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We took a day off work to visit Catalina Island for Dennis's birthday. Did you know that you could get a free round trip starting the day of your birthday? I got this idea from marvelous Mary of This Tasty Life. You must sign up ahead of time and reserve with the email promo code they send you. 

Dana Point was our starting point since it was the closest. The telephone rep had told me to arrive 1 hour prior to departure but they don't even hand out tickets until 1 hour and 20 minutes before departure!

After getting tickets ($76.50 for mine, FREE for Dennis), we had to wait in another line to get long term parking pass ($12/day) because we had to move our car out of short term parking (free with a 4 hour limit only).

We hadn't eaten anything yet so we rushed to the nearby RJ's Cafe for a quick bite. This breakfast place was within walking distance, about 0.3 miles per Google maps.

I ordered a stuffed French toast with orange and cranberry sauce. It came out big and bulky! You could see the batter on the toast and inside was a huge chunk of cream cheese!

The sauce on the side totally made this breakfast though. THIS is how you eat it! In that glorious sauce was a hint of orange with the popped cranberries. I enjoyed this very much!

Dennis got the ham and cheese melt. It had nice buttery toast. The ham itself wasn't really tangy, but had a firm texture with gooey cheese.

He added on a cup of clam chowder which was tasty with its loads of content in thick stew.

We stuffed our mouths as fast as possible, parked in long term parking, then raced back to get on the boat for Catalina! 

An hour and 20 minutes later, we finally arrived! Hello Catalina Island!

One of our first stops was the Avalon ice cream shop which gives you a free scoop for your birthday. Apparently you can also get either a sugar or regular cone with it! Delicious of course. Also the shop had this really cool taffy stretching machine which I watched engrossed for a few minutes!

We also tried a berry smoothie from this place called Avocado Grill but it was awful. Too runny and didn't really taste good, especially at a price point of $7.75 for 20 oz!

I guess catalina island has been in a water crisis for a bit. A lot of places seemed to have bottled water. At least it was only 0.50 here. Most others were $1 too.

 

We bought tickets for the scenic drive, which was $18/person with no birthday discounts. This one group of ladies had a birthday girl also and they sang the bday song a couple of times before even getting on the shuttle! They were planning to sing even more but driver was like "shhhhh!" We smartly sat in the second trolley since we figured they'd be getting into trouble again! The driver was pretty mad about those ladies throughout the bus tour!

This was a view from a mountain top at the ONE stop of the island scenic tour. I wish there were more stops but we'll take what we get!

 

I found Cafe Metropole on yelp. A single woman is behind the counter and takes your order, makes your food, and serves it to you! I believe she's the owner and is quite proud of her shop.

Dennis picked the soup and half sandwich combo. This soup was divine! Hearty with a bit of pesto and great flavor and the addition of farro, which I've only had once before! By the way, it's a pasta!

He also selected the chicken salad. It was not our favorite mix though.. Dennis didn't really like carrot strips in his sandwich and I like mine a little sweeter like the Sonoma chicken at costco. 

I really enjoyed my salad. The southwest chicken salad included a black bean cream on the chicken. This was also a good size for only $6! It came with a really great dressing on the side that was zesty lemony oh so fresh. Mmmmm. 

We also tried the fresh made lemonade mixed with mango ice tea. Usually I dont like "Arnold Palmer" mixes (lemonade and tea) but the mango flavor and higher ratio of lemonade hid very well in the drink and I enjoyed it very much! A drink refill is $1! We saw that their smoothies were around 5 or 6, and wished we had walked down one more street before the avocado place...

Some other things we enjoyed were the casino tour, which was free for the birthday person and otherwise $12 after tax per person. This tour ends on the second story ballroom with a gorgeous view of the island as seen above. I also recommend the tour itself because it's full of really interesting information!

A little further past the casio was a beachy area with lounge chairs.

Another fun activity was the mini golf! It was 18 holes long and got caught crazier as we went along. Its free for the birthday person. There was also a free game of bowling for the birthday person but we didn't have time to try that.

The gift shops were fun too. One of our favorite items was this voodoo knife holder!

Catalina was amazing for a day trip and since the promo is still going on this year, I would recommend trying it out before it's gone!

Catalina Island

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