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FREE Catalina Express Birthday Boat Ride to Catalina Island - EXTENDED THROUGH 2015!!

Discussion in 'Southern California' started by Sherry E, Apr 18, 2011.

  1. Sherry E

    Sherry E <font color=darkorchid>Willing victim of the Disne Moderator

    As a huge fan of the beautiful, tranquil and picturesque Catalina Island in SoCal (Catalina and Disneyland Resort are my two favorite SoCal destinations), I was absolutely thrilled to see this promo offer from Catalina Express in my e-mail inbox in 2011, 2012 & 2013!!:cool1:: In 2014, I happened to notice that the offer was extended when I checked the Catalina Express website.


    Basically, Catalina Express - the primary means of ocean transportation to the lovely Avalon in Catalina - is giving away FREE round-trip boat passage/tickets to everyone on their birthday (the current, existing promo ends on December 31, 2014, but I have learned that the offer is once again being extended beyond that -- through 2015!!). All you have to do is register your info on the Catalina Express website at the link above.

    This, of course, will not cover your food, lodging or activities on the Island, but if you have never been to Catalina, take my word for it that it's a great day trip (as well as being great for a weekend), whether you do a lot or do very little in the way of activities - and also take my word for it that getting FREE round-trip boat fare is a very good value to get to the Island. (The current round-trip boat fare is something like $73.00 and some change!) I could be happy just getting to the Island and sitting on a bench, overlooking the water, scouting for sea life!

    I missed being able to use the 2011 offer, but I happily took advantage of the 2012, 2013 and 2014 birthday trips. I am so excited to be able to take advantage of this offer once again, in July 2015. Everyone register ASAP!!

    Be sure to order your free 2014 Catalina Island Visitors Guide (this is a magazine that is put out every year, and the Chamber of Commerce or Visitors Bureau will mail it out to you for free) to get an idea of what you can do while on the Island!!

    The newest Visitors Guide will be available sometime in January 2015.
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  3. woody73

    woody73 <font color=darkorange>Enjoyed the Pumpkinmen<br><

    Thanks Sherry. I signed up and look forward to visiting Catalina.

  4. Sherry E

    Sherry E <font color=darkorchid>Willing victim of the Disne Moderator

    You're welcome, Woody! I know you're in L.A. too (as am I) - have you been to Catalina before?

    I hope more people register and get their free birthday boat trip. I've never seen anything involving Catalina offered as totally free before, unless it was part of a contest prize.

    But I'm not sure if a lot of people (who, perhaps, don't live nearby or who have never been to Catalina) realize what a good deal this actually is.

    To sort of draw a comparison, this is essentially the equivalent of the promotion that the Disney Parks had in which you could get in free for your birthday. It's the same idea for this Catalina Express thing - once you get through the gates, it's up to you how to spend your day and where to eat, what to buy, etc. But the free pass gets you in the gates - for Disney, you received a free one-day/one-park ticket that got you in; for Catalina, the free Catalina Express round-trip boat ticket will get you to/on the Island.

    Everyone sign up and get your free birthday trip! Trust me - if you have never been to Catalina, it's a really fun day trip (beautiful scenery, quaint little town, buffalo, flying fish, seals, etc.), and this is a great promo offer that I don't think they have ever done before.
  5. woody73

    woody73 <font color=darkorange>Enjoyed the Pumpkinmen<br><

    This will be my first visit to Catalina, and I'm looking forward to it.

  6. PHXscuba

    PHXscuba <font color=darkorchid>Mouseketeer since birth!<br

    Wow! Several of my family are going to Catalina this summer, but I'm not sure it's going to time on anyone's birthday. I will definitely let the SoCal section of my family know about this. I guess they figure (like DLR) that few people will go alone, so it equals more of a BOGO promotion.

    Thanks for the info!

  7. Sherry E

    Sherry E <font color=darkorchid>Willing victim of the Disne Moderator

    PHXscuba - Did you tell your SoCal family members about this? Are they going to do it?

    I mean, really, anyone can use it - they don't have to be SoCal people, but I suppose the thinking is that the SoCal people would be the ones most likely to be available on their birthdays to visit Catalina. The out-of-towners would have to either already be planning a trip out here during that time or they would have to make special arrangements to come down, use the birthday promo and then probably stay overnight on the Island to make it all worthwhile.

    However, this promo works for me because I am one of the few who will go solo! I don't need to have anyone with me. I mean, if any of my friends were available and wanted to go with me on my birthday, that would be great, but I've gone to Catalina by myself before (a few times) and had a fantastic time! It was actually, in a way, more relaxing, peaceful, meditative and therapeutic for me to be by myself, zooming around in the golf cart up in the hills, breathing in the sea air, walking along the shore and watching the ocean, etc. And In fact, I will actually get many more photos taken if I am alone (as was the case when I was alone at DLR in December, as you know!).

    I might start a Catalina Island superthread at some point in the future, chock full o' nuggets of info...but I don't think we have enough people interested in Avalon to follow a superthread!!:rotfl2::rotfl2:

    Everyone - make sure you sign up for your free birthday boat trip! It's very worthwhile! If you live in SoCal or if you plan to be in the SoCal area over your birthday anyway, take a day to visit Catalina. I think you will really love it!
  8. endy

    endy New Member

    I may just make it tho we'd have to stay overnight.
    I just spent the last hour going over the website. It looks so beautiful I'd likely want to stay forever.
    We haven't decided wether to fly to Orlando, San Franciso or Anaheim in July. Almost got Orlando out of the picture as it's too hot.

    If we flew into SNA early afternoon on a Sat July 2 we would have time to get to Long Beach or Dana. My DS 14 would need to do the zip line (not me I'm a chicken), then a couple more tours, geez another night and more tours. And July 4th is thrown in there as well.

    Is there enough to do to stay from Sat to Thur or Friday?
    The 2nd is my birthday & start of holidays. We'd fly out of SNA on the 9th.

    Which is closer harbour from SNA to catch the boat & how would we get there?
    Decisions, decisions, this wouldn't cost a whole lot more than the other two places.

    What's the weather like? I didn't see it mentioned online. I suppose it's very warm and breezy everyday?
  9. Sherry E

    Sherry E <font color=darkorchid>Willing victim of the Disne Moderator

    Hi, endy! I'm so glad you stumbled upon this thread! I had to post it in this section of the board, though I have a hunch that if I were able to post it in a more populated section (like the Disneyland section), more people would be interested. I'm afraid that many people might miss out on this great offer.

    I think the Long Beach landing is better for you because it has more departures and arrivals than Dana Point so you can be a bit more flexible with the schedule. Plus, I think it's closer anyway.

    I can look up the directions for you from SNA to Long Beach, if you'd like.

    As for whether there is enough to do over several days. Well, there is lots to do, depending on your family's interests. Or, you can spend a lot of time relaxing. I have stayed a full week (a full 7 nights) in Avalon before, and I had a great time relaxing as well as doing lots of things during that time frame. I have had trips there that were jam-packed with activities, as well as trips that were very leisurely and slow, with no real agenda. I've had trips where I did nothing but rent a golf cart and walk around, looking in shops. I had trips where I was horseback riding, renting pedal boats, going on nature walks, all kinds of things. My friends have rented motor boats, gone parasaililng, scuba diving, swimming, miniature golfing, bicycle riding, etc.

    I can tell you that I really, really enjoy:

    1. The Flying Fish boat tour (which takes place at night, when the flying fish come out);

    2. The tour that takes you to Seal Rock (where all the seals are lounging about);

    3. The Semi-Submersible tour (where you see all kinds of cool fish and an occasional shark), the Casino tour (it's not a real casino, but it's a great tour if you love history and architecture);

    4. Renting the golf cart. This is a MUST whether you do a day trip or visit for several days. The scenery from up in the hills is just gorgeous. Along the golf cart path you will find the Wrigley Memorial and Botanical Garden. This is the same 'Wrigley' of the chewing gum family and the same Wrigleys of the Wrigley Field family; and

    5. Any tour bus ride that will take you into the deep interior of the island. There are many variations of tours that will take you partially into the island - often only as far as the small airport. You want to get one of the Safari buses or tours that takes you past the airport and over to Two Harbors - the "other side" of the island - because when you go to the other side, you see many, many more buffalo along the way. And sometimes the buffalo come right into the bus path. But the buffalo stay away from the well-traveled paths, like the paths that take people up to the airport. You've got to go deep into the island (which takes about 90 minutes or so) to get to the more desolate areas where the buffalo roam free! It's so cool to see!

    I should add that the Zipline and a couple of other tours have been added since I was last in Avalon, but they are making a big push to get tourists back that they lost due to the economy, so they are renovating hotels, adding in new restaurants, adding in new activities, etc.

    Avalon is a very small town, so you have to kind of get used to that fact before you get there. It's not an island with a huge stretch of white, sandy beach. In fact, the actual "beach" part of the town is tiny. But I can tell you that most people I have brought there end up becoming addicted to it and want to go back after a one-day trip. There is just something very calming and healing about being there.

    So if you like cute little seaside cottages and shops, water & boating activities, hiking, tours, beautiful tile and architecture, enjoying panoramic views and sea air, outdoor fun, or just relaxing, I think you'd have plenty to do over several days. This is not the same type of pace that you'd find in WDW or DLR, where we all feel like we have to do, do, do or go, go, go and hit everything on our lists. Catalina is more of a 'go at your own pace' kind of place, where there is LOTS to do if you seek it out, but you don't feel pressured to do a lot if you don't want to!

    I think it is definitely, definitely worth a day trip or a 2 night stay for you if you can swing it. And if you stay longer, I think you'd have plenty to do.

    The weather during the summer in Avalon is usually hot (in the 80's), but with a sea breeze. It can get cold at night by the water. Actually, when you rent a golf cart it can get a little chilly up in the hills. But it's still a bit cooler on Catalina than it is on the mainland, in Anaheim or Long Beach!
  10. PHXscuba

    PHXscuba <font color=darkorchid>Mouseketeer since birth!<br

    I would also add to get your hotel for summer travel SOON!

    I had to book a one-night stay in Avalon for DH and some other family members for the weekend after July 4 and availability was extremely limited as of last week, especially since we only needed one night (many places have minimum stays in high season). You may have better luck with smaller places that aren't on hotels dot com or the like.

    I'm trying to restrain myself from going along this trip. Between the ferry cost and the activities while on Catalina I'd be spending more than my summer travel budget will support, especially considering the other travel plans we have for fall and the gas cost just to get us to SoCal.


    p.s. And Sherry, I think A Catalina superthread would be a nice idea, give people another idea of something to do in the area that isn't another amusement park. I haven't been there enough recently to be of much help, but don't think most people even think about Catalina in a SoCal visit.
  11. endy

    endy New Member

    Thanks for all the info Sherry. I can hear the energy in your writing.
    It's just ds14 and myself. I was telling him about it earlier and all he heard was zipline and golf cart - as in he'sI'm driving the golf cart.

    The whole place sounds absolutely perfect. I'm from PEI which is an island on the east coast tho it grows potatoes instead of palm trees.:rotfl:

    It sounds so much more relaxing than DL or San Fran. Now I have to figure out if it's doable and hope there's some reasonable priced flights, that's the biggest expense. Then the motel since there's only a few. I suppose we could always bring the tent for the one campground right by town. I'm not the energenic, walk up a mountain type of person.

    Thanks again, I'll be checking in with more questions I'm sure.
  12. Sherry E

    Sherry E <font color=darkorchid>Willing victim of the Disne Moderator

    You're very welcome!

    When you were exploring the Catalina website, did you order a free Visitors Guide? They have an online version of it, but I personally enjoy the magazine version of it because I like to thumb through and flip pages!:rotfl2: I think it's worthwhile to order that and have it handy to show your son.

    There are actually a lot of places to stay in Avalon, but some of them are on flat ground and some are up hills. I've stayed in little apartments there (through Hunt Realtors, if I recall correctly), I've stayed in cottages (also through Hunt), I've stayed in the 'discount' hotels (Hermosa Hotel) and also other types of hotels (Hotel Catalina and Seaport Village Inn). But there are all types of places to stay at different price ranges. The Hotel St. Lauren is a really cute hotel but I'm not sure what they are charging these days.

    I would order the free Visitors Guide and when it asks you when you plan to visit, choose whichever option is the closest one so they will hurry and get the Guide to you.

    I think that, for a 14-year-old, when you first get to Avalon he will think it's small (the two is small) and may feel like he is not going to have fun (I'm trying to think like a 14-year-old!), but once he does the zip line and maybe tries some of the other outdoor activities available he will have a great time. (Make sure before you go that there is no age limit on the zip line - you don't want to get there and find out that your son is too young! There are lots of families that go to Avalon and do things, but there may be a random activity here or there that requires the people to be 18 and over.)

    If you have your son drive the golf cart, be sure to do it away from the actual rental spot. If I recall, the drivers are supposed to be at least 18 (even though you can get a drivers license in California at 16). In other words, rent the golf cart and use your drivers license to show them (it doesn't matter which country the license comes from, as long as it's valid). Then drive the golf cart off, into the hills or somewhere desolate and then let your son take the wheel for a while.

    It's definitely a different experience going to Catalina than it is to go to Disneyland. I love both places but I have to be in a different mind set to do each one. Disneyland is much more 'in your face' - where all the activities are right in front of you, and there is a definite need to get a certain amount of stuff done each day. Do, do, do and go, go, go! Yes, it is possibly to have more relaxing DLR trips but it's not the same at a relaxing day in Avalon. At Disneyland, there is a lot of sensory overload. In Catalina, at times it can be downright peaceful and quiet. There are lots of things to do but they definitely have to be sought out - they are not as in your face as the stuff at Disneyland is. I'm sure PHXscuba will agree with that assessment.

    I have to see if I can try to round up some of our other recent Catalina visitors and/or fans (PrincessInOz and pixarmom are 2 who spring to mind immediately) and get them on this thread to offer their suggestions and insight for you as well. I think the more feedback you have, the better!

    I totally agree wth PHXscuba in her tip about getting the hotel soon for a summer trip!

    And PHXscuba - I think you've been to Avalon more recently than I was last there, so you may have more info to contribute to a superthread than you think!!:rotfl2: I used to go there so often, and now it's been a while since I've been away. I have to get reacquainted with good ol' Catalina and what's over there now that all of these changes are happening! I can't wait to go for my birthday in July!:cool1::cool1:
  13. Sherry E

    Sherry E <font color=darkorchid>Willing victim of the Disne Moderator

    I found the link to the Catalina portion of PrincessInOz's trip report from last year:


    She did mention - though I can't recall if it was in a different thread or a PM - that she hopes to go back to Catalina again at some point and actually stay over for a couple of nights. I think the one day (and not even a full day, really) that she spent last year wasn't enough to scratch the surface, but you will see that she took my suggestion and did the golf cart and the Semi-Sub tour!:thumbsup2 They would have done the Flying Fish tour too if it had been running, but it does not begin until June. I highly, highly recommend the Flying Fish tour. First of all, it's a nighttime boat ride - which is fun in and of itself. Second, the flying fish are cool!
  14. endy

    endy New Member

    Thanks Sherry
    I've ordered the guide & I'll read the post you linked.
    It looks like enough stuff to do for a few days. My ds isn't that big of a DL fan to miss it. He prefers the hockey stores in the DL area to Disney itself.

    Can't wait. I have to sort it all out obver the weekend to see if it's feasible.
  15. Sherry E

    Sherry E <font color=darkorchid>Willing victim of the Disne Moderator

    [Old Catalina photos to be inserted later]
  16. PHXscuba

    PHXscuba <font color=darkorchid>Mouseketeer since birth!<br

    My DH and DS are the ones who have been spending the most time on Catalina lately. They were there for 3.5 days last summer on a Boy Scout/SCUBA trip and are going back for an overnight this summer with some other family members. I know DH took a bunch of pictures last summer, so if you get a thread going (maybe after your visit?) I could probably hunt down his photos.

  17. endy

    endy New Member

    SOLD :cool1:

    Thanks for the links and all the pictures. Love all the poses.

    I have enough airmiles for the flights now to check that flight times will line up for the Express and that motels are available. So we'd arrive on July 2nd, stay 3 full days and head to Anaheim area on the 6th til the 9th or 10th.

    I'm so excited. I watched the videos of all the tours and want to do them all except the zipline (ds can do it).

    There's a company that picks you up at the airport and takes you to the Express and back to airport. Then I'll rent a car for Anaheim so we can go to Long Beach Aquarium, ds wants to eat at Bubba Gumps, a day for shopping at the hockey stores. So much to do so little time.

    Actually we're driving down to SD in Aug for 2 weeks and spend most of those days at SeaWorld. See the fish connection everywhere? DS & me too are fish fanatics and most of what we do revolves around fish of all sizes. We did the whale watching twice last summer, it was amazing too.

    I think a superthread is a great idea.

    What about eating? I haven't checked any of that. Are there some cheaper, not fancy places to eat? I'd rather spend money on tours than food.

  18. Sherry E

    Sherry E <font color=darkorchid>Willing victim of the Disne Moderator

    Yay!:cool1: Sounds like a good plan! I will be anxious to hear where you end up for a hotel/motel.

    Since you and your son are fish fanatics, I think this Catalina trip is meant to be! You obviously have got to do the Flying Fish tour while you're in Avalon. Probably the Semi-Submersible too. And when you are heading over to the Island on the Express, make sure you sit outside (usually the outside seating is on the upper deck) so you can scout for dolphins and other sea life.

    The Long Beach Aquarium is very close to where the Express in Long Beach is. You should enjoy the Aquarium.

    Be sure that you end up at the right Long Beach location for the Express. If you read PrincessInOz's report, she ended up at the Queen Mary first - which was totally my fault, because the last time I was in Catalina, the Express boats were still departing from the Queen Mary and I instructed her to go there. I didn't realize they had changed things! Now they have turned the Queen Mary location of Catalina Express into departures for campers and large groups. The Downtown Long Beach landing - which is not far from the Queen Mary - is where you want to go! That's the dock for the general public.

    As soon as you register with Catalina Express for the free birthday boat ride, they will e-mail you the voucher for it within minutes. I've already got mine and I'm not going until July 21. Then I would recommend making your Express boat reservations right away - since the time frame you are going is over 4th of July weekend, it's entirely possible many of the Express boat times may book up early.

    In fact, not only should you book your hotel early and your Express boat early, you may even want to book a couple of the tours you want to do early. Even though you can generally just go up to the ticket windows when you get to the Island and book the tours, again, since it will be 4th of July weekend you may want to secure your spots in advance.

    Don't forget to check in advance to be sure your son will be able to do the zipline and that they don't have an age limit - I know there are two different ziplines. One of them is like the 'advanced' one for the bigger thrill seekers, and one of them is more for the timid folks! I am hoping he can at least do the one for timid folks, but check to be sure.

    Now...as for food...welll, this is where I hope I can get PrincessInOz and pixarmom to come over to this thread to add their two cents on the food and other things, as they have been to Avalon more recently than I have.

    Assuming the food has not gone tremendously downhill, there are quite a few places you can eat that are good. Most of the places are casual - this is very much a beachy, shorts and t-shirt kind of town. Even the steakhouse (Steve's) probably hosts mostly shorts-clad guests!

    Let's see...if you like seafood (which I do not), Armstrong's is supposed to be very good. Also, the green pier that you can see in my pictures has a walk-up counter service place that supposedly has very good fish and chips and other seafood and finger foods.

    Unless it has moved or been renamed, there is a good (and usually busy) walk-up place called Coney Island West. It doesn't look like much of anything, but if your son likes burgers/chili burgers, hot dogs and shakes and that kind of thing, this is a good place to get them. I had a really good chili burger there once.

    In Avalon, you will find two restaurants called Antonio's. One of them is a tiny hole in the wall on a side street, and the larger version of Antonio's is right next to where Armstrong's is, along the water. I like the one next to Armstrong's best because you can ask for a waterside table and then....look for bright orange Garibaldi fish in the water below!! (See? It all goes back to the fish!!)

    Antonio's (the one by the water) has a pretty good variety of food, including all kinds of Italian things. They have pretty good pizza. They have pretty good garlic bread. They have all kinds of things.

    There is a restaurant called The Cottage. It used to be called The Pancake Cottage and was an excellent place to get delicious pancakes or other breakfast items, but somewhere since I was last there they changed it to The Cottage. I think they still serve breakfast, but it sounds like they must have branched out into other meals too!

    Keep in mind that when you are walking along the main street (Crescent) in the tiny town of Avalon, you will see certain restaurants right there along the sidewalk. Don't hesitate to turn down some of the side streets - which I think a lot of folks forget to do. I know there other places to eat along some of the side streets.

    There are all kinds of other restaurants too - and 99% of them are casual, even if they are sit down places. At Antonio's you can crush peanut shells into the floor and decorate beaten up $1 bills to be plastered later to the wall or ceiling! Not exactly fine dining!

    One side note/anecdote about one of my trips to Catalina....back in 2001, Nicolas Cage and Lisa Marie Presley were together. We saw them walking through Avalon at night, and then they disappeared into the darkness. It was an interesting site because he is so tall and she is much shorter than I expected. I think they had a bodyguard with them, although Avalon is not the sort of place where people pay much attention to celebrities.

    Anyway, I think this trip in which we saw Nicolas Cage and Lisa Marie Presley took place over either Memorial Day weekend or Labor Day weekend (it was before September 11th - that much I know).

    A few days later I was reading in US magazine an article about what celebrities had done for the holiday weekend, and there was a distant photo of Lisa Marie and Nicolas on a boat in the Avalon harbor. I guess they were staying on a boat and had come into town to eat or whatever when we saw them...and it turned out that I guess they had a big fight on the boat and Lisa Marie's ring (either the engagement ring or the wedding ring) ended up in the ocean, never to be found.

    So somewhere in the waters of Catalina, Lisa Marie's ring from Nicolas Cage found its final resting place. But when we saw them walking through town, they didn't necessarily look unhappy. They didn't really look happy, either. But they didn't appear to be having a huge fight.

    And also, as you may or may not know - the waters off of Catalina (specially, Two Harbors, which is on the other side of the Island) are where actress Natalie Wood died on that fateful night when she was on a boat with Robert Wagner and Christopher Walken. She had her last public meal with the two men at Doug's Harbor Reef restaurant in Two Harbors.

    They all got drunk, headed back to their boat which was docked in the harbor...and Natalie fell overboard (or whatever happened to her), to her death. Apparently, Natalie was not a swimmer and she was terribly afraid of water, especially in the dark of night when the water is practically black. She didn't mind being on water, in a boat, or near water, on a beach, but she did not swim so she did not like to be IN water. So you can imagine how horrible it was to die in the way she feared most, I suppose.
  19. PrincessInOz

    PrincessInOz <marquee><img src=http://www.wdwinfo.com/images/sm

    WOW! A whole new thread towards Catalina Island. Looks great in here!

    Sherry - Thanks for referencing my TR. That was the first ever TR I wrote and I was clearly very cautious about sharing too much information at the start (something that I'm clearly not a shrinking violet about anymore!).

    Here are a few more pictures that I didn&#8217;t originally post because I wasn&#8217;t sure about how much to include and I had originally thought not to post any with us in them.

    We ended up trying to head to the Queen Mary terminal to pick up the ferry but it was closed. When we got to the Long Beach downtown terminal, the standard seats had all been sold. So, we ended up buying the Captains Lounge seats in order to make it over on the first ferry.

    This is what it looks like inside the lounge. Seats were comfy &#8211; and it was WARM!



    We followed Sherry&#8217;s advice and hired the golf buggy from this place. I&#8217;m pretty sure it was called Michael&#8217;s. As you get down from the ferry, it is on the opposite side of the street.


    We followed the map provided by the golf buggy shop and headed towards Wrigley Gardens.


    That&#8217;s the monument from near the entry looking up.


    I love looking at plants; particularly if they are indigenous to the environment. The Information Desk at the gardens provided a pamphlet and we ended up hunting out the natives.





    The self-guided route on the buggy was a great way to see the attractions near Avalon. The views were spectacular.




    I&#8217;m pretty sure that the platform in this picture is part of the Zipline activity on the island. If the &#8220;WooHoos&#8221; were anything to go by, it would appear to be worth the time and money for this activity.


    We also headed towards the casino as part of the buggy tour...but the casino was under renovation and I didn't take any photos whilst we were walking around.

    We went for lunch after the buggy tour.


    ..and snagged ourselves a seat out on the deck.



    The trellis marks the boundary between Amstrongs and the restaurant next door, which is Antonio's.

    That&#8217;s the view looking the other way, with the casino in the background.


    Be warned&#8230;on a sunny day, the sun gets real strong and hot; so lather up if you don&#8217;t want to get burnt.

    Our visit to Catalina was the start of our holiday and I hadn&#8217;t yet trained either DS or DH to wait for me to take food porn before they inhaled the food in.

    This was DS&#8217; kids meal. He opted for the vegetables, instead of chips/fries&#8230;



    I had the proper adult fish and chips/fries meal. I thought it was pretty good.


    DH opted for the fish tacos. It was the clear winner of the 3 meals.


    We went on the semi-sub after lunch.


    Nearly everyone gets a window seat.


    They do try to sell the &#8216;fact&#8217; that you need to buy fish pellets to attract the fish to your window. I don&#8217;t recall what they said but DH got hooked in and he paid for the fish pellets. DS loved it&#8230;but you don&#8217;t really need to buy fish pellets. The fish as so well trained that they come swimming along at the sight of the underwater yellow peril.

    [I have posted pictures of the fish in my TR&#8230;and I&#8217;m trying not to duplicate too many pictures (Sherry, let me know if you want me to post the pictures in here for completeness sake).]

    The boys decided to hire one of those paddle boats &#8230;. And as it only fitted two people, I decided to spend the afternoon looking at the shops in Avalon. Really &#8211; I think it took me all of 20 minutes! I would have been better off going with the boys!

    But I ended up in one of the shops right at one end of Avalon (nearer where the ferry dock was) and had this for afternoon tea.


    And no, that's NOT a small chocolate brownie...it's an overly LARGE mug of tea!

    With one day to spend at Avalon and this was before the flying fish came&#8230;well&#8230;flying back into the waters, there wasn&#8217;t much else for us to do. So, we caught the ferry back, well satisfied with the day's activities and our first ever visit to Catalina.

    Next time, we will definitely spend at least 2 nights on the island, bring more $$$, book ourselves in for an inland safari and do that zipline so that it is our &#8220;woohoo&#8217;s&#8221; that fill the air!

  20. pixarmom

    pixarmom New Member

    Hello Catalina fans! Sherry - great thread and thanks for the PM! PrincessinOz, love the photos!

    I've been going to Catalina since childhood, through my teen years, during college, as a newlywed and as a parent of one, two and now three boys! So I'm happy to share my Catalina experiences and try to answer some questions.

    Just a few thoughts to start:

    1) Catalina Express vs. Catalina Flyer.

    I've taken both the Catalina Flyer from Newport Beach and the Catalina Express from Long Beach. OK - you can't beat the "free on your birthday" deal on the Express, but the Flyer is my absolute favorite. It leaves from the Balboa Fun Zone and everyone lines up in the early morning along the side of the boat. It leaves the Newport Harbor once each day and the view of the peninsula from the boat is amazing. We grab donuts at the place around the corner from the ticket window and eat them while we stand in line to board. Just love the Flyer. Here's the site: http://www.catalinainfo.com/index.html

    On the other hand, the Flyer only has one trip to Catalina and one trip back each day. And parking can be difficult if you aren't staying in Newport (but we always do!)

    The Catalina Flyer Schedule
    Departs Newport Beach 9:00 am
    Arrives Catalina Island 10:15 am
    Departs Catalina Island 4:30 pm
    Arrives Newport Beach 5:45 pm
    The Catalina Flyer Departs From
    The Balboa Pavilion

    2) Activities

    Lots of things to do! With little ones, we've done the glass bottom boat tour and the short city tour. For little kids, it's also fun to claim some beach space and swim - not as great for older kids. Our kids also liked the playground near the basketball courts. With older kids or adults, we like the golf cart rental that Sherry mentioned, snorkeling at Lover's Cove, kayaking at Descanso Beach, the casino tour and paddle boats from the rental place near the Catalina Express/Flyer dock. We've only done short kayaking trips, but I'd love to do a longer one (as soon as our pre-schooler is older!) My mom and brother went horseback riding on Catalina and that was an adventure!

    3) Hotels

    We always stay at the Metropole. I keep thinking about branching out, but it doesn't happen. http://www.hotel-metropole.com/

    4) Food

    I'll second the recommendation for Antonio's - we like it better than Armstrong's (next door with equally great views.) I also like the Blue Parrot. But our favorite spot is Luau Larry's. I've loved it forever and our kids love it. If you arrive early for lunch, you just might get that booth in the front with a view of the water. It's pretty much bar food, but it's tropical and fun. We usually go for lunch with the kids. For adults, any time works!

    Happy Catalina Planning!! :wizard:
  21. Sherry E

    Sherry E <font color=darkorchid>Willing victim of the Disne Moderator

    Oh wow!

    PrincessInOz and pixarmom - Thank you both soooo much for jumping in here so quickly and offering your wonderful photos and thoughts! I'm sure there are other DIS'ers who have been to Catalina fairly recently (or more recently than I have) but you two were the ones that sprang to mind immediately - along with PHXscuba, who I knew had been there at some point!

    As I told you ladies in the PM, I will probably start a Catalina Superthread at some point in the near future, along the lines of the Halloween at DLR Superthread and the Disneyland at Christmas Superthread, but as PHXscuba suggested, I'lll prbably do it after I get back from Catalina (so, sometimes later in the summer) and actually have some new photos to contribute. Also, I will have to assemble the basic, helpful information for new visitors. When that gets going, I would love for everyone in this thread to join the Superthread and share their experiences and photos!

    (Wendy - I don't know if you are still out there, but I sent a PM to PrincessInOz and pixarmom to ask them to join us in this thread and share their experiences in Avalon since they have both been there more recently than I have, and they can give a more recent account of food choices and things like that!)

    I don't know if anyone else out there was inspired by reading pixarmom's suggestions and seeing PrincessInOz's great photos, but I certainly was!!! I was thinking, "Wow! I can't wait to get back to the Island!:cool1: I miss it so much!"

    PrincessInOz - it was interesting to me even just looking at the photo you took of the golf cart rental place. That's the one that is very close to the boat dock, and you encounter it right as you start heading into town, correct? It's weird for me to see that because, on the one hand it looks very familiar. On the other hand, I can see that some changes have been made to the overall structure - and even the stucture right next to it - since I was last there. It has been spruced up a little bit. In fact, I don't even think it had a specific name (like Michael's) when I was last there! It was always just referred to as "the golf cart place near where the boats come in.":rotfl2:

    And then I was especially interested in looking at the Wrigley Memorial photos. That was one of those places where sometimes we'd rent a golf cart and go in and look around, and sometimes we would rent a golf cart and pass by Wrigley and never go in at all. We could take it or leave it. I actually think I would appreciate the Wrigley Memorial much more today because I am more interested in plants and flowers and things now that I am older. I always thought the tile up at the top of the hill where the Memorial is was beautiful, and the scenery is beautiful from the top of the Mmemorial.

    But one thing that my friends and I always noticed was that it felt extremely hot in that garden! That's a good place to wear a hat, as the sun beats down very strongly (which is probably why the cactus and other plants thrive).

    As for the Semi-Sub, I didn't buy any pellets and I noticed the same thing you noticed. There was no shortage of fish coming up to the windows. I actually think the crew guys drop some pellets in the water to attract fish, too.

    As for shopping - that's another area (much like restaurants) where it pays to do down some of the side streets or off the main street. There are the expected shops that sell seashells and beachy knick knacks. One tradition I developed was getting a new sea-themed pewter picture frame on every trip.

    But there are also shops that sell interesting artwork (including small, framed prints and posters) - such as the Perico Gallery in the Metropole Marketplace and the museum gift shop in the Casino building. Also, there used to be a shop - not sure if it is still there - called the Steamer Trunk or something like that. It was on a side street and it sold some interesting things. I've gotten some good stuff in Catalina by the Sea (another shop) and in the book store (some interesting Catalina books). There was also a cute shop that was in the Solomon's Landing building, I think. It sold all kinds of retro stuff.

    I wonder if the place where you found the tea and brownie was C.C. Gallagher? They sell things like that.

    Yes, by all means - post whatever photos you have!

    pixarmom - is the Blue Parrot still in Avalon? For some reason I thought I recalled reading that it was gone.

    Several restarants that I used to enjoy in Avalon have vanished - like the Channel House and Cafe Prego. I know I was disappointed to read that the Busy Bee Cafe was gone. The Busy Bee had the best setting, because it was all outdoor seating. On one side you could get great people watching over the town of Avalon, and on the other side of the seating area you could end up next to the water, scouting for sea life. I heard that the service went downhill when the management changed, and eventually it just closed.

    I love the pedal/paddle boats - that is a good, inexpensive way to spend an hour, and it is very relaxing being on the water! One of my friends and I practically lived on those boats back in the '90s! Oh, the sunburns we got - but it was so fun! And it's a great activity for any age.

    You mentioned that your mom and brother went horseback riding and it was an adventure. It was an "adventure" when we went horseback riding in Avalon, as well!

    Well, let me clarify - it was a miracle that my clumsy, awkward self and my very short friend were able to get up on our horses at all!:rotfl2:

    The ranch hand purposely did not give us the horses with names like "Thunderbolt" or "Diablo." No. We got the horses with names like "Blossom" and "Sunflower" or similar things!:rotfl2::rotfl2: I think they could see that we were not very "adventurous" when it came to horses. I was thrilled that I managed to even get up on one and not get thrown off, and then I managed to get down from the horse with some help. I got a few photos of myself to prove that I was on the horse and that was all I needed!:rotfl2:

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