Whether you go "Behind the Scenes" or opt to "Discover the Casino," a tour of Catalina Casino is the only way you will gain access and get to see this fabulous architectural wonder (except for watching a movie, or attending a special event.)
The Casino is not the first one built on Avalon. It was constructed bigger and better than the first, Sugar Loaf Casino, which operated for 10 years till it was leveled in 1928. The site of today's casino required quite a bit of prep work to carve out a space for it, as a huge rock formation--Big Sugar Loaf Rock was leveled on the west end of the bay and in its place the current day casino was built.
Commissioned by William Wrigley Jr., Catalina Casino opened on May 29, 1929 and not only won praise for its beauty and grace, but was honored as one of the outstanding architectural accomplishments of its time. As you enter the building all heads are turned upwards to see nautical, mermaid & sea themed tile murals at the spectacular entry. Avalon, Catalina Island's main tourist attraction, is known for its tile murals. You can find them downtown in the plaza, in parks and museums, and on a wall along Via Casino walkway, to name just a few places.
The Casino tour is a visual feast, itself, with lush decor in the Avalon Theatre, commanding views from the upstairs ballroom, and chandeliers, lighting, carpeting and flooring all beautifully reflecting the Casino's glory days. In fact, they say you can rent out space for weddings and special events. What a grand location!
On the tour guests get a glimpse into what the Casino was when it actively hosted Big Band concerts. The Casino did not have gambling but in true Italian form as a "gathering place," it provide A-list entertainment luring people from the mainland for a week or weekend of indulgence.
According to the storyboards on display and black & white photos, you could take an hour+ boat ride over to the island and be treated to the world's largest circular ballroom on the top level, where thousands danced the night away to big band music of Kay Kyser, Stan Kenton, Charlie Barnet, Mark Carter, Jimmy McPherson, Tony Pastor, Little Jack Little and many more.
In the Art Deco masterpiece Avalon Theatre on the lower level film buffs came to experience "talkies" in the first theatre built specifically for them. The movie theater has had its ups & downs in attempts to show new releases so your best bet for hoping to watch a flick is to check ahead before you go. If you time it right (usually in May) you can see the annual film festival.