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CIVR Blog: Catalina Island water activities

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Parasailing with Island Water Charters

While Catalina Island abounds with land-based activities, including hiking, shopping and relaxing, the Pacific Ocean calls to most visitors. Whether they are drawn to soar above the waves or plunge beneath the surface, Island Water Charters and Catalina Divers Supply can provide the adventure.

Island Water Charters is home to three vessels, all of which are ideally designed for parasailing and Catalina Island’s newest adventure – tubing. Parasailing, which, once you get past the thrill of soaring several hundred feet above the sea, is actually rather relaxing. With nothing but the peaceful sounds of the breeze lufting the parasail, adventurers can relax and unwind while getting a view of Avalon normally reserved for the birds. Island Water Charters recently added tubing to its line-up of adventures. Open to two or three tubers at a time, this high-speed escapade involves riding an inflatable inner tube while being pulled behind a vessel. Depending on the seas and how much adrenaline is deserved, tubing can range from unique sight-seeing cruise to a rodeo of spins, dips and launches reminiscent of a bull ride.

The island’s oldest dive shop, Catalina Divers Supply features a full-service dive shop on Avalon’s green Pleasure Pier, an air fill station at the Casino Dive Park and the Scuba Cat, a comfortable dive boat available for day trips. Catalina Divers Supply offers Discover Scuba, an opportunity for non-certified divers to experience the thrill of the underwater world as well as guided dives, gear rental, air fills, dive classes and certification courses. Snorkeling is also available, including gear rental, boat trips and guided snorkels.

CIVR Blog: Catalina holiday concert

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Photo courtesy Catalina Island Museum

Photo courtesy Catalina Island Museum

One of Catalina Island’s most popular holiday traditions is also one of its most recent. The Catalina Island Museum’s Holiday Symphony Concert fills the Avalon Theatre with the classic sounds of a world-class orchestra.

The Stanford Music Ensemble, which includes members of the Stanford Symphony Orchestra and the Stanford Philharmonia Orchestra, includes the talents of Stanford students and community players and is considered one of the top ensembles in the country. For this year’s concert, Anna Wittstruck will once again conduct. Special guests include violinist Chen Zhao from the San Francisco Symphony and soprano Clancy Cox from Syracuse University. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s compositions will be showcased during the concert.

Scheduled for Friday, Dec. 12, the Holiday Symphony Concert is free for members, with a limit of two tickets per member. All children under 17 are also free.  Adult tickets are $5. Tickets are required for entry. The concert is sponsored by a number of local businesses and organizations, including Catalina Island Vacation Rentals and Catalina Island Real Estate.

Before the concert, from 4 to 7 p.m. the Catalina Island Museum will offer free admission as well as a storewide sale in its museum store.

CIVR Blog: Shop in Avalon

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Wrigley Stage Christmas Tree

Wrigley Stage Christmas Tree

On the mainland, the traditional start of the holiday shopping season is Black Friday, a notorious maelstrom of materialism that tends to dampen even the brightest of holiday spirits. Crowded malls, overflowing parking lots and teeming big box stores are just not the way to start the Christmas season.

Catalina Island provides the perfect antidote for those weary of mall madness — shop in Avalon. Scheduled this year for Dec. 6, Shop at Home night kicks off with a holiday tree lighting at 5 p.m. Avalon’s giant Christmas tree is located near Wrigley Stage, and after the tree is lit, Shop at Home Night begins with strolling carolers, holiday spirit – and discounts at many local retailers. With Avalon Harbor providing the perfect backdrop, shoppers stroll casually among Avalon shops, many of which offer wassail, cookies and other refreshments. Stores stay open until 9 p.m., offering plenty of time to find just the right gift for everyone on your list. Discount cards, which offer special deals at participating retailers, are available from the Catalina Island Chamber of Commerce, which organizes the event. St. Nick will even be making an appearance, with Santa Claus holding court at El Galleon restaurant from 6 to 8:30 p.m.

For more information about Shop at Home Night, call the Catalina Island Chamber of Commerce at (310) 510-1520.

CIVR Blog: Middle Ranch Catalina Island

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Middle Ranch includes an equestrian center.

Middle Ranch includes an equestrian center.

One of the most frequent questions visitors to Santa Catalina Island ask is “What’s on the rest of the island?” For the most part, the answer to that question is wild lands and wild places, but there are a few spots other than Avalon that host human habitation and history.

One of those spots is Middle Ranch on Catalina Island. Located just about in the, well, middle of the island, Middle Ranch has long been a center of livestock operations on the island. A classic red barn pays homage to that history and is now the center of the island’s equestrian facility. The Catalina Island Saddle Club offers residents – both full and part-time – the opportunity to board their horses cooperatively and take advantage of the island’s trails.

Middle Ranch is also a center of activity for the Catalina Island Conservancy.  The James Ackerman Native Plant Nursery propagates – and sells – a wide variety of native plants. Volunteers spend countless hours here ensuring the survival of Catalina’s flora, which includes several species that grow nowhere else on earth. The Conservancy also houses much of its facility maintenance operation here as well as several laboratories for studying life on the island. A number of families also live at Middle Ranch, in housing the Conservancy provides for its employees.

CIVR Blog: Catalina Island races

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Photo courtesy of Spectrum Sports

Photo courtesy of Spectrum Sports

Catalina Island has become a magnet for athletes. Throughout the year, tests of speed, endurance and will take place on the island’s roads, waters and trails. Catalina Island races are famous for their natural beauty and the challenges they present for even the most accomplished athletes.

Several athletic challenges take place in November, starting with the Catalina Island Triathlon on Nov. 1. This world-class event begins with a half-mile swim in the waters of Avalon Harbor. Competitors will then head straight for their bicycles and race 15 miles out to Pebbly Beach and over Mt. Ada. Once the bike portion is complete, triathletes will take on the final portion, a 3.1-mile run out to the Casino Building and through the hills of Avalon. Hundreds of athletes from around the country take part in the Catalina Triathlon.

The following weekend, on Nov. 8, the Catalina Eco-marathon and Half Marathon will bring hundreds of long-distance runners eager to take on the challenge of Catalina Island’s hills and roads. Starting and finishing in Avalon, this marathon pushes its competitors to the limits, with grueling elevation changes and dramatic hills.

CIVR Blog: Catalina Fall Festival

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Catalina Fall Festival

Catalina Fall Festival

Like other communities around the country, Catalina Island comes together for holidays and special events. For the most part, the similarities between Catalina’s celebrations outweigh the differences, but in a few areas, those differences come into sharp contrast.

Catalina’s Fall Festival is one celebration that includes a few things found only on an island. Rather than a farmer’s field or a corner lot, island residents pick their pumpkins from a pumpkin patch on the beach. Dozens of pumpkins of all shapes and sizes scattered around Avalon’s beach are just one of the many features of the Fall Festival. This five-year-old event is open to residents and visitors and includes a cornucopia of tempting foods, delicious sweets and warm drinks. Hay rides and live music will both be available, as well as several family friendly games.

Two competitions are part of the fun at the Fall Festival. Prizes and bragging rights alike will be awarded to the winners of the Fried Chicken Competition and the Apple Pie Bake-Off Contest.

Scheduled for Oct. 16 from 5 to 9 p.m., the Catalina Fall Festival will be held on Crescent Avenue, which is also known as Front Street. It is hosted by the City of Avalon and benefits a number of Catalina Island charities. For more information, call the City of Avalon at (310) 510-0220.

CIVR Blog: Catalina Island Museum

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The Catalina Island Museum uses water totes to bring fresh water to the island. Photo courtesy Catalina Island Museum

The Catalina Island Museum uses water totes to bring fresh water to the island. Photo courtesy Catalina Island Museum

Catalina Island has been bustling with construction projects over the last several years. New restaurants, a new spa and renovated hotels are all in the works or completed, as is an expanded golf course, new activities and a new grocery store. One of the most widely anticipated projects is also one of the largest. The Ada Blanche Wrigley Schreiner Building of the Catalina Island Museum will dramatically increase the amount of space dedicated to the art, history and culture of Catalina Island.

Thanks to the dedication of the museum’s staff and supporters as well as the innovation of its general contractor, this expansive construction project will have very little impact on the island’s rapidly dwindling water supplies. Catalina Island is in the midst of a historic drought that has forced residents and visitors alike to decrease the amount of water used. Rather than contribute to the problem, the museum has chosen to be part of the solution. Large plastic totes are filled with water purchased on the mainland and barged to the island. Each tote contains 275 gallons of water and with 120 totes available; the contractor estimates that by the end of the project they will have saved 33,000 gallons of water that would otherwise have come from the island’s water supplies.

The Ada Blanche Wrigley Schreiner Building of the Catalina Island Museum will open in 2015 and include space for permanent and traveling exhibits as well as an atrium, digital theater and sculpture garden.

 

CIVR Blog: Santa Catalina Island Company

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Photo courtesy Santa Catalina Island Company

Photo courtesy Santa Catalina Island Company

Catalina Island’s potential as a resort destination is something that has been recognized for more than century. Back in 1894, the Santa Catalina Island Company was formed to help maximize that potential. Over the intervening 120 years, SCICo was the entity responsible for bringing a wide array of services and facilities to Catalina Island.

Today, the Santa Catalina Island Company is Avalon’s largest landowner as well as its premier resort services company. Several dramatic new improvements are due to investment by the company, starting with the zipline in Descanso Canyon, which opened to rave reviews about five years ago and has been met with on-going popularity ever since. The zipline is far from SCICo’s only adventure, it also offers 25 additional adventures on both land and sea, including a semi-sub tour, dolphin quest and the Cape Canyon Expedition.

Adventure is one side of the Catalina Island coin – relaxation is another. The Santa Catalina Island Company also manages the Descanso Beach Club, the perfect spot to relax and unwind. The Catalina Casino, Catalina Visitors Golf Course, the Avalon Grille, the Catalina Country Club and the Catalina Golf Gardens are just a few more popular island destinations under SCICo’s purview.

Recently that Santa Catalina Island Company has begun a series of improvements that it hopes will lay the foundation for the next 100 years of resort services, including building a new spa, expanding the services at the Descanso Beach Club and planning for an expansion of the existing nine-hole golf course to an 18-hole course.

CIVR Blog: Stand up paddling Catalina

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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: Avalon Pleasure Pier

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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.