Discover the Island’s Unique Charm and Cultural Heritage
Between the crystal blue waters and epic adventure activities, Catalina Island is the ultimate destination for a quick escape in Southern California. Though lounging at Descanso Beach Club with a Buffalo Milk cocktail in hand never gets old, Catalina Island also has a vibrant and impressive arts and culture scene. Whether you want to take a tour of the iconic Catalina Casino or are interested in spending your afternoon at the Catalina Museum for Art & History, there are several ways to explore the rich history of this family-friendly island. Book your ferry ride on the Catalina Express and explore five unique ways to experience Catalina Island!
Enjoy a free and fun evening at the Catalina Museum for Art & History during First Fridays at the Museum: Culture Between Cocktails. From 5-7 p.m., guests are invited to walk around the museum at their leisure, admiring the breathtaking galleries and visiting the digital theater. There are also open-air plazas where you can enjoy the crisp island air and take in the mountainous views. Of course, as the name suggests, cocktails are also on hand. Sip on a specialty libation while immersing yourself in the cultural side of Catalina Island. Beer and wine are also available for purchase. Commemorate your experience by grabbing a couple of souvenirs at the Museum Store before you go!
Local Insight: The Catalina Museum for Art & History recently celebrated its 70th birthday and remains one of the best hidden-gem attractions on the island! And with a rotating collection of amazing exhibits, there’s always something new to see.
The Catalina Casino is the most recognizable and iconic landmark on the entire island. In addition to being the largest building on Catalina Island, this eye-catching piece of architecture has been around for 95 years. Visitors can take a VIP Backstage Tour where they’ll get an intimate look at everything from the projection room to William Wrigley Jr.’s private screening room. That said, no room is quite as stunning as the Casino Ballroom where legends like Buddy Rogers and Benny Goodman once performed.
It’s no secret that the vibrant and abundant waters surrounding Catalina Island are a haven for divers. However, if you prefer to keep two feet on land, you can learn all about diving at the Avalon Diving History Exhibit. Visitors can view one of the most unique collections of vintage gear, and if you’re a seasoned scuba diver, you’ll feel like a little kid in a candy shop. The entire exhibit is run by Jon Council, whose passion and knowledge make the experience even more exciting. Even if you’ve never gone diving before, one visit to this exhibit will make you want to throw some flippers on and hop in the ocean. It is located next to the Casino Dive Park on the ground floor of the Casino Building.
Can’t get enough of the beautiful tiles that surround Avalon’s fountains and serpentine wall? Create your own take-home tile at Silver Canyon Pottery! First and foremost, those who participate in the class will learn all about the rich history behind the colorful tiles of Catalina Island while crafting their own tile keepsake. The Discover Catalina Tile class costs $89 per person and takes about an hour and a half, while the Private Catalina History & Tile-Making Experience is around two hours long and starts at $475.
One of the best ways to enjoy the artsy side of Catalina is to stroll around the seaside town of Avalon and look at all of the amazing murals and art installations. In addition to the colorful Catalina tiles and the iconic Wrigley and Sombrero Fountains, there are also must-see sculptures throughout town. The Bay of the Seven Moons sculpture combines tiles and rock to create an image that honors the indigenous inhabitants of the island. Other more playful sculptures include the bronze Old Ben sea lion that sits along the water, and the adorable Leroy the Cat piece near Bluewater Avalon. If you want to snap a cute Instagram photo, stop by Kelsey Montague’s “What Lifts You” before checking out Avalon’s newest mural, a cheerful image featuring the USC Marching Band and Budweiser Clydesdales, commemorating the island’s annual 4th of July parade.
Allie Lebos graduated from the University of California, Santa Barbara in 2017 with a BA in Communication. While in school she was a staff writer at The Daily Nexus for nearly two years. Since graduating she has written for The Palisades Magazine, as well as Hidden Hills Magazine. Currently living in Santa Monica, Allie loves to indulge in good food, hot yoga, and daily walks along the beach; writing articles on travel, special events, as well as features on local businesses and individuals.