Catalina Island birthday trip - RJ's Cafe, Avocado Cafe, and Cafe Metropole

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. 

catalina express to Avalon on Catalina Island

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).

RJ's Cafe at Dana Point

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.

french toast ala orange at RJ's Cafe in Dana Point

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!

french toast ala orange at RJ's Cafe in Dana Point

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!

ham melt at RJ's Cafe in Dana Point

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.

clam chowder at RJ's Cafe in Dana Point

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

catalina express boat to Avalon on Catalina Island

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

beautiful city of Avalon on Catalina Island

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

ice cream at Lloyd's of Avalon on 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.

beautiful view from Avalon on Catalina Island   beautiful view from Avalon on Catalina Island

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!

beautiful view from Avalon on Catalina Island

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!

Cafe Metropole in Avalon on Catalina Island   Cafe Metropole in Avalon on Catalina Island

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.

chicken vegetable and farro soup at Cafe Metropole in Avalon on Catalina Island

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!

chicken salad sandwich at Cafe Metropole in Avalon on Catalina Island

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. 

southwest chicken salad at Cafe Metropole in Avalon on Catalina Island

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...

beautiful view from Avalon on Catalina Island

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!

beautiful view from Avalon on Catalina Island

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

mini golf in Avalon on Catalina Island mini golf in Avalon on Catalina Island

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.

knife holder from a shop in Avalon on Catalina Island

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

beautiful view from Avalon on Catalina Island

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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J.S. @ Sun Diego Eats's picture
Submitted by J.S. @ Sun Dieg... (not verified) on Sun, 05/17/2015 - 9:41pm

Ahh the water in Catalina is beautiful. I've never been but its on my list, we were considering going camping there for a while. Although all the birthday deals seem quite handy too. Love the large pictures btw, they look great :)

lynn's picture
Submitted by lynn on Wed, 05/20/2015 - 12:52pm

It's a nice getaway close to home. I want to do more trips like this! Your travel posts are very encouraging as well!

Faye's picture
Submitted by Faye (not verified) on Tue, 05/19/2015 - 11:39am

Happy bday to Dennis - the trip looked beautiful. I rarely go to Catalina as there doesn't seem to be all that much to do there and I heard the food is so expensive. The chicken salad looked nice and affordable though. Love the voodoo knife holder -

lynn's picture
Submitted by lynn on Wed, 05/20/2015 - 12:58pm

It's my first time there and if I went back, I'd want to go hiking around, maybe see a buffalo haha! I think the food prices depends on where you go but it'll still be a bit tourist-y priced. I'd totally go back to Cafe Metropole though which seemed reasonable and healthy

Mary's picture
Submitted by Mary (not verified) on Mon, 06/22/2015 - 10:04am

Yay Catalina! I'm happy you guys were able to take advantage of that awesome deal. The bus tour sounds like a good way to go if you don't want to rent the golf cart and cruise around the island. We stopped by the art museum at the Casino but didn't actually go into the Casino itself. I'm glad you had a better lunch than the crappy free one I had. Heh heh. Happy birthday to Dennis!

lynn's picture
Submitted by lynn on Mon, 06/22/2015 - 11:00pm

there were too many 'bad' reviews of the free entree place so i figured i'd rather pay for my meal than make us both suffer a poor meal. plus, i really did like that cafe so i'd totally go back there in the future!

so where else should we go vacationing mary? you have good suggestions =P

Mary's picture
Submitted by Mary (not verified) on Tue, 06/23/2015 - 7:31am

Go to Portland!! :)

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