Heavenly Lake Tahoe, South Lake Tahoe, California

Ski in two states in one day at Heavenly Lake Tahoe Ski Resort

Cover: Heavenly Lake Tahoe, South Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Article by Kim Hull


It’s not every day you hit the slopes for a day and ski from Nevada to California.

Heavenly Lake Tahoe, South Lake Tahoe, California
Heavenly Lake Tahoe, South Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

With the state line between Nevada and California running down the middle of Heavenly Ski Resort at South Lake Tahoe, you’ll do just that – ski in two states on one day. It may take you awhile though, considering the fact that Heavenly is massive.

Heavenly Lake Tahoe, South Lake Tahoe, California
Heavenly Lake Tahoe, South Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Heavenly is without a doubt one of the most appropriately named ski resorts in the world. With many runs providing sweeping views of the sapphire blue waters of Lake Tahoe, the experience is simply… Heavenly. While most all of the Tahoe resorts have beautiful lake views, Heavenly’s are the most expansive, with a photo opportunity around every bend. So, grab your skis or board and your camera phone, and plan on an incredible day on the snow.

Heavenly Lake Tahoe: Lay of the land

A giant of a resort, Heavenly’s 4,800 skiable acres make it the largest ski resort at Lake Tahoe and the fourth largest in the United States. Understanding how to access all that terrain is important for making the most of your time at the resort.

Gondola/Heavenly Village area: The gondola departs from the Heavenly Village area at Stateline, where numerous hotels, casinos, restaurants, equipment rental shops, and retail stores are located. The Tamarack Lodge is at the top of the gondola and all levels of skiing can be accessed from this point. However, parking is limited near the gondola area so one of the other lodges may provide a better starting point for those arriving by car.

Gondola at Heavenly Village, Heavenly Lake Tahoe, South Lake Tahoe, California
Gondola at Heavenly Village, Heavenly Lake Tahoe, South Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The California Lodge, Heavenly’s original mountain base, is located and about two miles from the Heavenly Village gondola area.

California Lodge, Heavenly Lake Tahoe, South Lake Tahoe, California
California Lodge, Heavenly Lake Tahoe, South Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Located at the bottom of the Gunbarrel run (a very long, double black, mogul run – don’t freak out, there are other ways down), the California Lodge has free & premium parking, an equipment rental shop, The California Bar, a ski school and the Aerial Tram.

Gunbarrel, Heavenly Lake Tahoe, South Lake Tahoe, California
Gunbarrel, Heavenly Lake Tahoe, South Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Aerial Tram, Heavenly Lake Tahoe, South Lake Tahoe, California
Aerial Tram, Heavenly Lake Tahoe, South Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The World Cup ski area, where race events are frequently held, is also near the California Lodge.

Racing events, Heavenly Lake Tahoe, South Lake Tahoe, California
Racing events, Heavenly Lake Tahoe, South Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Oh, and, that way to get back down without tackling the Gunbarrel bumps – near the base of the Powderbowl Express and Patsy’s take the intermediate Round-a-Bout down, or just simply download on the Tram or Gunbarrel Express.

Nevada side lodges: Boulder Lodge and Stagecoach Lodge are located on the Nevada side of the mountain about 4-6 miles from the Heavenly Village gondola area. Both have free parking and offer equipment rental. Boulder has an adult and children ski school and provides access to the entire mountain for all levels of skiers and riders. Stage Coach also provides access to all of Heavenly but is only appropriate for intermediate and advanced skiers.

Heavenly Lake Tahoe: Skiing and snowboarding

Heavenly Lake Tahoe, South Lake Tahoe, California
Heavenly Lake Tahoe, South Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

How big is Heavenly? 97 trails, two terrain parks, 28 lifts (14 in California & 14 in Nevada), a gondola, a tram, and great skiing and boarding for all skill levels.

The base elevation on the California side is 6,540 feet/1,995 meters and 7,200 feet/2,195 meters on the Nevada side.

Heavenly Lake Tahoe, South Lake Tahoe, California
Heavenly Lake Tahoe, South Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

If you think the sights are great on the lower trails, head to the summit where you’ll feel like you just stepped into a Heavenly ad with its panoramic views. Reached via the Sky Express lift (not suitable for beginners as trails are blue and black), the summit sits at 10,067 feet/3,069 meters, the highest at Lake Tahoe.

Madeline, Heavenly Lake Tahoe, South Lake Tahoe, California
Madeline, Heavenly Lake Tahoe, South Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Madeline, Heavenly Lake Tahoe, South Lake Tahoe, California
Madeline, Heavenly Lake Tahoe, South Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

While at the summit, be sure to stop by the Ski Patrol, pick up a Heavenly Avalanche Rescue Dogs t-shirt, and say hi to the friendliest group of Ski Patrollers you’ll meet on a mountain and their fabulous four legged companions – who by the way, star in their own Heavenly video…

Now, that we have the sightseeing finished, it’s time to get down to business with 3,500 feet/1,067 meters of vertical to explore.

Well-known for their wide-open, blue cruisers, 45% of Heavenly’s trails are intermediate.

Kim Hull at Heavenly Lake Tahoe, South Lake Tahoe, California
Kim Hull at Heavenly Lake Tahoe, South Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

From the top, you have two choices – ski toward Nevada along the spectacular Skyline Trail, linking to the Big Dipper which lands you in an assortment of tree-lined intermediates serviced by Dipper Express and Comet Express.

Or, continue to play in California, heading out on Ridge Run, then taking Liz’s or High Five, both which are pure fun.

Heavenly Lake Tahoe, South Lake Tahoe, California
Heavenly Lake Tahoe, South Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Experts and advanced skiers have 35% of the terrain to navigate with steeps, chutes, moguls, and some of the best tree skiing in North America. The expert areas of Mott Canyon and Killebrew Canyon on the Nevada side, really are expert, so don’t attempt these double blacks unless you have the skills to pull it off. Last, but not least, the above mentioned Gunbarrel is a huge mogul hill leading down to the California Lodge.

Heavenly Lake Tahoe, South Lake Tahoe, California
Heavenly Lake Tahoe, South Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

For the beginners, 20% of Heavenly’s runs are gentle green groomers. Near Powderbowl Express, Mombo and Maggies are enjoyable runs and Easy Street can be accessed close to the Tamarack Lodge at the top of the gonodola. For those just starting out, Boulder at the Boulder Lodge is a good option.

Heavenly Ski and Snowboard School, Heavenly Lake Tahoe, South Lake Tahoe, California
Heavenly Ski and Snowboard School, Heavenly Lake Tahoe, South Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

But, an even better choice is to spend some time with the Heavenly Ski and Snowboard School. With schools located across the mountain for children and adults, including a First Timer option at the California Lodge, a few lessons will greatly improve both your skill and enjoyment of snow sports.

Heavenly Ski and Snowboard School, Heavenly Lake Tahoe, South Lake Tahoe, California
Heavenly Ski and Snowboard School, Heavenly Lake Tahoe, South Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Heavenly Lake Tahoe: On mountain dining and drinking

From microbrews & burgers to pizza & paninis, to snacks & warm beverages, the multiple dining options spread across the mountain offer something for all tastes.

The Sky Deck, Heavenly Lake Tahoe, South Lake Tahoe, California
The Sky Deck, Heavenly Lake Tahoe, South Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Our favorites: The Sky Deck at the foot of the Sky Express lift, with grilled fare (try the black bean burger), a bar and plenty of space to catch a few rays and relax during your lunch break.

Steins, near the Patsy’s and Powderbowl Express lifts – also a great place to grab a beer and a soup and soak up the sun.

Steins, Heavenly Lake Tahoe, South Lake Tahoe, California
Steins, Heavenly Lake Tahoe, South Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Heavenly Lake Tahoe:  Additional mountain activities

For skiers and non-skiers alike, a wide variety of mountain activities are just a 2.4 mile, breathtaking gondola ride up to the Tamarack Lodge.

Observation deckTake the Observation Deck stop on the gondola ride and take in the panoramic views of Lake Tahoe and grab a drink or bite to eat at Café Blue.

Tubing and sledding at Adventure Peak. With five lanes of tubing and sledding fun on a 500-foot long course with a 65-foot vertical drop, Adventure Peak offers great family fun.

Unbuckle après ski party. A perfect spot for skiers and non-skiers to meet and share some on mountain fun. Located at the Tamarack Lodge at the top of the gondola with drink specials, live DJs, and dancing.

Ice skating. Near the base of the gondola in the village, the Heavenly Village Ice Rink is an open-air ice skating rink which is open daily throughout the ski season.

Ice rink at Heavenly Lake Tahoe, South Lake Tahoe, California
Ice rink at Heavenly Lake Tahoe, South Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Heavenly Lake Tahoe:  Where to stay

Heavenly Village, Heavenly Lake Tahoe, South Lake Tahoe, California
Heavenly Village, Heavenly Lake Tahoe, South Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

From luxury hotels to casino hotels to rustic cabins, South Lake Tahoe has a wide variety of lodging options. Hotels located in Heavenly Village, nearest to the gondola, include Grand Residences by Marriott, Marriott’s Timber Lodge, and Lake Tahoe Resort Hotel.

Heavenly Village, Heavenly Lake Tahoe, South Lake Tahoe, California
Heavenly Lake Tahoe, South Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Heavenly Lake Tahoe: Getting there and parking

Heavenly Lake Tahoe’s address is 4080 Lake Tahoe Blvd, South Lake Tahoe, CA 96150.

Heavenly Ski Resort is located 58 miles or about 1 hour, 8 minutes from the Reno Tahoe airport or about 200 miles from SFO airport in San Francisco. From Reno, take I-580 south to Carson City, then take US-50 W in South Lake Tahoe.

Heavenly offers a complimentary ski shuttle service throughout South Lake Tahoe and Stateline, making stops at most major facilities, from 8:00am-5:00pm.

Heavenly Lake Tahoe, South Lake Tahoe, California
Heavenly Lake Tahoe, South Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Heavenly Lake Tahoe:  Know before you go

Bring the sunscreen. While you may want to go home with a goggle tan, you don’t want a sunburn. With over 300 days of sunshine and the highest elevation of all the Tahoe resorts, sunscreen should be applied often.

Drink lots of water. According to experts, you lose water through respiration at high altitude twice as quickly as you do at sea level. Whether you’re skiing on the hill all day, shopping in Heavenly Village or out for an evening in the casinos, you need to drink extra water to combat the effects of higher altitude.

Dress in layers. Conditions change quickly on the mountain and what starts out as a warm, bluebird day on the mountain, can quickly change to cold and snowy conditions. We ski with a small backpack for different gloves, hand warmers, and other items.

Consider hiring transportation to the mountain. Weather and road conditions change quickly in the Sierra and chains are frequently required. Check out the road conditions at the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) before heading to Heavenly or better, hire transportation, so you can relax and enjoy the trip.

Learn more about Heavenly Lake Tahoe on their website.

Kim Hull at Heavenly Lake Tahoe, South Lake Tahoe, California
Kim Hull at Heavenly Lake Tahoe, South Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Disclaimer: The content & opinions expressed are entirely our own. We received no compensation for this article. Reviews are opinion only and Chasing Light Media accepts no responsibility for how the information is used.

Santa Cruz, California

10 Things to do in Santa Cruz County, California

Cover: Santa Cruz, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Article by Kim Hull


Well-known as one of the top surfing spots in the world, Santa Cruz is also a vibrant community along the California central coast with great hotels and resorts, restaurants featuring dishes crafted from fresh local ingredients, fabulous hiking trails amidst the area’s natural beauty, amazing wildlife viewing, and beautiful beaches.

Santa Cruz Harbor, Santa Cruz, California
Santa Cruz Harbor, Santa Cruz, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Situated along scenic Highway 1 just 70 miles/112 km south of San Francisco, Santa Cruz is the perfect spot for a quick getaway or a longer retreat. The warm sun, low humidity, and plentiful activities attract visitors from both the region and the world to the scenic destination.

Santa Cruz: Where to stay

Chaminade Resort & Spa, Santa Cruz, California
Chaminade Resort & Spa, Santa Cruz, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

With a wide selection of lodging options from quaint coastal lodges to luxury resorts, Santa Cruz has something for every vacation style and budget.

Our choice when visiting the area is Chaminade Resort & Spa. Recently renovated, Chaminade is the perfect combination of quiet retreat, with top amenities, numerous on-site activities, a full-service spa, great food, a super staff, and gorgeous views of the Santa Cruz Mountains and the Monterey Bay. Learn more about Chaminade Resort & Spa »

Chaminade Resort & Spa, Santa Cruz, California
Chaminade Resort & Spa, Santa Cruz, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Santa Cruz: Things to do

1. Stroll the Santa Cruz Wharf

Santa Cruz Wharf, Santa Cruz, California
Santa Cruz Wharf, Santa Cruz, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Located between Santa Cruz Main Beach in front of the Boardwalk and the popular surfing spot, Cowell Beach, Santa Cruz Wharf is the longest wharf on the west coast of the United States at a length of 2,745 feet /836.68 meters.

Built in 1914, the Wharf today is a hub of activity with shops, restaurants, boat tours, kayak rentals, fishing, and a great spot for watching sea lions.

Santa Cruz Wharf, Santa Cruz, California
Santa Cruz Wharf, Santa Cruz, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

2. Play at the Santa Cruz Boardwalk

Santa Cruz Boardwalk, Santa Cruz, California
Santa Cruz Boardwalk, Santa Cruz, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The famous seaside amusement park, the Santa Cruz Boardwalk, is just down the beach from the Wharf and is home to the Looff Carousel built in 1911 and the Giant Dipper wooden roller coaster, which dates back to 1924. Both are National Historic Landmarks, as is the entire Santa Cruz Boardwalk, which has been operating since 1907.

Admission to the amusement park is free, with small fees charged for rides. In addition to the rides, the Boardwalk has the largest selection of games in Northern California and a wide variety of food choices ranging from corn dogs to deep-fried artichokes.

Santa Cruz Boardwalk, Santa Cruz, California
Santa Cruz Boardwalk, Santa Cruz, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

3. Shop or take in a movie in downtown Santa Cruz

Downtown Santa Cruz, California
Downtown Santa Cruz, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

An eclectic shopping area centered around Pacific Avenue, downtown Santa Cruz has over 100 boutiques, restaurants, movie theaters, and art galleries, attracting a diverse mix of patrons in an outdoor mall atmosphere. The pedestrian-friendly small town is a great place to grab a coffee or ice cream and people watch, visit the weekly farmer’s market, or browse the monthly Santa Cruz Antique Faire.

4. Visit the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary Exploration Center

Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary Exploration Center, Santa Cruz, California
Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary Exploration Center, Santa Cruz, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Established in 1992, the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary stretches along the coastline from San Francisco to Cambria and is one of the United States’ largest marine sanctuaries, with a vast array of wildlife including seals, sea lions, sea otters, and whales.

Located near the Santa Cruz Wharf, the Sanctuary Exploration Center features a variety of displays and interactive exhibits for visitors to explore to gain a better understanding of the marine sanctuary and how they can help protect this underwater treasure.

5. Explore the Santa Cruz Harbor area

Santa Cruz Harbor, Santa Cruz, California
Santa Cruz Harbor, Santa Cruz, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The Santa Cruz Harbor area is a great spot to take a walk along the beach, have lunch, visit the Walton Lighthouse and watch the boating activity in the harbor.

Santa Cruz Harbor, Santa Cruz, California
Santa Cruz Harbor, Santa Cruz, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

With over 800 permanent slips, the Santa Cruz Harbor also serves as a launching point for kayaks and paddleboards. Bring a camera and stroll along the harbor area as a kaleidoscope of colorful boats and pleasure craft navigate the harbor.

Adjacent to the harbor on the east side of the water, is Santa Cruz Harbor Beach, a popular spot with volleyball courts, kayak rentals, restaurants, and shops.

Santa Cruz Harbor Beach, Santa Cruz, California
Santa Cruz Harbor Beach, Santa Cruz, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

If visiting on a Saturday morning, grab a coffee at the Java Junction and enjoy the music of the Ukulele Club of Santa Cruz, a talented group of locals that have a great time playing tunes on the beach.

Ukulele Club of Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz, California
Ukulele Club of Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Time your visit near mid-day, then head to The Crow’s Nest for lunch. Located on Harbor Beach and frequented by locals and visitors alike, The Crow’s Nest has been serving great food with spectacular views since 1969.

The Crow's Nest, Santa Cruz Harbor, Santa Cruz, California
The Crow’s Nest, Santa Cruz Harbor, Santa Cruz, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Across the harbor are Walton Lighthouse and Seabright Beach.

Seabright Beach, Santa Cruz, California
Seabright Beach, Santa Cruz, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

A paved walking path leads out to the Walton Lighthouse, also known as Santa Cruz Breakwater Lighthouse, built in 2002 on a jetty at the harbor entrance has been the site of a light station of some form since 1964.

Santa Cruz Harbor, Santa Cruz, California
Santa Cruz Harbor, Santa Cruz, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Walton Lighthouse, Santa Cruz, California
Walton Lighthouse, Santa Cruz, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Huge waves crash along the jetty, which is lined with tetrapods, structures that look like giant concrete jacks. Tetrapods, which in Greek means four-legged, dissipate the force of the waves, allowing water to flow around the structures, rather than against it.

Walton Lighthouse, Santa Cruz, California
Walton Lighthouse, Santa Cruz, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The view from the lighthouse back to the coastline is beautiful in both directions, with great views of Santa Cruz Harbor, Harbor Beach, Seabright Beach, Santa Cruz Main Beach, Santa Cruz Boardwalk, and the Santa Cruz Wharf in the distance.

Santa Cruz, California
Santa Cruz, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

6. Watch the surfers

Surfing, Santa Cruz, California
Surfing, Santa Cruz, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Nicknamed “Surf City,” Santa Cruz consistently nears the top of all surfing destinations lists.

Surfing, Santa Cruz, California
Surfing, Santa Cruz, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

While donning a wet suit and grabbing a board may not be on your to-do list, heading to one of the popular spots around Santa Cruz County to watch the skilled surfers is an activity not to be missed.

Top spots to check out the surfing action are Pleasure Point, Manresa State Park, Steamer Lane, Waddell Creek, and 26th Avenue.

Surfing, Santa Cruz, California
Surfing, Santa Cruz, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

7. Kick back at the beach

Santa Cruz, California
Santa Cruz, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

29 miles of coastline along Santa Cruz County provides a wide selection of beaches to choose from.

Whether you are looking for a quiet place for a picnic, a dog-friendly beach, or the perfect spot for some volleyball or water sports, there’s a beach in Santa Cruz County that will fill the bill.

Santa Cruz, California
Santa Cruz, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

8. Sip some wine

Santa Cruz wineries
Santa Cruz wineries
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Home to over 70 wineries and tasting rooms, the Santa Cruz Mountains AVA is mostly well-known for Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon varietals.

One of the oldest wine growing regions in the United States, wineries range from small, boutique locations to larger operations including David Bruce Winery in Los Gatos, Ridge Vineyards’ Monte Bello Estate in Cupertino, Bonny Doon Vineyard in Davenport, Byington Vineyard in Los Gatos, and Bargetto Winery, which has a tasting room in Soquel. Many wineries in the region offer visits by appointment only or only on specific days of the week, so call ahead before visiting.

9. Take a hike

Hiking, Santa Cruz, California
Hiking, Santa Cruz, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The abundant natural beauty of Santa Cruz beckons one to get out and hit the hiking trail. The only question in Santa Cruz County is which one.

From the popular Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park with its giant Redwoods to California’s oldest state park, Big Basin Redwoods where you’ll find the largest continuous stand of Ancient Coast Redwoods south of San Francisco, Santa Cruz County’s 14 state parks has a hike for everyone. Find yours by visiting the California State Parks website – just select “Find by County” and choose “Santa Cruz” for a great list of options.

10. Pay a visit to Capitola Village

Capitola Village, California
Capitola Village, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Founded in 1869, charming Capitola Village sits beside the sea, drawing visitors with its colorful buildings, beach, boutiques, antique stores, galleries, restaurants, and wharf.

Capitola Wharf, Capitola Village, California
Capitola Wharf, Capitola Village, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The oldest seaside resort town in California, Capitola Village is home to outdoor movies in the summer, numerous festivals throughout the year and the Capitola Historical Museum.

Capitola Wharf, Capitola Village, California
Capitola Wharf, Capitola Village, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Know before you go

Climate: Average daily high temperatures in the winter and early spring months (November – March) range in the neighborhood of 60°F, with daily highs from April to October reaching into the 70s. Nighttime temperatures drop into the 40s in the winter and 50s in the summer, so a sweater or light jacket is a good idea for evenings year round.

Driving: In northern and coastal areas of California, it normally takes longer than in other areas due to winding rows and heavy traffic. Allow extra time. Upon arrival, do not leave any valuables in your car and watch out for pedestrians.

Poison oak. When hiking, be aware that poison oak is prevalent in the Santa Cruz mountains.

Conserve water. California is in a historic drought, so re-use hotel towels and conserve water whenever possible. Restaurants generally do not bring water to tables without it being requested, so don’t think its bad service – simply ask the server for a glass.


Disclaimer: The content & opinions expressed are entirely our own. We received no compensation for this article. Reviews are opinion only and Chasing Light Media accepts no responsibility for how the information is used.

Chaminade Resort & Spa, Santa Cruz, California

A relaxing retreat at Chaminade Resort & Spa in Santa Cruz

Cover: Room at Chaminade Resort & Spa, Santa Cruz, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Article by Kim Hull


Nestled amidst towering Redwood and Eucalyptus trees, the Chaminade Resort and Spa sits atop a mountain overlooking the Santa Cruz Mountains and the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary.

Chaminade Resort & Spa, Santa Cruz, California
View of Monterey Bay from Chaminade Resort & Spa, Santa Cruz, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

As we drove up the tree-lined road to the resort, we anticipated a rustic lodge – the typical upscale resort in the woods with dark woods and lots of leather furniture. Boy, were we wrong.

Drive into Chaminade
Drive into Chaminade 
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The rooms & suites

Entrance of Chaminade Resort in Santa Cruz, California
Entrance of Chaminade Resort in Santa Cruz, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The Spanish mission style resort is spread across 300 acres, with 156 rooms and suites in 11 buildings, and has recently undergone a huge renovation. Arriving at the door of our junior suite in building 11, a smile crossed our faces as we were greeted with a room number plate created from dominos.

Room number plate at Chaminade
Room number plate at Chaminade
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Opening the door…warm colors and an eclectic sense of playfulness filled the room – so appropriate for a community well-known for its vibrant lifestyle.

Chaminade Resort & Spa, Santa Cruz, California
Junior suite, Chaminade Resort & Spa, Santa Cruz, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The clever, bohemian decor ranged from a cabinet styled like an antique refrigerator that housed the mini-fridge to the measuring stick inspired coat rack. But the pièce de résistance was the headboard – an abacus!

Headboard, Chaminade Resort in Santa Cruz
Headboard, Chaminade Resort in Santa Cruz
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Coat rack, Chaminade Resort in Santa Cruz
Coat rack, Chaminade Resort in Santa Cruz
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Each item in the spacious room seemed to have been carefully selected for both form and function. Underneath the coat rack was a bench with built-in cubbies – perfect for storing backpacks and shoes, as well as providing extra seating.

Jr Suite, Chaminade Resort in Santa Cruz
Jr Suite, Chaminade Resort in Santa Cruz
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

No matchy-matchy nightstands here. Each side of the bed had different tables – both with a cool factor, plenty of built-in power, and bright red lighting accents.

In one corner, an oversized leather chair with a stylish reading lamp and a laptop table provided a comfortable spot for catching up on email or watch the huge flat panel TV. On the opposite side of the room, a nook with a sectional couch & rustic coffee table was the perfect place for enjoying a glass of wine.

Sitting area, Chaminade Resort in Santa Cruz
Sitting area, Chaminade Resort in Santa Cruz
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The bath was sleek with a clean, fresh feel, natural wood accent pieces, BeeKind – Gilchrist & Soames toiletries, and fluffy white towels.

Bath, Chaminade Resort in Santa Cruz
Bath, Chaminade Resort in Santa Cruz
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Industrial-inspired shelving, drawers, and racks in an alcove outside the bath provide plenty of storage and a full-length mirror turns it into a great dressing area. An oversized safe, bathrobe, hair dryer and coffee/tea maker rounded out the amenities.

Dressing area, Chaminade Resort in Santa Cruz
Dressing area, Chaminade Resort in Santa Cruz
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Our first-floor room had a private patio overlooking the forest – a tranquil spot to relax and enjoy nature.

View from patio, Chaminade Resort in Santa Cruz
View from patio, Chaminade Resort in Santa Cruz
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The resort

Walking paths
Walking paths
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Paths meander throughout the resort, leading from each of the guest room buildings to the main building, spa, pool and other amenities. We thoroughly enjoyed the short strolls to dine in the main building, but for those not desiring to do so, the hotel has a van to shuttle guests back and forth.

Each morning, we headed over to the main building where coffee was available in the lobby. Numerous seating areas are scattered throughout the main building, from small intimate tables for two to larger sections for groups.

Lobby seating area, Chaminade Resort & Spa, Santa Cruz, California
Lobby seating area, Chaminade Resort & Spa, Santa Cruz, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

After coffee, we’d wander out to the back of the resort to watch the day come to life and take in those stunning views of the Santa Cruz hillside and Monterey Bay in the distance.

Fountain at Chaminade Resort
Fountain at Chaminade Resort
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Sunrise over the Monterey Bay
Sunrise over the Monterey Bay
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Things to do

With a wide variety of activities available throughout the resort, it’s easy to understand why Chaminade is well-known as a great getaway spot. Guests can choose between hiking trails, a spa, a heated outdoor pool, hot tubs, tennis courts, a volleyball court, and a great fitness center to create their own special retreat.

3 miles of private hiking trails

Greg Hull hiking the blue trail
Greg Hull hiking the blue trail
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Chaminade has three hiking trails on the resort’s 200+ acres: the short half-mile green loop near the main building, the 1 1/4 mile red trail or the 1 3/4 mile blue trail, which was our selection. The hiking trail map can be downloaded on the Chaminade’s website and one is provided at check-in as well.

The red and blue trails wind through soaring Eucalyptus & Redwood trees, a babbling stream, miles of lush greenery and past the Lindwood Lodge where Judge Curtis Lindley built a summer home in the early 1900s on the property.

Lindwood Lodge, Hiking trails at Chaminade
Lindwood Lodge, Hiking trails at Chaminade
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Fitness center

Chaminade's Fitness center
Chaminade’s Fitness center
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

There’s no excuse for missing a workout at Chaminade. The fitness center is large, with a great selection of top of the line equipment and machines including treadmills, ellipticals, stair machines, and bikes. If group sessions are more your style, yoga, Zumba, Pilates, or circuit training classes are offered most mornings and some evenings.

Spa at Chaminade

Spa at Chaminade, Santa Cruz, California
Spa at Chaminade, Santa Cruz, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

No retreat is complete without a visit to the spa and Chaminade’s is 1,700 square feet of luxury and serenity.

Treatment room, Spa at Chaminade, Santa Cruz, California
Treatment room, Spa at Chaminade, Santa Cruz, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Alluring aromas, tranquil sounds, and beautiful artwork await at The Spa at Chaminade – which definitely is a splurge-worthy way to relax and recharge the senses and deserves a spot on your retreat agenda.

Featuring handmade, all organic products, The Spa at Chaminade offers a full menu of innovative services administered in rooms named after essential oils like Jasmine, Rosemary, Sage. Following treatments, spa guests are invited to relax on the private spa patio next to the koi pond overlooking the Santa Cruz Mountains.

Koi pond, Spa at Chaminade, Santa Cruz, California
Koi pond, Spa at Chaminade, Santa Cruz, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Tennis anyone?

Tennis courts, Chaminade Resort
Tennis courts, Chaminade Resort
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Chaminade has four lighted tennis courts and equipment is available by loan at the fitness center.

Swimming pools and hot tubs

Swimming pool, Chaminade Resort & Spa, Santa Cruz, California
Swimming pool, Chaminade Resort & Spa, Santa Cruz, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Whether you want to soak up some California sun or go for a swim, Chaminade’s heated 50-foot outdoor pool and hot tub are available daily from 7am to 11pm. For a special day at the pool, cabanas and poolside food and beverages are also available seasonally.

Dining & beverages

Linwood’s Bar & Grill, Chaminade Resort & Spa, Santa Cruz, California
Linwood’s Bar & Grill, Chaminade Resort & Spa, Santa Cruz, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

While at Chaminade Resort & Spa, we had drinks and appetizers at the bar, dined at Linwood’s Bar & Grill, attended a special event, and experienced Sunday brunch at the Sunset Restaurant – and the food and the service were spectacular.

Linwood’s Bar & Grill

With a menu featuring local, seasonal fare, Linwood’s Bar & Grill is a casual meeting place popular with hotel guests and locals alike. At the bar, the sautéed prawns stole the show, accompanied by a mean lemon drop martini. For the main course, the scallops were seared to perfection and the grilled eggplant in a fig reduction was sublime.

Linwood’s Bar & Grill, Chaminade Resort & Spa, Santa Cruz, California
Linwood’s Bar & Grill, Chaminade Resort & Spa, Santa Cruz, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Chaminade special events

Patrón Tequila tasting party, Chaminade Resort & Spa, Santa Cruz, California
Patrón Tequila tasting party, Chaminade Resort & Spa, Santa Cruz, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Throughout the year, Chaminade hosts special food & beverage events ranging from their popular Farm to Table Wine dinners in the summer, to holiday dinners, to events featuring a specific beverage like… tequila!

We were fortunate to make the Patrón Tequila tasting party while visiting, where Chaminade unveiled their own bespoke barrel (about 27 cases) of aged Patron tequila unique to the resort.  The Reposado had been aged for 9 months in a Hungarian Oak barrel and was featured throughout the event in specialty cocktail flights.

Patrón Tequila tasting party, Chaminade Resort & Spa, Santa Cruz, California
Patrón Tequila tasting party, Chaminade Resort & Spa, Santa Cruz, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Sunday brunch at Sunset Restaurant

Sunday Brunch bubbles in Santa Cruz at Chaminade
Sunday Brunch bubbles in Santa Cruz at Chaminade
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Always a fan of a Sunday that begins with bubbles, the Chaminade Sunday brunch is an indulgence extraordinaire.

As with Linwood’s, Sunday brunch at Sunset Restaurant was once again a blend of locals and guests, which is always a good indication of great food and service.

Sunday brunch in Santa Cruz at Chaminade
Sunday brunch in Santa Cruz at Chaminade
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Chaminade Sunday brunch
Chaminade Sunday brunch
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The food was superb and plentiful doesn’t quite describe the multitude of offerings. Raviolis smoked salmon, eggs Benedict, a carving station, custom omelets, waffles, an array of vegetables – and the list goes on, and on, and on.

My personal favorites – the raviolis in an arrabbiata sauce and the stuffed french toast. Oh my – heavenly.

Bubbly & mimosa at Chaminade in Santa Cruz
Bubbly & mimosa at Chaminade in Santa Cruz
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Sunday Brunch at Chaminade in Santa Cruz
Sunday Brunch at Chaminade in Santa Cruz
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The top 5 things we loved most about Chaminade

  1. The staff at Chaminade was exceptional – helpful and friendly from morning to night, throughout every area of the hotel.
  2. The guest rooms are large, well-appointed, creative, and functional with plenty of seating room.
  3. The food is outstanding and the Sunday brunch was one of the best we’ve experienced.
  4. The on-site, private hiking trails are beautiful and convenient.
  5. The resort reflects Santa Cruz’ casual charm in a beautiful, tranquil setting – the atmosphere is upscale, yet comfortable.

Disclosure & disclaimer: Special thanks to Chaminade Resort & Spa for hosting us as their guest. 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.

Chaminade Resort & Spa, Santa Cruz, California
Chaminade Resort & Spa, Santa Cruz, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Squaw Valley Ski Resort, Lake Tahoe, California

Squaw Valley Ski Resort: Olympic skiing for everyone

Cover: Squaw Valley, Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Article by Kim Hull


It doesn’t take too long on your first visit to Squaw Valley to see why it was selected as the site of the 1960 Winter Olympics.

Squaw Valley Ski Resort, Lake Tahoe, California
Squaw Valley, Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

With its six peaks, varied terrain, stunning alpine and lake views, and average annual snowfall of 450 inches, Squaw Valley is a snow sports paradise. Add to that natural skiing perfection the Village at Squaw Valley (with nearly 60 restaurants, shops and galleries), a wide variety of activities off the snow, world-class lodging, and lift tickets that grant unlimited access to both Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows, and you have today’s Squaw Valley Ski Resort, one of the top ski resorts in the world.

Squaw Valley Ski Resort, Lake Tahoe, California
Squaw Valley, Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Squaw Valley Ski Resort at Tahoe: Skiing and snow boarding

Squaw Valley Ski Resort, Lake Tahoe, California
Squaw Valley, Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

With 3,600 skiable acres, 29 lifts, 170 trails, 16 bowls and 4 terrain parks, Squaw Valley has a lot to offer in sheer size. Spread across six peaks in the Olympic Valley about 10 miles from Lake Tahoe’s northwestern shore, Squaw Valley has skiing and boarding for all ability levels.

Squaw Valley Ski Resort, Lake Tahoe, California
Squaw Valley, Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

While well-known for its extreme terrain with 30% of its runs ranked advanced or expert, the remaining 70% of Squaw’s trails range from mild to challenging, with 25% suitable for beginners and 45% intermediate – making it a perfect resort for everyone.

Squaw Valley Ski Resort, Lake Tahoe, California
Squaw Valley, Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Beginners can learn with a view at Squaw Valley. A scenic tram ride to High Camp lands beginners in the middle of numerous gentle, groomed green runs, as well as a skating rink, swimming pool and the Terrace restaurant and bar.

Squaw Valley Ski Resort, Lake Tahoe, California
Squaw Valley, Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

For beginners of all ages, Squaw Valley has created first time and beginner programs with dedicated learning zones and teaching methodologies designed to reduce obstacles and accelerate progression to more advanced skiing. The Squaw Valley Ski School also offers intermediate, advanced, expert, children and family programs.

Squaw Valley Ski Resort, Lake Tahoe, California
Squaw Valley, Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Squaw Valley has the reputation of not having much intermediate skiing. Yet, nearly half of the trails at Squaw are blue runs. If you like blues, jump on the Gold Coast Funitel and head up to some beautiful runs (a funitel has two steel cables versus the one on a classic gondola, allowing it to tolerate higher winds). Many of the trails off the Siberia Express, Emigrant, Gold Coast Express, and Shirley Lake Express chairlifts are intermediate with varying levels of steepness and difficulty. The 360° views at the top of Emigrant are stunning and not to be missed.

Squaw Valley Ski Resort, Lake Tahoe, California
Squaw Valley, Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The longest run at Squaw Valley is Mountain Run, a 3.2-mile intermediate trail that winds down to the base of the mountain. The Red Dog lift, at the base, delivers some tree skiing and riding opportunities, as well as a good ride down the intermediate Champs Elysees.

Squaw Valley Ski Resort, Lake Tahoe, California
Squaw Valley, Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

For the experts – KT-22 and Headwall are legendary for their jaw-dropping descents, steep chutes, moguls, cliffs and bowl skiing.

Squaw Valley Ski Resort, Lake Tahoe, California
Squaw Valley, Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Terrain parks, Squaw Valley, Lake Tahoe, California
Terrain parks, Squaw Valley, Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Squaw Valley has four terrain parks – Gold Coast, High Camp, Snow Ventures and Belmont – with 44 features between them.

Terrain parks, Squaw Valley, Lake Tahoe, California
Terrain parks, Squaw Valley, Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Squaw Valley Ski Resort at Tahoe: On mountain dining & drinking

Squaw Valley has some amazing restaurants and bars, but we have to start this section with my favorite place on the mountain – a ski in/ski out Starbucks!

Squaw Valley Starbucks
Ski in / Ski out Starbucks, Squaw Valley Ski in-Ski out Starbucks
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Located at the top of the Funitel, it is one of the best places to grab a chai or latte and enjoy the view. Also at the top of the Funitel are Funi’s On-mountain Market for a quick sandwich, soups and Funi Crepes and The Arc, with assorted food stations offering soups, salads, pizzas, grilled fare, and Asian cuisine.

At High Camp, Silvey’s Cafe offers quick fare with paninis, soups, and snacks and the Terrace is a sit-down restaurant and bar that serves tasty lunch offerings with panoramic views.

The Terrace, Squaw Valley, Lake Tahoe, California
The Terrace, Squaw Valley, Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The Village at Squaw Valley

The Village Squaw Valley, Lake Tahoe, California
The Village Squaw Valley, Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The Village at Squaw Valley’s 60 restaurants, bars, boutiques and art galleries provide a wide variety of shopping, dining and après ski options at the base of the mountain. Especially on weekends and holidays, the Village has a bustling, jovial and diverse atmosphere, where upscale Bay area residents mix with powder-seeking ski bums.

The Village Squaw Valley, Lake Tahoe, California
The Village Squaw Valley, Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Squaw Valley Ski Resort: Other activities

In addition to the world-class skiing, the resort has numerous other activities to enjoy during a stay at Squaw Valley including:

The Tram at Squaw Valley, Lake Tahoe, California
The Tram at Squaw Valley, Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

A scenic ride on the Aerial Tram, climbing 2,000 vertical feet to High Camp at 8,200 ft elevation, can be enjoyed year round by skiers and non-skiers alike.

At High Camp, the Olympic Ice Pavilion offers ice skating with panoramic views for adults and children. Hockey or figure skate rentals are available at the rink.

Ice skating, Squaw Valley, Lake Tahoe, California
Ice skating, Squaw Valley, Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Snow tubing is located at SnoVentures Activity Zone at the base area of Squaw Valley near the parking lot. A popular activity, tubing tickets are limited per session and sold on first come, first served basis. Also at Squaw Valley’s SnoVentures Activity Zone, kids ages 6-12 can take a mini snowmobile for a whirl around the mini snowmobile course.

Snowshoeing on Squaw Valley’s trail system is a fabulous way to explore nature in the Olympic Valley. The Nordic Center rents snowshoes for adults and kids and snowshoe trails originate at the Resort at Squaw Creek.

High Camp pool & hot tub, Squaw Valley, Lake Tahoe, California
High Camp pool & hot tub, Squaw Valley, Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

And, that’s just a start. Also available are dog sledding, climbing walls, visiting the Olympic Museum, taking a dip in the High Camp pool & hot tub (seasonal), bungee skyjumping, and yoga.

Squaw Valley Ski Resort at Tahoe: Where to stay

The Village at Squaw Valley, Lake Tahoe, California
The Village at Squaw Valley, Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Squaw Valley has a variety of lodging options including the Village at Squaw Valley, Squaw Valley Lodge, Plumpjack Squaw Valley Inn, and the Resort at Squaw Valley. Additionally, hotels are available in Tahoe City and Truckee, with each town located about 12 miles away.

Squaw Valley Ski Resort at Tahoe: Getting there and parking

Squaw Valley’s resort address is 2600 Alpine Meadows Rd, Tahoe City, California 96145.

Located off Highway 89, between Truckee and Tahoe City, on the North Shore of Lake Tahoe, Squaw Valley is just 47 miles from the Reno Tahoe airport, 96 miles from Sacramento and 196 miles from San Francisco. From Highway 80, take the CA-89 S (exit 185) exit and continue on Highway 89 for about 10 miles. Turn right on Squaw Valley Road.

Free parking is available next to the Village, with a short walk to the Funitel.

Squaw Valley Ski Resort: Know before you go

Ski conditioning will make your ski vacation more enjoyable.  Some time in the gym and/or using a ski conditioning program before your ski vacation will improve your time on the slopes.

Don’t ski above your ability. Warren Miller films have been shot at Squaw Valley – and extreme is really extreme here. Watching a film while throwing back a beer is one thing; hiking a ridge and heading down one of Squaw’s steeps is something else. There are many expert skiers and riders at Squaw – they aren’t on vacation. Don’t get caught up in it all, overdo it and put yourself and others at risk.

Squaw Valley Ski Resort, Lake Tahoe, California
Squaw Valley, Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Dress in layers. Consider skiing with a small backpack for storing layers as the day moves from cold to warmer temperatures and also take gloves of various weights and hand warmers. Mountain conditions can change from warm to cold and back again quickly. Another option – day use lockers are available at the top of the Funitel, providing easy access throughout the day without going all the way down to the base.

Rent gear. Renting provides a good chance to try out new skis or boards and simplifies travel, especially in airports.

Consider hiring transportation to the mountain. Squaw Valley has so many restaurants and activities, a car isn’t really needed. Hiring transportation lets you enjoy the scenery as a professional navigates the weather and road conditions that can change quickly in the Sierra. If you choose to drive, remember that chains are required frequently on Highway 80 and Highway 89 and be sure to check the road conditions at the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) before heading to Squaw Valley.

Kim Hull at Squaw Valley, Lake Tahoe, California
Kim Hull at Squaw Valley, Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Disclaimer: 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.

Alpine Meadows Ski Resort, Lake Tahoe, California

Alpine Meadows Ski Resort at Tahoe: Where the locals ski

Alpine Meadows Ski Resort, Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Article by Kim Hull


A locals’ favorite, Alpine Meadows offers 2,400 skiable acres with stunning views in a relaxed, unpretentious atmosphere.  Why is it a locals’ favorite? It’s a drive up, get on a lift, and go ski amazing terrain without a touristy village kind of place.

Yes, in 2011 Alpine Meadows merged with its more well-known sister resort, Squaw Valley, which sits just 10-15 minutes down the road in all her splendor, and one lift ticket provides access to both resorts. But, so far, Alpine Meadows has retained that purist feel and is really just about the skiing.

Alpine Meadows Ski Resort, Lake Tahoe, California
Alpine Meadows Ski Resort, Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Alpine Meadows Ski Resort at Tahoe: Skiing and snow boarding

Alpine Meadows, Lake Tahoe, California Photo: Greg K. Hull © Chasing Light Media
Alpine Meadows, Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Quietly tucked away with over 100 trails, 7 bowls, and a terrain park, Alpine Meadows is located on the northwest shore of Lake Tahoe and normally receives the most snowfall of all the Tahoe resorts with an average of 450 inches per year. Alpine Meadows actually has two peaks, Ward Peak at 8,637 feet and Scott Peak at 8,289 feet.

Alpine Meadows first opened in 1961 as Ward Peak Ski Resort with three lifts. Today, Alpine Meadows operates 13 lifts with an uphill capacity of 18,700 per hour.

Alpine Bowl, Alpine Meadows Ski Resort, Lake Tahoe, California
Alpine Bowl, Alpine Meadows Ski Resort, Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Alpine Meadows is an intermediate skier’s paradise with 40% of its trails providing diverse intermediate options on both the front side and the back side of the resort. The Summit Six, Roundhouse, Hot Wheels, and Lakeside lifts provide access to most of the intermediate terrain. Wide-open with expansive views of Lake Tahoe, intermediate groomers offer top to bottom skiing from Alpine Bowl to the base with a vertical drop of 1,802 feet.

Alpine Bowl, Alpine Meadows Ski Resort, Lake Tahoe, California
Alpine Bowl, Alpine Meadows Ski Resort, Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

More advanced terrain can also be found on both the front side and the back side, with 35% of the resort’s runs classified as expert. The Pacific Crest Bowls, which descend from the Pacific Crest ridge line, include the Beaver Bowls, Estelle Bowl, and Wolverine Bowl, rewarding the most adventurous on the mountain with gladed trees, chutes, spines, wide-open bowls and an abundance of untracked snow.

For the beginners, all terrain is accessed from the Subway Chair or the Meadow Chair, keeping beginners very close to the base of the mountain near the day lodge.

Alpine Meadows Ski Resort, Lake Tahoe, California
Alpine Meadows Ski Resort, Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Alpine Meadows Ski Resort at Tahoe: Dining & drinking

Alpine Meadows, Lake Tahoe, California Photo: Greg K. Hull © Chasing Light Media
Alpine Meadows, Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The day lodge at Alpine Meadows is located at the base of the mountain and is the hub of activity with restaurants and bars, day lockers, a ski and snowboard gear shop, and a huge deck overlooking the mountain.

Alpine Meadows Ski Resort at Tahoe: Two resorts for the price of one

Squaw Valley Ski Resort, Lake Tahoe, California
Squaw Valley, Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

One lift ticket or pass at Squaw Valley or Alpine Meadows provides access to both mountains and their 6,000 skiable acres, 42 lifts, and 270 trails.

If staying at Squaw Valley, with its nearly 60 restaurants, bars, boutiques and art galleries, having the ability to ski at Alpine Meadows provides a great option for additional terrain and a completely different atmosphere.

Squaw Valley Ski Resort, Lake Tahoe, California
Squaw Valley, Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Currently, Alpine Meadows is connected to Squaw Alpine via a free shuttle between the mountains. However, in 2015, Squaw Valley Ski Holdings, LLC, the owner of both resorts, announced plans to create a gondola connecting the Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows ski areas.

Alpine Meadows Ski Resort at Tahoe: Where to stay

While there are no hotels at Alpine Meadows, Squaw Valley has numerous options, as does Tahoe City, which is about 10 miles away and Truckee, about 14 miles from Alpine Meadows.

Alpine Meadows Ski Resort at Tahoe: Getting there and parking

Alpine Meadows, Lake Tahoe, California Photo: Greg K. Hull © Chasing Light Media
Alpine Meadows, Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Alpine Meadows’ resort address is 2600 Alpine Meadows Rd, Tahoe City, California 96145.

Located off Highway 89 between Truckee and Tahoe City, Alpine Meadows is just 49 miles from the Reno Tahoe airport, 98 miles from Sacramento and 198 miles from San Francisco.

From Highway 80, take the CA-89 S exit and continue on Highway 89 for about 10 miles. Turn right on Alpine Meadows Road.

Free parking is available next to the resort and an overflow lot with shuttle bus is used during high season.

Alpine Meadows Ski Resort, Lake Tahoe, California
Even Santa skis at Alpine Meadows Ski Resort, Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Alpine Meadows Ski Resort at Tahoe: Know before you go

If you’re looking for a destination resort, stay at Squaw Valley. There are numerous lodging options at Squaw Valley and, if you are looking for a resort destination – i.e., no need to drive – stay at Squaw Valley and use the free shuttle to commute between the two resorts. If you stay in Tahoe City or Truckee, you probably need a car for commuting back and forth to the resort.

Consider hiring transportation to the mountain. Weather and road conditions change quickly in the Sierra and chains are required frequently on Highway 80 and Highway 89. Check out the road conditions at the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) before heading to Squaw Valley / Alpine Meadows or better, higher transportation, so you can relax and enjoy the trip.

Get in ski shape. Ski conditioning before you head to the slopes can greatly improve the enjoyment of your ski vacation. Check out the ski conditioning program a personal trainer put together for us for ideas.

Rent gear. Check into renting gear instead of bringing gear with you. Renting can make your travel easier and also provide a good chance to try out new skis or boards.

Dress in layers. Conditions change quickly on the mountain and what starts out as a warm, bluebird day on the mountain, can quickly change to cold and snowy conditions. We ski with a small backpack for different gloves, hand warmers, and other items.

Alpine Meadows Ski Resort, Lake Tahoe, California
Alpine Meadows Ski Resort, Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Disclaimer: 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.

Northstar Ski Resort at Tahoe, Lake Tahoe, California

Northstar Ski Resort at Tahoe: A great destination resort

Cover: Northstar Ski Resort at Tahoe, Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Article by Kim Hull


Originally known as The Timber Farm near Truckee, California on the north side of Lake Tahoe, skiing first began at Northstar Resort in 1972. Acquired by Vail Resorts in 2010, Northstar California has fabulous skiing, luxury accommodations, the beautiful Village at Northstar at the foot of the mountain, and plenty of things to do for the non-skiers in the group – making it truly a great destination resort.

Northstar Ski Resort at Tahoe, Lake Tahoe, California
Northstar Ski Resort at Tahoe, Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Northstar Ski Resort at Tahoe: Skiing and snow boarding

Northstar Ski Resort at Tahoe, Lake Tahoe, California
Northstar Ski Resort at Tahoe, Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

With 100 trails and 3,170 skiable acres, Northstar has something for all abilities with 13% beginner terrain, 60% intermediate and 27% advanced.

At an elevation of 8,610 feet (2,624 meters) at the summit of Mt. Pluto, Northstar has a vertical drop of 2,280 ft (695 meters) to the Village at the base of the mountain (elevation 6,330 ft/1,929 meters). The longest run on the mountain is Logger’s Loop, which is 1.4 miles long.

Northstar Ski Resort at Tahoe, Lake Tahoe, California
Northstar Ski Resort at Tahoe, Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

While Northstar’s average snowfall is 350 inches (9 meters), 50% of Northstar’s trails are covered with snowmaking capabilities, the most in North Lake Tahoe and a good safeguard for a skiing vacation in non-El Nino years.

Northstar is very easy to navigate and well laid-out. Following a short gondola ride from the Village to mid-mountain, there are three lifts providing access to different sections of the mountain, with a total of 20 lifts overall.

Northstar Ski Resort at Tahoe, Lake Tahoe, California
Kim Hull, Northstar Ski Resort at Tahoe, Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

At the summit, the East Ridge (blue) is to the left when exiting the chair lift, offering amazing views of Lake Tahoe and leading to multiple short, fun black runs off the left and a variety of blues at the end of the trail.

Northstar Ski Resort at Tahoe, Lake Tahoe, California
Northstar Ski Resort at Tahoe, Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

A hard right from the lift takes you to West Ridge (blue) which heads to a mix of longer blue and black tree-lined trails, with some nice mogul runs as well.

Northstar Ski Resort at Tahoe, Lake Tahoe, California
Northstar Ski Resort at Tahoe, Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Straight ahead and slightly to the right off the summit leads to the backside of the mountain, which are all black runs that are serviced by the Backside Express lift.

Northstar Ski Resort at Tahoe, Lake Tahoe, California
Northstar Ski Resort at Tahoe, Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Northstar Ski Resort at Tahoe: On mountain dining

In addition to a variety of restaurants and bars in the Village, dining and drinking options can be found at multiple places on the mountain.

The Lodge at Big Springs is located mid-mountain at the top of the gondola with a full bar and serving a variety of lunch options including grilled items, salads, pizza, and baked potatoes (the California baked potato is a personal favorite of ours). Next door is Chilly Peppers Cantina serving burritos, tacos, and other hearty Mexican dishes. Both restaurants are adjacent to a large deck just steps from the Vista Express, Arrow Express, and Tahoe Zephyr Express lifts, a very popular place on the mountain, especially on sunny days.

The Zephyr Lodge is located at the top of the Tahoe Zephyr Express and is the spot for seasonal, local-inspired dishes, crafted cocktails and phenomenal panoramic views of the Sierra Nevada mountains.

Northstar Ski Resort at Tahoe, Lake Tahoe, California
Northstar Ski Resort at Tahoe, Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

At the top of Mt. Pluto, the Summit Deck & Grille serves breakfast and lunch and has a large selection of craft beers.

Euro Snack stands can be found at various locations on the mountain and in the Villages offering Belgian waffles, French hot dogs, and hot and cold beverages.

Northstar Ski School & Burton Snowboard Academy

Northstar Ski Resort at Tahoe, Lake Tahoe, California
Northstar Ski Resort at Tahoe, Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Northstar’s Ski + Snowboard School offers lessons for skiers of all levels, from day one beginners to advanced using the Northstar Teaching System to ensure teaching styles and methods are consistent from one instructor to another.

Northstar partnered with Burton Snowboards to develop the Burton Snowboard Academy, a first-of-its-kind snowboard program for all levels designed around a terrain-based teaching methodology. The program is a “full-immersion snowboard experience” and includes access to the Burton Snowboard Academy Village and Mid-Mountain Lounge.

Northstar Ski Resort at Tahoe, Lake Tahoe, California
Northstar Ski Resort at Tahoe, Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The Village at Northstar

Located at the base of the mountain, The Village at Northstar is a collection of restaurants, wine bars, cafes, shops and activities including a skating rink and outdoor couches with fire pits.

Surrounded by luxury lodging accommodations, spa, yoga and massage services are available as well as movies at the Village Cinemas.

Northstar Ski Resort at Tahoe: Other activities

In addition to skiing and snowboards, Northstar offers…

Tubing, located mid-mountain just above the gondola, with a tow lift for tubes and riders to the top of a 200 ft hill. Be sure and book early – space is limited and frequently sells out.

The Cross Country, Telemark + Snowshoe Center with classic and skate skiing, snowshoeing, and telemark skiing on 22 miles (35 kilometers) of groomed, scenic trails.

Summer Village activities that include roller skating, miniature golf, a bungee trampoline and rock wall climbing.

Northstar Ski Resort at Tahoe, Lake Tahoe, California
Northstar Ski Resort at Tahoe, Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Northstar Ski Resort at Tahoe: Where to stay

Multiple accommodation options are available in the Northstar Village area including Northstar Lodge, Great Bear Lodge, Iron Horse, Catamount, Big Horn, One Village Place, Northstar Lodge Hyatt Club Residences and the Ritz Carlton Lake Tahoe.

Additionally, Northstar is located approximately 6 miles from the town of Truckee, California with a variety of hotel options.

Northstar Ski Resort at Tahoe: Getting there and parking

Northstar California’s resort address is 5001 Northstar Drive, Truckee, CA 96161.

Northstar is located 44 miles or about 53 minutes from the Reno Tahoe airport in Reno, 194 miles from Francisco and 111 miles from Sacramento.

From Highway 80, take the CA-89/CA-267 exit toward Sierraville/Lake Tahoe. Turn right onto CA-Hwy 267. Continue for 5.5 miles, then turn on Northstar Drive.

Free parking is available in two lots with shuttle bus access to the Village. The parking is quite a distance from the Village – you definitely want to wait for the shuttle.

Northstar Ski Resort at Tahoe: Know before you go

Hit the gym before the slopes. Time in the gym before you head to the hill will greatly improve the enjoyment of your ski vacation. Check out the ski conditioning program a personal trainer put together for us for ideas.

Dress in layers. Conditions change quickly on the mountain and what starts out as a warm, bluebird day on the mountain, can quickly change to cold and snowy conditions. We ski with a small backpack for different gloves, hand warmers, and other items.

Rent gear. Having done it more than a few times, we can attest that hauling loads of ski gear through an airport is not a fun task. Check into renting gear instead of bringing gear with you. Renting can also provide a good chance to try out new skis or boards.

Consider hiring transportation to the mountain. Weather and road conditions change quickly in the Sierra and chains are required frequently on Highway 80 and Highway 267. Check out the road conditions at the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) before heading to Northstar or better, higher transportation, so you can relax and enjoy the trip.


Disclaimer: The content & opinions expressed are entirely our own. We received no compensation for this article. Reviews are opinion only and Chasing Light Media accepts no responsibility for how the information is used.

Northstar Ski Resort at Tahoe, Lake Tahoe, California
Kim Hull, Northstar Ski Resort at Tahoe, Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Santa Anita Park, Arcadia, California

Santa Anita Park: A day at the races

Cover: Santa Anita Park, Arcadia, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Article by Kim Hull


As I listened to the horses strolling past Clockers’ Corner on their way to their morning workout, my thoughts turned to the thousands of others that had also raced over the years at this beautiful place called Santa Anita Park.

Dating back to 1907, when Elias J. “Lucky” Baldwin opened the first Santa Anita Park a few blocks away from the current location, the racetrack has since been the site of countless races with world-famous jockeys competing at the beautiful venue that has been the home of numerous champions including 2015 Triple Crown winner, American Pharoah, and the horse the world fell in love with, Seabiscuit.

Santa Anita Park, Arcadia, California
Santa Anita Park, Arcadia, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Santa Anita Park and Seabiscuit

Santa Anita Park, Arcadia, California
Santa Anita Park, Arcadia, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The stubborn, heroic horse immortalized in the 2003 film, Seabiscuit, was a remarkable Thoroughbred who inspired a country mired in the Depression at the time. Despite his small size and obstinate personality, Seabiscuit dazzled the country when it needed it most by winning the “race of the century” against the blue blood, east coast favorite, War Admiral. After suffering what appeared to be a career-ending injury, Seabiscuit came back to win the Santa Anita Handicap in 1940.

Santa Anita Park, Arcadia, California
Santa Anita Park, Arcadia, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

With the San Gabriel Mountains as a backdrop, Santa Anita Park is widely considered one of the most beautiful horse racing tracks in the world and served as the location for much of Seabiscuit the movie.

Santa Anita Park, Arcadia, California
Santa Anita Park, Arcadia, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Which brought us to this early morning scene. In May, while shooting the final stages of the Tour of California in nearby Pasadena, we stayed down the street from Santa Anita Park and commented multiple times how we would like to come back and experience “The Great Race Place” for ourselves. A few months later, we were here and ready for…

A Day at Santa Anita Park

Clockers’ Corner

Clocker's Corner, Santa Anita Park, Arcadia, California
Clockers’ Corner, Santa Anita Park, Arcadia, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

There’s no place better to begin a day at the races than Clockers’ Corner. Open each morning until 10am, trainers, jockeys, owners, journalists and race fans alike make their way to Clockers’ Corner for coffee and breakfast fare.

Clocker's Corner, Santa Anita Park, Arcadia, California
Clockers’ Corner, Santa Anita Park, Arcadia, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

As the sun rises and the mountains turn shades of pink and gold, horses gallop past during their morning workouts. Friendly waiters deliver pancakes and coffee, while conversations at nearby tables vary from discussions of how specific horses are looking to shared stories between friends.

Santa Anita Park, Arcadia, California
Santa Anita Park, Arcadia, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

All aboard the Seabiscuit Tram

On weekends during racing season, Seabiscuit fans unite at Clockers’ Corner each morning for a free ride on the Seabiscuit tram for a short tour of the stables, paddock, and a chance to see Seabiscuit’s original stall and meet Fighting Furrari, who starred as Seabiscuit in the 2003 movie.

The Paddock

Paddock Gardens, Santa Anita Park, Arcadia, California
The Paddock, Santa Anita Park, Arcadia, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

With a statue of Seabiscuit keeping watch over the activities, the paddock is a hub of pre-race activity as the Thoroughbreds and jockeys prepare for their races. A visit to the paddock provides an up-close view of the horses entering the saddling enclosure and then walking the ring before every race.

Let’s eat and drink

The Gallop Out, Santa Anita Park, Arcadia, California
The Gallop Out, Santa Anita Park, Arcadia, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Santa Anita Park has a wide array of food and drink options from quick and casual to upscale fine dining. Throughout the park, concessions are available with fast food, sodas, beer, and other quick fares. On the casual side, Pick Three offers diners the ability to create their own dish from a selection of noodles, sauces, and meats, while the Turf Course dishes up crisp salads and sushi and Grade One piles on the meat with their carvery sandwiches.

The Gallop Out, Santa Anita Park, Arcadia, California
The Gallop Out, Santa Anita Park, Arcadia, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

On the Club House level, The Gallop Out is where sports bar meets the race track. With numerous TVs, great views of the first turn, and daily happy hour specials, The Gallop Out is a perfect spot to enjoy a beverage and a shady breeze, while keeping on top of the action on the track.

The acclaimed Turf Terrace and FrontRunner restaurants combine fine dining with spectacular views, creating an exceptional day of sophisticated racing. Reservation information, menus, and suggested attire can be found on the Santa Anita Park website.

Turf Terrace, Santa Anita Park, Arcadia, California
Turf Terrace, Santa Anita Park, Arcadia, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

“And away they go…”

Horse racing is a beautiful combination of tradition, grace, speed, and strength.

Santa Anita Park bugler, Jay Cohen, Santa Anita Park, Arcadia, California
Santa Anita Park bugler, Jay Cohen, Santa Anita Park, Arcadia, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

From the moment of the bugler’s call to post and the horses and their escort ponies entering the race track from the paddock, anticipation begins to build throughout the park.

Triple Crown Winner, Victor Espinoza, Santa Anita Park, Arcadia, California
Triple Crown Winner, Victor Espinoza, Santa Anita Park, Arcadia, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Anticipation turns to excitement, as the jockeys and horses head to the starting gate, then burst out on the other side. With his signature, “And away they go…”, Trevor Denman, Santa Anita’s track announcer since October 1983, sends the race on its way around the track.

A rainbow of silks hover over the pounding mud cloud, as the jockeys perch precariously above their horses, making their way toward the finish line at speeds of 40 mph. In the stands, a sea of yelling, clapping, and optimism erupts as the crowd eagerly awaits the finish line results.

It’s jubilation for some, disappoint for others, and a trip to the Winner’s Circle for the winning jockey and horse. Then, it’s time for the next race.

Going for the win

Horse sense is the thing a horse has which keeps it from betting on people.”
– W. C. Fields

Santa Anita Park, Arcadia, California
Santa Anita Park, Arcadia, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

What would a day at the races be without a bit of wagering? We started off with a trip to the paddock to get a look at the ponies and, after spotting the one I was sure would win, we made our way to place our bet.

Magic Moon, Santa Anita Park, Arcadia, California
Magic Moon, Santa Anita Park, Arcadia, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Yeah, that didn’t work so well, so for the next race, I resorted to my sure fire way to win – bet on a grey horse. Alrighty then… no luck there.

So, we headed over and paid a visit to the nice, helpful guys at the “How to Wager” tent. They technically don’t tell you which horse to bet on, more of how to place a bet if it’s new to you, but they were fun.

Santa Anita Park, Arcadia, California
Santa Anita Park, Arcadia, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Hmmm. New plan. In the 6th, Bob Baffert had two horses running. One of the most winning trainers in horse racing and the trainer of American Pharoah – Baffert wouldn’t let us down.

Santa Anita Park, Arcadia, California
Santa Anita Park, Arcadia, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

So much for that theory. Bummer. We were running out of races, so we headed down to the concessions area, got a beer, and went out to watch the 7th race and form a strategy. There was only one race left for the day and we hadn’t won yet – and that’s when it came to me. I knew the way to win the last race of the day!

Yep – we bet on them all.

Santa Anita Park, Arcadia, California
Santa Anita Park, Arcadia, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Yay – Dragon Flower! You came through for us!

Alonso Quinonez, Dragon Flower, Santa Anita Park, Arcadia, California
Alonso Quinonez, Dragon Flower, Santa Anita Park, Arcadia, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Santa Anita Park: Know before you go

Wear comfortable shoes. Santa Anita Park is a big place and to experience it all, you will do some walking. So, leave the stilettos in the closet and grab a pair of flats. Your feet will thank you for it at the end of the day.

Get up early and go to Clockers’ Corner. The night before you may be wondering if it’s worth setting the alarm. It is – go for it.

Plan your day in advance. Decide ahead of time if you want to go a bit upscale with your dining options and if so, make reservations and check the dress code.

Bring cash. While the restaurants and concessions take credit cards, you need cash to place wagers.

Don’t forget the sunscreen. It’s warm and sunny in beautiful Southern California, so remember to apply sunscreen throughout the day.

If you are planning on hanging out in the infield or apron, coolers, containers, bags, and folding chairs are okay to bring.  But, leave alcoholic beverages, glass containers, balls, balloons, bicycles, skateboards, rollerblades, frisbees, flags, kites, tables and animals other than licensed service animals at home – they are not allowed in the park.


Disclosure & disclaimer: Special thanks to Santa Anita Park 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.

Santa Anita Park, Arcadia, California
Santa Anita Park, Arcadia, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
The Queen Mary Hotel, Long Beach California

Travel back in time aboard the Queen Mary Hotel

Cover: The Queen Mary Hotel, Long Beach California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Article by Kim Hull


When the Queen Mary left Southhampton, England on her maiden voyage in 1936, she was the epitome of grandeur on the sea.

Featuring art deco styling, over 50 types of decorative woods, elaborate murals, paintings and sculptures, her luxurious accommodations and first-class pampering drew celebrities, royalty and dignitaries from around the world seeking to experience the finest in Atlantic crossings.

Elegance of The Queen Mary
Elegance of The Queen Mary
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Over the years, the Queen Mary’s passenger list included Bob Hope, Fred Astaire, Bing Crosby, Elizabeth Taylor, Clark Gable, Greta Garbo, Audrey Hepburn, The Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Winston Churchill, and Queen Elizabeth.

In addition to her luxury and splendor, The Queen Mary was also very fast with the ability to reach speeds of over 30 knots – an amazing feat given her size of over 1000 feet in length and weight of 81,237 gross tons.

Touring the decks of The Queen Mary, Long Beach California
Touring the decks of The Queen Mary, Long Beach California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

When World War II broke out, the grand ship was painted grey, nicknamed the Grey Ghost, and converted to a troop transport ship. With her speed as her strength, she carried 765,429 soldiers on transatlantic crossings during her war service, including 16,683 American troops on one voyage from New York to Great Britain, a record that stands to this day for the most passengers ever transported on one vessel.

The Queen Mary shops bell
The Queen Mary shops bell
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Following the war, the Queen Mary was returned to her original magnificence and set sail again as the most elegant way to travel the high seas. With the rise in popularity of air travel in the 1960s, the famous ocean liner made her final voyage in 1967, retiring to Long Beach, California, where she has served as a popular attraction, event venue, and hotel since 1971.

Centerline Boutique, The Queen Mary, Long Beach California
Centerline Boutique, The Queen Mary, Long Beach California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The Queen Mary hotel

The Queen Mary Hotel's deck
The Queen Mary’s deck
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Strolling along the wooden decks of the Queen Mary is like a journey back in time, providing a glimpse into what transatlantic travel was like in its golden age.

Lifeboat demonstrations, The Queen Mary, Long Beach California
Lifeboat demonstrations, The Queen Mary, Long Beach California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The cost of a first-class passage on the luxury liner in 1936 was $1070 – about the equivalent of $17,000 in today’s dollars. Consequently, the staterooms were large and outfitted to the standards of a fine European hotel room at the time.

Queen Mary Hotel guest room
Queen Mary Hotel guest room
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Today, the Queen Mary Hotel’s 346 hotel rooms and suites include modern amenities such as a flat-panel television, an iPod radio, and plush beds, while also retaining the brass, polished wood, art deco styling and furnishings, and original accents of the 1930s.

In the bath, the original four faucets are still intact – cold fresh water, cold salt water, hot fresh water and hot salt water. Apparently, during the 1930s, salt water baths were considered therapeutic and, while the salt water options are no longer operable, the faucets are still in place.

Bath faucets, The Queen Mary Hotel, Long Beach California
Bath faucets, The Queen Mary Hotel, Long Beach California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Vintage air vent in guest room on the Queen Mary Hotel
Vintage air vent in guest room on the Queen Mary Hotel
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The staterooms are located primarily in what was first-class during the ship’s voyages. Sailing on the open seas could a bit rocky, so the Queen Mary’s classes were not determined by level, but by the location nearest to the center of the ship. Second and third classes worked their way outward, with the crew’s quarters at the most unstable ends of the ship.

Stateroom hallways aboard The Queen Mary Hotel
Stateroom hallways aboard The Queen Mary Hotel
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Our exterior stateroom also had my personal favorite feature: portholes. With a quick unlock of the heavy latch, the soft ocean air drifted into the room, and as I looked out onto Long Beach, I wondered how many other people had stood before this very same window gazing out to sea on this beautiful historic ship.

Porthole in guest room aboard The Queen Mary Hotel
Porthole in guest room aboard The Queen Mary Hotel
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The Queen Mary’s amenities and services include shops, boutiques, a full-service spa, and a fitness center, with the latter containing a replica of the gym that was aboard the ship during its transatlantic voyages.

Vintage fitness equipment at The Queen Mary Hotel
Vintage fitness equipment at The Queen Mary Hotel
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Deck chairs, The Queen Mary Hotel, Long Beach California
Deck chairs, The Queen Mary Hotel, Long Beach California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Dining and libations aboard the Queen Mary

The Queen Mary has a variety of restaurant options ranging from casual to fine dining and we tried quite a few of them during our stay.

Strolling along the decks of The Queen Mary Hotel
Strolling along the decks of The Queen Mary Hotel
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

In addition to delivering tasty fare and excellent service, each restaurant has incorporated elements of the ship’s history into their décor. The painting “The Mills Circus” by Dame Laura Knight that once hung in the Midships Bar can now be admired while standing in line for a Starbucks coffee and a pastry at the Midship Marketplace and the piano in the lounge at Sir Winston’s was once played by Liberace when it was located in the main lobby.

Sir Winston's at The Queen Mary Hotel
Sir Winston’s at The Queen Mary Hotel
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Sir Winston’s Lounge, The Queen Mary
Sir Winston’s Lounge, The Queen Mary
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

No place on the ship heightens the imagination like the Observation Bar & Art Deco Lounge.

Observation Bar, The Queen Mary
Observation Bar, The Queen Mary
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Once a meeting place for the first-class passengers, it’s hard not to visualize Clark Gable with a cocktail in hand discussing current events with his companions or Greta Garbo finding solitude at a table near the sweeping windows as she gazed out to the crashing waves.

Today, the Observation Bar & Art Deco Lounge is as lively as ever and the perfect spot for an afternoon beer, an early evening aperitif and cheese plate, or a nightcap before turning in.

Queen Mary's Observation Bar & Art Deco Bar
Queen Mary’s Observation Bar & Art Deco Bar
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Touring the Queen Mary

The Queen Mary Bridge, Long Beach California
The Queen Mary Bridge, Long Beach California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

While visitors can roam much of the Queen Mary on their own, the ship also offers several guided tours daily.

Communication room, The Queen Mary, Long Beach California
Communication room, The Queen Mary, Long Beach California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Glory Days Historical tour

The Queen Mary's Grand Salon
The Queen Mary’s Grand Salon
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The Glory Days Historical tour is an informative guided tour that explores the ship’s history, myths, and lore on a one-hour walk about the ship with numerous stops along the way including the Grand Salon, the massive former first-class dining room now used for private events, and the nursery, where period toys are on display.

If you are a history buff, the Glory Days Tour is not to be missed.

The Grand Salon, The Queen Mary Hotel
The Grand Salon, The Queen Mary Hotel
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Then things got a little spooky…

Ghosts and Legends

The Queen Mary has long been cited as one of the most haunted places in the United States. Over the years, 49 passengers and crew members died aboard the ship from circumstances ranging from natural causes to gruesome accidents. An additional 338 lives were lost during World War II, when the Queen Mary collided with her escort ship, the HMS Curacao, slicing the smaller ship in half.

The high level of mortality has reportedly resulted in abundant paranormal activity aboard the ship, which the Queen Mary has embraced.

Ghosts and Legends Tour, The Queen Mary, Long Beach California
Ghosts and Legends Tour, The Queen Mary, Long Beach California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The ship’s Ghosts and Legends tour journeys to two areas of the ship where a large concentration of haunted activity is said to occur – the boiler room and the swimming pool. Descending via an elevator six fathoms below the ocean, the tour ventures through the eerie, cavernous empty boiler rooms (the boilers were removed back in 1967), where a crew member was killed in a horrific accident involving high-temperature steam and has since reportedly been seen haunting the area on frequent occasions.

Next up, the famous first-class swimming pool. The location of frequent reported female ghost sightings, the changing rooms next to the pool are said to be a vortex or gateway to another realm.

First class swimming pool, The Queen Mary
First class swimming pool, The Queen Mary
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The Ghosts and Legends tours doesn’t allow photographs – we grabbed this one on a brief stop at the pool on the history tour.

Other reported paranormal activity aboard the ship includes: Stateroom B340, which is said to be haunted by a murdered purser and so active that the hotel no longer offers the room to guests; the engine room, where a fireman named Mr. Pedder, also referred to as Half-Hatch Henry, was crushed to death by Door No. 13 in 1966; and Bosun’s Locker, or the cargo hold area, which was damaged during the Curacao crash on October 2, 1944 – exactly 71 years to the day prior to the night we were spending on the Queen Mary.

Dun, dun, dun. Would we experience the sounds of metal tearing, pounding on walls, and water rushing in that others had described – especially on this anniversary of the tragedy? Nope. After an evening of the oh, so fun and scary, Dark Harbor, followed by a late-night visit to the Observation Bar, we retired to our stateroom and slept quite comfortably without a single bump in the night.

The Queen Mary at night
The Queen Mary at night
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Telescope on The Queen Mary
Telescope on The Queen Mary
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Queen Mary Attractions & Events

Queen Mary's Dark Harbor
Queen Mary’s Dark Harbor
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Throughout the year, the Queen Mary hosts a variety of events and attractions with two of the most popular being Dark Harbor, one of southern California’s most popular Halloween haunts and Chill, complete with larger-than-life ice creations made using over two million pounds of ice.

The Queen Mary, Long Beach California
The Queen Mary, Long Beach California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The Queen Mary

As is probably apparent by now, we thoroughly enjoyed our visit to the Queen Mary. The ship was completely full the night we stayed, with everyone appearing to genuinely enjoy the experience. When we checked out, each party in front of us in line raved about what a good time they’d had staying on the ship. The Queen Mary still has it.

View of Long Beach from The Queen Mary
View of Long Beach from The Queen Mary
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Location: 1126 Queens Highway, Long Beach, CA 90802

Design: Art deco

Guest room furnishings at The Queen Mary Hotel
Guest room furnishings at The Queen Mary Hotel
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Rooms: 346 guest rooms and suites

Facilities: Fitness center, spa, six restaurants and bars, Sunday brunch

Queen Mary model about The Queen Mary, Long Beach California
Queen Mary model about The Queen Mary, Long Beach California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Spa: Services include Swedish and Stone massage, Facials and body scrubs, Manicures, pedicures and waxing, Reflexology foot care, Hair care and makeup services

WiFi: Included in daily facility fee

The Queen Mary Observation Bar & Art Deco Lounge, Long Beach California
The Queen Mary Observation Bar & Art Deco Lounge, Long Beach California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Restaurants & bars: Sir Winston’s Restaurant & Lounge, Observation Bar & Art Deco Lounge, Chelsea Chowder House & Bar, Promenade Café, The Tea Room, Champagne Sunday Brunch in the Grand Salon, Midplace Marketplace


Disclosure & Disclaimer: Special thanks to the Queen Mary for hosting us as their guest. 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.

Long Beach California after dark
Long Beach California after dark
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
The Queen Mary decks at sunrise, Long Beach California
The Queen Mary decks at sunrise, Long Beach California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Queen Mary's Dark Harbor

A frightening evening at Queen Mary’s Dark Harbor

Cover: Queen Mary’s Dark Harbor
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Article by Kim Hull


Queen Mary's Dark Harbor
Queen Mary’s Dark Harbor
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Set against a backdrop of the legendary and long believed-to-be-haunted, Queen Mary, Dark Harbor is a frightful annual October event in Long Beach, California complete with chilling spectacles, eerie mazes and spooky characters inspired by some of the ship’s infamously haunting characters and tales.

Queen Mary's Dark Harbor
Queen Mary’s Dark Harbor
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Dark Harbor at The Queen Mary, Long Beach California
Dark Harbor at The Queen Mary, Long Beach California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

As Dark Harbor guests arrive in a blanket of hued fog, they are greeted by ghouls and mystical characters who play amongst the crowd, darting about with shrieks and screams.

Dark Harbor at The Queen Mary, Long Beach California
Dark Harbor at The Queen Mary, Long Beach California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Queen Mary's Dark Harbor
Queen Mary’s Dark Harbor
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

A cast of spirits that emerged from the tales of the Queen Mary beckon visitors to explore the Dark Harbor with its haunting attractions and six mazes, which included our two favorites, Deadrise and Voodoo Village.

Queen Mary's Dark Harbor
Queen Mary’s Dark Harbor
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Queen Mary's Dark Harbor
Queen Mary’s Dark Harbor
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Dark Harbor: Deadrise

Queen Mary's Dark Harbor
Queen Mary’s Dark Harbor
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

After a WWII crash in enemy waters, Deadrise sinks to the bottom of the ocean. From her watery grave, The Captain of Dark Harbor, calls Deadrise back into action.

Complete with fire, water sprays, jump scares, thick fog and plenty of dead ends, Deadrise has surprises at every turn and saves one last scare for those that think they’ve made it through unscathed.

Dark Harbor at The Queen Mary, Long Beach California
Dark Harbor at The Queen Mary, Long Beach California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Queen Mary's Dark Harbor
Queen Mary’s Dark Harbor
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Dark Harbor: Voodoo Village

Queen Mary's Dark Harbor
Queen Mary’s Dark Harbor
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Guarded by the Voodoo Priestess, Voodoo Village is a maze of spells and evil spirits that is occupied by traveling gypsies from the Ringmaster’s Circus.

Queen Mary's Dark Harbor
Queen Mary’s Dark Harbor
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Winding through altars, the gypsy’s sanctuar and the southern crypt of death, this long maze of sinister circumstances provides a vast assortment of macabre experiences, textures, colors and ominous sounds that are just creeeeepy.

Queen Mary's Dark Harbor
Queen Mary’s Dark Harbor
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Queen Mary's Dark Harbor
Queen Mary’s Dark Harbor
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Dark Harbor: Attractions and main stage

On the main stage, a continuous flow of devilish entertainers perform magic and circus acts – and it’s a great place to kickback with a cocktail and enjoy the show.

Queen Mary's Dark Harbor
Queen Mary’s Dark Harbor
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Queen Mary's Dark Harbor
Queen Mary’s Dark Harbor
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Queen Mary's Dark Harbor
Queen Mary’s Dark Harbor
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Spirited sliders dash about Slider Alley, screeching through the night as sparks fly from their knees, then quietly finding a seat next to an unsuspecting victim.

Dark Harbor at The Queen Mary, Long Beach California
Dark Harbor at The Queen Mary, Long Beach California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The Sinister Swings from Michael Jackson’s Neverland ranch light up the night near the Hookah Lounge and the Creepy Cabanas.

Queen Mary's Dark Harbor
Queen Mary’s Dark Harbor
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Terror awaits at the Monster Midway as ghouls and ghosts haunt all those passing through.

Dark Harbor at The Queen Mary, Long Beach California
Dark Harbor at The Queen Mary, Long Beach California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Kill mummies and monsters (well, paint them anyway) at the Curse of Anubis: Paintball Adventure.

Queen Mary's Dark Harbor
Queen Mary’s Dark Harbor
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Dark Harbor 2015 is a frightening night of fun

I’ll be honest. I’m not into haunted houses, but since we were staying at the Queen Mary (on the anniversary of the Queen Mary-Curacao crash no less), we had to check out Dark Harbor.

It was so much fun! The cast is an amazingly talented group of performers that truly make the night come to life. They are engaging and their energy is electrifying. I’m not sure if it would be possible to attend Dark Harbor and not let loose and have fun with the experience.

Dark Harbor at The Queen Mary, Long Beach CaliforniaDark Harbor at The Queen Mary, Long Beach California
Dark Harbor at The Queen Mary, Long Beach California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

And – VIP tickets are the way to go. You skip the lines and have even more time to enjoy all the Dark Harbor activities, and that includes partaking of tasty adult beverages.

Dark Harbor 2015 runs from October 1 through November 1 from 7PM to midnight, while closing at 1AM on Fridays and Saturdays. Some maze lines may close early due to capacity and last call for alcohol is 75 minutes prior to event closure.

Dark Harbor at The Queen Mary, Long Beach California
Dark Harbor at The Queen Mary, Long Beach California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Dark Harbor: Know before you go

Tickets are available on the Dark Harbor website with Fast Fright (cut in line), VIP Passes (21 and older) and lodging packages also available. VIP passes have a separate line at the entrance, come with a Fast Fright pass, and include admission to the RIP Lounge and three free drinks, making the experience frightfully good.

Not for the kiddos. While there are no age restrictions at Dark Harbor, it may be a bit much for children. Dark Harbor recommends children do not attend.

Queen Mary's Dark Harbor
Queen Mary’s Dark Harbor
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Leave your own scary stuff at home. Dark Harbor prohibits knives/weapons etc., drugs & drug paraphernalia, gang related clothing and items, disorderly conduct, wallet chains, costumes, pepper spray, coolers, chewing gum, flashlights and laser pointers, pens and markers, carabiner key chains (larger than three inches), selfie sticks, and outside food & beverage. Confiscated items will not be returned.

No costumes or masks are permitted at Dark Harbor except on Halloween (Oct. 31) and on Dia De Los Muertos Nov. 1 when costumes without masks are allowed but must be registered prior to entering the event. Masks are not permitted.


Disclosure & disclaimer: Special thanks to Dark Harbor 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.

Dark Harbor at The Queen Mary, Long Beach California
Dark Harbor at The Queen Mary, Long Beach California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Rodney Strong Vineyards

Rodney Strong Vineyards

Cover: Rodney Strong Vineyards, Sonoma County, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Article by Kim Hull


 I knew I couldn’t be an old dancer, but I could be an old winemaker.”
Rodney Strong

In 1959, after a successful career in dance, Rod Strong married his partner, Charlotte Ann Winson, moved to northern California, and became a winemaker. The couple purchased an old boarding house and began making their first wines using bulk wine Strong purchased, then blended to his taste.

Rodney Strong Vineyards, Sonoma County, California
Rodney Strong Vineyards, Sonoma County, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

In 1962, Strong acquired a 159-acre vineyard and winery in Windsor, California, acquired additional vineyards in the Russian River Valley in 1968, and then, in 1970, began construction on a winery.

Rockaway, Rodney Strong Master Blender Experience, Sonoma County, California
Rockaway, Rodney Strong, Sonoma County, California Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Strong was one of the first to plant vineyards in Sonoma, where fruit orchards were prominent at the time. An early advocate of single vineyard wines, his wines were were both of high quality and an excellent value.

That winery is now the site of the tasting room for Rodney Strong Vineyards – a beautiful location where visitors can sample the world-class wines for which Rodney Strong has become known over the decades, take a tour of the winery or attend one of the many events held throughout the year.

Rodney Strong Vineyards, Sonoma County, California
Rodney Strong Vineyards, Sonoma County, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

In 1979, Rick Sayre, the winery’s current head winemaker, joined Rodney Strong as a winemaker.

Rodney Strong Master Blender Experience, Sonoma County, California
Head Winemaker: Rick Sayre, Rodney Strong Master Blender Experience, Sonoma County, California Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Tom Klein, who had met both Rod Strong and Rick Sayre in 1979 as a consultant to the winery, acquired the winery in 1989. Since that time, they have installed state of the art facilities and employed leading edge winemaking techniques in their pursuit of crafting world-class wines.

The Klein family also has a commitment to protecting the environment and operates the winery with a carbon impact of zero, making Rodney Strong Vineyards the first carbon-neutral winery in Sonoma. Additionally, the winery was officially certified by the California Sustainable Winegrower’s Alliance for its continuous improvement in the adoption and implementation of sustainable winegrowing practices.

Rodney Strong Vineyards, Sonoma County, California
Rodney Strong Vineyards, Sonoma County, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Rodney Strong Tastings

Rodney Strong Vineyards, Sonoma County, California
Rodney Strong Vineyards, Sonoma County, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

From complimentary tastings to the estate and reserve tastings, Rodney Strong Vineyards offers visitors a wide variety of options for sampling their wines. Friday through Sunday, The Terrace’s tranquil setting is a perfect spot to relax and enjoy wine flights or food & wine pairings (reservations are recommended).

The Terrace, Rodney Strong Vineyards
The Terrace, Rodney Strong Vineyards Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Rodney Strong Events and the Summer Concert Series

Throughout the year, Rodney Strong hosts a variety of events from its harvest party and grape stomp to the highly acclaimed Summer Concert Series.

Boney James, Rodney Strong Concerts 2016
Boney James, Rodney Strong Concerts 2016 Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

For over two decades, the Summer Concert Series has entertained wine and music lovers in a spectacular, intimate vineyard setting.  Learn more about the Rodney Strong Summer Concert Series »

Georee Benson at the Rodney Strong Summer Concert Series
George Benson at the Rodney Strong Summer Concert Series
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Rodney Strong Tours

Rodney Strong offers a complimentary tour of the vineyards and winery, subject to availability. The tours are a perfect way to learn about the winery’s history and catch a behind-the-scenes view of how the wines are made. Tours are offered daily at 11:00 am and 2:00 pm.

Getting to Rodney Strong Vineyards

Rodney Strong offers tastings and tours to its visitors daily throughout the year. Check the Rodney Strong Vineyards website for hours, events and to schedule reservations.

Rodney Strong is located just off the 101 near Healdsburg, California.

11455 Old Redwood Highway
Healdsburg, CA 95448
(707) 431-1533
(800) 678-4763

Rodney Strong Vineyards
Kim Hull @ Rodney Strong Vineyards
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Disclaimer: 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.

Rodney Strong Summer Concert Series: George Benson

Rodney Strong Summer Concert Series

Cover: Rodney Strong Summer Concert Series: George Benson
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Article by Kim Hull


Nothing goes with great wine like fabulous music in an intimate setting.

With a wide range of world-class performers, a stunning venue surrounded by vineyards and, of course, their superb wines, the Rodney Strong Summer Concert Series delivers that and re, and deserves a place on everyone’s must-visit list.

In 2015, the Rodney Strong Concert Series celebrated their 25th anniversary of wine country summer concerts and we were on hand to close out the season with ten-time Grammy winner, George Benson.

Rodney Strong Summer Concert Series: George Benson
Rodney Strong Summer Concert Series: George Benson
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

It wasn’t our first visit to the series – over the years we’ve seen Mindi Abair, Michael McDonald, and the late, B.B. King.

Mindi Abair at Rodney Strong Concert Series 2014
Mindi Abair at Rodney Strong Concert Series 2014
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

25 years of summer concerts

Curious how the series began, we inquired with Rodney Strong Vineyards and were told:

Before the Summer Concert Series was created, the tasting room manager would put on impromptu concerts every once in a while and based on the success of those weekday shows, the Rodney Strong team decided it was a great idea to create an official concert series. We started with good, local talent covering many different types of music.”

Rodney Strong Summer Concert Series: George Benson
Rodney Strong Summer Concert Series: George Benson
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

As the years went by the series grew and, as they say… the rest is history.

Today, the Summer Concert Series is a must-see event. Surrounded by acres of beautiful vineyards, guests are treated to top performers in contemporary music while enjoying the winery’s intimate concert venue, The Green. There is no bad seat on The Green! Fans can bring a picnic to enjoy with friends or purchase an assortment of prepared foods from local purveyors on site. Rodney Strong Vineyards’ wines are available for purchase as well as non-alcoholic beverages.

Guests can purchase general admission tickets and bring a blanket and/or low back chair to enjoy the concert from The Green. VIP tickets are also available with up front seating directly in front of the stage with fantastic direct view of the performers.”

George Benson on the Green

Rodney Strong Summer Concert Series: George Benson
Rodney Strong Summer Concert Series: George Benson
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

We plan a visit to Sonoma every year in conjunction with the concerts and that always includes a Rodney Strong tour and tasting. This year was no exception and even included a stop by the stage during set up for the show.

Rodney Strong Summer Concert Series: George Benson
Rodney Strong Summer Concert Series: George Benson
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Rodney Strong Summer Concert Series: George Benson
Rodney Strong Summer Concert Series: George Benson
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Then, in the evening, after grabbing a few shots of the fabulous George Benson, we progressed to sipping the fine Rodney Strong wines while enjoying the smooth sounds of the jazz master as he delivered a fantastic performance to a sold-out crowd of over 1000.

Rodney Strong Concert Series 2016

What’s ahead for the series in 2016? The  Rodney Strong team begins looking for artists for the upcoming season around the first of the year and announces the concert series lineup in late spring. To stay in the know about the concert series and all events, check the Rodney Strong Concerts and Special Events page.


Disclosure & disclaimer: Special thanks to Rodney Strong 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.

Rodney Strong Summer Concert Series: George Benson
Rodney Strong Summer Concert Series: George Benson
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Taste of Sonoma, Sonoma Wine Country Weekend

Sonoma Wine Country Weekend

Cover: Taste of Sonoma, Sonoma Wine Country Weekend
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Article by Kim Hull


Sonoma Wine Country Weekend is Sonoma County’s largest fundraising event, held annually on Labor Day weekend with winery lunches, winemaker dinners, barbecues, one of the nation’s largest charity wine auctions, and the Taste of Sonoma.

Rodney Strong, Taste of Sonoma, Sonoma Wine Country Weekend
Rodney Strong, Taste of Sonoma, Sonoma Wine Country Weekend Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

A perfect place to close out the summer, the event brings thousands together under the late summer sun to sip fine wines, sample delicacies, and raise funds to support area youth and children.

Ferrari-Carano, John Ash & Co., Taste of Sonoma, Sonoma Wine Country Weekend
Ferrari-Carano, John Ash & Co., Taste of Sonoma, Sonoma Wine Country Weekend
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Sonoma Wine Country Weekend: Where the winemakers pour and the chefs serve

Jordan Wines and Tsar Nicoulai Caviar, Taste of Sonoma, Sonoma Wine Country Weekend
Jordan Wines and Tsar Nicoulai Caviar, Taste of Sonoma, Sonoma Wine Country Weekend
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures  © Chasing Light Media

Showcasing Sonoma’s exceptional wines and local chef creations, Sonoma Wine Country Weekend is where foodies and oenophiles gather for three days of nonstop eating, drinking and charitable wine buying.

Taste of Sonoma, Sonoma Wine Country Weekend
Taste of Sonoma, Sonoma Wine Country Weekend Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Against the sublime backdrop of Northern California’s vineyards, the event is a celebration of the best of Sonoma – with the chefs and winemakers in attendance, pouring their wines and serving their culinary delicacies in the relaxed, casual comfort the region is known for.

Taste of Sonoma, Sonoma Wine Country Weekend
Taste of Sonoma Sonoma Wine Country Weekend Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Taste of Sonoma

Sub Zero Ice Cream, Taste of Sonoma, Sonoma Wine Country Weekend
Sub Zero Ice Cream, Taste of Sonoma, Sonoma Wine Country Weekend Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

While Sonoma Wine Country Weekend is a three-day feast of the senses, the largest event of the weekend is Taste of Sonoma and a true star in its own right.

What makes Taste of Sonoma work so well?

Taste of Sonoma, Sonoma Wine Country Weekend
Taste of Sonoma, Sonoma Wine Country Weekend
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

It’s relaxed – not snobby

Paul Hobbs Winery, Taste of Sonoma, Sonoma Wine Country Weekend
Paul Hobbs Winery, Taste of Sonoma, Sonoma Wine Country Weekend Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Anyone that’s spent time in Sonoma would not be surprised by that statement but, a non-snobby wine event is actually worth noting.

Jordan Vineyard & Winery, Taste of Sonoma, Sonoma Wine Country Weekend
Jordan Vineyard & Winery, Taste of Sonoma, Sonoma Wine Country Weekend Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Attendees eat, drink, chat, and relax in the easy-going wine country atmosphere. So, feel free to leave those five-inch heels & the necktie at home. Sonoma Wine Country Weekend is about the wine, the food, and the cause.

MacMurray Estates Vineyards, Taste of Sonoma, Sonoma Wine Country Weekend
MacMurray Estate Vineyards, Taste of Sonoma, Sonoma Wine Country Weekend
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Speaking of food – there’s lots of food

Jordan Wines and Tsar Nicoulai Caviar, Taste of Sonoma, Sonoma Wine Country Weekend
Jordan Wines and Tsar Nicoulai Caviar, Taste of Sonoma, Sonoma Wine Country Weekend Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Other wine events can be so wine-focused you have to leave the tent and head to a restaurant when you get hungry, but not at Taste of Sonoma.

Taste of Sonoma, Sonoma Wine Country Weekend
Taste of Sonoma Sonoma Wine Country Weekend Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Most tables pair food with the wines. Fabulous, creative food. From mushroom tartlets to watermelon caprese to shrimp cocktail shots to some of the most amazing pickles you’ve ever tasted – it’s all so very Sonoma – fresh, local, innovative.

Taste of Sonoma, Sonoma Wine Country Weekend
Taste of Sonoma, Sonoma Wine Country Weekend Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Informative and entertaining seminars

Grape to Glass with Ray Isle of Food and Wine magazine, Taste of Sonoma, Sonoma Wine Country Weekend
Grape to Glass with Ray Isle of Food and Wine magazine, Taste of Sonoma, Sonoma Wine Country Weekend Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Seminars provide a wonderful opportunity to gain insights from experts about food, wine, and kitchen techniques and add to an unforgettable Sonoma experience.

Taste of Sonoma, Sonoma Wine Country Weekend
Taste of Sonoma, Sonoma Wine Country Weekend, Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

With cooking demonstrations, wine tastings, and panel discussions, Sonoma Wine Country Weekend provides a chance to learn from the masters – who are both informative and entertaining.

Grape to Glass, Taste of Sonoma, Sonoma Wine Country Weekend
Grape to Glass, Taste of Sonoma, Sonoma Wine Country Weekend Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

And, of course, it’s about tasting some of the best wine in the world

Breathless Wines, Taste of Sonoma, Sonoma Wine Country Weekend
Breathless Wines, Taste of Sonoma, Sonoma Wine Country Weekend Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Wine lovers have the opportunity to taste thousands of wines from hundreds of Sonoma County vintners and the informal atmosphere has wine fans mixing and mingling with the winemakers themselves.

Taste of Sonoma, Sonoma Wine Country Weekend
Taste of Sonoma Sonoma Wine Country Weekend Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Sonoma Wine Country Weekend: The Proceeds Matter

Mark Start, Taste of Sonoma, Sonoma Wine Country
Mark Stark, Taste of Sonoma, Sonoma Wine Country Weekend Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

At Sonoma Wine Country Weekend, the proceeds go to worthy causes supporting the children, environment, and health of the Sonoma County Community.

Taste of Sonoma, Sonoma Wine Country Weekend
Taste of Sonoma, Sonoma Wine Country Weekend Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The 2015 event set a new record with proceeds expected to be in excess of $5.5 million, with Fund the Future, supporting children’s literacy throughout Sonoma County, raising over $1.9 million alone.

Taste of Sonoma, Sonoma Wine Country Weekend
Taste of Sonoma, Sonoma Wine Country Weekend
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Sonoma Wine Country

Did you know Sonoma County has more than 370 wineries and over 500 restaurants?The fabulous climate makes Sonoma County a year-round destination so plan some visits throughout the year.


Disclosure & disclaimer: Special thanks to Sonoma Wine Country Weekend 2016 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.

Taste of Sonoma, Sonoma Wine Country Weekend
Taste of Sonoma, Sonoma Wine Country Weekend
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media