Crystal Clear: Catalina Glows with Chihuly Glass Exhibition and Zip Line Sunshine

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Above, Chihuly at the Catalina Island Museum

The winter months are the off-season in Catalina, home to to the iconic Casino building, kitschy shops, and beautiful, once-made-in-Catalina pottery and tile work. But off-season or not, there are some very wonderful reasons to check out the island before the holidays.

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The glow begins early with sunlight dazzling over ocean views heading from the mainland to the island. Catalina Express offers multiple, less-busy-than-summer crossings in high speed boats from Long Beach, San Pedro, and Dana Point. The fleet of high-speed ferries makes traveling the 22 miles across the sea effortless and smooth; we had beautiful crossings early in the morning and by moonlight and sunset.

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Outdoor seating is surprisingly comfortable, no hard plastic benches here; indoors the lounge area offers a bar, tables, and padded seats.  If you’re looking for even more luxury, you can upgrade to the Commodore Lounge, with a complimentary beverage, packaged snack, and reclining seats.

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Once on the island,  the adventurous in our group of four took a thrilling ride on one of the island’s newest attractions, the Catalina Zip Line Eco Tour, (above and below.) Grand vistas of the crystal clear harbor water spread out before the intrepid duo who were thrilled with propelling down 5 separate zip lines, and dropping from 600 feet above sea level. One run traversed 1,100 lineal feet. In total, participants travel approximately 3/4 of a mile at a whistling speed of up to 30 miles per hour.

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Our pair was shuttled to the top of the zip line course from Descanso Beach. Their return to home base included pauses at several eco-stations where zip line operators discussed the flora and fauna of Catalina Island. The adventure lasts close to 2 hours, and both zippers were exhilerated by the experience.

Below, The Catalina Island Museum.

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Until December 12th, there’s another way to experience the crystalline glow and excitement of the island. The Chihuly glass exhibit at the Catalina Island Museum is a stunning array of work by glass artist Dale Chihuly.  The museum itself is a sparkling gem; opened just over a year ago in 2016, it makes the most of both natural light inside and some outdoor exhibit space which was perfect to create a garden glass for some of Chihuly’s ephemeral works.
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The glass sculptor’s works here are a true fit for the island, the delicate translucent pieces mimic water and sea creatures, mysterious flowers, sea weed and seashells.
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Dazzling works seem to be a part of the island’s clear waters themselves. From well-known Chihuly works such as Seaforms, Red Reeds, and the towering chandelier Sea Blue and Green Tower to those less familiar, such as Mille Fiori, these are brilliant, inwardly illuminated artworks, the stuff dreams are made of.
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The museum is currently fundraising to keep one of these pieces as a part of its permanent collection, Aureolin Yellow Spire Chandelier, a hot yellow sun, below, which vibrates with light and color.
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There is something entirely magical about Chihuly’s work, his vast range of color, the soaring spirit of each piece, the voluptuous sea forms, and his flower-petal-like baskets, inspired by Native American basket art. The museum itself offers a series of insightful permanent exhibits; a film documents the history of the island, old newsreel footage, and a segment on Chihuly; exhibits include island-made pottery, island history, and island folklore.
The Museum is located at 217 Metropole Ave. in the heart of Avalon, and is open 10 to 5 daily.
The island, open year ’round, is waiting.
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So, doff that sailor’s cap, hop on a ferry, and follow the glow, whether you’re taking a zip, a sea-dip, or a dive into celebrated art work.