Fun Things to Do at the Catalina Casino

Catalina IslandOne of the most impressive and easily identifiable landmarks in Avalon, California on Catalina Island is known as the Catalina Casino. But don’t be fooled by its name. There isn’t actually a gambling hall here, but you will find a ballroom, museum and theater. This stunning example of architecture continues to be a focal point on the island, and graces all those who enter its doors with its sweeping beauty, fascinating history and exciting events. The Catalina Casino has an interesting history.

Today, the Casino stands on a piece of land that was known as Sugarloaf Point, which was cleared to make room to build Hotel St. Catherine. Yet the hotel ended up eventually being built within Descano Canyon.

Experience the stunning architecture of the Catalina Casino

Catalina IslandEventually, the cleared land was used to build a dance hall under the direction of William Wrigley Jr., of the chewing gum company. Wrigley Jr. named the new dance hall, Sugarloaf Casino. This building, at one time, did have a casino that was short-lived. It had a ballroom and even was home to the first high school in Avalon.

By 1928 the Casino was demolished to build a bigger building. At the time, Sugarloaf Rock was destroyed to better the view from the new Casino building. The new Casino was finalized in mid-1929 to the tune of $2 million. The design is known as both Art Deco and Mediterranean Revival. In fact, it was the first completely circular building to be created in the modern era and received awards.

Just as it has for decades, the Catalina Casino continues to offer great entertainment. It has long been a top choice for entertainment of all types from first-run movies to Broadway productions.

Although some are confused by the name “Casino,” the name casino in this case traces its roots within the Italian language. Casino, in this instance, means a “gathering place.”

Catalina IslandThe ballroom was restored in recent years, yet it continues to maintain the style of grace and romance that recalls Avalon’s past. The ballroom features walls with rose coloring, five massive Tiffany chandeliers within the 55-foot ceiling, a raised stage, seating areas and a full-service bar.

The movie theater is also a grand and regal place. It’s a spot to catch the latest first-run film nearly any night of the week.

You also can visit the Catalina Island Museum on the ground floor of the Casino building. This museum will pique your interest with its collection that details more than 7,000 years of history in its exhibits. The museum also has a gift shop and offers various lectures and workshops. The museum can be reached at 310-510-2414 and online at CatalinaMuseum.org. The museum is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. but closed on Thanksgiving and Christmas Day.

The Casino also is home to a number of annual events on the island. Those interested in the history and stunning architecture, can enjoy a tour of the casino.