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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.

CIVR Blog: Catalina’s car list

Getting around on Catalina Island frequently involves something other than a car.

Getting around on Catalina Island frequently involves something other than a car.

In Avalon, the primary means of transportation is walking. This quaint village is ideally situated for pedestrian traffic. Shops, restaurants and the waterfront are all located within a few blocks, making your own two feet the perfect choice for getting around.

Visitors frequently comment on the prevalence of golf carts, which residents, businesses and visitors alike turn to as an alternative to walking. Their smaller size makes golf carts, or autoettes as they are known in the Avalon Municipal Code, a convenient substitute to full-size vehicles, which are out of reach for many Catalina Island residents.

In the 1980s, the State of California passed legislation making Avalon the only municipality in the state with the authority to regulate the number of vehicles permitted in city limits. That legislation has resulted in waiting list for full-size vehicles that currently translates to a several decades wait for a full-size vehicle. Each year, fewer than 10 blue residential permits are released. Permit holders must be full-time residents and if they move off the island for any reason other than school or military sevice, the permit must be surrendered. Commercial vehicles are regulated separately, but businesses must still wait for approval and justify the need.

CIVR Blog: Saving water on Catalina Island

CIVR conserve_waterLike many places in the United States, Catalina Island is undergoing a sustained drought. Water on the island primarily comes from underground aquifers which are feed by Thompson Reservoir, a small man-made lake in the interior. Additional water – about a third of the island’s annual usage — comes from a desalination plant located at Pebbly Beach.

Several years of less than average rainfall have created what has become a severe drought and Catalina’s fresh water supplies are dwindling. On August 11, Southern California Edison, which manages the island’s utilities, imposed water restrictions that call for a 25 percent annual reduction in water use.

Visitors and residents alike have been coming together to conserve water and evidence of that can be found throughout Avalon. Restaurants only serve water on request and frequently only serve bottled water. Streets are swept rather than washed. And accommodations are asking guests to conserve in many ways.

At Catalina Island Vacation Rentals, we’re asking our guests to limit their use of washing machines and dishwashers, restrict their showers to three minutes and shut off the water while brushing their teeth and shaving. Any leaky faucets should also be reported immediately.

By working together, Catalina’s residents and visitors will be able to weather the drought until Mother Nature brings more rain.

CIVR Blog: Fall festivals on Catalina Island

The Catalina Festival of the Arts is just one of many fall festivals

The Catalina Festival of the Arts is just one of many fall festivals

Fall is festival season on Catalina Island and for many visitors and locals alike, a favorite time to experience the island. Temperatures are still balmy, crowds begin to dissipate and the entire island is open for adventure.

Art and wine, music and aviation are just a few of the festivals on the Catalina Island calendar this fall. The Catalina Festival of the Arts is one of Catalina’s longest running events and will take over Crescent Avenue with art, artists and art aficionados Sept. 19 to 21. On Sept. 13  the Catalina Island Women’s Forum will host its popular Catalina Island Wine Festival in the shadow of the Catalina Casino Building. Featuring wine from dozens of wineries as well as a silent auction, the wine festival is a fundraiser for the forum’s various charities, including scholarships and domestic violence prevention.

Scheduled for the first weekend in October, the Catalina Air Show has found resounding popularity, with demonstrations both on the ground in the air. The second two weekends in October will see the return of JazzTrax, which brings top names in smooth jazz to the Casino Ballroom as well as a number of additional venues around town.

CIVR Blog: Catalina Coastal Tours

Dolphins are a popular sight in Catalina waters.

Exploring Catalina Island is a never-ending voyage of discovery that involves adventures both above and below the water, natural history and human culture. Several companies can help guide you on that voyage of discovery, with tours, adventures and more.

Catalina Coastal Tours, a local family-run company, offers a range of unique tours that allow a glimpse of the island seldom experienced by most visitors. With a 24-foot boat, limited to only six passengers, Catalina Coastal Tours offers an intimate tour experience that is ideal for exploring Catalina’s wild coastline. One of their top tours offers a boat trip to White’s Landing, just down the coast from Avalon, and includes beach and water activities, like kayaking, stand-up paddling and snorkeling as well as lunch or dinner. Catalina Coastal Tours also offers an hour-long sea lion and dolphin tour to experience the popular mammals. Sightseeing, fishing and custom tours are available as well. An astronomy tour takes place in Avalon and includes an in-depth look at the night sky with telescopes and the guidance of a trained astronomer.

Catalina Coastal Tours is located at Pebbly Beach Road just across the street from the basketball courts. For more information call (626) 290-2888 or visit their website.

CIVR Blog: Kid-friendly Catalina

Family Biking

Families will find plenty of activities for all ages on Catalina Island

Despite its reputation as the Island of Romance, Catalina can also be an ideal vacation for the entire family. For more than a century, families have been escaping the mainland madness and discovering the allure of Avalon as a place to relax and reconnect.

In the summer, spring and fall – and even frequently in the winter – the beach is an inescapable attraction; its gentle waves and sloping sands perfect for even the youngest island visitor. Several playgrounds are located in Avalon: boat park, near the boat terminal is great for smaller kids, City Park and Friendship Park have playscapes more suited to grade school kids. Avalon has its own skate park and older children will also enjoy the adventures of ziplining, snorkeling and kayaking.

Families with kids of all ages will appreciate Three Palms Arcade and most of Avalon’s restaurants are family friendly.

Catalina Island Vacation Rentals offers a wide array of family-friendly Catalina Island lodging choices, including Avalon condos, Avalon homes and cottages and Hamilton Cove villas. All welcome families and are a perfect choice for travelers looking for room for everyone. With full kitchens and separate bedrooms, there’s room to gather for a family meal, play games and watch Frozen one more time.