Last weekend I got a chance to drive down to Southern Cali to spend time with my parents in the Anaheim area. Coincidentally, my hubby and I had flown out of New Jersey on the Sunday after Christmas, and my parents flew into L.A. that Tuesday for my dad’s work. He’s a football coach and was one of the coaches for a football game sponsored by the Marines Corps, called the Semper Fidelis All-American Bowl.
Since my dad was busy during the days with game preparations, my mom and I did some exploring of the area together. One day we went to Disneyland to walk around and check it out. I’ve been to Disney World a bunch of times, but this was my first time to Disneyland. They still had the park all decked out for the holidays, which naturally, I loved.
We both love the It’s a Small World ride, so it was one of the only things we waited on line for. Even the ride was all holiday themed. The park was pretty crowded and I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many strollers in my entire life!
My favorite thing that we did was journey to Catalina Island, which is located southwest of L.A. I’ve been wanting to go there since I moved to California, but this was the very first time I got the chance to visit. To get there, we drove to Long Beach, then took an hour-long ferry over to the island.
When the boat came up to the island, I immediately was in love with Catalina.
It reminded me of a little European getaway right here in California. One of the big reasons that I love California so much is that there are so many beautiful areas and places all over this gigantic state.
We arrived in the Avalon section of the island, which was full of cute little beachy houses and pretty inns. There were golf carts around everywhere, which people rent to get around the island easily.
We walked from the harbor up to The Wrigley Memorial & Botanic Garden. Originally we planned to go for a short hike once we got up there, but the hike up to the garden area, which was a couple of miles, mostly uphill, took longer than we thought it would. Since we were only there for the afternoon, we decided to take our time exploring the gardens and memorial, then head back into town.
The centerpiece of the botanic garden is the Wrigley Memorial, which honors the memory of William Wrigley Jr. He played an instrumental role in the history of Catalina Island, and passed away in 1932. I thought it was fitting that he’s honored in a spot on the island with a beautiful view of Avalon Bay.
A neat aspect of the memorial: Their goal was to use as many Catalina materials as possible, including many of the stones and rocks used.
With my little mama:
Fact: I’ve been taller & bigger than her since I was in middle school (and so have all of my siblings). She makes me look like a giant, but I’m only 5’6″!
On our way back into town, we stopped at the Catalina Island Conservancy nature center. The non-profit’s mission is to be a responsible steward of the lands through a balance of conservation, education and recreation, and they protect 88% of the island. I love learning about the animals that live in different areas and thought it was neat to pop into the nature center to read some cool facts.
A few neat things about animals living on Catalina:
1.) In 1924, a film crew brought 14 bison to the island for the making of a movie. By 1969, that number had multiplied to 400 bison roaming the island. The conservancy determined that such a large number of bison was threatening the island’s plant communities and the bison as well, and a program was developed to manage the herd size.
2.) Because of DDT contamination from companies dumping chemicals off of Southern California shores (GRR!), the bald eagle population on the island was almost wiped out. The conservancy began to assist by actually taking eggs from nests, replacing them with fake eggs (apparently the mother doesn’t even notice), incubating the real eggs themselves, then returning the healthy chicks to their mother to be raised. The contamination has lessened/ceased in the last couple of years, but the non-profit still closely monitors the bald eagle population on the island.
Speaking of bald eagles, I spotted one on the pier:
And here’s my favorite animal shot that I got on the island:
This bird sat so majestic and still for awhile, and I thought he was fake until he finally moved!
After all of the hiking around that we did, we were starving for some food. After some restaurant scouting, we settled on CC Gallagher, an interesting place right near the pier. Their menu features Mediterranean fare including sandwiches on focaccia, salads, and pizza, and they also have a full sushi and sake menu. The inside of the restaurant is a store with all kinds of trinkets, gelato, and other desserts, as well as a wine bar. A little bit of many things!
We first ordered some hummus with crunchy flatbread crackers. I also enjoyed a glass of riesling while we sat in the sunshine.
For my lunch, I ordered a gourmet grilled cheese that had brie, fig & caramelized onions, and it was pretty tasty.
People who go on getaways to Catalina Island have the option of doing a lot of fun activities, including scuba diving, snorkeling, parasailing, helicopter tours over the island and Jeep safari tours. I really would love to get back to the island with my hubby for a weekend trip to go hiking and zip lining, then stay at a cute inn by the water!
“…An island Utopia in a modern, busy, everyday world. A land where there are neither rich nor poor. A heaven on earth – without a fence around it.” – William Wrigley, Jr., describing Catalina Island