Just before the nasty Coronavirus swept over North America, House Crazy Sarah snuck out and visited Catalina Island in California. She took some nice pictures for you so if you’re cooped up at home on the couch, feast your eyes on some beautiful landscape…
House Crazy Sarah fell fast and hard for this enchanted place.
Santa Catalina Island, also known as Catalina Island, or just Catalina, is a gorgeous island just an hour’s ferry ride west of Los Angeles in Southern California.
The island is sparsely populated except for the main city of Avalon which has just under 4,000 residents. Most of the locals work in the tourism industry. Wealthy families and movie stars own second homes there and the rest of the dwellings are vacation rentals.
Avalon is a charmingly quaint sea-side town with plenty of kitsch and character.
House Crazy spent a couple of blissful days exploring the town of Avalon and soaking up the sunshine and mermaid vibes.
The town of Avalon was established as a planned vacation community in the 1890’s. Many of the old structures remain such as this Victorian beauty on the hill:
Newer homes surround the old, but even those are oozing with beachy character.
The commercial strip near the ocean caters to tourists…
You can walk everywhere in Avalon because it is laid-out specifically for pedestrian traffic.
There is even a public swimming beach, although it was a little chilly in late February for House Crazy Sarah to take the plunge.
Since the island is small and sparsely populated, automobiles are not found in abundance there. The preferred mode of transportation is golf carts.
Golf carts are supposed to contribute to the laid back island feeling, but holy crap, those locals are speed demons in their little golf carts!
House Crazy Sarah took a guided tour of Avalon and the tour guide/bus driver kept yelling at the evil speedsters in the golf carts.
In any case, House Crazy Sarah got to see all the sites in and around Avalon, including this former aviary which is now a preschool, of all things.
Yes, kids actually grow up and go to school on the island. Apparently the high school in Avalon graduates around 20 seniors a year.
How magical would it be to spend your childhood here?
Most of the large mansions and estates are located in the hills above town.
And there is a golf course – of course!
House Crazy Sarah made sure to snap some photos of this old house:
The tour guide said it was one of the two oldest homes on the island.
The other one is the unique Victorian perched on the hill above town.
The bitter-sweet story behind this house is that a wealthy suitor had it built to lure his love interest to Catalina Island. He spared no expense and when his masterpiece was complete, he sent a letter to his object of desire on the mainland inviting her to come live with him. She replied with a one word note: “No.”
That’s some will-power girlfriend!
Alas, House Crazy Sarah’s island digs were a little humbler.
Her hotel was a sweet, vintage, flower-draped grouping of rooms and cottages called La Paloma Las Flores.
She stayed in a corner room perched up high with views of the ocean and sweet smells of tropical flowers in bloom all around.
The Avalon Casino
But the star of the show – the star of the entire island – is none other than the famous Avalon Casino.
Surprisingly, there is no gambling here. Never was. No noisy slot machines or smoky poker games. The Avalon Casino represents purely what the word “casino” actually means in Italian: gathering place, or, place of celebration.
The gorgeous structure was commissioned by William Wrigley Jr. and opened to the public in 1929.
The art deco-style building was a date-night dream with a large theater on the main floor where films were shown or concerts were performed. On the upper level, there is a large round dance floor surrounded by banquet tables. Couples would come in droves from L.A. for dinner, dance and a movie.
The Casino is filled with dreamy commissioned murals both inside and out:
Have a look inside…
The historic theater:
The tour guide noted that many of the murals are gold-plated.
The one-of-a-kind organ in the orchestra pit actually cost more than the original purchase price of the entire island!
House Crazy Sarah took the “Behind The Scenes” tour so she got to go in many rooms closed off to the general public like the dressing room used by many famous stars and starlets of decades past…
She spied this sweet sign:
And she got to go in the Wrigley’s private balcony box with original art deco furniture from the 1930’s.
The private box also features a personal wet bar:
The tour went through the projection rooms with all the antique projection equipment.
But the jewel of the casino crown is undoubtedly the grand ballroom located above the theater.
You may wonder how the sound of a room full of dancers and ballroom music is not heard in the theater directly below it.
The answer? Layers and layers of sound absorbing cork board.
Have a closer look at the centerpiece light:
Isn’t it stunning?
But the best part about the ballroom are the views of the bay from the wrap-around balcony:
House Crazy Sarah hopes you’ve enjoyed her pictorial tour of Avalon on Catalina Island, California.
Now you too can close your eyes and dream of a an enchanted place by the sea. 🙂
(Just watch out for those pesky golf carts!)