DAY TRIP TO CATALINA ISLAND

I have been living in California for more than a decade but some travel plans never see their destination. One such was to Santa Catalina. Something always came up and the visit took a back seat. Finally this summer, we made it to Catalina. Wohoo!!!!

A short, sweet day trip with my munchkins.

 

ABOUT CATALINA:

Santa Catalina is a fairly small island around 22 miles long and 8 miles wide located around 35 kms South-West of Los Angeles, California. Total population is around 4100 with 90% of the population living in Avalon, the only incorporated city. The second biggest one being Two Harbors. It is a tourist paradise with over 1 million travelers every year.

Catalina Map

HOW TO GET HERE:

You can use boats or helicopters to get here. Ferry rides take around 1 hour while the air ride lasts 15 minutes.

There are two major ferries, Catalina Express and Catalina Flyer  while IEH is often chosen for helicopter rides.

We took the Catalina Express from Long Beach to Avalon.

 

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Road Signs

 

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Catalina Express Building

 

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Our Ferry

If you want to go to Two Harbors then you have to board the ferry from Dana Point.

Roundtrip fares cost around $74 for adults and $ 58 for kids. The boat ride is about 1 hour long but it is so comfortable that you hardly feel that you are on board for an hour. Also if you are on the top deck you can walk around and enjoy the view.

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Tickets

 

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Lower deck seating

 

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Upper Deck

Do bring snacks with you as the ferry ride make your hungry, especially if you have kids accompanying. We bought snacks from the shop inside the building but there is a small café on the ferry to purchase snacks too.

 

 

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Ferry leaving the building
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View of Long Beach from the ferry

 

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View of Carnival Ship from the ferry

If you live close to Newport Beach then I suggest taking the Catalina Flyer to get to Avalon which costs pretty much the same.

If you are planning to go on a weekend or a major holiday,  do purchase the tickets in advance as the regular seats get sold out pretty quickly and you might end paying more for premiere seating.

AFTER REACHING:

 

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Landing Deck at Avalon

Once you reach Avalon, you can enjoy the island on foot, rent a bike or rent a golf cart. I would highly suggest renting a golf cart if you want to see all the tourist attractions and nice views from the mountains and if your little ones are with you.

 

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Golf Carts neatly parked

 

 

 

 

 

 If its a lazy day trip then you are good to go on foot.

 

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Veterans Park Avalon

 

 Again, rent the golf carts in advance as they tend to get sold out pretty quickly. There are a lot of rental companies with good rates to choose from. Sometimes you cannot reserve a cart as it is available on first come basis but keep it in might that during a busy season they will rent out pretty quickly so go with companies which let you rent in advance. The rental places are within walking distance from the ferries.

THINGS TO DO/SEE:

 Avalon is beautiful with boutique hotels, family owned shops and tourist attractions. A complete list of must see things can be seen on TripAdvisor. There is some kind of activity for everyone.

 

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Walk across town

Some must see attractions include Wrigley Memorial and Botanic Garden, Will Richards Studio, Catalina

Island Casino, Catalina Island Museum.

 

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Murals outside casino

 

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Casino Tours

 

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Beautiful Casino Building

 

 

 

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View of Houses perched up the hills

 

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Artistic Restrooms

 

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Veteran Memorial

 

 

 

Catalina is heaven for water lovers. You can do scuba diving, snorkeling, paddle boating, kayaking and also take glass bottomed boat tours.

 

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Underwater Tour

 

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Boats Resting

 

For lazy beach fun, head to Descanso Beach Club, a private beach open to public.

To relax and enjoy try the Tasting Tour or have calming massages,

For the adventure types, there is Zipline Tours, Parasail Tour, Jeep Eco Tour, Segway Tour.

 

 

Zipline Tours

FOOD:

There are a lot of places to eat depending on how much you are willing to spend and what you are in a mood for. There are alot of seafood options and if you dont want to spend a fortune head straight to Fish and Chips.

 

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Fish and Chips

Since my son eats gluten free and was in a mood for pizza we ended up going to Antonio’s Pizzeria. It was fun to see peanut shells all over the floors. The food was a bit pricey but the ambience was worth it.

 

 

 

 

Peanut shells on the floor

 

Gluten free Chicken Pizza

 

 

 

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Tuna Salad Sandwich

 

Chocolate Cake

 

 

Trip to Catalina is incomplete without  ice-cream from Big Olaf’s and salt water taffy from Llyod’s.

 

 

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Big Olaf’s

 

Salt Water Taffy

 

 

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Lemon Sorbet

 

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Lloyd’s

 

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Candy by pound

LODGING:

We didn’t plan to stay overnight but we saw some sweet boutique style hotels spread all over the Island. In my opinion a day trip is sufficient to enjoy Catalina but if you are visiting with a group then it might be fun staying over.

 

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Hotel Atwater

 

 

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Hotel Pavillion

 

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Hotel Metropole

OVERALL:

 

Day trip to Catalina was totally worth it. The ferry ride, island experience, good food…..

Do I miss it already? Probably not.

It is a good option if you want to do a getaway from the hustle and bustle of everyday life but since we did it on a weekend and since it is a tourist attraction, it was super crowded. Maybe it is less crowded on a week day???

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Boats parked in the water

 

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Beautiful Sunset

 

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Landing Deck Long Beach

 

 

 

Have you visited Catalina?? How was your experience??

 

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RUNYON CANYON HIKE

If you live in Los Angeles, chances are you must have already been to this place like a zillion times, but this was out first time here. There was a chance of rain but we still went ahead and enjoyed the cool drizzle while hiking. There are soo many stunning views that you will be stopping to either get a click or to soak it all in.

Here we go…..

LOCATION:

Runyon Canyon is located in the heart of Hollywood, less than 30 minutes from Downtown Los Angeles. It is by far, LA’s most popular dog friendly, workout/hiking spot.

map of runyon canyon hike

ENTRANCES:

There are 3 popular entrances.

Two on the south end of the park from Fuller and Vista Street and one from Mulholland Drive which is the north end.  Use one of the following addresses to get here:

2001 N. Fuller Ave, Los Angeles, CA, 90046 (South End)

or

7317 Mulholland Dr., Los Angeles, CA 90046 (North End)

Runyon Canyon
Fuller Entrance

Runyon Canyon Hike
Mulholland Entrance

HOURS OF OPERATION:

 Everyday Dawn-Dusk

Runyon Canyon Hike
Sign

PARKING:

No matter which entrance you chose, parking is really challenging, especially on a weekend. For the south  end, you only have the option to do street parking. At the Mulholland entrance, there is a small parking lot. Unfortunately it is usually full so try to find a street parking to save time. Make sure to read the street signs to avoid ticket.

 

Runyon Canyon Hike
Mulholland Parking Lot

Runyon Canyon Hike
Mulholland Drive Street Parking

 

HIKING TRAILS:

There are three main Hiking Trails. The easiest one is  the main paved trail with a gentle slope. The next one is the Steps Trail and the most challenging one is usually called the Spine Trail. The length varies from 2.5- 3.4 miles, depending on the trail you choose.

Runyon Canyon Hike
Trail Board

OUR HIKE:

Since it was our first time and we were not sure how easily the kids will get tired, so we chose the main paved trail for our hike. It is considered easy to moderate trail depending on fast you hike.

Runyon Canyon Hike
Start from Mulholland Gate

We got here around  1 in the afternoon and it took us good 10 minutes to find a parking spot. The parking lot was full so we ended up doing street parking around the Mulholland Entrance. The hike was busy from the start.  Since it was cloudy and a wee bit chilly, we wore jackets initially.

We kept water bottles with us but unlike other hikes it was pleasant to see water fountains around. The water fountains were neat with four-way water access. One side high for adults, a low access for kids, one down for dogs and a space specifically designed for filling water bottles. How cool is that.

Runyon Canyon Hike
4-Way Water Fountain

Runyon Canyon Hike
Trails going up

Runyon Canyon Hike
Paved trail

Runyon Canyon Hike
View of the twisty paved trail going down hill

Runyon Canyon Hike
Warning Signs posted through out

We went all the way down to the fuller entrance and as we were making our way back up, it started to drizzle. Unfortunately, we first did the downhill and then the uphill so it was a bit challenging for the kids. But I wont say it was super bad. And the drizzle made our hike super fun.  The slope is gentle except for a short stretch where you will need some muscle power.

Runyon Canyon Hike
Views of Downtown while hiking

There are designated non-leash dog areas and you will encounter dogs running way ahead their owners. I read that the road has been repaved with Macadam instead of Asphalt to make sure it won’t get unbearable for dog’s paws on hot days.

Runyon Canyon Hike
Off-Leash Dog zone

Runyon Canyon Hike
Mud trail
Runyon Canyon
Greenery along the way

Runyon Canyon
Trail View

Runyon Canyon
Looking towards South Gate

Runyon Canyon
Water Fountains at Vista Entrance

We were able to do the entire loop in less than 90 minutes. I am sure the time would have been less if we did the uphill first and then the downhill. Also we took a couple of breaks to take pictures and enjoy the panoramic views of Hollywood Sign, Griffith Observatory, Downtown Los Angeles, and of the nature all around us.

Runyon Canyon
Downtown LA

Runyon Canyon
Panoramic View of Hollywood Sign and Griffith Observatory

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Hollywood Sign

Runyon Canyon Hike
Hollywood Mansions

Back towards Mulholland Gate

TIPS:

  • If you want to do just one hike while in LA, do Runyon Canyon. You will enjoy views of LA and might have a celeb sighting too.

  • If the weather is cool then you can hike at anytime but for those hot LA days it is best hike early in the day or later in the afternoon.

  • Parking will always be a challenge.  So do not waste time and park a bit further down the street and walk your way to the trail.

  • Make sure to read the street signs and park only in the designated spots to avoid ticket.

  • If you are scared or dogs, then this hike is not for you as no matter which trail you choose, there are  off-leash areas.

  • You can have a good workout on the main paved trail too.

  • If you are hiking with kids, then I highly suggest entering from Fuller or Vista Entrance and going uphill first so that its easier for them to hike downhill later.

  • There are no bathrooms available so plan accordingly.

  • Don’t get intimidated. People of all levels of strength/stamina can do this hike.

  • There are breath-taking LA views so do have your phone/camera handy if you want to preserve the moment.

  • If you are hiking by yourself, bring some good music along for a more fun time.

 

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Water Balloons-Fun Activity for the Whole Family

Yes…I know…I know. You will be saying that summer is almost gone and fall is just around the corner and now I am talking about Water Activity?? In my defense, we were soo busy enjoying and playing with these water balloons that I had to wait for my clothes to dry up so I could share the fun with you  🙂

We got these water balloons over the summer break for my kids. Filling the balloons and tying them with hand was getting really challenging because you can imagine, kids don’t ask you to tie one…its at least 30 if not more and the truth is half of them pop while tying and you have to start from scratch.

Who ever came up with this “Balloons that tie themselves” idea was pure genius and then decided to sell it to parents like us, makes them Super Heroes.

These are fairly simple to use. The kids can attach them to the end of the hose themselves, turn the water on and then the magic happens. Its better to have a container to collect them once they fall of the straws, we were too lazy so we omitted this step. (To be honest I can never find anything in my house when I need it….I think we have a ghost problem!)

This activity is soo much fun that I am the biggest kid standing around the hose, watching with with my mouth open, waiting for the magical moment to happen when the balloons fall off the straws “TIED”.  WOW!!!!

Unfortunately the ones we got are no longer available. Here is the link to a similar one…..  WATER BALLOONS.

 

Sneak peak at the fun:

 

 

 

 

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