OVER THE WATER, FOR A SONG: Birthdays have long been tied to free things and giveaways and deals and business-oriented birthday goodies. The freebies and discounts depend a bit on where someone lives, but a stack of pancakes, a scoop of ice cream, a balloon, a coffee, and other you-were-born-this-day goodies are traditional, outside-your-home treats. But Southern California has an especially remarkable birthday freebie, one that is quite different from the desserts and drinks given away, and it involves whisking birthday-having people away to an island, in the Pacific Ocean, for zero dollars. We speak, of course, of the Catalina Express, which launched a Free Ride on Your Birthday program a few years back, a program that has done very well. How well? Well, the fourth year was just announced, meaning the ride-free-to-Avalon promotion will be extended into 2015. The ferry service made the announcement on Thursday, Jan. 8, so if you were fretting about your lack of birthday plans for this year, pin this one to the board.
ON THROUGH THURSDAY, DEC. 31, 2015: Have a birthday on March 8? How about Oct. 10? You could save up to $76.50 on a round trip to the island. There are a few asterisks, including this important one: The round trip must begin on your birthday, even if you're spending a night or two on the island (but you'll need to complete the trip within 30 days). Pre-registering, too, is essential, so make sure you have that t crossed and i dotted before making for a Catalina Express port. And a very nice extra superlicious thing? Hotels and restaurants and attractions on Catalina are in the birthday swing of things, so check to see what places have jumped into the "if it is your birthday, you get deals and free things" loop. (Think trail maps, free miniature golf, and such.) For the details on birthday island stuff, boat this way.