CIVR Blog: Catalina Island Migration

7:34 pm
Gray whales are often seen while traveling to Catalina Island

Gray whales are often seen while traveling to Catalina Island

Around the world, fall means migration. Whether it’s birds flying south for the winter or snowbirds seeking their southern homes, once September comes to an end, it’s time to get on the move. On Catalina Island – and around it – the forces of migration are also readily apparent. Many winged species, including raptors, shorebirds and songbirds, make Catalina Island a stop on their southern journeys, but one of the most dramatic migratory animals doesn’t wear feathers.  California gray whales will soon begin their epic migration, leaving their summer feeding grounds in Alaska and making their way along the Pacific coast of North America to warm lagoons in Baja California, where they will rest, breed and give birth to the next generation.

Gray whales have one of the longest migrations of any mammal and their marathon journey takes them just offshore of the Southern California mainland – where they are frequently spotted by travelers to Catalina Island. Reaching lengths of 45 feet or so, gray whales aren’t nearly as large as the blue whales that are seen in the summer, but these travelers are more regularly spotted. Whether seen from the Catalina Island ferry, from great dramatic overlook on the island or on a Catalina Island dolphin and whale tour, gray whales are a sign of the season unique to Catalina Island.

CIVR Blog: Catalina JazzTrax

3:42 pm
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.

For nearly 30 years, October has meant jazz on Catalina Island. In 1987, event producer Art Good brought world class smooth jazz to the Casino Ballroom and JazzTrax has been a legendary event ever since.

JazzTrax on Catalina Island is held in the first half of October – this year it is scheduled for Oct. 8-11 and Oct. 15-18. For many jazz fans, the festival is an annual event – aficionados make their accommodations reservations for the following year before they even depart the island.

The weekends include headliner concerts on Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings and afternoon concerts on Saturdays and Sundays in the world famous Catalina Casino Ballroom. Unplugged concerts, with dinner and smooth jazz on the beach, are held on Thursday nights at Descanso Beach. After parties, with DJ entertainment, will also be held on Saturday nights at Descanso Beach. This year’s performers include Mindy Abair, Josh Vietti, Brian Culbertson and The Three Tenors. Additional performers are keyboardist Bob James, saxophonist and vocalist Marcus and Marcel Anderson and keyboardist Jonathan Fritzen with saxophonist Vincent Ingala. Single concert tickets and full-weekend tickets are available. Ticket purchasers can choose from ballroom floor tickets or table tickets. For more information, visit the Catalina JazzTrax website.

CIVR Blog: Catalina Island collectibles

2:21 pm
For generations, Catalina has offered a number of treasures for shoppers. Catalina Island pottery is still collected today. Photo courtesy of the Permanent Collection of the Catalina Island Museum

For generations, Catalina has offered a number of treasures for shoppers. Catalina Island pottery is still collected today. Photo courtesy of the Permanent Collection of the Catalina Island Museum

Catalina Island offers a myriad of souvenirs for vacationers. Avalon shopping includes art, jewelry, clothing, housewares, home décor and much more. For the true Catalina Island aficionado, this Southern California vacation paradise also offers a number of collectibles.

Catalina Pottery, made on the island in the 1920s, is a favorite Catalina Island collectible. With its distinctive colors and Art Deco style, Catalina Pottery complements nearly every décor. Highly sought after by collectors both on and off the island, pieces can sell for hundreds of dollars when sold by those who know what they have. On the other hand, stories abound of lucky individuals who have found valuable pieces at garage sales and thrift stores.

Another popular Catalina collectible is historic postcards. These colorful – or black and white – mementoes provide a glimpse into the past and are a decorative reminder of your favorite Southern California resort island when framed and displayed.

Catalina Island beaches provide other options for collecting. Seaglass, tossed by the waves and polished by rocks and sand, makes a perfect reminder of a Catalina Island vacation when tossed in a small glass jar. Seashells are another beach treasure ideal for collecting – just make sure your shell is unoccupied when you take it home.

CIVR Blog: Catalina Film Festival

4:34 pm
The Catalina Casino is one of the main venues for the Catalina Film Festival

The Catalina Casino is one of the main venues for the Catalina Film Festival

Fall is festival season on Catalina Island with events for nearly every interest – from art to wine.

Many of these events have storied histories dating back, in some instances for more than half a century. Other events are newer, but have quickly put Catalina Island on the national stage. The Catalina Film Festival  has become a four-day celebration of film that brings more than 90 films to the island along with filmmaker Q & A sessions, networking and celebrity spotting.

The festival takes advantage of Catalina’s spectacular location as well as its history as backlot and playground for Hollywood’s elite. Venues include the Avalon Theatre in the spectacular Catalina Casino building.

Benefitting the Catalina Island Conservancy, the festival makes time to honor filmmakers who impact the environment. This year, Kristen Davis, best known as Charlotte from Sex and the City, will receive the ISLA Earth Award and will also screen her new film Gardeners of Eden, which chronicles efforts to end ivory poaching in Africa.

The Catalina Film Festival is open to the public, with tickets available to select screenings, special galas as well as festival passes. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit the festival’s website.

CIVR Blog: Avalon Theatre

4:16 pm
Photo courtesy Santa Catalina Island Company

Photo courtesy Santa Catalina Island Company

Island life is different from life on the mainland in many ways. Catalina Island residents are surrounded by spectacular natural beauty and a relaxed sense of pace that few take for granted.

Another aspect of island that no one ever takes for granted is going to the movies. Catalina Island has only one movie theatre and one movie a week, which shows nightly. While many residents might at times miss the selection of movies available on the mainland, none would exchange the theatre itself for that selection.

Catalina Island’s movie theatre is the Avalon Theatre, a spectacular circular space that composes the lower floors of the Catalina Casino. With fantastical art deco murals by the celebrated artist John Gabriel Beckman, the theatre is an awe-inspiring space no matter what is on the screen. Twinkling lights evocative of stars and a crowning fresco of the Birth of Venus, add to the drama as do art deco tragedy and comedy masks over each doorway. Built in 1929, the Avalon Theatre was one of the first movie theatres to be built for the then-innovative technology of movie sound.

Today, the Avalon Theatre stands as testament to the glamour and artistry of a bygone era. It is a must-see part of the Catalina Island experience – whether you live here for a lifetime or visit for a weekend.

CIVR Blog: Avalon library

2:00 pm
Avalon Library

Avalon Library

Catalina Island visitors have a wide range of opportunities to discover the many adventures of this Southern California vacation destination, but for many travelers a Catalina Island vacation wouldn’t be a vacation without some time spent on the beach with a good book. Or some time spent posting photos on Facebook. Or even some quick time checking email.

All of that – and more – can happen at the Avalon branch of the Los Angeles County Library. With a generous collection of best sellers, as well as children’s books, non-fiction, a travel section and DVDs, the Avalon library is popular with visitors and locals alike. Anyone who resides in the state is eligible to apply for a library card and – just in case you forget to return your book before you leave, books can be returned to any Los Angeles County library branch. The Avalon library also features free wifi and computers available for public use.

Recently the Friends of the Avalon Library received a grant and they are currently developing a series of educational lectures that will be focused on Catalina Island.

The Avalon Library is located at 215 Sumner Avenue. The library is closed on Sunday and Monday, but has generous hours the other five days. On Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday it is open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday, the Avalon Library is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

CIVR Blog: Catalina art festival

2:01 pm

art festival 2

Fall is festival season in Avalon and one of the biggest festivals is also the oldest. For more than half a century, the Catalina Island Festival of Art has brought artists and art fans together in the middle of September. Scheduled this year for Sept. 18 to 20, this popular weekend attracts artists from throughout the country, who set up booths along Crescent Avenue, sharing their inspiration and creations with hundreds of art fans who return year after year for the festival.

Free for the public, the Catalina art festival provides a wealth of opportunities to experience – and purchase – art in a variety of mediums, including oil, photography, watercolors, mixed media and crafts. Catalina Island itself is a frequent inspiration, with much of the art created either on or about Santa Catalina. A children’s art competition brings out some of the next generation of artists, who vie for a prizes including an array of art supplies.

The festival is organized by the Catalina Art Association, one of Catalina Island’s oldest organizations. In addition to the Catalina art festival in September, the association also organizes a spring festival and operates an art gallery in the lobby of US Bank.

CIVR Blog: Shopping on Catalina

4:22 pm


Grocery shopping on Catalina Island will soon be an entirely different experience, thanks to a recent decision by the Avalon City Council. The decision allows Vons to begin construction on a brand-new grocery store, in the center of Avalon.

Located on Beacon Street between Catalina Avenue and Sumner Avenue, the new store will have off-street parking for both golf carts and full-size vehicles. It will replace a dirt parking lot and the shuttered Wilcox Nursery. The location was chosen to allow easy access for visitors and residents. With 20,000 square feet of space, the new store will offer plenty of room for grocery shopping on Catalina Island. The new Vons will however, be about a third of the size of an average Vons on the mainland. The new store will replace the two current Vons stores, both of which were dated and in need of extensive renovations.

Vons executives initially shared their plans for the new store about a year ago. Residents and visitors have both had extensive opportunities to review the plans for the store and its proposed location. Construction is expected to begin within the next few months.

CIVR Blog: Catalina live music

7:07 pm
The Castaway concerts bring all new live music to Catalina Island.

The Castaway concerts bring all new live music to Catalina Island.

Each summer for the last several years, Avalon Harbor has echoed with the toe-tappin’, singalong, gotta-get-up-and-dance sounds of the Xceptional Catalina Summer Concert Series. With nearly a dozen concerts scattered through the summer, the series brings together families for dancing in the streets to the sounds of both tribute bands and original musicians.

With an array of talented musicians, Xceptional Music Company is now bringing a new concert series to Descanso Beach on Catalina Island. The Castaway Catalina Island Concerts will bring a series of three tribute concerts to Avalon’s popular Descanso Beach. With swaying palm trees, food and cocktail service on the sand and the soothing susurrus of the sea, Descanso Beach is one of the most popular destinations on the island and the Castaway Catalina Island Concerts will be an irresistible Catalina live music addition.

The first concert takes the stage on July 31 and will bring the Red Not Chili Peppers, a tribute band to the Red Hot Chili Peppers. On August 14, Zac, Jack and the Jimmys will honor Zac Brown Band, Jack Johnson, Dave Matthews Band and Jimmy Buffet. And on August 28, Mick Adams and the Stones are one of the country’s top Rolling Stones tribute bands. Concerts begin at 7 p.m. and tickets are available here.

CIVR Blog: Pleasure Pier Catalina

3:57 pm
A stroll on the Pleasure Pier is a must while on Catalina Island

A stroll on the Pleasure Pier is a must while on Catalina Island

Avalon’s green Pleasure Pier on Catalina Island is one of its most distinctive landmarks. The bright green color, affectionately known as Pier Green by locals, draws the eye, promising summer fun with a unique island flair. Home to several businesses, ticket offices and government agencies, the pier is also a favorite spot for a stroll, both when bustling with business in the afternoon or calm and relaxing in the early morning hours.

The Pleasure Pier was not always the only pier in Avalon. For decades, the shorter, wider Steamer Pier hosted the steamships that brought thousands of visitors to Avalon for generations. Visitors would leave the ship, often after tossing a coin for the young men – and women – who would dive to the bottom of Avalon Harbor to thrill the tourists and make plenty of pocket change in the process. Located to the left of Antonio’s Cabaret, the Steamer Pier was torn down after falling into disuse and disrepair.

Today, a walk down the green Pleasure Pier is must for nearly every visitor to Catalina Island. In the summer months, an extension provides a home for the Avalon Harbor Patrol’s fleet of patrol boats as well as Island Navigation’s water taxis. Fishing from the pier is a popular activity with visitors both young and old angling for kelp bass, perch and more. Parasailing, scuba diving and water tours can all be arranged from the pier as can the rental of a fleet of small vessels. The Avalon Harbor Department office is located at the end of the pier, Baywatch Avalon’s paramedics have their office in the middle of the pier and the Catalina Island Chamber of Commerce operates its visitors’ services center at the base of the pier. Shopping and dining are also available at various spots on this iconic landmark.