Having never been to Catalina, I wasn't sure what to expect. The facts I had at the top of my head were:
The island once belonged to chewing gum magnate William Wrigley, who also owned the Chicago Cubs - and for many years, was the site for their spring training.
Avalon may still be a mecca for Cubs fans, as evidenced by some of the baseball memorabilia in the souvenir shops. Plus, the Avalon Museum is currently running an exhibit recounting the history of the Cubs on the island, and has some really nice tchotchkes for sale in their gift shop.
Catalina Island is the only spot on the West Coast where bison roam freely.
The animals were imported to the island back in the 1920's for a film shoot and then left behind. In the decades that followed, the herd grew to about 600 head - which was an unhealthy number for both the animals and the humans who shared the island. Currently, Catalina Island is home to about 150 descendants of that original herd, and they often pop up in unexpected places - like the children's play area above.
Automobiles are outlawed on Catalina Island; everyone gets around on golf carts.
This one isn't completely true - but Avalon is the only California city where automobile ownership is restricted. Residents who wish to import an automobile may have to wait as long as 10 years... and can't even think about bringing one vehicle to the island until two current ones have been taken out of service. So the main mode of motorized trasnportation is by cart - which works well in the tiny town:
It was startling to see this in action. We shared the boat with what appeared to be the high school basketball team, riding back home after an away game (Avalon's K-12 school is part of the Long Beach Unified School District). I watched in amazement as each of these kids was picked up by waiting parents, all zipping around in little carts.
In practice, the carts make the town seem somewhat friendlier, as you can easily see and wave to the drivers -- none of whom are likely to run you down when crossing the street. There is cab service from the ferry landing to the hotels (which wasn't entirely necessary to the waterfront one we were staying at, but might be useful for one of the ones that were located up the town's steep hillsides). And if you want to explore the rest of the island, you can go on a bus or Jeep tour... possibilities I'll highlight in tomorrow's post.
TOMORROW: NEXT WEEK: EcoTouring with the Catalina Conservancy
Disclosure: My husband and I visited Santa Catalina Island as guests of the Hotel Villa Portofino, the Catalina Express and the Catalina Island Conservancy. I received no compensation for this post. Opinions expressed on my blog are my own.