Catalina Adventure Tours

We are so perplexed as to why hardly any cruise ships stop for the day, in the city of Avalon, on Catalina Island. It’s an ideal alternative port for ships cruising down to the Mexican Riviera. The port of Avalon offers a Mediterranean feeling, in a safe environment, with plenty of picturesque sights and fun activities.

Currently, the Carnival Inspiration stops in Avalon on Tuesday’s each week before sailing down to Ensenada. Here are some of the most popular excursions passengers can experience while in the port of Avalon:

Doug Lord of Catalina Tours takes guests on a whale-watching excursion to see some of the 28,000 gray whales that migrate up North after giving birth to calves down in Baja. Lord has been able to get groups of enthusiasts up close to observe baby whale’s nursing. Calves acquire a critical layer of fat from their mother’s milk, so they can survive the 7,000-mile journey to the Bering and Chukchi Seas.

Another interesting tour to discover wildlife is the Inside Island Adventure Tour. The two-hour trip takes visitors on a private drive along the island’s mountain range. Guests enjoy spectacular canyon and scenic coastline views. Tour guides are happy to stop so visitors can take pictures of the mule deer and buffalo that continue to roam the island. The buffalos are descendants of the wild bisons, turned loose on the island back in 1924, after starring in the silent picture film, “The Vanishing American.” There are 135 furry brown mammals roaming the island’s interior now. The Santa Catalina Island Conservancy, a non-profit organization maintains the healthy herd.

The last stop on the tour, before going back down to Avalon, is at the Airport-in-the-Sky. Built in 1946, it is one of the most challenging airports for pilots due to its 3,250-foot runway. Inside the airport is the Runway Café. Be sure to buy a few of their famous peanut butter, oatmeal and chocolate-chip cookies for the ride back. They are scrumptious.

For passengers who would like to have a tour of Avalon and learn a little about the history, they can hop on the Avalon Trolley. The $4 roundtrip ticket includes a ride along the waterfront with multiple stops. One stop is the Catalina Island Conservancy Nature Center, Wrigley Memorial and Botanical Gardens. It’s a tribute to William Wrigley Jr., who purchased the island in 1919. Mr. Wrigley was interred at the Memorial upon his death in 1932. His wife, Ada supervised the design and planting of the exotic cactus garden filled with desert and native plants. Many are only found on Catalina Island. There is a Catalina Island Conservancy Nature Center next to the gardens that appeals to all ages.

The trolley travels downtown to Crescent Ave. with its unique shops, restaurants and nearby Green pleasure pier. Cruise passengers who would like to learn more about the inhabitants under-the-sea, can take a glass-bottom boat or semi-submersible adventure tour from the pier. Learn about the brightly orange-colored Garibaldi fish and kelp forest filled with interesting sea creatures. Passengers enjoy feeding the ocean inhabitants in specially designed food drop tubes or push the torpedo buttons that shoot out food.

A half-a-block from the pier is Catalina’s Golf Gardens. It’s a no-nonsense eighteen-holes miniature golf course situated in a beautiful garden setting.

Pick up the trolley from here to take a ride out to the Catalina Casino and Descanso Beach activity center.

Thrill seekers will want to get off at the Descanso Beach activity center to experience the adrenaline pumping zip-line ride that reaches speeds as high as 45 miles while zipping to five different platforms.

The Descanso Beach Club offers an open-air restaurant and bar, private cabanas and chaise lounge chairs. Single and double kayaks are available to rent for one hour,  half-day and full day. It’s also a great place to swim or snorkel in the clear and refreshing water.

While relaxing on the beach, to the right, is the landmark Catalina Casino built in 1929. This is not a gambling spot; but a dance pavilion, museum and movie theatre that runs first-run movies for the residents and visitors.

Currently, the Catalina Island Museum is exhibiting Celebrity Playground with photos and stories of Catalina Island’s glory days as Hollywood’s favorite island destination. Charlie Chaplin, Natalie Wood, Robert Wagner, Humphrey Bogart and John Wayne were some of the movie stars that sailed their boats to Avalon harbor.

When hungry, the Cottage Restaurant is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. It’s one of the closest restaurants to the Cruise terminal. The food is good, and the owner Muriel Willhite has lived on the island for years. She is happy to share interesting stories about Avalon.

For those who would like to visit Avalon for the day without boarding a cruise ship, The Catalina Express boat leaves from Long Beach to Avalon on roundtrip cruises seven-days a week. Check their cruise schedule at www.catalinaexpress.com.

Helpful websites:

Catalina Trolley Schedule and Map – http://www.ecatalina.com/pdf/trolly.pdf

Zip Line adventure – www.visitcatalinaisland.com

Inside Island Adventure Tour and Glass-Bottom Boat or Semi-Submersible tour– www.catalinaadventuretours.com

Catalina Casino and Catalina Golf Gardens and Descanso Beach – www.visitcatalinaisland.com

The Cottage Restaurant – www.menu4u.com/thecottage/html/about_us.html

This article was published in the April 2012 edition of NOT BORN YESTERDAY. www.nbynew.com

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Avalon on Dwellable

Halloween at Disneyland is Spooky Fun

Halloween is one of my favorite holidays. I love seeing all the colorful pumpkins and Fall colors.  Every year we take a trip to Disneyland in October to get into the festive spirit.

The park is transformed into a lively autumn/Halloween celebration. The fun begins  the minute the tram leaves the parking garage to take visitors to the entrance of the park.  Main Street Disneyland has been transformed with more than 300 pumpkins and a 16-foot-tall Mickey Jack-o’-lantern.

My youngest daughter anda friend like to dress up for the one-day adventure.  They enjoy the attention from park staff with “Hello Princess, you look beautiful today” and a few visitors who take a picture of them.

The Haunted House with its 999 residents is decorated with Halloween  decor, featuring Jack Skellington and buddies from the Tim Burton film “The Nightmare Before Christmas.”  Space Mountain is even more scary with a new Ghost Galaxy. That is by far my favorite ride, because it is so dark inside and I never know where the next turn will be.  Star Tours offers new destinations and adventures in 3-D. Big Thunder Round-up has barnyard animals and a creative display of carved pumpkins and beautiful autumn displays.

Cruella de Vil, Jafar and Captain Hook wander around the park tricking guests into having a fun time at Disneyland.

At California Adventure take a peek at some of the props and puppets used in Disney’s latest movie – Frankenweenie. It’s in the Animation Courtyard.

Another favorite is “Mickey’s Sensational parade’ at 4p.m. and 6:30 pm on the weekends.  In the evening “Remember….Dreams Come True” fireworks start at 9:30 p.m. on Sat. & Sunday.

Dress up for Mickey’s Halloween Party to collect treats, and watch the newest firework show; Halloween Screams. Dance around the park and have your picture taken with some Disney and Pixar characters. Your costume must be child-friendly and not offensive or violent.

The fun is on Mondays, Tuesdays, one Wed. and Fridays during the month of October.  Halloween Day is on a Wed. this year and ticket prices for this magical day are $69. The park stays open later on these spooky nights.

Save on an advance purchase price of $54 per person every Tuesday. Friday night tickets are $64. All prices include parking for one vehicle.

1313 S. Disneyland Dr. Order tickets by calling (714)781-4565.