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Catalina Island Casino: Ballroom, Theater, Museum

The Catalina Casino building dominates the harbor entrance to Avalon. Construction ended in May 1929 under the direction of William Wrigley Jr., its design a combination of Art Deco and Mediterranean revival, at a total cost of about 2 million. The Catalina Casino ballroom is where you’ll go for live jazz, performing arts, weddings, and special events like New Year Eve. On the bottom floor, movie are shown nightly in the fully restored Art Deco theater. The fabulous fresco’s that adorn the walls of the theater were restored in the 80′s. The Catalina Island Museum is also on the main floor – read more about it below.

What follows is going to be like the Coles Notes of the Catalina Casino. It’s a rather sprawling topic, but we want to give you the run down as quickly and efficiently as possible, so we’re going to do our best not to be to verbose about it (more on other pages)…

Before we get started – The Catalina Casino has no gambling! In fact, “casino” mean simply “a place for entertainment” and since 1929, that’s exactly how this iconic building has functioned.

Catalina Island Casino Ballroom

The Catalina Casino ballroom is still the worlds largest circular ballroom. The 180ft diameter dance floor is circled by french doors, capable of accommodating a staggering 6000 dancers. If you step outside any of french doors onto the balcony, you can look out over the Avalon Harbor, Descanso Beach, and across to the mainland. The views from the balcony are really beautiful.

The Casino Ballroom has an illustrious history, having been visited by dignitaries, presidents, movie stars and famous musicians, dancers, and so on. Today, It is the primary venue for the yearly jazz festival, and is available to rent for private functions.

Catalina Island Casino Theater

The Catalina Casino Theater is truly a gem. Renowned for its fine acoustics, its original 4-manual, 16 rank theater pipe organ built by the Page Pipe Organ Company of Lima, Ohio, and beautiful fresco’s that adorn the walls, its worth a visit, even if you aren’t planning to watch a flick. Speaking of which, the Catalina Casino theater shows movies every night. Originally built to screen silent movies (accompaniment by organ), now you can see first run movies.

Catalina Island Museum

The Catalina Island Museum opened in 1953, as part of Philip Wrigley’s desire to continue his fathers vision for the island. The museum houses a permanent collection and regularly has exhibitions. Even if you’ve been before, the 2011 renovations have made it worth another visit. There is a new main gallery, and upgrades throughout.

The Catalina Island Museum is located at #1 Casino Way, Casino Building, P.O. Box 366, Avalon, CA 90704. For more information visit www.catalinamuseum.org, or call (310) 510 2414.

Catalina Casino Tour

Discover Tours operates the only guided tour of the Catalina Casino building. The guided tour really is the best way to learn about the Island illustrious history, much of which is embodied in the Casino building. Big bands, the emergence of talking pictures, beautifully restored art deco murals, and the Catalina Island Museum.

The Catalina Casino Tour departs daily at 2pm and runs year round. The tour takes about 50 minutes to complete, and it’s a great way to get to know the history of Avalon in under an hour. The tour is truly an enriching experience.

Catalina Casino Tour Prices: Adults $21, Seniors $19, Children $15.

Discovery tours is located at P.O. Box 737, Avalon, CA 90704. Visit www.visitcatalinaisland.com or call (310) 510 TOUR.

Video: Tour of the Catalina Casino Ballroom, Theater