Airport in the Sky One has to be creative when there is a not a lot of flat space on the island. Such was the case when building the runway for the Airport in the Sky – two mountaintops were flattened and then the resulting debris was pushed together to create a flat 3,000+ foot runway. Not open to commercial aircraft, the airport services private planes and handles the mail delivery for the island.
Sometimes an old DC-3 World War II vintage aircraft uses the airport for delivering packages and other supplies to the island’s residents. It is amazing these old planes are still in use! Appropriately named, the DC-3 Cafe serves a hearty breakfast – a gift shop on site sells a variety of clothing and other Catalina souvenirs. A large BBQ is located outside – and operates in the summer. The outside patio is a great place to just hang out for a while.
A nature center is located right next to the DC-3 Cafe entrance.
The airport is 10 miles from Avalon – access is via bicycle, shuttle bus or with one of the tour companies – this is also a stop on foot when hiking the Trans-Catalina trail.
Casino Tour the Casino is the most prominent building on Catalina and has become an icon for the city of Avalon. Built quickly in about 14 months for 2 million dollars it opened in 1929. It is both beautiful outside and inside – featuring a 1,000 seat theatre (movies still show nightly) and the world’s largest circular ballroom upstairs.
Visitor’s can tour the Casino by taking one of the Behind the Scenes tours. This offers one the rare chance to be able to stand on stage, visit the green rooms, see a number of other rooms not open to the public and do a little dance on the floor of the ballroom. One can also walk outside the Casino next to the ballroom for excellent views looking down onto Avalon. Groups are kept fairly small.
Reservations are strongly recommended especially on weekends in the summer months. For more information and to reserve your ticket, click here.
Catalina Island Museum was founded in 1953 and was housed in the Casino for over 60 years. In 2016 the museum moved from it’s original location to a new location and in the process went from 3,000 square feet of storage to over 18,000 square feet. Construction of the museum was the largest construction project on the island since the Casino was built in 1929. Located a short walk from the harbor at 217 Metropole Avenue. Start your visit with a viewing of a short video about Catalina’s history and then make your way through several gallery spaces.
The focus of the museum is on Catalina’s history beginning with the Native American’s who lived on the island. Informative exhibitions portray the Wrigley Family, the Chicago Cubs (held their Spring Training on the island from 1921-1951) and Hollywood’s influence. The original ukulele used to write the song, ’26 Miles’ is on display.
In addition to the local history exhibits, the museum also has exhibition space for non Catalina art including rotating exhibitions. A small circular museum room is located on the upper level for such rotating exhibitions. A 100 seat outdoor amphitheater and plenty of outdoor space make this venue an ideal choice for hosting a number of private events.
Most museum gift shops carry the normal assortment of books, posters and other trivial knick-knacks. It is very refreshing to find a gift shop (such as this one) that contains a unique and one-of-a-kind collection of quality memorabilia including various art and reproductions of Catalina Tile (as well as some original tiles from when Catalina Tile moved to the mainland). For more information visit: www.catalinamuseum.org
Two Harbors – while Avalon seems so small and remote compared to the millions of people that live 22 miles across the ocean on the mainland – Two Harbors seems even “miles” away and ‘time’ removed from Avalon. Most people on the island live in Avalon – and most visitors never leave its cozy and picturesque confines.
If Avalon seems busy – Two Harbors seems more like a small village. You come here to relax – most people arrive by boat. The primary restaurant, Harbor Reef has a deck and an outdoor bar. The alcoholic drink of the island, “Buffalo Milk” was created here and this is a perfect place to enjoy its “influential” magic.
This is the narrowest part of the island. Less than 1/2 mile of fairly flat land separates the two picturesque bays. Camping is available near town. The historic Banning House Bed and Breakfast offers 12 individually decorated rooms. Easiest way to get to Two Harbors from Avalon is using the Safari Bus (leaves from the Tour Plaza, right next to the Golf Gardens). One can also boat here and or take a helicopter.
Wrigley Botanical Gardens is located about 30 minutes (by walking) from the center of Avalon. Alternatively, there is a bus stop directly in front of the gardens’ entrance. Highlights of a visit include a prominent memorial to William Wrigley Jr (founder of the largest chewing gum company in the world and a benefactor and a prominent influencer of Catalina’s own modern history). His body was kept in the memorial for a short time until eventually it was moved to Pasadena (where he is now buried).
The desert garden is arguably a highlight of any visit here – a number of cacti and other arid tolerant plants grow on site. The focus of the plants here are on endemic California island vegetation. The garden is also the start of the Garden to Sky hiking trail.