Harbor Department and – a must visit for any visitor – the Catalina Island Chamber of Commerce’s Visitors Services Center, which offers a wealth of information.

CIVR Blog: Three Palms Avalon Arcade

Three Palms Avalon Arcade

Three Palms Avalon Arcade

For generations, growing up has frequently involved a trip to the arcade. With a soundtrack of rumbling skeeballs, tokens are transformed into tickets and then carefully traded into trinkets and treasures. Those treasures and trinkets echo with the skill and luck that accompanied their acquisition – making their value as a souvenir much higher than anything purchased outright.

Several arcades have been part of the cultural fabric of Catalina Island and generations of visitors and locals have experienced the fun and frustration of family fun at the arcade. Avalon’s newest iteration is Three Palms Avalon Arcade, a locally-owned, family-run fun fest in the Metropole Marketplace. Named for an Avalon overlook that used to have three distinctive palm trees, Three Palms Arcade includes a wide range of traditional and modern ticket dispensing games as well as four lanes of duckpin bowling, a shooting gallery and pizza, appetizers and sushi. Beer and wine insure that mom and dad can relax while the kids have fun chasing down those illusive game tickets.

In addition to its everyday fun, Three Palms Arcade also offers private parties for everything from a small child’s birthday party to a corporate team-building extravaganza that will be fondly remembered ‘round the water cooler for months.

Its range of activities makes Three Palms a perfect spot for the entire family and somewhere that’s sure to figure prominently in your Catalina memories.

CIVR Blog: Catalina Island horseback rides

Wimberley Wrigley Jr and one of his horses. Photo courtesy of the permanent collection of the Catalina Island Museum

Wimberley Wrigley Jr and one of his horses. Photo courtesy of the permanent collection of the Catalina Island Museum

Horses and horse culture have a long history on Catalina Island. For hundreds of years, horses were an essential component of life on the island: cowboys used them to work cattle for several generations, teams of powerful horses pulled stagecoaches from Avalon, up to the summit and on into the interior; and the Wrigley family bred world-class Arabians for decades at El Rancho Escondido. Early Avalon visitors could rent pony carts and – until just a few years ago – Catalina horseback rides were offered from Avalon.

While in many respects horse culture is becoming a memory on Catalina, there are two areas where it continues to thrive. Middle Ranch has its own stable where locals and visitors are able to board their horses and the Las Caballeros is dedicated to preserving Catalina’s cowboy culture. An official support group of the Catalina Conservancy, the Caballeros raise funds, volunteer on the island and have several social events on the mainland. Each September, members take part in a multi-day ride across the island.

Divided into two treks for men and women respectively, the Caballeros and Caballeras ride includes dozens of horse fans spending their days riding and their nights in campgrounds in Catalina Island’s expansive interior. Horses are brought from the mainland for the trek and the invitation only event serves as a vivid reminder of Catalina’s horse culture.

CIVR Blog: Catalina Wine Festival

The Catalina Wine Festival is scheduled for Sept. 13

The Catalina Wine Festival is scheduled for Sept. 13

A certain raucous comedy by the name of Stepbrothers has made a fictional event rather famous. In the film, the Catalina Wine Mixer is a prestigious event prone to problems and requiring careful management. The stars stress over its production and more than few curse words are expressed as they worry and fuss over its many details and attendees.

While Catalina Island doesn’t have a Wine Mixer, it does have two wine festivals, one in Two Harbors in spring and the Catalina Wine Festival in Avalon in late summer. The Catalina Wine Festival causes much less stress and is much more fun than its fictional counterpart. Held in late summer, the festival is a fundraiser for the Catalina Island Women’s Forum, a local organization that raises funds for mentoring, scholarships and domestic violence prevention.

This year the festival will take place alongside Avalon Harbor near Wrigley Stage. More than 70 wineries will pour several hundred varietals and varieties of wine. Gourmet appetizers are included as is live music. Each year, forum members develop a spectacular silent auction that includes crafts, home décor, wine experiences and much more.

This year’s Catalina Wine Festival is scheduled for 2 to 5 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 13. Tickets are $80 per person and are available at the Catalina Island Women’s Forum website.

CIVR Blog: Catalina Film Festival

The Casino Building will be just one venue used during the Catalina Film Festival

The Casino Building will be just one venue used during the Catalina Film Festival

Catalina Island and Hollywood have a love affair that has lasted a century. Thanks to its proximity to Southern California, Catalina Island was long a favorite for location scouts in search of exotic locales – or at least someplace that could be made to look like an exotic locale. Mutiny on the Bounty, Robinson Crusoe and the Glass Bottom Boat are a just a few of the dozens of movies that have either featured Catalina or used Catalina as a stand-in for somewhere else.

Hollywood’s love of Catalina Island extends off screen as well. For generations, the film industry’s biggest stars and biggest names have looked to the island for a getaway, enjoying Catalina’s many charms and adventures.

The Catalina Film Festival is the latest incarnation of that love affair. With more than 75 films, nightly events and live entertainment, the festival provides an opportunity to celebrate the art of film and the filmmakers who create that art.

Scheduled for Sept. 24 to 28, the Catalina Film Festival will screen films in several Avalon venues, including the world-famous Avalon Theatre in the Casino. Several awards will be presented as part of the festival, including the Ronald Reagan Great Communicator Award, the Stanley Kramer Social Artist Award and the Charlie Chaplin ICON award. The festival beneficiary, the Catalina Island Conservancy, will present the ISLA Earth Award.

Tickets are available for individual events or the entire festival. For more information, visit www.CatalinaFF.org

 

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CIVR Blog: Labor Day on Catalina Island

Catalina Island is a perfect destination for Labor Day

Catalina Island is a perfect destination for Labor Day

After more than a century, the tradition of Labor Day is firmly entrenched in the American psyche. This three-day weekend gives us a chance to honor our hard work and the hard work of those who have built the American Dream for all of us. On the first Monday in September, a three-day weekend of barbecues, vacation getaways and family fun seems to be the ideal way to celebrate work.

For generations, Labor Day was the last big hurrah on Catalina Island before the end of the summer season. Until late in the 20th century, Avalon was a summer town, booming between Memorial Day and Labor Day and pretty much rolling up the sidewalks in the off-season. Many businesses closed and those who remained opened had greatly reduced hours.

These days, Labor Day is still the symbolic end of summer, but it’s far from the end of the Catalina Island season. September and October are now bustling months on the island’s calendar. Those three days of Labor Day weekend are still a fine excuse for a mini-holiday, a chance to thank ourselves for all our hard work all year long.

CIVR Blog: Maggie’s Blue Rose Catalina Island

Crab and corn empanadas at Maggie's Blue Rose

Crab and corn empanadas at Maggie’s Blue Rose

Catalina Island’s newest dining experience brings together Avalon’s Hispanic heritage and its most successful restaurateurs. Maggie’s Blue Rose opened to rave reviews this spring and has been pleasing palates ever since. The latest project from the successful duo behind Steve’s Steakhouse, Maggie’s Blue Rose offers diners both a fresh take on Mexican culinary classics as well as a contemporary spin on margaritas.

Shortly after Maggie’s opened it took the Taste of Avalon by storm, winning awards for pork adobo with pineapple salsa, avocado enchiladas and mole braised duck taquitos. Since then, it has also been thrilling the over-21 crowd with its refreshing take on margaritas. You won’t want to miss the tamarindo or the cucumber and jalapeno.

Located just across from the green Pleasure Pier below Steve’s Steakhouse, Maggie’s Blue Rose offers al fresco dining, indoor seating and expansive bar seating.  Opening at 8 a.m. Maggie’s offers favorites like huevos rancheros, breakfast burritos and chorizo and eggs. Lunch brings options such as crab and corn empanadas, street tacos and watermelon salad with spiced shrimp. Beginning at 5 p.m., Maggie’s offers new Catalina classics including lobster enchiladas, street tacos with the freshest local fish and grilled anchiote skirt steak.  For more information call (310) 510-3300 or visit their website.