A Brainerd Zip Line high flying adventure

A Brainerd Zip Line high flying adventure

Cover: A Brainerd Zip Line high-flying adventure
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Article by Kim Hull


Ready for some high-flying fun in the Brainerd Lakes area? Head over to Brainerd Zip Line at Mount Ski Gull for a few hours of soaring over the treetops while enjoying spectacular views of Gull Lake!

We’d wanted to try ziplining for years, so when Explore Minnesota presented the opportunity to try out the newly built zip line course presented itself, we were all in – and it was a blast!

Greg Hull, Zip Line Brainerd
Greg Hull, Zip Line Brainerd
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Gearing up

Caitlin Rick gearing up at Brainerd Zip Line Tour, Brainerd Lakes, Minnesota
Caitlin Rick gearing up at Brainerd Zip Line Tour, Brainerd Lakes, Minnesota
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

After signing waivers, we headed out to gear up. Gear is provided by Brainerd Zip Line Tour and includes harnesses, gloves, and a helmet.

Gear is provided by Brainerd Zip Line Tour
Gear is provided by Brainerd Zip Line Tour, Brainerd Lakes, Minnesota
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

After getting into our harnesses and helmets, we selected gloves, which are for braking along the line. Ready to go, we boarded a van and headed to the training course.

Boarding the van to go ziplining at Brainerd Zip Line Tour
Boarding the van to go ziplining at Zip Line Brainerd
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The guides

Amanda & Hollie, Brainerd Zip Line Tour, Brainerd Lakes, Minnesota
Amanda & Hollie, Zip Line Brainerd
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Each group has two guides – ours were Hollie and Amanda, who were professional and, it was obvious throughout our adventure, they had been well-trained to have our safety in mind.

Our guide, Amanda, with Greg at Zip Line Brainerd
Our guide, Amanda, with Greg at Zip Line Brainerd
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Hollie and Amanda helped us gear up and taught us ziplining basics at a training course site. Once we were trained, they sent and caught us, as we moved from tower to tower along the zip line course.

Caitlin Rick and Amanda, Brainerd Zip Line Tour
Caitlin Rick and Amanda, Zip Line Tour, Brainerd Lakes, Minnesota
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

They also were a lot of fun and shared facts about the area and the course throughout the experience.

Kim Hull and Amanda at Brainerd Zip Line Tour, Brainerd Lakes, Minnesota
Kim Hull and Amanda at Zip Line Tour, Brainerd Lakes, Minnesota
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Zipline training

Amanda demonstrating on the training course at Brainerd Zip Line Tour
Amanda demonstrating on the training course at Zip Line Tour, Brainerd Lakes, Minnesota
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

For anyone that would have any anxiety before ziplining, the training course sets those fears to rest. Amanda and Hollie first explained the basics, like how to hold on and how to brake, and answered any of our questions. Amanda then demonstrated how to zip line.

Next up, we each gave it a try. Low to the ground, the training zip line gives everyone a chance to try out their new skills before encountering heights. Amanda and Hollie took time to make sure everyone was comfortable before moving on.

Caitlin Rick on the training course at Brainerd Zip Line Tour
Caitlin Rick on the training course at Zip Line Brainerd
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Training completed, we walked a short distance to the zip lines. Arriving at the course, we climbed up a five-story flight of stairs to the first tower. The reward for the climb – aside from getting to begin your zip line adventure – are the views. From the tower, you can see for miles across Agate Lake and Gull Lake.

View of Agate Lake and Gull Lake from Brainerd Zip Line Tour tower
View of Agate Lake and Gull Lake from Brainerd Zip Line Tour tower
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Let’s go ziplining!

The Brainerd Zip Line Tour course consists of 7 lines of varying lengths, a 65-foot suspension bridge, and an optional 50-foot free fall jump. Everyone is clipped in during the experience – even while waiting on the towers. Getting things started, Hollie went first to be on the receiving end tower at the end of the line. From there, she guided us as we approached on when to begin braking and was there to catch us and assist with our landing.

Hollie, Brainerd Zip Line Tour, Brainerd Lakes, Minnesota
Hollie, Zip Line Brainerd
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Now it was our turn. Amanda secured us, communicated with Hollie on the other side via radio, and when we were clear – away we went! As with repelling when rock climbing, the first step off is the most difficult and then, it is just a blast.

Greg Hull takes off of tower one at Zip Line Brainerd
Greg Hull takes off of tower one at Zip Line Brainerd
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

So, what’s it like zipping along above the trees? Check it out…

Navigating the suspension bridge

Caitlin Rick navigating the suspension bridge, Brainerd Zip Line Tour
Caitlin Rick navigating the suspension bridge, Zip Line Brainerd
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

In addition to the seven zip lines, the Brainerd Zip Line Tour includes a trek across a 65-foot long suspension bridge. Even though it sounds easy, the boards get further apart near the uphill finish, making it a bit challenging – although I did manage to pose for a photo opp…

Kim Hull on the suspension bridge, Brainerd Zip Line Tour, Brainerd Lakes, Minnesota
Kim Hull on the suspension bridge, Zip Line Brainerd
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

A 50-foot free fall finale

As our zip line adventure drew to a close, there was just one more thing to do – the optional 50 foot free fall jump!

Caitlin Rick in free fall at Zip Line Brainerd
Caitlin Rick in free fall at Zip Line Brainerd
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

After arriving at the last tower, there are two ways down. Walk down the stairs or opt for a 50-foot free fall finale. Of course, we jumped. Not a bungee jump, it’s a controlled free fall and a great way to end a fabulous zip line adventure!

Kim Hull doing the free fall jump at Brainerd Zip Line Tour
Kim Hull landing at the free fall jump at Zip Line Brainerd
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Know before you go

Dress for the adventure. Unless lightning or high winds are present, zip line tours are conducted regardless of weather conditions, including rain and snow. Given you will be zipping through the air above the tree line, dress appropriately. Additionally, closed toe and heel shoes and shirts are required. Long pants are recommended because the safety harness straps can irritate your skin. Hair should be tied back.

Mosquito repellent. Even though you don’t think about mosquitos when soaring above the trees, in the training area there were mosquitos, so put on some repellant before going to the mountain.

Age and weight restrictions. Brainerd Zip Line Tour participants must be between 70 and 250 pounds and 10 years old or older.

Photography. While we were allowed to bring our cameras during the experience for this article, guests are not allowed to bring cameras with the exception of a GoPro (which we also used) with a helmet mount, which Brainerd Zip Lines provides. If you do not have a GoPro, Brainerd Zip Lines rents units for $20.

Time. Arrive at least 30 minutes before your reserved time and allow 2 to 2/12 hours for your zip line adventure.

Wait until after your adventure for a beer.

Reservations are recommended. Find out more and reserve your spot for a Brainerd Zip Line Tour on their website.


Disclosure & disclaimer: Special thanks to Explore Minnesota, Explore Brainerd Lakes and Brainerd Zip Line Tour for hosting us as their guests. The content & opinions expressed are entirely our own. Reviews are opinion only and Chasing Light Media accepts no responsibility for how the information is used.

Hole 11, The Classic at Madden's, Brainerd, Minnesota

Madden’s Resort in Brainerd Minnesota: Laid-back luxury, world-class golf & fun for everyone

Cover: Hole 11, The Classic at Madden’s, Brainerd, Minnesota
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Article by Kim Hull


Nestled amidst a lush forest and bordered by the sparkling waters of Gull Lake, Madden’s Resort is home to world-class golf, stunning sunsets, an excellent staff and a laid-back lifestyle with something for everyone. A true retreat in every sense of the word, Madden’s has an activity to fill every minute of the day or, for those seeking a more tranquil experience, serenity for a quiet, scenic escape.

Wilson Bay sunset, Gull Lake, Brainerd Lakes, Minnesota
Wilson Bay sunset, Gull Lake, Brainerd Lakes, Minnesota
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

With four golf courses, delicious dining options, more water activities than you could fit into a week, beautiful accommodations, and a fabulous spa, it is understandable why so many have visited and returned to this wonderful resort over the last 87 years.

On our first visit to the highly acclaimed Midwest resort, we spent our time exploring all Madden’s has to offer, while also taking a bit of time to marvel in the peaceful beauty of central Minnesota.

Madden's at Brainerd Lakes, Minnesota
Madden’s at Brainerd Lakes, Minnesota
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The rooms

The Voyageur complex at Madden's Resort, located next to the spa
The Voyageur complex at Madden’s Resort, located next to the spa
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Madden’s Resort has a wide variety of rooms and locations across the sprawling resort. Our room was in the recently remodeled Voyageur complex on the west side of the resort near the spa. If you love magnificent sunsets – there’s no place quite like it.

Wilson Bay sunset at Madden's On Gull Lake, Brainerd, Minnesota
Wilson Bay sunset at Madden’s On Gull Lake
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

In 2015, the Brainerd Lakes area was hit by a massive storm that toppled thousands of trees in the region, with Madden’s taking the brunt of the storm, which destroyed much of the Voyageur building and several others on the property. Fresh off of the renovation, we were among the first to stay in the newly re-opened rooms.

Upon entering the room we were greeted with a welcome note and an assortment of locally made caramels that were spectacular!

Welcome gift at Madden's On Gull Lake, Brainerd, Minnesota
Welcome gift at Madden’s On Gull Lake
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The oversized room was immaculate and decorated in neutrals with slate blue accents. With a comfy chair, desk, flat-screen TV, a luxurious bath and a kitchenette, the room was both relaxing and well-equipped. The cozy bed covered with white, plush linens and pillows was incredibly comfortable. Glass doors led to the large private patio with a couple of chairs and fabulous Wilson Bay views.

Room in the The Voyageur complex at Madden's Resort, Brainerd, Minnesota
Room in the The Voyageur complex at Madden’s
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The resort has 285 guest rooms with varying accommodation types and location options. In addition to Wilson Bay, where we stayed, there are golf villas near Madden Inn & Golf Club, Mission Bay accommodations that are close to the beach and water, and Madden’s offers all-inclusive stays at Madden’s Lodge on the Steamboat Bay side of the resort.

Bay View Cottages on Steamboat Bay at Madden's, Brainerd, Minnesota
Bay View Cottages on Steamboat Bay at Madden’s Resort
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Madden Lodge, Brainerd, Minnesota
Madden Lodge, Brainerd, Minnesota
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The Resort

Steamboat Bay, Madden's Resort on Gull Lake, Brainerd, Minnesota
Steamboat Bay, Madden’s on Gull Lake, Brainerd, Minnesota
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures© Chasing Light Media

One of the first thoughts I had when we drove into Madden’s was what a spectacular job they’ve done in blending their landscaping and development with the natural environment. Built across 1000 acres, of which, over 600 acres remain undeveloped, the natural habitat is accentuated by colorful plants, fountains, and art. The natural and developed elements blend harmoniously to create an enhanced landscape that celebrates the natural beauty of Minnesota.

Idyllic natural setting of Madden's Resort, Brainerd, Minnesota
Idyllic natural setting of Madden’s on Gull Lake
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Part of embracing natural beauty is protecting it and Madden’s green initiatives for the resort are apparent throughout. Outdoor bars use reusable drinkware, the wine list features & identifies several organic or sustainable wines, guests are encouraged to reuse towels and recycle, the resort has water and energy efficiency practices in place throughout and there’s an on-property chef’s garden that supplies fresh vegetables and herbs for the restaurants.

Chef's Garden, Madden's Resort, Brainerd, Minnesota
Chef’s Garden, Madden’s Resort
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Madden’s four golf courses

The Classic Golf Course at Madden's
The Classic Golf Course at Madden’s
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Shortly after checking in, we made our way to the Classic Golf Course, which is consistently recognized by golf publications as one of the best courses in the Midwest, as well as the world. Built in 1997, The Classic at Madden’s meanders over gentle hills and through towering trees, with pristine bent-grass tees, fairways and greens, and stunning views.

Beautiful evening on the Classic Course at Madden's, Brainerd, Minnesota
A beautiful evening on the Classic Course at Madden’s
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Early evening on a course is such a pleasant time of day. As the heat of the day fades and shadows dance across the fairways, a quieter pace permeates. As we made our way around Madden’s Classic course, my thoughts turned back to childhood evenings getting a few holes in with my Dad after he arrived home from work. The unhurried outings where he’d casually correct my stance and we’d take time to practice an approach to a challenging green came flooding back with a smile as we drove along on the cart.

Golfing at Madden's Classic Course, Brainerd, Minnesota
Golfing at Madden’s Classic Course, Brainerd, Minnesota
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

In the distance, just across one of the Classic’s picturesque bridges spanning a pond with lily pads, a foursome shared a laugh as they headed toward their cart en route to the 17th hole.

The Classic Course #17 viewing #16 at Madden's
The Classic Course #17, viewing #16 at Madden’s, Brainerd, Minnesota
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

While the park-like setting of the 6,101-yard Classic course is astonishingly beautiful, challenges await around every turn with water on 15 holes and over 50 bunkers on the par 72 course. And – the Classic Course is actually only one of four courses at Madden’s Resort.

The Pine Beach East course, Minnesota’s oldest 18-hole resort golf course, dates back to 1926 when it was built by James Dalgleish, attracting golfers from the area to the links on the shores of Gull Lake.

Pine Beach East Course at Madden's
Pine Beach East Course at Madden’s
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Located directly behind the Madden Lodge, Pine Beach East offers 5,944 yards of golf on well-manicured, generous fairways and gorgeous greens. A mix of a traditional layout and modern golfing challenges, Pine Beach East is also home to a rare par 6 hole – the 618-yard sixth hole.

Pine Beach East Golf Course, Madden's On Gull Lake, Brainerd, Minnesota
Pine Beach East Golf Course, Madden’s On Gull Lake
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

On the southwest section of the resort, yet another first class golf experience is for the taking at the 18 hole Pine Beach West. Narrow fairways and fast greens put the challenge into this wooded 5,070 yard par 67 course.

For the family outing or a quick warm up, the Social 9 course offers eight par threes and one par four in a relaxing atmosphere.

Hole 17, Classic Golf Course at Madden's, Brainerd, Minnesota
Hole 17, Classic Golf Course at Madden’s
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The Spa at Madden’s

The Spa at Madden's, Brainerd, Minnesota
The Spa at Madden’s, Brainerd, Minnesota
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

A world away from the hustle and bustle of the daily life, the Spa at Madden’s is the perfect place for rejuvenation and pampering. Overlooking peaceful Wilson Bay, the Spa offers a full menu of services including massages, pedicures, manicures, facials, waxing and wraps.

Grab a cup of tea, take a stroll by the lake behind the Spa and admire the J. Kreitz artwork, then indulge in a day of relaxation and watch the stress melt away.

J. Kreitz art near The Spa at Madden's, Brainerd, Minnesota
J. Kreitz art near The Spa at Madden’s, Brainerd, Minnesota
Photo: Kim Hull © Chasing Light Media

Dining at Madden’s

Madden's Classic Grill, Brainerd, Minnesota
Madden’s Classic Grill, Brainerd, Minnesota
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

While at Madden’s we had the opportunity to visit several of the restaurants. Casual & inviting, each restaurant offered fresh, modern dishes, and exceptional service.

The first evening we dined at the Classic Grill, which delivered all the way around – great food, excellent service and marvelous views. We started off the evening with a couple of martinis and then progressed to salads. The Madden’s house salad is amazing with mixed greens, craisins, walnuts, feta cheese, and honey mustard.  Next up, I had the Walleye and Greg had the scallops and shrimp. As we often do, we each ate half, then swapped plates. Both entrées were delicious and the sear on the scallops was perfect, with a gorgeous caramelized crust on the outside and tender and sweet on the inside. The service was outstanding and the view was spectacular.

Dinner at The Classic Grill, Madden's Resort, Brainerd, Minnesota
Dinner at The Classic Grill at Madden’s
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

After sunset, we took a walk around the resort, stopping for a glass of wine at Parfecto Pizza, a fun, casual restaurant featuring pizzas, flatbreads, calzones, and salads with items available for takeout or room delivery.

Finishing our wine, we strolled back to our room to the sounds of frogs, surrounded by the beauty of the Minnesota night.

Evening at Madden's On Gull Lake, Brainerd, Minnesota
Evening at Madden’s On Gull Lake
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The next morning, we took an early walk around the resort with a stop by Madden Bros. Market for a chai latte and a heavenly donut.

Located in a village of shops across from Madden Inn, Madden Bros. Market is the resort’s version of a general store, with a coffee bar, gift shop, wine shop and practically anything else one may need or want on their vacation from s’more supplies to souvenirs.

Madden Bros. Market, Madden's on Gull Lake, Brainerd, Minnesota
Madden Bros. Market, Madden’s on Gull Lake
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Madden Bros. Market, Madden's Resort
Madden Bros. Market
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Madden’s also has a variety of other restaurants, including The Restaurant at Madden Inn & Golf Club, the Dining Room at Madden Lodge, the 19th Hole & Pool Deck, The O’Madden Pub, and the Lobby Café.

Madden Inn and Golf Club, Brainerd, Minnesota
Madden Inn and Golf Club
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Water activities

Fun on Gull Lake, Brainerd, Minnesota
Fun on Gull Lake, Brainerd, Minnesota
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

There is no better way to experience the beauty of Gull Lake than from the water. Simply name your sport and Madden’s is there to make it happen. From kayaks, canoes, rowing skulls and paddle boats to water bikes, a banana boat, or stand up paddle boards, it’s on the agenda. If fun on the water includes fishing or a boat ride, fishing boats, a tritoon, pontoons and speedboats are also available at the resort.

Swimming pool at Madden Inn and Golf Club
Swimming pool at Madden Inn and Golf Club
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Prefer a bit of poolside leisure or perhaps some sand between your toes? Madden’s Resort has three indoor pools, one outdoor pool, an outdoor hot, and three beaches.

Beach at Madden's Resort
Beach at Madden’s Resort
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Meetings, conferences, and weddings

Town Hall Conference Center at Madden's, Brainerd, Minnesota
Town Hall Conference Center at Madden’s, Brainerd, Minnesota
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

While exploring, we happened upon several beautiful buildings for hosting events and meetings. With its copper covered tower, Madden’s Town Hall Conference Center is large enough to host 700 for meetings, conferences, and trade shows.

Next to the spa, the newly rebuilt Wilson Bay private venue space is a spectacular location for a wedding set against a backdrop of Gull Lake and room to host a reception and dance with a private bar, casual seating areas and fine dining.

Wilson Bay venue seating area, Madden's Resort
Wilson Bay venue seating area, Madden’s Resort
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

5 things we loved about Madden’s

  1. The staff at Madden’s was helpful and friendly and always quick to answer a question or lend a hand.
  2. The golf courses are lush, not overcrowded and exceptionally well-maintained.
  3. The resort is serene, beautiful and epitomizes approachable, lake-side luxury.
  4. The food is outstanding.
  5. There’s so much to do, with activities of every type, or one can simply take a stroll or quietly relax with a glass of wine and watch the sun set.

Disclosure & disclaimer: Special thanks to Explore Minnesota, Explore Brainerd Lakes and Madden’s on Gull Lake for hosting us as their guests. The content & opinions expressed are entirely our own. Reviews are opinion only and Chasing Light Media accepts no responsibility for how the information is used.

Kim Hull & Caitlin Rick, Madden's on Gull Lake, Brainerd, Minnesota
Kim Hull & Caitlin Rick, Madden’s on Gull Lake, Brainerd, Minnesota
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Warm welcome aboard Destiny Cruises, Gull Lake, Brainerd Minnesota

Enjoying beautiful Gull Lake aboard Destiny Cruises in Brainerd Minnesota

Cover: Captivating views aboard Destiny Cruises, Gull Lake, Minnesota
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Article by Kim Hull


A couple of hours gliding on clear waters, while enjoying delicious food and a beverage under clear blue skies, makes for one of our favorite ways to spend an afternoon.

When the lake is Gull Lake, one of the largest in the Brainerd, Minnesota area, with 38 miles of picturesque coastline and sparkling waters, and the boat it is the luxury Destiny Cruises yacht, the North Star, the experience is elevated to a superb afternoon of relaxation and leisure.

The beautiful Gull Lake coastline, Brainerd, Minnesota
The beautiful Gull Lake coastline, Brainerd, Minnesota
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Destiny Cruises on Gull Lake

The North Star, Destiny Cruises, Gull Lake, Brainerd, Minnesota
The North Star, Destiny Cruises, Gull Lake, Brainerd, Minnesota
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Our two-hour lunch excursion aboard the beautiful motor yacht began at the docks at Ernie’s on Gull, about six miles north of Brainerd. Welcomed aboard with a warm, Minnesota welcome, guests have the option of relaxing downstairs in the air-conditioned, glass-enclosed cabin, or opting for the open-air upstairs deck. We headed straight upstairs to bask in the Minnesota sunshine.

Warm welcome aboard Destiny Cruises, Gull Lake, Brainerd Minnesota
Warm welcome aboard Destiny Cruises, Gull Lake, Brainerd Minnesota
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The yacht is large – 65 feet long and 22 feet wide – providing guests plenty of room to spread out, get comfortable and enjoy the captivating views.

Custom built by SkipperLiner in LaCrosse, WI for Destiny Cruises, the North Star took a year to build and was delivered in 2014. Now in her third season on Gull Lake, the North Star was the first public cruise vessel to operate on the lake for many years. The elegant boat’s public cruises, which include lunch, brunch, happy hour, dinner and sunset cruises, have been warmly welcomed by the community and visitors to the area. The yacht is also a popular venue for private chartered events and weddings.

Cash bar on the North Star, Gull Lake, Minnesota
Cash bar on the North Star, Gull Lake, Minnesota
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

With two cash bars, one upstairs and one down, guests can partake of a beverage, as we did, selecting a refreshing cocktail to enjoy as we pulled away from the dock and headed out on the sparkling waters of Gull Lake.

Enjoying beverages before lunch, Kim Hull, Caitlin Rick, Destiny Cruises, Gull Lake, Minnesota
Enjoying beverages before lunch, Kim Hull, Caitlin Rick, Destiny Cruises, Gull Lake, Minnesota
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

One of the largest lakes in the Brainerd area, Gull Lake is three miles wide and fifteen miles long. Along the way, our captain provided some of the area’s history and facts about the lake itself. Gull Lake is 70 – 85 feet deep in most places and contains most types of fish common to Minnesota’s waters.

Our cruise aboard Destiny Cruise was entertaining & informational
Our cruise aboard Destiny Cruise was entertaining & informational
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

As the relaxation and fun continued, we took turns “diving the boat” and I even donned the captain’s cap while at the helm.

Kim Hull driving the boat, Destiny Cruises, Gull Lake, Minnesota
Kim Hull driving the North Star
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Lunch was a delicious selection of BBQ chicken and salmon, baked beans, cole slaw, potato salad and turtle pudding for dessert.

Dining aboard the North Star, Destiny Cruises, Brainerd, Minnesota
Dining aboard the North Star, Brainerd, Minnesota
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

We made our way around the lake, passing Hole in the Day Bay, where an ice fishing championship is held each winter with 20,000 pre-drilled holes created in advance for the competition. On this warm, sunny day as the lake sparkled in a thousand shades of blue, it was hard to imagine it being cold enough for ice fishing a few months earlier. The magic of Minnesota.

View of Madden's Resort from Gull Lake, Brainerd, Minnesota
View of Madden’s Resort from Gull Lake, Brainerd, Minnesota
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

There are 19 resorts on Gull Lake, including Madden’s, where we stayed while visiting the Brainerd area, and which we highly recommend. A beautiful, sprawling resort, Madden’s has five restaurants, four pools, two lounges, three golf courses, spa, full-service marina and so much more. If you are staying at Madden’s and would like to schedule a private Destiny Cruise for your group, Destiny Cruise can even pick you up at the resort.

Madden's Resort on Gull Lake, Brainerd, Minnesota
Madden’s Resort on Gull Lake, Brainerd, Minnesota
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

As our wonderful time aboard the North Star drew to a close, we savored the last moments of peaceful relaxation and stunning views on Gull Lake.  The entire two-hour cruise was perfect thanks to the beautiful surroundings, the large, elegant yacht, and the excellent crew.

Kim and Greg Hull, Destiny Cruises
Kim and Greg Hull, Destiny Cruises, Gull Lake, Brainerd, Minnesota
Photo: Caitlin Rick

Know before you go

Prepare for changing weather. Except when severe weather conditions are present, cruises depart rain or shine. Wear sunscreen and a hat, and bring a light jacket, especially in the evening or on a cloudy day.

Cruises. Destiny Cruises offers public brunch, lunch, happy hour, dinner and sunset cruises. Private charters for events such as weddings, rehearsal dinners, family gatherings or corporate getaways are also available. Visit the Destiny Cruises website for more information and to book your cruise or private event.

Bring some cash. The crew provides excellent service and gratuity for the onboard staff is not included in the ticket price.


Disclosure & disclaimer: Special thanks to Explore Minnesota, Explore Brainerd Lakes and Destiny Cruises for hosting us as their guests. The content & opinions expressed are entirely our own. Reviews are opinion only and Chasing Light Media accepts no responsibility for how the information is used.

Paul Bunyan, Paul Bunyan Land, Brainerd, Minnesota

Paul Bunyan Land, home to a 26 foot tall talking lumberjack

Cover: Paul Bunyan, Paul Bunyan Land, Brainerd, Minnesota
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Article by Kim Hull


Paul Bunyan knows your name!

As you enter Paul Bunyan Land, the famous lumberjack sits directly in front of you, 26 feet tall with eyes that blink and a head that swivels, and he greets you by name. After that, he answers any questions you may have.

We had a few – check out Paul telling us how old he is and what his favorite food is…


Paul went on to tell us about how his dog, Sport, the Reversible Dog, who ended up with his legs upside down. Evidently, Sport accidentally got cut in half and when the nearby doctor sewed him back together he made the mistake. Now sport runs on his front legs, then flops over and runs on his hind legs when he gets tired.

Sport, the Reversible Dog, Paul Bunyan Land, Brainerd, Minnesota
Sport, the Reversible Dog, Paul Bunyan Land, Brainerd, Minnesota
Photo: Kim Hull © Chasing Light Media

As much as we loved it, children are mesmerized. Watching from a short distance, nostalgia is in the air as parents and grandparents relive their own childhood memories with the plaid-shirted animated giant.

Babe the Blue Ox, Paul Bunyan Land, Brainerd, Minnesota
Babe the Blue Ox, Paul Bunyan Land, Brainerd, Minnesota
Photo: Greg K. Hull © Chasing Light Media

A local attraction and tradition in the Brainerd Lakes Area since the 1950s, Paul and his friends’ futures were looking bleak when the original amusement park, Paul Bunyan Amusement Center, closed in 2002 to make way for a Kohl’s department store. Hoping to obtain a few items from the park as it was sold off, the owners of Pioneer Village, located about 6 miles away, ended up purchasing the entire amusement park. Combining the two attractions, they relocated the rides, buildings, Paul, Sport, and Paul’s ox, Babe the Blue Ox, to their new home on 23 acres, which is now Paul Bunyan Land and This Old Farm Pioneer Village.

Kim Hull at Paul's mailbox, Paul Bunyan Land, Brainerd, Minnesota
Kim Hull at Paul’s mailbox, Paul Bunyan Land, Brainerd, Minnesota
Photo: Greg K. Hull © Chasing Light Media

The park now has something for everyone, offering a day of fun and exploration for the entire family. Paul Bunyan Land has 40 rides and attractions, a petting barn, and the Pioneer Village is home to 30 buildings filled with the largest one man collection of antiques from the late 1800’s to early 1900’s in Minnesota.

The amusement park

Flight Commander amusement ride, Paul Bunyan Land, Brainerd, Minnesota
Flight Commander amusement ride, Paul Bunyan Land, Brainerd, Minnesota
Photo: Greg K. Hull © Chasing Light Media

With 40 amusement rides and attractions, the kiddos will be entertained all day – and they can be because all rides are included in the admission price.

There are rides like the Flight Commander and Mini Roller Coaster for the little ones.

Mini roller coaster amusement ride, Paul Bunyan Land, Brainerd, Minnesota
Mini roller coaster amusement ride, Paul Bunyan Land, Brainerd, Minnesota
Photo: Greg K. Hull © Chasing Light Media

For the older family members, the Tilt-A-Whirl, Dodge-em-Cars and Flying Cages provide whirls and thrills. And, for everyone in the family, climb on the ferris wheel or explore the Magnetic Mine.

Magnetic Mine Shack, Paul Bunyan Land, Brainerd, Minnesota
Magnetic Mine Shack, Paul Bunyan Land, Brainerd, Minnesota
Photo: Kim Hull © Chasing Light Media
Carousel at Paul Bunyan Land, Brainerd, Minnesota
Carousel at Paul Bunyan Land, Brainerd, Minnesota
Photo: Kim Hull © Chasing Light Media

In addition to the amusement park, Paul Bunyan Land has a candy store and jail, which are conveniently, oh I mean curiously, next door to each other.

Kim Hull, Paul Bunyan Land, Brainerd, Minnesota
Kim Hull, Paul Bunyan Land, Brainerd, Minnesota
Photo: Greg K. Hull © Chasing Light Media

Paul’s petting barn

Paul's Petting Barn, Paul Bunyan Land, Brainerd, Minnesota
Paul’s Petting Barn, Paul Bunyan Land, Brainerd, Minnesota
Photo: Kim Hull © Chasing Light Media

Paul’s petting barn is between the amusement park and the Pioneer Village and a chance to stop by and see the horses, chickens and pigs up close.

Hog at Paul's Petting Barn, Paul Bunyan Land, Brainerd, Minnesota
Hog at Paul’s Petting Barn, Paul Bunyan Land, Brainerd, Minnesota
Photo: Kim Hull © Chasing Light Media

This Old Farm Pioneer Village

Longhorn Saloon, Pioneer Village, Brainerd, Minnesota
Longhorn Saloon, Pioneer Village, Brainerd, Minnesota
Photo: Greg K. Hull © Chasing Light Media

Thirty buildings await exploration in The Pioneer Village, including a train depot, blacksmith, saw mill, fire station, church, sweet shoppe, log house, fire station and many more.

Each of the buildings are filled with antiques primarily from the collection of Dick and Marian Rademacher, who started the Village, and from other donors who wanted to see their collections enjoyed by the many visitors to the park.

Rad's Groceries building exterior, Pioneer Village, Brainerd, Minnesota
Rad’s Groceries building exterior, Pioneer Village, Brainerd, Minnesota
Photo: Kim Hull © Chasing Light Media

Great care in preserving history is visible throughout Pioneer Village. The Rad’s Groceries building was the actual structure of the store operated about six miles away by Rademacher’s parents. The building was moved from its original location to the Village and then filled with period pieces from the Rademacher antique collection.

Rad's Groceries building interior, Pioneer Village, Brainerd, Minnesota
Rad’s Groceries building interior, Pioneer Village, Brainerd, Minnesota
Photo: Kim Hull © Chasing Light Media

The train depot building was actually used in the making of the 1994 movie Iron Will starring Mackenzie Astin and Kevin Spacey. Following the movie, the structure was moved to Brainerd and re-constructed in the Pioneer Village.

The Depot from the movie Iron Will, Pioneer Village, Brainerd, Minnesota
The Depot from the movie Iron Will, Pioneer Village, Brainerd, Minnesota
Photo: Kim Hull © Chasing Light Media

Current owners, Lois Moon and Alan Rademacher, work to preserve the massive collection their father built over the years and to share it with the many park visitors. The collection is vast, with thousands and thousands of items ranging from glassware to antique cars to farm equipment.

Miniature train, Pioneer Village, Paul Bunyan Land, Brainerd, Minnesota
Miniature train, Pioneer Village, Paul Bunyan Land, Brainerd, Minnesota
Photo: Kim Hull © Chasing Light Media
Pequot Lakes Fire Dept truck, Pioneer Village, Brainerd, Minnesota
Pequot Lakes Fire Dept truck, Pioneer Village, Brainerd, Minnesota
Photo: Kim Hull © Chasing Light Media

Donations of items, such as a huge camera collection and the cannon shown below, have made their way to Pioneer Village, with the understanding that, once donated, the items will stay in the Village permanently.

Cannon donated by Andy Swift, Pioneer Village, Brainerd, Minnesota
Cannon donated by Andy Swift, Pioneer Village, Brainerd, Minnesota
Photo: Greg K. Hull © Chasing Light Media
Antique Car Collection, Pioneer Village, Brainerd, Minnesota
Antique Car Collection, Pioneer Village, Brainerd, Minnesota
Photo: Greg K. Hull © Chasing Light Media

Where to stay

There are a variety of lodging choices in and around Brainerd, but we recommend Madden’s on Gull Lake. A beautiful, luxury resort, Madden’s has stunning water views, two golf courses, a spa, fabulous dining, a beach and so much more.

Know before you go

Admissions. Here’s one parents should love. Admission includes unlimited rides for the day, and entry to the petting barn and Pioneer Village. Season passes are also available and children under 2 are free.

Park hours. The park is open daily 10 am to 6 pm from Memorial Day Weekend to Labor Day. Additionally, the park operates Brainerd Lakes’ largest haunted attraction in October and free admission to the  Enchanted Holiday Pioneer Village during the holiday season in December. Visit the Paul Bunyan Land website for hours and dates.

Attire & height requirements and other policies can be found on the Paul Bunyan Land website.


Disclosure & Disclaimer: Special thanks to Explore Minnesota, Explore Brainerd Lakes and Paul Bunyan Land for hosting us as their guests. The content & opinions expressed are entirely our own. Reviews are opinion only and Chasing Light Media accepts no responsibility for how the information is used. Some posts on this website may contain links to our partners’ websites and Chasing Light Media may be compensated by those partners.