Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Las Vegas and McCarran International Airport Unveil Refreshed TSA Security Videos

New Security Videos Feature Las Vegas Entertainers to Make Traveling More Enjoyable and Efficient
LAS VEGAS (May 13, 2014)—Today, the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA), McCarran International Airport and the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) released eight new pre-checkpoint security videos. The videos can be seen by all travelers who visit McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas and feature some well-known entertainers in Las Vegas, including Carrot Top, Blue Man Group, Terry Fator, Louie Anderson and more. 

"Our goal is to ensure we provide an unparalleled experience to each and every person that visits Las Vegas," said Cathy Tull, senior vice president of marketing for the LVCVA. "These videos not only provide that experience but also deliver necessary information to guests in a fun and unique way." 

In October 2004, Las Vegas became the first destination to create tailored, fun and informative pre-checkpoint videos. The videos were created through the Traveler Information Pre-Screening Series program (TIPS). Since the creation of the original videos more than 10 years ago, many TSA practices have adjusted. This sparked the creation of eight new messages that include more recent changes to TSA procedures.

"McCarran International Airport is pleased to have new TIPS videos that capture passengers’ attention and get important messages across," said Michael Bennett, the airport’s Assistant Director of Aviation over Security.  "By engaging people in that ‘Only in Vegas’ way, these videos make our checkpoints a little less cumbersome and keep things running smoothly."

The new security videos will assist McCarran International Airport in maintaining excellent customer service and increase the efficiency of the security checkpoint process. The videos address changes to TSA procedures for liquids, gels and aerosols; metals and electronics; carry-ons; strollers; weapons; TSA Pre? and more.

To view the new TSA-approved Las Vegas pre-checkpoint videos, click here

For more information about how to book a trip to Las Vegas, visit www.LasVegas.com.

The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA) is charged with marketing Southern Nevada as a tourism and convention destination worldwide, and also with operating the Las Vegas Convention Center and Cashman Center.  With more than 150,000 hotel rooms in Las Vegas alone and 10.6 million square feet of meeting and exhibit space citywide, the LVCVA's mission centers on attracting ever increasing numbers of leisure and business visitors to the area.  For more information, go to www.lvcva.com or www.LasVegas.com.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

A Diverse, Charming Oakland Is Worth Another Look

By Darlene Donloe

Give Oakland a try!

No matter how many adjectives are used to describe the city, one can only capture the true spirit of Oakland face to place.

A trek through Oaktown, one of a few cities in the country that can boast near perfect weather year round, and you’ll bear witness to all the city has to offer.

Whether it’s the fantastic restaurants, cultural nuggets, luxury hotels, great weather, great museums, the water, diverse population, sports, entertainment or just the overall community atmosphere, the city is sure to win you over.

There are 19 miles of coastline, 300 sunny days per year, a population of 420,000 and more than 125 languages spoken.

Centrally located, Oakland, which is fondly being called Brooklyn By the Bay, is 15 minutes east of San Francisco. It’s accessible by the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, ferry service, buses, BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) and Amtrak.

It’s already been recognized for its sparkling personality by a number of publications including the real estate blog Movoto who picked Oakland as the top pick for The 10 Most Exciting Cities in America. In 2012, Oakland was named the #5 place to visit in the world by The New York Times. Last year, the Huffington Post named Oakland as the “Most Exciting City in the U.S.” The Daily Green named the city one of the Top 10 Most Walkable Cities in 2013. CIO named Oakland #11 in the Top 15 Cities for Tech Start Ups. Oakland is the 7th Best City in the nation for biking. ArtPlace America named Oakland as one of the top art destinations in the country for 2013. Forbes Magazine listed Oakland as the #16 coolest city in the country. SmarterTravel.com recognized Oakland as one of America’s Best Cities on the Rise.  Bloomberg Businessweek listed the city as one of America’s 50 Best Cities and Meetings Focus West included Oakland as one of five emerging destinations. It’s clear that Oakland is drawing attention.

Now, more than ever, is the city’s time to shine. It’s going through a rebirth of sorts, putting on a new coat of paint and shining like new money. Oakland, whose very own body of water, Lake Merritt, recently completed a $122 million makeover, is putting its best foot forward.

The people who live and work in Oakland have a committed connection to the city. When they talk about the city – you can hear the passion in their voices.

Alison Best
Alison Best, CEO of the Oakland Convention & Visitors Bureau said the organization is in the midst of “repositioning Oakland as a destination, not a city.”

Carol H. Williams of Carol H. Williams Advertising Agency is a 26-year advertising executive who recently took on the organization,Visit Oakland, as a client. 

“Oakland is an indelible hidden treasure,” said Williams. “Unfortunately, Oakland has allowed the media and newspapers to define it. Oakland is a gem. There is a lot of business in Oakland. There is an Oakland beyond your hotel room.  It’s saying – ‘Get to know me. Get to know Oakland.’”

“We’re a city that hasn’t had a plan to get the good news out,” said Best. “We’ve got to shout it louder. We’ve got to control the message.”

Visit Oakland's Kim Bardakian
Kim Bardakian, Visit Oakland’s director of PR & Partnerships, stresses the diversity of the city.

“I love this city,” said Bardakian. “I love the diversity of the city. Everywhere you look you see people of different ethnicities, races, sexual persuasions and beliefs. It’s a pretty cool city.”

Part of Oakland’s revitalization will include bringing in top name retailers, something this cosmopolitan city is surprisingly lacking.

Fred Blackwell, Oakland’s asst. city administrator, said the city is making a ‘big push’ to get prime retailers into the area.

Fred Blackwell
“Oakland has had a $1 billion leakage because people go to San Francisco to shop,” said Blackwell who describes the city as dynamic, diverse, soulful and culturally rich. “We’re in conversations now with project developers.”


There are so many things to do and see in Oakland. It’s hard to decide what to do first.  Visit the USS Potomac, take a gondola ride along Lake Merritt, stroll through Grand Lake Farmers Market, tour Fruitvale Village, go to Chabot Space & Science Center, the Oakland Zoo, Children’s Fairyland, Oakland Aviation Museum or the Oakland Museum of California.  

The Oakland Museum of California (OMCA) brings together collections of art, history, and natural science under one roof to tell the extraordinary stories of California and its people. With more than 1.9 million objects, OMCA is a leading cultural institution of the Bay Area and a resource for the research and understanding of California's dynamic cultural and environmental heritage. 

African American Library & Museum

The African American Library & Museum, helmed by Rick Moss (Chief Curator and Director of the African American Museum & Library at Oakland (AAMLO) since July 2001), is a museum and non-circulating library dedicated to preserving the history and experiences of African Americans in Northern California and the Bay Area. It’s also committed to the discovery, interpretation and sharing of cultural experiences of African Americans in California and the West for present and future generations.  The more than 160 collections in the archives contain the diaries of prominent families, pioneers, churches, social and political organizations. Freedom's Journal, the LiberatorCalifornia VoiceSun Reporter and the Black Panther newspapers are available on microfilm. www.oaklandlibrary.org/locations/african-american-museum-library-oakland
For arts and entertainment there is the Fox Theater, The Crucible, Paramount Theatre, Oracle Arena & O.co Coliseum.  Check out the Jack London Square Night Market. On the first Friday of each month, just moments from Oakland's Art Walk, is the newly launched night market in Jack London Square, featuring food and crafts by local artists and producers. 

Entertainment doesn’t get any better than Yoshi’s, located in Jack London Square. It’s a legendary jazz club featuring live music and delicious Japanese cuisine.  It has long had a reputation for being one of the most important music venues in the country. Open seven nights a week, Yoshi’s has hosted some of the biggest names in jazz, blues, R&B, Latin jazz, Afro-Cuban and more.


Called Caribbean Soul in Oakland, Sarah Kirnon’s MISS OLLIE’S neighborhood restaurant in Old Oakland is known for its home cooking. It’s affordable and inspired by Kirnon’s grandmother's cooking in Barbados. Open for lunch and dinner, just say yum to the classic Caribbean cuisine. Very affordable. www.missolliesoakland.com

Sarah Kirnon

“I feel a sense of community here, said Kirnon, who was born in London and grew up in Barbados. “I moved here to live in a black neighborhood. I wanted to make food from the Diaspora because those dishes have connection to the Caribbean and the South.”

Michael LeBlanc is the founder of PICAN RESTAURANT: A Taste of The South, a classy, upscale restaurant with fantastic fare has a friendly atmosphere.  The food is truly exceptional. The website describes it as an eatery with ‘Tantalizing aromas, rich tastes, stimulating colors, layered textures, enveloping sounds. The tradition of the South. The sophistication of California cuisine. Vibrant cosmopolitan energy.

LeBlanc says Picán captures his vision of sharing the African-American, Southern cultural experience through food, beverage, art and music — the tastes, scents, sights, sounds, textures of the South — a dream this New Orleans native has carried with him for decades. 

Michael LeBlanc
“I have a hard time putting into words what I feel about the restaurant and what I feel about Oakland,” said LeBlanc, who adds his signature dish is the restaurant’s fried chicken. “I’ve been all around the world. I’ve been to Ireland, Scotland, Hong Kong, everywhere, but I wanted to live in Oakland. There is something about it. This is where I want to be. It’s the weather, the views and the people. There is no other place as diverse as Oakland. The level of social consciousness is high.”

Full-service bar and lounge with Southern Twists and classic standards, alongside the most comprehensive Bourbon selection in the Bay Area –– single barrel; small batch; blended.’ The Picán philosophy is simple: A close-knit community of food, beverage and fun-loving folks. http://www.picanrestaurant.com

 Tanya Holland

Tanya Holland’s soul food breakfast spot, BROWN SUGAR KITCHEN, is a West Oakland eatery that is popular and usually packed with customers who come from near and far. Most weekends the line stretches down the block. Breakfast has never tasted better. The restaurant has beautiful, fresh flavors. The fried chicken is popular and for good reason. It’s delicious, flavorful and crisp. The BBQ Shrimp and Grits is unbelievable! The waffles are to die for. Holland was one of the first hosts on the Food Network’s Melting Pot. She also owns B-Side BBQ in Oakland. It’s easy to see how and why her restaurants are luring San Francisco diners to Oakland.

Holland’s cookbook ‘Brown Sugar Kitchen’ is set for release September 2014. Open for breakfast and lunch.  www.brownsugarkitchen.com

“I opened my businesses because there wasn’t a good example of food matching the room,” said Holland. “There weren’t any businesses reflecting us. I took cooking classes in New York. I had a New York aesthetic of what I wanted to do. I moved to this area and it was desolate and not welcoming. That’s changed. People come here from all over because they know they are welcomed here.”

On Friday nights, for a local food experience, check out OFF THE GRID (food trucks) at the Oakland Museum. www.museumca.org


For sure there are any number of places to stay in Oakland from small bed and breakfasts to five star hotels.  There are more than 4,000 hotel rooms.

A sure bet is the nautical-themed Waterfront Hotel (JDVHotels.com), located in the heart of Jack London Square, just steps from a number of restaurants, shopping, 20-minute ferry service from the hotel to San Francisco’s Ferry Plaza Gondola cruises on Lake Merritt, Numi Tea Garden and the popular, legendary Yoshi’s Jazz Club.  The hotel, less than 10 miles from Oakland International Airport and three minutes to BART service and ferry service to San Francisco, looks out onto the bay.

There are 145 individually appointed, over-sized guestrooms with incredible San Francisco and harbor views.  Single occupancy 48, double occupancy 35, suites 25. The rooms range from 200-450 sq. ft.   Some have courtyard views and some have private balconies.

Many of the rooms have balconies and fireplaces, complimentary wireless internet access, iPod docking stations, waterside heated outdoor pool, waterfront boardwalk, business center, fitness center, sauna and spa services, a complimentary shuttle to downtown Oakland, BART, City Center and Marina Village (Alameda).

The Italian-inspired Lungomare is located inside The Waterfront by the water and offers a blend of Tuscan and Ligurian specialties — a mix of seafood, house-cured meats, rustic pizza and fresh pasta, with dishes locally sourced whenever possible. http://www.lungomareoakland.com

Meeting at the hotel is easy. Whether the need is for a fine dining experience for two or holding an important meeting for 300, The Waterfront can accommodate. There is
state-of-the-art audiovisual equipment and high speed Internet access.  There are 13 banquet rooms (in various dimensions), several with waterfront views and windows, accommodating 10 – 300 people (there is wireless internet access in the meeting rooms).

The Spinnaker Lobby holds 75 for a reception. 

The Spinnaker Room’s capacity is Theater (250), Classroom (150), Reception (300) and Banquet (180).

The Spinnaker 1’s capacity is Theater (120), Classroom (60), U-Shape (38), Conference (50), Reception (150) and Banquet (90).

Spinnaker 11’s capacity is Theater (130), Classroom (60), U-Shape (38), Conference (50), Reception (150) and Banquet (90).

The Compass Room and the Portside Room’s capacity is Theater (50), Classroom (30), U-Shape (20), Conference (20), Reception (70) and Banquet (40).

The Chart Room’s capacity is Theater (60), Classroom (30), U-Shape (20), Conference (20), Reception (70) and Banquet (45).

Poolside Capacity is Reception (150) and banquet (140).

The Regatta Room’s capacity is Theater (200), Classroom (120), Conference (40), Reception (200) and Banquest (140).

The Regatta 1 and Regatta 11 capacity is Theater (70), Classroom (40), U-Shape (30), Conference (30), Reception (100) and Banquet (70).

The OAKLAND MARRIOTT CITY CENTER, located in downtown Oakland, is also a first rate hotel consideration. There are 481 rooms and eight suites. Single occupancy 272; double occupancy 208. Guest rooms are wireless.  The rooms and suites boast ergonomic work areas and state of the art technology. Views of the San Francisco Bay and Lake Merritt are available in each room.


Located in the heart of Oaktown is the Oakland Convention Center with 64,000 sq. ft. of convention, exhibit, meeting room and social gathering.  The Center is a world-class exhibition hall within walking distance of Jack London Square, Chinatown, Oakland Museum of California, Preservation Park and Oakland City Center.

The Oakland Marriott City Center offers views of Jack London Square, Berkeley Marina, Lake Merritt, the Golden Gate and Bay Bridges, and the San Francisco skyline.

Connected to the Oakland Convention Center, the Oakland Marriott City Center features additional event space.  There are 36 meeting rooms, 89,000 sq. ft. of total meeting space. The meeting space with highest maximum capacity is Exhibit Hall & Grand Ballroom with a capacity of 7,900
There is a maximum of 30 breakout meeting room(s)

Scottish Rite Center interior (top) and exterior
With a lake front location, the unique and behemoth Oakland Scottish Rite Center, a stunning facility, is an excellent venue for meetings. There is a world-class historic Grand Auditorium with a capacity of 1,350.  There is also a Ballroom (10,400 sq. ft.) with a capacity for 1,500’ seating capacity is 800. The 3,500 sq. ft. Banquet Hall’s capacity is 400 with seating capacity for 200. On the first floor is the grand lobby, which can accommodate 300 and is 3,400 sq. ft.  On the third floor is the Blue Room, which is 2,400 sq. ft. with a capacity for 200 with seating for 120.  The fourth floor reception area is 2,000 sq. ft. with a capacity for 150 and seating for 80.  There is also a fourth floor Green Room and Red Room.  The media theater can hold 28.  There is also a fourth floor balcony. There is also a member’s lounge and a member’s library.


There are three airports from which to choose: Oakland International Airport, Norman Y Mineta San Jose International Airport and San Francisco International Airport.

Visit Oakland, an organization dedicated to marketing the city of Oakland, offers a wide variety of complimentary services and materials for travelers, meeting planners, and businesses. For more information, see visitoakland.org.
 510-839-9000, http://visitoakland.org

Friday, May 9, 2014

Santa Barbara Vintners 'Key To Wine Country' Experience Weekend Set for June 20-22, 2014

BUELLTON, CA - The Santa Barbara Vintners is pleased to announce the dates and schedule of events for its new Key to Wine Country Experience Weekend June 20-22, 2014. This three day wine and food weekend throughout Santa Barbara County is a wine lover's opportunity to unlock exclusive experiences and events at nearly thirty wineries and vineyards. Keys are $100 per person and are limited to 500 keys sold. Complete details can be found at http://www.sbcountywines.com/key-to-wine-country.html

A sampling of Key to Wine Country exclusive experiences -
  • Ampelos Cellars -- Barrel Tasting with the Winemaker 
  • Andrew Murray -- Vineyard Walk and Barrel Tasting 
  • Buttonwood Farm Winery - Farm tour, vineyard hike, cooking demo, and lunch 
  • Cold Heaven Cellars - In-depth sensory seminar featuring Viognier and Syrah 
  • Larner Vineyard & Winery - An evening wine tasting and artisan showcase 
  • Melville - Vineyard-to-Bottle private tour and tasting 
  • Presqu'ile Winery - Winemaker lead comparative tasting featuring three wineries 
  • Riverbench - Vineyard Tour and optional lunch
  • SAMsARA - Pinot Noir and Syrah Barrel Tasting 
  • Solomon Hills Vineyards - A Walk through the Solomon Hills Vineyards 
  • Zaca Mesa - Vineyard Winery Picnic with Chef Pascale 
  • Zotovich Cellars - Open House including library wine tastings and food pairings 
Morgen McLaughlin, the executive director of the Santa Barbara Vintners, says "Santa Barbara Wine Country is best explored getting deep into the cellars and vineyards of some of our most esteemed properties. For this new weekend program we are excited about the unique experiences being offered from vineyard hikes, barrel tastings, picnics, and more."

Looking Forward: The Celebration of Harvest Weekend Returns October 10-13, 2014 
The popular Santa Barbara Vintners Celebration of Harvest Weekend returns to Santa Barbara Wine Country over the Columbus Day Weekend, October 10-13, 2014. The four day weekend will include wine maker dinners, winery and tasting room open houses, library tastings throughout the region and the Celebration of Harvest Festival held for the first time at the historic Old Mission Santa Inés in Solvang on Saturday, October 11. www.celebrationofharvest.com 

About the Santa Barbara Vintners 
The Santa Barbara Vintners is a non-profit organization founded in 1983 to support and promote Santa Barbara County as a premium wine producing and wine grape growing region. The Association includes winery members, grower/vineyard members and business associations. The Vintners' Association produces festivals, seminars and tastings and provides information to consumers and the wine and travel media. Learn more at www.sbcountywines.com.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

THE WELL® Spa At Miramonte Resort & Spa In Indian Wells Offers A Farm-To-Table Body Scrub Treatment

Guests select customized fresh ingredients from locally grown produce
for targeted treatment results

INDIAN WELLS, CA – MAY 7, 2014 –THE WELL® Spa, an award-winning luxury spa at Miramonte Resort & Spa by Destination Hotels & Resorts, introduces the organic “Farm-to-Table Body Scrub.”  This new and unique treatment incorporates wholesome natural ingredients of fresh vegetables, fruits and herbs for their scrub-based benefits that can be combined to maximize the desired outcome for one’s skin.

With a daily selection of eight to ten fruits and vegetables coming from locally grown produce and the property’s fresh herb garden and lemon trees, the ingredients are freshly combined with olive oil and an exfoliating salt or sugar base.  Different mixtures produce specific results. For example sage moves toxins, increases blood flow and beaks down cellulite, while lemons act as an anti-inflammatory and brighten skin with nourishing vitamins C and K.

The experience of the “Farm-to-Table Scrub” engages the senses of smell and touch. It is invigorating and relaxing all at the same time while leaving the skin soft and glowing.  Following the scrub the guest is treated to a Vichy shower rinse and application of all-natural coconut shea butter.

“As we continue to complement our therapeutic-based menu of treatments, the Farm-to-Table Scrub melds well with our other offerings of natural products and ancient techniques and tools applied by our specialty trained therapists,” said Michelle Stewart, Spa Director at THE WELL.

THE WELL Spa at Miramonte offers a full range of spa and wellness services. The unique treatments at THE WELL incorporate techniques inspired by Tuscan living including therapeutic muds, wine extracts, pure essential oils, and refreshing waters.

For more information or to make a reservation call (760) 341-2200.  For a complete list of treatments available at THE WELL, visit: http://www.miramonteresort.com/luxury-spa-resort/luxury-spa-services.php.

About Miramonte Resort & Spa
Miramonte Resort & Spa brings the spirit of the Mediterranean to the California desert community of Indian Wells, just minutes from Palm Springs. The intimate village features THE WELL® Spa, which has been consistently named in the Top 100 Resort Spas in North America by the readers of Condé Nast Traveler magazine. Additionally, the acclaimed Mediterranean-inspired Grove Artisan Kitchen, offer guests an unforgettable farm-to-table culinary experience. Miramonte Resort & Spa is one of more than 40 independent, upscale hotels, resorts and conference centers managed by Destination Hotels & Resorts, which is consistently rated one of the top 10 independent hospitality management companies in the United States.

About Destination Hotels & Resorts
Destination Hotels & Resorts is an authentic collection of luxury and upscale independent hotels and resorts across North America. Offering enriching, locally-inspired experiences from alpine adventures and stunning beachfronts to urban landmarks, each property reflects the natural surroundings and culture of its distinctive locale. With more than 40 properties in premier travel destinations, including Aspen, Chicago, Denver, Lake Tahoe, Los Angeles, Maui, Miami, New Orleans, Phoenix, San Antonio, San Diego, Santa Fe, Seattle, Vail and Washington D.C., the award-winning portfolio features renowned golf courses, indigenous spas, and exceptional culinary venues. For more information on Destination Hotels & Resorts, visit www.destinationhotels.com. Follow us on Twitter: @Destination. Like us on Facebook: DestinationHotels.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Check out Catalina Island, the Perfect Relaxing Getaway

By Darlene Donloe

Catalina Island is a little more than 47 miles from Los Angeles and 22 miles off the coast of Southern California, but once visitors arrive on the intimate and casual islet, that short distance feels more like it’s a million miles away.

A quick boat ride from the ports of San Pedro, Long Beach and Dana Point via Catalina Express, Catalina Island is a perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of the big city.

The bright lights and chaos of city life are nowhere to be found. They are substituted for peace, quiet and a small-town atmosphere that has become the island’s brand.

Catalina is a laidback place where visitors can reboot, rejuvenate and above all, relax.  It’s the perfect setting for a meeting.

The home of the delightful town of Avalon with a population of 3,736, Catalina, which is reminiscent of a seaside village, is only one square mile in size and is surrounded by rugged hillsides and clear, blue water. While most residents live in the quaint city of Avalon, others reside in the secluded isthmus village of Two Harbors.

The weather on Catalina Island in late summer and early fall is warm and sunny, with water temperatures warm enough to enjoy boating, snorkeling and relaxing at the beach. 

It’s an attractive, welcoming island that features a number of restaurants, quaint shops and first class accommodations. 

Visitors can walk from the Catalina Express mooring dock to Descanso Beach, which is a mile away. Along the way are numerous places to eat, drink, shop, or just stroll along the waterfront. Catalina, which has minimal development, has a wealth of natural and cultural resources, as well as unique animals and plants found nowhere else on earth.

Most visitors get around the island via golf carts as there are very few cars allowed on the island.

Divers flock to Catalina as the island is recognized as one of the best dive sites in the world. 

There are several tours on the island. On a tour to the interior it’s possible to see buffalo grazing on the hillsides. In 1924, 14 American bison were brought to the island for the filming of a movie. They remained, and are like island mascots today.


There is so much to do on Catalina Island that you literally don’t have time to get bored. There are escorted tours around town, adventure rides into the interior, jeep eco tours, hummer rides, zip lines, rock climbing and undersea adventures.

If you want to just do your own thing, you can camp, go hiking, snub, diving, snorkeling, kayaking, get spa treatments, do some beach lounging, play golf, motor boating, parasailing, fishing, boat rides down the coastline and more.


Looking for something different?  Lets start with The Avalon Theatre, which has one film screen and a seating capacity of 1,154.  Current movies are screened in the Avalon Theatre, on the ground floor of the Casino Building. Lavish murals, painted on a jute-like material, adorn the walls. The theatre still has its original 4-manual, 16 rank theatre pipe organ built by the Page Pipe Organ Company of Lima, Ohio, one of only three left in the world. Visitors can hear it being played every Friday and Saturday evening.

The newly remodeled Catalina Island Museum, which is located at the Casino Building, has a collection of archaeological material excavated on the Island, as well as Native American artifacts, historic photographs, fishing tackle, and Catalina pottery. The museum is open daily.


You do not want to miss The Santa Catalina Island Company’s walking tour of the Casino Building. “Discover the Casino” is a trip down Memory Lane to the heyday of the casino, when the big bands played and the ballroom floor was a sea of dancers (6,200 dancers were on the floor as Kay Kyser played one spring night in 1940). The tour also includes a visit to Avalon Theatre for a viewing of a new video on the history of the Casino. The “Behind the Scenes” tour focuses on the cultural history of the building, and pays visits to backstage areas, green rooms (used by Errol Flynn and Cary Grant), the Ballroom stage, and an editing room where Cecil B. DeMille watched “rushes” of movies shot on Catalina.  Visitors can step back 80 years to the big band era when ‘talkie’ motion pictures were the rage.  Tours may be booked at www.visitcatalinaisland.com

The Casino Building, Avalon's world-famous landmark, is not a gambling casino at all. It was never intended to house gambling and doesn't to this day. The building, perched at the edge of Avalon Bay, is the largest circular theater in the world that was built without support beams.

The building itself is equivalent in height to a 12-story office structure and houses the Catalina Island Museum, the Catalina Art Association Art Gallery and a fitness center, a movie theater, as well as public restrooms. The Casino Ballroom, located on the top floor of the Casino Building, has been the site of major events since its grand opening in May of 1929. The ballroom gained nationwide fame in the 1930s and 40s when it hosted many of the big bands, including Jimmy Dorsey, Woody Herman, Harry James and more. 


The Casino Ballroom is gorgeous and a must-see!  It is 180 ft. in diameter with no interior columns and is the largest ballroom of this type in existence, made possible by the building’s cantilever construction. The room can play host to many functions including dinners, weddings, dances, meetings and jazz festivals. It can accommodate 1,200 people for dinner only, 1,800 people in classroom style seating for meetings or concerts, 1,200 people for dances and a maximum for 1,000 people for dinner dances.

For the more adventurous, there is the Catalina Adventure Tours, The Zip Line Eco Tour: Propel down 5 separate zips, dropping from 500’ to 60’ above sea level at heart pounding speeds. Depart from Descanso Beach Club. The zip line holds a certificate of excellence from Trip advisor.  Travel close to three quarters of a mile over five consecutive zip lines at heights of 300 ft. above the canyon floor at speeds pushing 45 mph.  The tour lasts approximately two hours. www.visitcatalinaisland.com


Getting to Catalina is easy. As the commercial says: ‘It’s so easy to go to Catalina, Catalina Express.’ Catalina Express offers up to 30 daily departures and year-round service to Avalon and two harbors, transporting nearly one million passengers annually. It offers comfortable airline-style seats and grouped table seating.  Catalina Express.


While some visitors fly by helicopter or airplane, by far the most popular mode of transportation to Catalina Island is by boat. In its 33-year history, Catalina Express has ferried more than 22 million passengers to and from Catalina.  It is the preferred mode of transportation for 95 percent of visitors to the island. The fleet of eight high-speed, high-tech vessels carries passengers over the 22 miles in about an hour, sometimes less, with up to 30 scheduled departures per day. Sleek fiberglass hulls and state-of-the-art stabilizers smooth out 90 percent of the ocean’s roll, and high-tech navigational equipment and radio communications systems provide for safe channel crossing. For boat reservations, call 800-429-4601 or book online at www.CatalinaExpress.com.

The Commodore Lounge upgrade is available on the high-speed catamarans. Lounge passengers enjoy priority boarding, comfortable seating in a more intimate environment and a complimentary beverage with packaged snacks served by cabin attendants.


Once you get to the island, accommodations on Catalina run the gamut - from tent site camping to beachfront hotels, from family-friendly inns to well-appointed condos, from charming cottage vacation rentals to an elegant four-star country inn. You can stay in a luxurious ocean-view suite or take the whole family to a comfortable beach bungalow close to town.

A stylish place to stay on the island is the Hotel Metropole. Centrally located in the heart of Avalon, just steps from the beach, the hotel is the perfect spot for romantic interludes and family getaways.

The hotel’s facilities can accommodate up to 150 people in a variety of meeting rooms and outdoor patios that can be customized for various needs. Their Group Sales Team can also assist in making arrangements for larger groups on the island. The staff will handle all the details of your event, from meeting set-ups and audio-visual support to theme party coordination. Breakout rooms are available, high speed internet access is available throughout the hotel, complete audio and visual equipment rental and support, competitive group rates and full coordination of team-building activities. There is also a day spa.

The Ocean View Superior guest rooms include a king-size bed, fireplace, DVD player, possible Jacuzzi and sofa sleeper.   There is also a Partial Ocean View Superior, a Superior and a Deluxe guest room, which has a courtyard or hillside view, king or two queen beds, possible amenities include fireplace or balcony or Jacuzzi tub or sofa sleeper. The Moderate guest room has a king or queen bed with possible courtyard view.

Accommodations also include a beach house. This 2-bedroom, 2-bathroom 1800 sq. ft. hideaway boasts a full kitchen, an entertainment deck with panoramic ocean views, fireplace, huge living room with large screen TV, DVD and CD players -- even a built-in library.

The master suite features a vaulted ceiling, king-size bed, Frette linens and robes, sofa, dressing area, TV and private deck. The master bath has a Jacuzzi bathtub and a huge walk-in shower. The guest suite provides two full-size beds, guest bath with Jacuzzi bathtub, TV, and a private deck.

There is also a VIP Wing, which has an ocean view as well as  ocean front mini suites. www.hotel-metropole.com

Other hotels on the island include: The Avalon Hotel and The Aurora Hotel. Both offer views from their rooftops, with a 360-degree vista of Avalon and its harbor.  Most rooms feature 42-inch flat screens and high-speed Internet connections are available at no extra charge.

The Hermosa Hotel is located in the heart of Avalon, just a short 10-15 minute walk from the boat landing. The Historic Hermosa has been serving guests of the island since 1896.

The Hotel Villa Portofino carries on the traditions of a European seaside resort with personalized service and a relaxed Mediterranean charm.


The city of Avalon has a number of meeting sites.

The Catalina Casino, which has a theatre that is suitable for large lectures and conferences, can accommodate up to 1,200 people.

Descanso Beach Club is a relaxed site for corporate retreats, meetings, and team-building seminars. The location combines the beauty of the beach with all the amenities of a club: restrooms, outdoor showers, dressing rooms, volleyball courts, and beach equipment rentals.

Catalina Visitors Country Club can accommodate small and mid-sized groups who want a private location steps from the golf course so that meetings can be moved to the green. Both casual and formal seating areas can accommodate 25-200 guests. The Boardroom is suited for private committee or board meetings. Located off the main Courtyard is the Avalon Bay Room, which will appeal to planners of conferences or group lectures utilizing a classroom-style or u-shaped configuration.  Meeting rooms can be tailored to suit a group’s needs.

Meeting At Two Harbors
From casual meetings or events along the shore to more formal and intimate events inside the stately Banning House Lodge, Two Harbors boasts inspirational settings for meetings or brainstorming sessions. Four picnic areas—three of them with bandstands—can accommodate from 100 to 500 people.



Luau Larry’s has breathtaking views of the harbor. For more than 20 years the restaurant has offered world famous drinks, including the local favorite concoctions including Buffalo Milks and Wiki Wackers. www.luaularrys.com


Bluewater Avalon is the city’s newest restaurant. Part of the Bluewater Grill group of restaurants on the Mainland, the restaurant sources the globe for the highest quality fresh seafood. Bluewater is casual, fun, owner-operated, offers a kid’s menu, oyster bar, sushi bar, patio dining and full bar. www.bluewatergrill.com/locations/catalina_island.php


Steve’s Steakhouse was voted the #1 restaurant in Avalon. It received a four star rating on Yelp and 4.5 stars on TripAdvisor. It features choice steaks, fresh seafood and rack of lamb. Located on the second floor, it has panoramic harbor views.  www.stevessteakhouse.com


Lobster Trap, owned by commercial lobster fisherman Caleb Lins since 2008, is a local favorite that features, of course, lobster, clam chowder, a Pancake Breakfast ‘shot’ and more. www.catalinalobstertrap.com


If you have a sweet tooth, Lloyd’s of Avalon Confectionary is just the ticket.  It has been making its world-renowned saltwater taffy, fantastic caramel apples, perfect peanut brittle, creamy fudge and scrumptious chocolates in the window on Crescent Avenue in Avalon, Catalina Island since 1934. All of the confections are hand made from the company’s own recipes. www.catalinacandy.com

Among the movies shot on Catalina are: Treasure Island (1918), The Ten Commandments (1923), Ben Hur (1925) and Old Ironsides (1926).  The Island also doubled for Tahiti in the filming of Mutiny on the Bounty in 1935, starring Charles Laughton and Clark Gable.  Other movies from the 1930s shot on the island include: Treasure Island, Island of Lost Souls, Rain, Captain Blood and Captains Courageous. Some of the aerial shots of Hawaii in Pearl Harbor (2001) were actually Catalina.  The waters surrounding the island were used for The Thin Red Line (1998), Suicide Kings (1997) and The Hunt for Red October (1990).  Other notable movies include Apollo 13 (1995), Waterworld (1995), Jaws (1975), Chinatown (1974) and Rosemary’s Baby (1968).

Stars have always flocked to the island.  Charlie Chaplin and wife Paulette Goddard, James Cagney, John Wayne, Clark Gable, Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, Joan Crawford, Betty Grable and Johnny Weissmuller, Marilyn Monroe and Ronald Reagan.

Spotted on the island in recent years is a who’s who of Hollywood including: Barbra Streisand, James Brolin, Nicolas Cage, Lisa Marie Presley, Rob Lowe, Heidi Klum, Seal, Alanis Morrisette, Jessica Biel, Justin Timberlake and Katy Perry, the casts of Housewives of Orange County, Hell’s Kitchen, The Bachelor, Stepbrothers, Twilight, The Girls Next Door, Millionaire Matchmaker, LMFAO, and VH-1 and MTV shows.

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Catalina Fun Facts: There have been more than 500 filmings in Avalon over the past century, from movies, TV shows, photo shoots, music videos and commercials. Clark Gable’s favorite hotel was The Glenmore, the island’s oldest hotel; Marilyn Monroe lived on the island for one year with her first husband and pulled taffy at Lloyd’s Confectionary; Catalina Express’ Doug Bombard transported Ronald Reagan, who was doing sports radio broadcasting during the Chicago Cubs spring training, to the Mainland for a screen test.

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