JazzTrax Festival

Catalina Island's Casino Building
••• Catalina Island's Casino Building. Geoff/Flickr/CC BY 2.0

The JazzTrax Festival draws visitors from all over the country who come to see the impressive lineup of Grammy Award winners and Billboard magazine chart-toppers. New stars also debut at the festival, and Flamenco guitarist Jesse Cook attributes his career's turning point to the JazzTrax Festival.

Likes and Dislikes

Jazztrax is popular with jazz music fans all over the country. During our visit, we met attendees from as far away as Atlanta, Milwaukee and London, England.

For me, this event has its pluses and minuses. The outdoor concerts have been especially pleasant, but the main performer a few years ago was so self-absorbed, asking the crowd to chant his name over and over again, that we left at intermission. No matter who's playing, the ballroom is beautiful, but the seating less than comfortable.

The Venues and Crowd Factor

Unplugged concerts are held outdoors at the Descanso Beach on Thursday nights. Friday, Saturday and Sunday evening performances are in the 1929 Avalon Ballroom.

Both venues offer enough ample room.

Tips

  • Check the lineup at the website to pick a weekend to attend.
  • You'll need to stay overnight on the island. Reserve early before they sell out. Use the guide to Catalina lodging to find a place to stay.
  • If you can't make it to Catalina - or you want to hear performances from concerts you can't attend - you can listen to the JazzTrax broadcasts online.
  • Besides the concerts, you can attend after-concert parties at Descanso Beach
  • Take a warm jacket if you go to the unplugged concert - and a small flashlight to help see your footing on the way back to the bus afterward.

    Tickets and Reservations

    Buy your tickets online or call 866-872-9849

    The Basics

    • Held over two weekends in October
    • Events take place in and around Avalon on Catalina Island
    • JazzTrax Festival website
    • Reservations highly recommended. It's too far to go to risk not getting in.

    How to Get There

    Catalina Island can be reached from several locations on the mainland. Most people go by ferry boat, but you can also take a helicopter ride, which is quicker (but more expensive).