Catalina FAQ

Q: What's the best time of year to visit Catalina?

A: That depends on what you’re looking for. Summer is the island’s busiest season – those crowds are attracted by warmer weather and the widest range of activities. Fall’s calendar is full of special events, such as JazzTrax and the Festival of Art. In the winter months, Catalina has a relaxed attitude that is a perfect antidote to the hustle and bustle on the mainland. In the spring time, blooming wildflowers and verdant green hillsides make Catalina’s landscape even more dramatic than usual.

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Q: What's the weather like on Catalina Island?

A: The Island’s weather is similar to beach cities on the Southern California mainland and has been described as “Mediterranean like.” Temperatures are rarely higher than the mid-80s in the summer and seldom drop below 50 even in the winter. Because Avalon is a seaside resort, a light jacket or sweater is recommended for evenings in the summer. Layers of clothing are recommended in the winter, as warm afternoon temperatures can drop dramatically as soon as the sun goes down.

Q: How many people live on the island?

A: About 3,600 make their homes in Avalon and another 300 or so live in various small communities on the rest of the island. Those include Two Harbors, where about 150 people live year round, and Empire Landing and Middle Ranch, home to a dozen and two dozen families respectively.

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Q: What government agencies oversee Catalina?

A: Catalina is part of the State of California and the County of Los Angeles. Avalon is an incorporated city governed by an elected five-person City Council. The City of Avalon has its own fire department and harbor department as well as public works and planning departments. Avalon contracts with theLos Angeles County Sheriff’s Department for law enforcement and with the Los Angeles County Fire Department for paramedic service. The county’s fire department also provides fire fighting protection to the rest of the island.

Q: Is there a school on the island?

A: Catalina has two public schools, both of which are part of the Long Beach Unified School District. In Avalon, grades kindergarten through 12thattends Avalon Schools. There are approximately 600 students and about 40 graduates each year. In Two Harbors, a one-room school house serves less than 10 kindergarten through fifth graders.

Q: Is there medical care on the island?

A: Catalina Island Medical Center offers an emergency department with a doctor on call 24 hours a day as well as a clinical laboratory, radiology department with CT scanner and physical therapy as well as a skilled nursing facility and doctors’ offices. Two chiropractors also offer their services in Avalon and a dentist is available five days a week.

Q: How does the city get its water and other utilities?

A: Southern California Edison supplies Avalon’s gas and electricity and is also responsible for the city’s fresh water. Edison generates electricity at Pebbly Beach with four large generators and provides a combination of propane and natural gas for its gas customers. Fresh water, which is largely dependent on rain fall, comes from a number of aquifers as well as a large reservoir in the Island’s interior. Edison also operates a desalinization plant that supplements the naturally occurring fresh water. Nearly all of the homes and businesses in Avalon rely on salt water for toilets and fire suppression.

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Q: How do I get to Catalina Island?

A: Catalina is only 15 minutes away aboard Island Express Helicopters, which operates two heliports, one in Long Beach near the Queen Mary and one in San Pedro at the Catalina terminal. To make reservations visit www.islandexpress.com or call 1-800-2-AVALON. If you prefer to travel by boat, Catalina Express departs from downtown Long Beach, Dana Point and the Catalina Terminal in San Pedro. Reservations and current fare info can be found at www.catalinaexpress.com or by calling 1-800-481-3470. Orange County residents may find Catalina Passenger Services’ Newport Flyer more convenient. The flyer has daily round-trips between Avalon and Balboa Island in the summer months and also operates a more limited schedule in the winter. For reservations and more information call (800) 830-7744.

Q: What is JazzTrax?

A: Catalina Island JazzTrax is a three-day, three-weekend event that takes place in the legendary Casino Ballroom the first three weekends in October. This is the West Coast’s premiere smooth jazz festival featuring the newest and best in smooth jazz. For ticket info call 1-866-TRAXTIX or visit www.jazztrax.com.

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Q: What is the Festival of Art?

A: The Annual Catalina Island Festival of Art celebrates artists from all over the country who exhibit and sell their works of fine art, sculpture, fine crafts & photography. Call the Catalina Island Art Association at (310) 510-0808 for exact dates or visit www.casinoartgallery.com

Q: Does the casino offer gambling?

A: One of the first things that you’ll notice upon arriving in Avalon is the Casino Building, Catalina Island’s most recognizable landmark. The round, white building rises the equivalent of 12 stories, and is surrounded by the sea on three sides. Built in 1929, the Casino, which is actually not a gambling hall but is named for the Italian word for “gathering place” or “place of entertainment,” played host to dozens of big bands through the 1930s and 1940s. Guests danced the night away to the music of Glen Miller, Harry James, and many others over the years. Currently, the Casino building is home to the Avalon Theatre, where guests can enjoy nightly first-run movies in one of the great movie palaces of Hollywood’s golden era. Upstairs is the world’s largest circular ballroom, where special events, both public and private fill the calendar. The Casino is also home to the Catalina Island Museum.

Q: How far is The Avalon Hotel from the beach?

A: The Avalon Hotel is 300 feet from the ocean.

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