My big birthday freebie this year was going to Catalina Island! Catalina Express offers a free round trip ticket on your actual birthday (value: $74). That’s the big catch – that you must leave on your birthday. Since my birthday fell on a Saturday this year, it was the perfect day to finally be able to visit Catalina.
They give you a birthday ribbon to wear. The birthday ribbon entitles you to various freebies and everyone wishes you a happy birthday which just kinda makes you feel extra special. When you check in they give you a print out of all of the freebies and you can also go on the Catalina Express website to check it out in advance.
For an additional $15 (each way) you can get seats in the Commodore Lounge. What’s so great about the Commodore Lounge? Well, you get to get on the boat first, there are two seats per row instead of three, and they bring you drinks. I had an orange juice since I was still getting over my cold and Jake got a Jack and Coke. Yup. You can drink on the boat ride over if you really wanna!
I thought the Commodore Lounge was better for going over to Catalina and not as necessary for going back (we sat in the “regular” section for the ride home). The regular seats kind of feels like an extra wide airplane with long rows of seating. The journey is fairly smooth and I didn’t see anyone get seasick. The ride is a little over an hour and when you park there it’ll cost you $15 to park all day.
My co-worker Lindsay told me to MAKE SURE to look for the orange fishies when we got off the boat and I totally saw them! The water is so pretty and clear here and the air feels a little fresher and more serene than back on the mainland.
We strolled for a bit at first, taking in the scenery before heading over to try and rent a golf cart. We bypassed the first place we saw to go to one a little closer to the main square because we read they had a birthday discount. Sadly they ran out of golf carts so we headed back to Catalina Island Golf Rental which is right past the port.
When we got up to rent a cart, the lady working there noticed my birthday ribbon and said they also had the birthday offer which is a free 1/2 hour. This isn’t stated on their website or on the birthday deals but if you go up with your super special ribbon I bet you’ll get the deal. Also if you rent for two hours then the third hour is free. You must be over 25 to drive a cart and you must put a deposit down in cash when you rent and then they determine the price when you turn your cart back in. Easy peasy.
Renting the golf cart was an EXCELLENT idea. This way we were able to explore Avalon in full and see more than just the main touristy area at the harbor.
This photo was taken as we were trekking up the hill. I love the different shades of blue you can see in the ocean.
We made a little pit stop past the inn where Wrigley Jr. (who owned lots of property on Catalina as well as the Chicago Cubs – did you know they did their spring training in Catalina in 1920’s-1950’s?) and walked down a little path to a pretty cliff right above the harbor. We saw a couple getting a bunch of wedding photos taken up in this gorgeous spot.
My shirt matches the tree!
Jake’s goofy expression here makes me laugh.
We drove up to the Botanical Garden but didn’t go inside and instead visited the Nature Center (where we learned about conservatory efforts) and then drove around to look at where the old ballpark used to be. The old ballpark is behind this trolley (can you guess why I took this photo? I hope so.) and it’s now just a dirt patch.
The ballpark was in view from Wrigley Jr.’s house. He could look down to see how they were doing with the practice and if he thought a player was sucking big time, he’d call down to have them run up the hill to his house so he could chew them out and then send them back down to practice.
We also saw a deer while driving around in our little golf cart! We were both like, “Whoa. A deer.” Followed by, “How’d a deer get over here?”
We were stopped in the middle of the road when another family in a golf cart drove up and halted right behind us. I think there was a little moment of “WTF” going on and then the dad said, “Hey kids, look, a deer!”
This naturally made Jake and I laugh and snicker as we thought of the opening scene to Christmas Vacation. Heh heh.
This is a photo from the other side of Avalon. As we drove down one of the hills we watched some of the people zip lining down. It was a little freaky to watch. And then we were rewarded with this gorgeous view. A perfect day!
Then we drove down towards the Casino (that round building over there) and checked out the very small museum inside which detailed some history about Marilyn Monroe, Wrigley and the Chicago Cubs, and Charlie Chaplin.
We turned in our golf cart a little early to try and catch the shuttle to Buffalo Nickel, a restaurant offering a free birthday meal.
We sat by the pick up spot and waited… and waited… and waited some more. Finally I called to find out and they sent the shuttle out to get us which took another 10-15 minutes just to show up. Geez.
The Buffalo Nickel is NOT nearby the main part of town which is why they even have a shuttle to get there. I suppose it’s within walking distance if you really wanna travel but the shuttle is the way to go. Definitely call ahead!
It was nice out so we sat out on the patio. There’s a little waterfall out here that tries to distract you from the noise of the nearby helicopter port. They don’t let you just order water and we were forced to either get bottled water or drinks. I got an iced tea and Jake got a Coke and the iced tea tasted incredibly weird to me. Jake was nice and let me switch drinks with him. <3
There’s a whole menu filled with the various dishes you could get for your free birthday meal. They do ask to see your ID to verify that you’re not just wearing a ribbon for funsies.
[carnitas wet burrito / $10.95]
Jake got himself a wet burrito filled with carnitas. It was also filled with rice, beans, cheese and you have your choice of red or green sauce. He didn’t think it was the best burrito ever, but he thought it was decent enough. He kept giving me bits of his carnitas because he knew I wasn’t too happy with my food.
[patty melt with fries]
The birthday menu states that this comes with fries and coleslaw and obviously I didn’t get any coleslaw. Luckily I didn’t really care since I don’t even like coleslaw. Maybe they sensed my coleslaw dislike. More likely they just didn’t have any.
The french fries are crinkle cut which is my favorite french fry style. These fries were super greasy and tasted like little oil bombs going off in my mouth. Not really pleasant.
I got my patty melt on sourdough since I detest rye bread.
It’s a frozen patty with American cheese and semi-cooked onions. The bread looks like it was sort of buttered and then placed on a grill for maybe 5 seconds since it was not crisp and barely warm. The frozen patty was kind of gross. It was overcooked and greasy. The cheese was semi-melted and basically the whole sandwich was kind of disgusting. Well… at least it was free, I guess. Obviously they don’t care since it just seems like a tourist trap promotion anyway. I wish they would have at least grilled my bread. I guess that’s too much to ask for.
After our lunch we waited for the shuttle to take us back into town and we headed over to a candy store so I could get my other birthday freebie.
Lloyd’s of Avalon is a candy store in the main square in Avalon. AKA Tourist Central. As we walked over to the candy shop I noticed TONS of people packed into that tiny shopping area with people hanging around or flitting in and out of stores. I told Jake I was super glad we got the golf cart rental since otherwise we’d be fairly confined to this area or have to hike a lot.
Lloyd’s has lots of chocolates and candies… and I love their Halloween theme going on here.
Plus candied apples.
And loads of taffy. There’s actually another birthday promo for the taffy. If you buy 1lb. of taffy they will give a 1/4lb. for free. I passed on that offer.
Jake found this little arcade candy box. So cute!
The birthday promo I did go for was a free scoop of ice cream! They have a peanut butter ice cream with little mini peanut butter cups and ribbons of peanut butter. YUM. This was really yummy and I shared it with Jake.
Lloyd’s of Avalon
315 Crescent Ave.
Avalon, CA 90704
We were done early and wandered back to the port so we’d be the first in line to get seats on the boat. We wanted our picture in front of this and Jake said, “I bet if we start taking photos of each other in front of this, someone will offer to take our photo.” He was right!
Avalon/Catalina is totally and completely gorgeous and if you have the chance, I highly recommend taking a trip out there to visit! The birthday promo is good through 2014. They had the same promotion last year and extended it again for 2014. It seems to me like it’s a great idea so hopefully they’ll also extend it again for next year.