Have You Experienced Catalina Lately?
By Christine West
Just a short hour and fifteen-minute ferry ride away from the hustle and bustle of the Greater Los Angeles area is Catalina Island, rich with local history, beautiful views, and delicious food to boot.
The Wrigley Mansion, also known as Mt. Ada, named for the wife of famed William Wrigley, Jr., of Wrigley chewing gum, is Catalina’s only Forbes Travel Guide 4-star hotel and a delightful place to have lunch and relax. The six-bedroom home turned destination hotel was built in 1921 atop a mountain to ensure it was the first and last residence in Avalon to be lit by the sun.
The Wrigleys built the home just two years after Wrigley Jr. purchased Catalina Island in 1919.
They continued to visit the island at least twice a year together until Mr. Wrigley’s death in 1932. With stunning views of the Catalina Casino, harbor, and coastline, the home also once boasted views of the Chicago Cubs Spring Training field which Mr. Wrigley insisted he be able to watch with a telescope from his home office.
Mr. and Mrs. Wrigley traveled by following the sunshine, staying at Mt. Ada primarily in the spring.
The “L” shaped mansion was open for tours in the 1960s until the home was donated to the University of Southern California for use as a Marine Science Center.
In 1985, Mt. Ada once again became a place to entertain.
In the summer months it is open to the public daily for lunch between the hours of 11:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. with a prix fixe menu of $62 (including alcoholic or non-alcoholic beverages,) three courses and top-notch service. Reservations are required and can be made by calling 310-510-2030 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. You do not need to be a hotel guest to dine at the mansion. The Mt. Ada menu includes a starter, featuring fresh seasonal foods such as Dungeness Crab Cakes and Snap Pea and Asian Pear Salad, an entrée with vegetarian, seafood, chicken and beef options, and three options for dessert. Beverage choices include mimosas, wine, beer or soft drinks.
The outdoor patio offers stunning views nearly 400 feet above the Pacific Ocean, a diner’s paradise.
Upon arriving to the hotel by taxi (a $14 ride) you are welcomed into the mansion’s foyer and encouraged to look around and enjoy the living room, sunroom, dining area, and outdoor patio. The upstairs is reserved for hotel guests only. The staff is knowledgeable about the mansion’s history and eager to share with guests the beauty that Mt. Ada has to offer. There is a shuttle service drop off back down the mountain once you are done dining.
The Catalina Island Museum, located within walking distance of the ferry terminal, is another must-see for anyone interested in the island’s rich history or its ties to the Wrigley family.
The museum is hosting an exhibit called Wrigley’s Catalina: A Centennial Celebration until January 19, 2020, featuring historical items such as floor plans and menus from the Avalon Casino, architectural plans for Wrigley Field Avalon, programs for the Catalina Open Golf Tournament, and more.
The museum features a permanent installation detailing the history of the island and displaying artifacts such as mortars and pestles, abalone fishhooks, harpoons, spearheads and other cooking utensils and currency used by the Native Tongva people who inhabited the island before the arrival of Spanish explorers in the 16th century. There is also a permanent installation of Catalina Clay Products which made tiles for Mr. Wrigley’s building projects and decorative and functional objects for the home such as vases and bowls, now collector’s items, all from clay found on the island.
Currently the museum features two exhibits by artist Elizabeth Turk. The first, Tipping Point, houses an impressive interactive sculpture of extinct birds. The second, Echoes of Extinction, features sculptures of sonograms of endangered or extinct birds. This interactive exhibit includes QR codes which you can photograph to learn more about each featured species.
Museum admission is $17 for adults, $15 for seniors, students with ID and military. Children (15 and under) receive free admission with a paid adult admission. The museum is open 10 am – 5 pm daily.
Christine West is a freelance writer, editor and content creator. She has created digital content for leading industry brands such as Random House, Dove, Dunkin Donuts, Clinique and others. Christine lives in the South Bay.
Transportation to Catalina Island was generously provided by Catalina Express.
Resources for Your Visit
The Inn On Mount Ada, 398 Wrigley Rd, Avalon, Catalina Island. 310-510-2030, www.visitcatalinaisland.com
Catalina Island Museum 217 Metropole Avenue, Avalon, Catalina Island. 310-510-2414, www.CatalinaMuseum.org
Catalina Express, Berth 95, San Pedro Waterfront; Catalina Landing, Long Beach 800- 481-3470, www.CatalinaExpress.com