I had heard for a while now that Catalina Island offers free round-trip tickets to the island on your birthday. This year I finally decided to look into this further and invited my friend, Lorraine, who also happens to share the same exact birthday with me – Feb 25th. We both haphazardly made reservations not sure whether or not we would actually go, and if the weather would even be nice but we thought we might as well make reservations just in case. (Ps – The Catalina Island Chamber of Commerce extended its birthday offer in 2016 and you can register for your free birthday passes through their website http://www.catalinachamber.com/specials/birthdaycatexp ; once you’ve registered for your birthday pass you then have to book your boat ticket times and dates).
I’d also heard somewhere that you get free ice cream on your birthday as well, but I had no idea the extent of what they gave away (which I’ll go into detail further). Needless to say I was very excited to be getting out of town for a day and enjoying time to relax. Lorraine and I met each other in Long Beach to board the Catalina Express.
The weather was incredible and we were already off to a great start. We had met in the parking lot and exchanged gifts at our cars – Lorraine had gifted me with the most gorgeous pair of Kate Spade earrings which of course I wore around the island the whole day (even though a part of me was worried I’d lose them)! As soon as we arrived at the island, we met another woman who had the same birthday pin that we’d received. Her friend who was with her told us about all the amazing deals they had for birthday guests.
Apparently a lot of the businesses on Catalina Island offered a lot of giveaways as well! Catalina Coffee & Cookie Co (http://catalinacoffeeandcookieco.com/) gave us free cups of coffee, and they had every flavor imaginable including Blueberry coffee but I opted for the regular roast which was really good.
Then we headed over to the Buffalo Nickel Restaurant (http://www.buffalonickelrestaurants.com/) Once you exit the boating docks, they have a central area where you can call the restaurant to pick you up with their complimentary shuttle. A few miles away from the docks, we arrived at the restaurant where they greeted us with a complimentary meal since it was our birthdays!
The only thing that we ended up having to pay for was the water since they only had bottled water, and this was only $1 or $2 each. The irony is that water’s usually the only thing that’s complimentary when dining out but it seemed like everything was turned around on our birthdays, in the most wonderful way. After lunch we took the shuttle back to the main part of Avalon where we had initially arrived, and headed to Lloyd’s of Avalon for a free scoop of ice cream.
While we were having lunch earlier, we had run into the same lady who told us about the special birthday promotions and highlights. She recommended that we take a complimentary tour of the Casino. I had been to Catalina Island several times and tried a lot of their activities – including parasailing, scuba diving, camping and kayaking in previous trips so when she suggested a tour of the Casino I couldn’t wait since that was one thing I had never done on the island.
Lorraine and I had signed up for the tour and decided to walk around until it was our turn to go in.
I didn’t realize there was so much history behind the Casino. Apparently Mr. Wrigley (of the Wrigley gum company, who also founded the Wrigley Field in Chicago) decided to build the casino and it was one of the most opulent buildings of its time, and a standing icon of Catalina Island even today. He commissioned the John Beckman (who was responsible for the design of the Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in Hollywood) to create the murals and design of the theater. You can see a video of the tour below …
The quality of the wood panels and the fresco painted decor on wet stucco above on the ceilings was captivating. Wrigley spared no expense in building the casino in a short amount of time and the fact that everything remained in such pristine condition over time was awe inspiring. Everything was first rate from conception to execution and it was quite an experience to be in the building to see the skilled craftsmanship.
After the tour, Lorraine and I lounged at the Descanso Beach Club before grabbing a bite to eat and returning to the boat to go home. It was an incredible day celebrated with a great friend and amazing memories!