Behind the Scenes at the Chaminade Resort & Spa in Santa Cruz Farm to Table Dinners

Cover photo: Chaminade Resort & Spa Farm to Table Dinner, Santa Cruz, California Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Article by Kim Hull


Having visited Chaminade Resort & Spa in Santa Cruz previously, we knew attending one of their highly-acclaimed farm to table dinners would be an amazing experience. A luxury resort and spa that also manages to be comfortable and fun, the hotel is surrounded by 300 acres of tall trees and beautiful vistas. Add to that a friendly staff and phenomenal restaurants, and a visit to the resort is a perfect spot for relaxation, some great hiking, and enjoyment of delicious food and beverages.

Invited to attend the fourth dinner of Chaminade’s 2016 farm to table series, I was instantly curious as to how it was all pulled together and asked if we could go behind the scenes for the event. Chaminade agreed and granted us full access to the event… and it was a spectacular evening of food, wine, and new friends.

Chaminade Resort & Spa’s Farm to Table Wine Dinners

A Toast, Farm to Table Wine Dinner, Chaminade Resort & Spa, Santa Cruz, California
A Toast, Farm to Table Wine Dinner, Chaminade Resort & Spa, Santa Cruz, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Now in their ninth season, the Farm to Table Wine Dinners at Chaminade have developed a devoted following of Northern and Central Californians with a passion for the finest in locally sourced cuisine.

Chaminade’s farm to table series includes dinners spaced throughout the growing season, each highlighting the finest ingredients straight from the fields of local farms and expertly paired with wines from a nearby winery. Diners are treated to a delightful evening in an idyllic setting overlooking the Monterey Bay, beginning with a wine reception and followed by a multi-course dinner, with wine poured freely throughout.

Farm to Table Dinner at Chaminde Resort in Santa Cruz
Farm to Table Dinner at Chaminade Resort in Santa Cruz
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

What is Farm to Table?

Fresh produce at the Everett Family Farm Stand
Fresh produce at the Everett Family Farm Stand, Soquel, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

While it seems like nearly every restaurant you enter these days uses farm to table or farm to fork to describe their menu offerings, the concept is more than just a trendy phrase. Twenty years ago, if you asked most five-year olds where carrots or potatoes came from, most would probably have answered “the grocery store.” Fortunately, in recent years, an appreciation for food of higher quality has resulted in a resurgence of farmers markets, farm stands and home gardening.

Peppers at the Everett Family Farm Stand
Peppers at the Everett Family Farm Stand, Soquel, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Obviously, produce picked, transported only a short distance, and eaten quickly is fresher and more flavorful than those harvested too early to avoid spoilage while they are transported long distances. Simply compare the taste of a homegrown tomato from a backyard vegetable patch to one that was picked greenish, then shipped for days before arriving at a store, and it is easy to understand why chefs embrace the farm to table movement.

Locally sourced ingredients are also at their peak nutritional value, healthier and support and celebrate the small farms that strive to deliver premium products.

Lettuce goriwing at Everett Family Farm
Lettuce growing at Everett Family Farm, Soquel, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Farm to table, when crafted by talented chefs, transforms those higher quality ingredients into artisanal cuisine. Typically presented at long tables in stunning surroundings, the farm to table dinner creates a dining experience that is as memorable as it is delicious.

The journey from farm to table

Martin Ranch Winery, grapes on the vine, Gilroy, Califorornia
Martin Ranch Winery, grapes on the vine, Gilroy, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

We decided to begin our behind the scenes look at a farm to table dinner by finding out just how local the food and wine that would be served during the dinner really was by visiting the featured farm and winery. We didn’t have to venture far.

The Farm: Everett Family Farm

Sign at Everett Family Farm
Sign at Everett Family Farm, Soquel, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Located about four miles from Chaminade, just outside the quaint town of Soquel, California, visitors are greeted to Everett Family Farm on Old San Jose Road with signs proclaiming, “Don’t panic, eat it’s organic” and “Buy Fresh, Buy Local Here.”

The farm stand at Everett Family Farm
The Farm Stand at Everett Family Farm
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

A California Certified Organic Farm (CCOF), Everett Family Farm grows fruit and vegetables on 45 beautiful, sunny acres. Rich and Laura Everett, along with their three daughters, have operated the farm since 2001. In addition to offering organic produce, the Everett’s raise chickens which provide fresh eggs, grow flowers, make an apple cider each fall, and produce an estate grown hard cider, Soquel Cider.

Fresh produce at the Everett Family Farm in Soquel
Fresh produce at the Everett Family Farm in Soquel, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Pulling into the farm, lettuce grows in a sheltered building and, off to the left, a charming farm stand awaits filled to the brim with the freshest vegetables, fruits, eggs, and ciders.

The Everetts’ farm stand runs on the honor system. Visitors simply make their selections, then head over to the table to weigh their items, add up what they owe, and leave their payment in the black box.

The honor system at Everett Family Farm, Soquel, California
The honor system at Everett Family Farm, Soquel, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

In addition to the farm stand, the Everetts’ produce and products can be found at local farmers markets and grocers. The Everett Family Farm is located at 2111 Old San Jose Road, Soquel and is open from 10 am to 6 pm, seven days of the week except for holidays.

Tomatoes at the Everett Family Farm in Soquel
Tomatoes at the Everett Family Farm in Soquel
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The Wine: Martin Ranch Winery

Martin Ranch Winery entrance
Martin Ranch Winery entrance
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Martin Ranch Winery sits a short 33 miles away from Chaminade at the southern tip of the Santa Cruz Mountains.

Martin Ranch Winery, Gilroy, Califorornia
Martin Ranch Winery, Gilroy, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

A beautiful winery with spectacular views and a peacefulness not found in many spots, Martin Ranch was created by Thérèse & Dan Martin, who were both born and raised in the Santa Cruz area.

Serene lake at Martin Ranch Winery
Serene lake at Martin Ranch Winery
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The couple has owned and worked the ranch for over 30 years, producing award-winning red and white wines, gaining praise and a loyal following of wine club fans along the way. Dan produces under the J.D. Hurley label and Thérèse under the Thérèse Martin brand.

Beautiful views at Martin Ranch Winery
Beautiful views at Martin Ranch Winery
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The sign on the winery building says, “Tradition – Passion – Excellence,” and the wines, the winery and the Martins demonstrate those qualities aren’t just words on a placard nailed to the wall. The Martins have a passion and dedication to producing excellent wines while maintaining a commitment to sustainability and preservation of the environment.

Chickens at Martin Ranch Winery
Chickens at Martin Ranch Winery
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

In addition to the vineyards, the winery has large, raised bed gardens and even chickens on the grounds. Very cool and definitely worth a visit! Martin Ranch Winery is located at 6675 Redwood Retreat Road, Gilroy California and is open to the public every first & third weekend of the month from 12-5 PM for tasting and barrel samplings.

Vineyards at Martin Ranch Winery
Vineyards at Martin Ranch Winery
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The Chef: Nick Church

Executive Chef Nicholas Church With Sous Chefs, Farm to Table Wine Dinner, Chaminade Resort & Spa, Santa Cruz, California
Executive Chef Nicholas Church With Sous Chef Jesus and Pastry Chef Erica, Farm to Table Wine Dinner, Chaminade Resort & Spa, Santa Cruz, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Executive Chef, Nick Church, and his crew created a six-course menu for the evening, celebrating the locally grown delicacies and wines.

With the exception of taking time away from Chaminade in 2014 to open a restaurant, Chef Church has been with the resort’s culinary team since starting as a line cook in 1994. Now Chaminade’s Executive Chef, he has experienced most of the farm to table dinners at the hotel since their inception.

Chaminade Resort Executive Chef, Nick Church, keeping watch on the dinner
Chaminade Resort Executive Chef, Nick Church, keeping watch on the dinner
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

We grabbed a few minutes of his time and asked him to reflect on how he has seen the farm to table movement change through the years and how local sourcing affects his menu development on a daily basis.

After nine seasons of farm to table dinners at Chaminade, how have you seen the farm to table movement evolve?

“The excitement is still there from everyone including the Farmers, Wineries and the staff. I think the guests receive a fantastic and unique experience while learning about the local food, wine, and ingredients. When we run the dishes in Linwood’s that are created for the farm to table events, they tend to be very successful.”

How does your planning and preparation differ for a farm to table dinner versus a typical banquet or wedding?

“Planning a farm to table dinner takes time. Everyone always asks what’s on the menu but I don’t like writing the menu until I know what the farmer can provide. The ingredients are based on what’s in season and then the menu is created. I take the ingredients and use them in all the dishes and help pair the wines as well. The main goal is to make the guests happy. With weddings and banquets, the dishes are pre-selected usually a month or two in advance and of course pre-sold to the clients. We do try to use as many local ingredients as possible when preparing for dishes for weddings and banquet events.”

For the other 360 days of the year when you aren’t doing a farm to table dinner, how do local food choices factor into your menus at Chaminade?

“This is a tough question. Farm to table events are special to me and gets me and my staff out of our routine so to speak. I am naturally a shy person so getting out in front of the farm to table attendees is exciting for me. We are always trying to use local vendors for produce for Linwood’s as well as the fresh fish when in season to create our specials.”

Chef Nicholas Church & Staff preparing the Lamb Entree, Farm to Table Wine Dinner, Chaminade Resort & Spa, Santa Cruz, California
Chef Nicholas Church & Staff preparing the Lamb Entree, Farm to Table Wine Dinner, Chaminade Resort & Spa, Santa Cruz, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The Preparation

We arrived early to catch the staff in motion setting up for the dinner and preparing the two beautifully decorated tables where 96 people would soon gather to enjoy the evening.

Flowers for table at Chaminade Resort & Spa Farm to Table Dinner
Flowers for table at Chaminade Resort & Spa Farm to Table Dinner
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Casual flowers arrangements of sunflowers, daisies, eucalyptus and purple status provided bursts of color along the long white tables. Small jars of wildflower honey from Carmel Honey Company welcomed each guest to their place setting. There’s something about a beautifully set table that evokes excitement and anticipation.

Tables set with flowers at Chaminade Resort & Spa Farm to Table Dinner
Tables set with flowers at Chaminade Resort & Spa Farm to Table Dinner
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Vats of white wine chilled, bottles opened, glasses arranged, and a frenzy of activity occurred in the kitchen and prep areas. With precision, the Chaminade staff expertly pulled all the pieces together and, as the guests arrived, the makings for a perfect evening under clear Santa Cruz skies were all in place.

Martin Ranch Wines await the guests, Farm to Table Wine Dinner, Chaminade Resort & Spa, Santa Cruz, California
Martin Ranch Wines await the guests, Farm to Table Wine Dinner, Chaminade Resort & Spa
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The Dinner

First Course: Reception
Flat Bread, Padron Peppers, Ahi Poke, Scotch Egg, Seascape Strawberry with Blue Cheese, Sliders

As the guests arrived, they selected their choice of wine and chatted casually as an array of appetizers were passed.

Guests arrive at the Farm to Table Wine Dinner reception
Guests arrive at the Farm to Table Wine Dinner reception
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

From delicious strawberries with blue cheese to a mouth-watering ahi poke, the crowd loved the morsels of goodness as the reception kicked into gear. I chose to begin the evening, as I typically do, with a Sauvignon Blanc, which was delightfully crisp and bright.

David pouring Martin Ranch Sauvignon Blanc, Chaminade Resort & Spa
David pouring Martin Ranch Sauvignon Blanc, Chaminade Resort & Spa
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

As I chatted with the winemakers, Thérèse & Dan, Dan told me they use acacia wood barrels, which I found fascinating as acacia trees are what giraffes eat in the Serengeti. How cool! The conversations that occur at dinners like this are priceless.

Dan & Thérèse Martin of Martin Ranch Winery with Kim Hull, Chaminade Farm to Table Wine Dinner
Dan & Thérèse Martin of Martin Ranch Winery with Kim Hull, Chaminade Farm to Table Wine Dinner
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

With wines pouring, guests mingled, old friends reacquainted and new ones were made, as the fun crowd enjoyed the gorgeous late evening views at the resort which reach to Monterey Bay.

View towards Monterey Bay from Chaminade Resort & Spa in Santa Cruz
View towards Monterey Bay from Chaminade Resort & Spa in Santa Cruz
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Second Course: Starter
Heirloom Tomato & Fresh Mozzarella Salad

Course two: Heirloom Tomato & Fresh Mozzarella Salad, Chaminade Resort & Spa Farm to Table Dinner
Second Course: Heirloom Tomato & Fresh Mozzarella Salad, Chaminade Resort & Spa Farm to Table Dinner
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Taking seats at the communal tables, the first course of an heirloom tomato and fresh mozzarella salad arrived. A showcase of the freshness of the late summer produce, the perfectly ripe tomatoes and fresh mozzarella were brimming with both color and taste.

Third Course: Soup
Sun Gold Cherry Tomato Soup

Rod Serving the Soup Course, Chaminade Farm to Table Wine Dinner
Rod serving the Soup Course, Chaminade Farm to Table Wine Dinner
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

A huge fan of tomato soup, I was ready and waiting for this course and it was absolutely wonderful! The soup was fresh, lively and filled with flavor.

As we progressed through the evening, our hosts addressed the group, relating their take on the farm to table experience and what it means from each of their perspectives. Dan Everett talked organic farming. Thérèse Martin brought the winemaker’s take.

ThérèseMartin of Martin Ranch Winery addresses the dinner guests
Thérèse Martin of Martin Ranch Winery addresses the dinner guests
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

And, the very talented, super nice, and uber-cool Kirsten Ponza, Food & Beverage director for Chaminade and former tour chef for the Rolling Stones, relayed Chaminade’s commitment to sustainability and toasted the crowd.

Director of Food & Beverage, Kirsten Ponza speaking to the diners at the Chaminade Resort Farm to Table Dinner
Director of Food & Beverage, Kirsten Ponza speaking to the diners at the Chaminade Resort Farm to Table Dinner
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Fourth Course: Salad
Bambi Little Gem Lettuce, Smoked Goat Cheddar, Honey Crisp Apples, Pistachio, Cider Vinaigrette

Chef Nicholas Church & Staff prepare the salad course
Chef Nicholas Church & Staff prepare the salad course
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The Everetts are well-known and highly praised for their Honey Crisp Apples, so it is no surprise the fruit stole the show with this salad. The crisp, juicy apple that has a devoted, and well-deserved following, so perfectly paired with the smokey cheese and the pistachios gave the salad just the right pop of added flavor.

And, another interesting tidbit picked up from the farm to table dinner. Each of the purveyors has a “his and her” collection in addition to their joint efforts. The above-mentioned Honeycrisp is Rich Everett’s focus, while Laura targets heirloom apples for her ciders. With the Martins, each has their own wine labels, while also a combined winemaking focus.

Fifth Course: Entree
California Lamb, Oven Roasted Yukon Potato with Purple Garlic, Roasted Baby Carrots, Baby Vegetables, Syrah Reduction

Course Five: California Lamb at Chaminade Farm to Table Dinner
Course Five: California Lamb, Oven Roasted Yukon Potato with Purple Garlic, Roasted Baby Carrots, Baby Vegetables, Syrah Reduction at Chaminade Farm to Table Dinner
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Not one, but two thick, juicy pieces of lamb were the stars of the fifth course. It may have been the first time I’ve seen diners high-five over an entrée.

High fives at the table when the lamb arrived at teh Chaminade Resort Farm to Table Dinner
High fives at the table when the lamb arrived at the Chaminade Resort Farm to Table Dinner
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Served alongside Yukon potatoes, baby carrots and with a Syrah reduction, the guests were ecstatic as the dish was presented, and then a hush fell across the tables as they devoured the entrée. For the vegetarians in the group, an exquisite stuffed pepper rounded out the savory portion of the evening’s menu. Served alongside the entrée course, the Martin Ranch Thérèse Vineyards Syrah was sublime. Luscious and spicy, it was elegant and is truly a special wine.

Sixth Course: Dessert
Crème Caramel

Crème Caramel Dessert Plates, Chaminade Farm to Table Wine Dinner
Crème Caramel Dessert Plates, Chaminade Farm to Table Wine Dinner
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Who could think after all that food that we could even entertain dessert, but managed to devour the creme caramel. Rich, smooth and with great caramel flavor, it was a perfect finish to an amazing dinner!

The guests

Guests enjoying the Chaminade Resort & Spa’s Farm to Table Wine Dinners
Guests enjoying the Chaminade Resort & Spa’s Farm to Table Wine Dinners
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

There’s another element to any fabulous party or event – the guests!

Guest enjoying the Farm to Table Dinner at Chaminde Resort in Santa Cruz
Guest enjoying the Farm to Table Dinner at Chaminade Resort in Santa Cruz
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Arriving early and staying late, the Farm to Table guests were there to enjoy the food and wine and simply have some fun – and have fun they did!

Chaminade Resort Farm to Table Dinner guests
Chaminade Resort Farm to Table Dinner guests
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

With a strong contingent from the Martin Ranch Wine Club, groups getting away for the weekend from the bay area, and Santa Cruz locals, the mix of guests made for a lively evening filled with interesting conversations and a relaxed, vibrant atmosphere.

Chaminade Farm to Table Wine Dinner guests
Chaminade Farm to Table Wine Dinner guests
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Many of the guests have attended numerous Chaminade farm to table dinners over the years, creating an experience that feels like a comfortable dinner party given by a talented host. Guests wandered from table to table and even into the prep area, chatting frequently with the Chaminade staff and even giving some of them friendly hugs throughout the evening.

And, speaking of the staff, true hospitality is both an art and skill – and there’s one final element that must not go unmentioned.

Dulcie & Wine Dinner Guest, Farm to Table Wine Dinner, Chaminade Resort & Spa
Dulcie & Wine Dinner Guest, Farm to Table Wine Dinner, Chaminade Resort & Spa
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The Chaminade staff

Rob delivering the entree course at the Chaminade Farm to Table Wine Dinner
Rob delivering the entree course at the Chaminade Farm to Table Wine Dinner
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

From our previous visit and this one, we’ve observed a culture at the resort that focuses on delivering quality in a comfortable, friendly atmosphere. This culture of hospitality is more than serving good food and providing efficient service – it’s what makes the food creative & exceptional and the service not perfunctory, but flawless and generous.

Marshall serving the soup course at the Chaminade Farm to Table Wine Dinner
Marshall serving the soup course at the Chaminade Farm to Table Wine Dinner
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The Chaminade staff delivered a perfectly orchestrated dinner, executed flawlessly. The food was amazing and the service was friendly, with needs and wants anticipated and handled with care.

David pouring the Martin Ranch Winery 2015 Sauvignon Blanc at the Chaminade Farm to Table Dinner
David pouring the Martin Ranch Winery 2015 Sauvignon Blanc at the Chaminade Farm to Table Dinner
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

High praise and thanks to all that worked so hard to make a remarkable dining experience for 96 people on a picture-perfect evening in Santa Cruz!

Kirsten & Marshall, Farm to Table Wine Dinner, Chaminade Resort & Spa, Santa Cruz, California
Kirsten & Marshall, Farm to Table Wine Dinner, Chaminade Resort & Spa, Santa Cruz, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Disclosure & disclaimer: Special thanks to Chaminade Resort & Spa 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.

Chaminade Resort & Spa Farm to Table Dinner September 2016
Chaminade Resort & Spa Farm to Table Dinner September 2016
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

 

Eddy's Resort, Mille Lacs, Onamia, Minnesota

Eddy’s Resort on Mille Lacs Lake: A cool, eclectic lakeside resort that celebrates its historic past

Cover: Eddy’s Resort, Mille Lacs, Onamia, Minnesota
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Article by Kim Hull


I must confess – when we walked into Eddy’s Resort, it was nothing like what I expected. As we toured the state of Minnesota with Explore Minnesota and arrived at beautiful Lake Mille Lacs, I expected a hotel styled in rustic tones and decorated with fishing memorabilia. Instead, we were greeted by a roaring fire in a red-tiled fireplace, a lobby with boutique-hotel panache, and an eclectic mix of colors and designs.

Eddy's Lake Mille Lacs Resort, Onamia, Minnesota Photo: Greg K. Hull © Chasing Light Media
Eddy’s Lake Mille Lacs Resort, Onamia, Minnesota
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Fresh off of a huge renovation, Eddy’s Resort has molded its rich history that dates back to 1960 into a fun, warm and inviting resort with a definite cool factor. Huge Jenga games loom on industrial-style tables in the lobby. The walls are covered with reclaimed wood salvaged from the original buildings on the property prior to the remodel. Contemporary metal chairs with bright red fabric are blended with plaid touches and stripes. And, those sitting in those comfortable seating arrangements are treated to amazing lakeside views.

Lobby at Eddy's Lake Mille Lacs Resort
Lobby at Eddy’s Lake Mille Lacs Resort
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The rooms & suites

King suite at Eddy's Lake Mille Lacs Resort
King suite at Eddy’s Lake Mille Lacs Resort
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The comfortable, stylish design is continued throughout the guest rooms and suites, with splashes of red co-mingling with plaids and industrial accents. Our suite was quite large with a couch, coffee table, flat screen television, desk, coffee pot, mini-fridge, and a microwave. The king-sized bed was outfitted with crisp, white linens, comfy pillows, and good-sized night stands. The bath was spacious, with a free-standing shower, tub, and a long granite vanity.

Eddy's Lake Mille Lacs Resort, Onamia, Minnesota Photo: Greg K. Hull © Chasing Light Media
Eddy’s Lake Mille Lacs Resort, Onamia, Minnesota
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Rooms on the first floor have walk-out patios, while second and third-floor rooms have walk-out balconies. Our third-floor, lakeside room delivered breathtaking views of the lake.

View from our balcony at Eddy's Resort on Lake Mille Lacs
View from our balcony at Eddy’s on Lake Mille Lacs
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Dining & beverages at the Launch Bar & Grill

The Launch Bar & Grill at Eddy's Resort on Lake Mille Lacs
The Launch Bar & Grill at Eddy’s on Lake Mille Lacs
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

We spent our evening at Eddy’s enjoying dinner and drinks at the Launch Bar & Grill, while watching the lake shimmering lake colors change as the sun as it disappeared for the day.

Starting with cocktails and a tasty Thai Chili Hummus that packed a little punch, we then moved on to awesome walleye sandwiches. The food was great, the service excellent, the atmosphere fun, and the views spectacular.

Things to do at and near the resort

Outdoor activities at Eddy's Resort on Mille Lacs Lake
Outdoor activities at Eddy’s on Mille Lacs Lake
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

While the hotel has a modern, urban look and feel, one step out the door and you are once again immersed in the natural beauty of the area. A great place for enjoying drinks and conversation, a large patio and fire pit are located just outside the restaurant and bar.

The Launch Bar & Grill at Eddy's Resort, Lake Mille Lacs
The Launch Bar & Grill at Eddy’s on Lake Mille Lacs
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

For those wanting to get in a bit of fishing or simply explore the lake by boat, Eddy’s offers launch trips and boat charters. Never fished before? No problem. For first timers, Eddy’s holds a fishing class on Saturdays that is free to hotel guests.

Eddy's Lake Mille Lacs Resort, Onamia, Minnesota Photo: Greg K. Hull © Chasing Light Media
Launch services at Eddy’s Lake Mille Lacs Resort, Onamia, Minnesota
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The hotel also has a fitness room on site, a free coffee bar in the lobby, and for some family fun time, a selection of games are available to check out.

Games available for checkout at Eddy's Resort
Games available for checkout at Eddy’s Resort
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

For those looking to try their hand at some games of chance, the Grand Casino Mille Lacs is just down the road.

Also nearby is the Mille Lacs Indian Museum & Trading Post, a wonderful museum that tells the history of the Ojibwe people and a trading post with authentic American Indian arts & crafts.

Nearby: Mille Lacs Indian Museum & Trading Post
Nearby: Mille Lacs Indian Museum & Trading Post
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Eddy’s Resort

Location: 41334 Shakopee Lake Rd, Onamia, MN 56359

Design: Contemporary eclectic

Rooms: 64 rooms and suites, 1 parlor suite, 4 cabins

Additional services and amenities: restaurant, bar, launch services, fitness center, games 


Disclosure & Disclaimer: Special thanks to Explore Minnesota and Eddy’s Resort for hosting us as their guests. The content & opinions expressed are entirely our own. Reviews are opinion only and Chasing Light Media accepts no responsibility for how the information is used.

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

The rooms

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Resort

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

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

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

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

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

Madden’s four golf courses

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Spa at Madden’s

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

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

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

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

Dining at Madden’s

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Water activities

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

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

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

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

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

Meetings, conferences, and weddings

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

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

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

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

5 things we loved about Madden’s

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

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

Kim Hull & Caitlin Rick, Madden's on Gull Lake, Brainerd, Minnesota
Kim Hull & Caitlin Rick, Madden’s on Gull Lake, Brainerd, Minnesota
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Sitting around the firepalce at The Lodge on Lake Detroit, Detroit Lakes, Minnesota

The Lodge Detroit Lakes: An upscale lodge with breathtaking Minnesota lakefront views

Cover: The Lounge at The Lodge on Lake Detroit, Detroit Lakes, Minnesota
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Article by Kim Hull


Steps from the sparkling waters of Detroit Lake, the Best Western Premier The Lodge on Lake Detroit in Detroit Lakes, Minnesota is an upscale rustic retreat and the perfect spot for a getaway to rejuvenate and recharge.

An indoor pool, day spa, fitness center, complimentary breakfast, spacious fireplace lounge, and a private beach provide the amenities for an enjoyable stay – but it’s the little details that make it a memorable one.

Best Western The Lodge on Lake Detroit, Detroit Lakes, Minnesota
Best Western The Lodge on Lake Detroit, Detroit Lakes, Minnesota
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Arriving at the Lodge, we were greeted by the friendly staff and welcoming Minnesota hospitality. A bowl of chilled, lemongrass-scented towels on the front desk offered a chance for a quick freshening up, infused water and fresh fruit are provided in the lobby around the clock, and s’mores are available each evening.

Infused water & fruit at Best Western The Lodge Detroit Lakes
Infused water & fruit at The Lodge
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Moving on into the Lodge’s common area, sunlight from the two-story wall of windows overlooking the lake filtered into the large room in the late afternoon hours. Several guests quietly read in the bent willow rockers by the windows and a couple sat talking near the big stone fireplace.

Common area, The Lodge on Lake Detroit, Detroit Lakes, Minnesota
Common area, The Lodge on Lake Detroit, Detroit Lakes, Minnesota
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

As we made our way to our room, we stopped along the way to view some of the photos and the rustic decor that create the authentic relaxed, atmosphere of the Lodge.

Lobby, The Lodge on Lake Detroit, Detroit Lakes, Minnesota
Lobby, The Lodge on Lake Detroit, Detroit Lakes, Minnesota
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
True lodge atmosphere at Best Western Detroit Lakes, Minnesota
True lodge atmosphere at Best Western Detroit Lakes, Minnesota
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The rooms and suites

The Lodge has 54 rooms and 13 suites, all with breathtaking views of Detroit Lake that can be enjoyed from either a large private balcony or a walk-out patio.

Renewal Spa Suite, The Lodge on Lake Detroit, Detroit Lakes, Minnesota
Renewal Spa Suite, The Lodge on Lake Detroit, Detroit Lakes, Minnesota
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Our room was a beautiful Renewal Spa Suite and how appropriately named it is with a two-person aroma-therapy whirlpool, fireplace and private balcony overlooking Detroit Lake!

Two luxurious terry spa robes were waiting on the bed when we arrived, just beckoning us to jump into the whirlpool. We stashed a bottle of white wine in the mini-fridge to chill while we unpacked and decided to relax a bit before dinner.

Spa robes in Renewal Spa Suite at The Lodge
Spa robes in Renewal Spa Suite at The Lodge 
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Rounding out the amenities in our room were a large bath with a free-standing, glass enclosed shower, Bee Kind Toiletries, loads of white fluffy towels, a flat panel TV, desk, overstuffed rocker, and, in addition to the refrigerator, a microwave, wet bar sink and coffee maker. The plush king size bed was super comfortable with a pile of pillows and high quality bedding.

Spa Suite, The Lodge on Lake Detroit, Detroit Lakes, Minnesota
Spa Suite, The Lodge on Lake Detroit, Detroit Lakes, Minnesota
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The hotel

Rustic decor at Best Western The Lodge
Rustic decor at Best Western The Lodge 
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Returning to the hotel after dinner and a beautiful pontoon boat ride on Detroit Lake, we headed to Lola D’s for a glass of wine.

Lola D's Bar at The Lodge on Lake Detroit, Detroit Lakes, Minnesota
Lola D’s Bar at The Lodge on Lake Detroit, Detroit Lakes
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

After a quick game of tic tac toe, we sank into the leather chairs as the grand piano played softly and the last hint of daylight disappeared.

Tic, tac, toe lake style at Best Western Detroit Lakes, Minnesota
Tic, tac, toe lake style at Best Western Detroit Lakes, Minnesota
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

While The Lodge is located just minutes from Detroit Lakes’ many restaurant options, for those preferring to have lunch at the pool or beach, spend a quiet evening in, or enjoy a quick snack, Lola D’s offers salads, sandwiches, appetizers and light entrees.

A delicious complimentary breakfast that includes frittatas, a waffle bar, pastries, oatmeal, yogurt, cereals, a great selection of fresh fruit and an assortment of coffees is served each morning in the Lake Reflections Room.

Lakefront Reflections Room at The Lodge on Lake Detroit, Detroit Lakes, Minnesota
Lakefront Reflections Room at The Lodge on Lake Detroit, Detroit Lakes, Minnesota
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Hotel amenities

Indoor pool

Guests can enjoy a refreshing dip in the large indoor heated swimming pool and whirlpool, equipped with plenty of lounge chairs and social seating areas.

Indoor swimming pool, The Lodge on Lake Detroit, Detroit Lakes, Minnesota
Indoor swimming pool, The Lodge on Lake Detroit, Detroit Lakes, Minnesota
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The beach and lakefront

Fun at the lake is mere steps from the Lodge, with 550 feet of lakefront that includes a private sand beach, a swim area, and access to a private dock, boat slips, and complimentary use of paddle boats and kayaks (seasonal).

Best Western The Lodge Detroit Lakes, Detroit Lakes, Minnesota
Best Western The Lodge Detroit Lakes, Detroit Lakes, Minnesota
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Fitness center

A workout is just down the hall with the complimentary 24 hour fitness center at the Lodge. Workout options include an elliptical trainer, treadmills, dumbbells, and additional fitness equipment.

Fitness Center at The Lodge on Lake Detroit, Detroit Lakes, Minnesota
Fitness Center at The Lodge on Lake Detroit, Detroit Lakes, Minnesota
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Spa

When it’s time to wind down, there’s no better way than a visit to the spa. The Spa Within at the Lodge on Lake Detroit offers spa treatments, massages, facials, nail services, and more.

Visiting the Best Western Premier Lodge on the Lake

The Lodge on Lake Detroit is a beautiful, relaxing hotel and we only wished we could have stayed longer.

A wonderful spot for a respite with stunning views of Lake Detroit, the hotel is inviting and cozy, the staff friendly and helpful, and the spa suite was sublime.


Disclosure & disclaimer: Special thanks to Explore Minnesota and Best Western Premier The Lodge on Lake Detroit 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.

Hotel Contessa from the River Walk, San Antonio, Texas

Hotel Contessa San Antonio: Contemporary décor & Texas charm create a fabulous River Walk experience

Cover: Hotel Contessa on the River Walk, San Antonio, Texas
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Article by Kim Hull


Steps from San Antonio’s River Walk, the four-diamond Hotel Contessa is a chic all-suite hotel that successfully mixes contemporary décor with Texas charm to create an upscale, relaxed experience.

Brick walls and eclectic decor at Hotel Contessa on the River Walk
Brick walls and eclectic decor at Hotel Contessa on the River Walk
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Built around a soaring atrium, the lobby overlooks the beautiful bar area with palm trees, a water feature, abundant seating and serene views of the River Walk.

Cork Bar at Hotel Contessa on the River Walk
Cork Bar at Hotel Contessa on the River Walk
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

While we’ve stayed in many great hotels around the world, it is the staff that makes a stay memorable and the Hotel Contessa staff was exceptional. From the moment we arrived and throughout our entire stay, everyone we met at the hotel was friendly, helpful and welcoming – which truly made our visit special.

Checking in at Hotel Contessa, San Antonio, Texas
Checking in at Hotel Contessa, San Antonio, Texas
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The Suites

Living area in suite at Hotel Contessa
Living area in suite at Hotel Contessa
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

We were excited to visit this cool hotel when they asked us to pay them a visit in San Antonio. Hotel Contessa is an all-suite hotel, with 265 fashionable suites that deliver a loft-like feel.

The eclectic décor, vibrant accents, contemporary artwork, exposed cement columns and brick lined walls interject a sense of happiness into the space. A relaxing spot to retreat from the River Walk crowds, the living area features a large couch, coffee table, a flat-screen TV and a desk with one of the best power supplies we’ve found.

Living area in suite Hotel Contessa on the River Walk
Living area in suite Hotel Contessa on the River Walk
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

We instantly put the high-top table and chairs to use as we enjoyed a glass of wine and the afternoon indulgences of a cheese and fruit plate and dessert selection sent by the hotel soon after our arrival!

Afternoon indulgences at Hotel Contessa
Afternoon indulgences at Hotel Contessa
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

A granite counter area with a mini-fridge, coffee maker, large laptop safe and snack basket separates the living area and bedroom.

Floor-to-ceiling windows with views of downtown San Antonio and/or the River Walk (ours had both) serve as a backdrop to the bedroom. Interesting textiles, a bright throw pillo, and clever lamps pop against the crisp white linens of the king size bed. Two robes in the closet and a second flat screen TV round out the bedroom comforts.

Suite bedroom at Hotel Contessa
Bedroom in our suite at Hotel Contessa
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The bath has a shower/tub combo, granite counter, a make-up mirror, hair dryer and Zero Percent toiletries by Gilchrist & Soames, which I really liked. With a fresh scent, they have no sulfates, parabens, artificial colors or other bad-for-you ingredients.

Bath in suite at Hotel Contessa, San Antonio, Texas
Bath in suite at Hotel Contessa, San Antonio, Texas
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Even though the hotel is located on the River Walk, it was remarkably quiet. To use the real estate saying, it all comes down to location, location, location. Hotel Contessa is situated on a very quiet (and exceptionally beautiful) section of the River Walk and the result – a peaceful spot to retreat and relax.

River Walk behind the Hotel Contessa, San Antonio, Texas
River Walk behind the Hotel Contessa, San Antonio, Texas
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The hotel

Time to head down and check out the rest of the hotel.

Atrium at Hotel Contessa, San Antonio, Texas
Atrium at Hotel Contessa, San Antonio, Texas
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

I like atriums and the openness and natural light they provide. Combined with the contemporary styling at Hotel Contessa, the atrium creates a comfortable, modern-day courtyard where people continuously gathered.

Atrium gathering area at Hotel Contessa on the River Walk
Atrium gathering area at Hotel Contessa on the River Walk, San Antonio, Texas
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The contemporary styling and cool vibe is carried throughout with interesting accents, art and lighting.

Hotel Contessa decor, San Antonio, Texas
Hotel Contessa decor, San Antonio, Texas
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The lobby level overlooks the open area surrounding the bar and restaurant, creating an inviting meeting place for guests.

Cork Bar, Hotel Contessa, San Antonio, Texas
Cork Bar, Hotel Contessa, San Antonio, Texas
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The wall of glass brings the River Walk experience inside, where couples can find a quiet spot for two or large groups can gather around larger tables or relax in one of the plentiful couch seating areas. For those preferring the outdoors, a large patio sits just off the River Walk.

Casual seating at Cork Bar, Hotel Contessa on the River Walk
Casual seating at Cork Bar, Hotel Contessa on the River Walk
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Dining and libations

Cork Bar

Bar at Cork Bar, Hotel Contessa on the River Walk
Bar at Cork Bar, Hotel Contessa on the River Walk
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Combine Cork Bar’s great selection of wines, beers and handcrafted cocktails and its prime location on the River Walk, and it’s pretty obvious why Hotel Contessa’s watering hole is a hotspot for locals and visitors alike.

Then, we met master mixologist Hector and things got really interesting! Hector simply asked our liquor of choice, which of course was vodka, and offered up one of his award-winning creations – the Cavender Martini.

A beautiful blend of Cinco Vodka, rosé sparkling wine, a bit of St. Germain and a few accents, the Cavender is a perfectly balanced cocktail – not too sweet, crisp, pretty look at, and exceptionally tasty!

Master Mixologist Hector Vargas
Master Mixologist Hector Vargas, Hotel Contessa on the River Walk
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Las Ramblas Restaurant

Hotel Contessa restaurant, Las Ramblas, San Antonio, Texas
Hotel Contessa restaurant, Las Ramblas
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Taking full of advantage of Hotel Contessa’s prime location, Las Ramblas offers breakfast, lunch and dinner with scenic River Walk views.

Las Ramblas Restaurant on the River Walk, Hotel Contessa
Las Ramblas Restaurant on the River Walk, Hotel Contessa
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

A perfect place to start the day, Las Ramblas offers an a la carte menu or breakfast buffet with a huge spread of hot and cold selections. Standouts – the fruit was incredibly fresh, the pancakes were spectacular, and our server was friendly and helpful, answering our questions as we sought some local input as we planned our day of adventures.

Breakfast buffet at Las Ramblas, Hotel Contessa, San Antonio, Texas
Breakfast buffet at Las Ramblas, Hotel Contessa, San Antonio, Texas
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

We headed back to Las Ramblas in the evening for dinner on the patio. The evening menu includes innovative dishes created with fresh, local ingredients.

Dinner on the patio at Las Ramblas, San Antonio, Texas
Dinner on the patio at Las Ramblas, San Antonio, Texas
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

We started with shrimp and grits, which was spectacular and the sauce was amazing. Next up, our main courses. I had the grouper, which was prepared with an English pea succotash, sweet Corn, heirloom tomatoes, and topped with a prawn – it was divine! Greg opted for the salmon, which was accompanied with a ratatouille, shaved radish, arugula and a smoked almond pesto butter. It was prepared to perfection and mouth-watering delicious.

Dinner at Las Ramblas, Hotel Contessa
Dinner at Las Ramblas, Hotel Contessa
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

We still had part of the amazing chocolate cake and cheesecake from our room delivery in the mini-fridge, so we opted to skip desert and finish off our sweet delicacies a little later.

Las Ramblas patio, Hotel Contessa, San Antonio, Texas
Las Ramblas patio, Hotel Contessa, San Antonio, Texas
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Glass art at Hotel Contessa on the River Walk
Glass art at Las Ramblas at Hotel Contessa on the River Walk
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Amenities

Heated rooftop pool

Hot tub and rooftop pool at Hotel Contessa
Hot tub and rooftop pool at Hotel Contessa
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

With sweeping downtown San Antonio views, the rooftop pool and hot tub are a perfect spot to take a dip in the heated waters or simply relax and enjoy their tranquil perch above the city.

Ample comfortable seating surrounds the pool, which is open from 6AM to 11PM, and should the urge for a beverage or bite occur while poolside, guests can order room service delivered directly to the pool.

Pool at Hotel Contessa, San Antonio, Texas
Pool at Hotel Contessa, San Antonio, Texas
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Fitness center

Fitness center, Hotel Contessa
Fitness center, Hotel Contessa
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Also located on the top floor of the hotel, the well-equipped 24 hour fitness center has everything needed for an inspirational workout including cardio and strength equipment, free weights and amazing views of downtown San Antonio.

Woodhouse Day Spa

The Spa at Hotel Contessa, San Antonio, Texas
The Spa at Hotel Contessa, San Antonio, Texas
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Taking time out for a bit of rejuvenation and recharging is only an elevator ride away at the full-service Woodhouse Day Spa.

Treatment room at Woodhouse Day Spa, Hotel Contessa
Treatment room at Woodhouse Day Spa, Hotel Contessa
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Offering massages, body treatments and skin care services, the Woodhouse Day Spa adds a bit of pampering to your visit, whether visiting for business or pleasure. Chatting with someone on the rental car bus that had also stayed at Hotel Contessa while on business, he raved about his massage at the spa and what a great value it was.

Woodhouse Day Spa lounge room at Hotel Contessa
Woodhouse Day Spa lounge room at Hotel Contessa
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Nearby on the River Walk

Hotel Contessa in the heart of the River Walk
Hotel Contessa in the heart of the River Walk
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

While the majority of the River Walk, and all it has to offer, is within walking distance of Hotel Contessa, several top San Antonio attractions are mere steps from the hotel.

Marriage Island

Marriage Island behind Hotel Contessa
Marriage Island behind Hotel Contessa on the River Walk
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

A 100 year old cypress tree is situated between Hotel Contessa and the river and, over time, the tree’s roots have formed a small island, which has become known as Marriage Island. A popular destination for wedding ceremonies, it is also a beautiful spot to sit and read or watch the River Walk activity.

Briscoe Western Art Museum

Briscoe Western Art Museum, Covered wagon, San Antonio, Texas
Briscoe Western Art Museum, Covered wagon, San Antonio, Texas
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The Briscoe Museum is located next door to Hotel Contessa. Named in honor of the late Texas Governor, Dolph Briscoe, Jr., the Briscoe houses a wide variety of American Western art and artifacts.

La Villita Historic Arts Village

La Villita, San Antonio, Texas
La Villita, San Antonio, Texas
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Originally settled 300 years ago as one of the city’s first neighborhoods, La Villita was transformed into a historical arts district in 1939. Today, La Villita is home to shops, art galleries, restaurants, statues, and beautiful walkways and plazas.

Rio San Antonio River Cruises

Rio San Antonio River Cruises, San Antonio, Texas
Rio San Antonio River Cruises, San Antonio, Texas
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

One of the best ways to experience the River Walk is on a scenic cruise along the river. Along the way, you learn facts and historical information from the guides, while enjoying incredible views of the beautiful city of San Antonio.

River Walk, San Antonio, Texas
River Walk, San Antonio, Texas
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Top 5 things we loved about Hotel Contessa

1. Stellar Staff. In a time when many hotels have standardized to a near robotic state, the Hotel Contessa staff, while incredibly efficient, still takes the time to treat guests like guests, with a true focus on hospitality. Everyone we met seemed very proud of their hotel and their city – which is really cool.

2. Unbeatable Location. The hotel is located in a quiet section of the River Walk, just steps away from the shops, restaurants, bars and attractions. We rented a car – and never drove it once. We walked around the River Walk and took a hop-on, hop-off bus to get to further locations around San Antonio.

3. Inviting design. Hotel Contessa is a super cool boutique hotel with clever décor that warmly welcomes visitors into upscale luxury that is doesn’t take itself too seriously. It works.

4. Fabulous food and drinks. Cork Bar is fun and lively and Las Ramblas has one of the best dining locations on the River Walk. But, it really comes down to delivering on the food and drink and everything we sampled was top notch and the best we had while in San Antonio.

5. Spacious accommodations. We love rooms with space to work, have a glass of wine or watch TV, without requiring sitting on the bed while doing so. Hotel Contessa goes way beyond with a comfortable one bedroom apartment-size suite.

 


Disclosure & disclaimer: Special thanks to Hotel Contessa San Antonio 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.

Hotel Contessa entrance
Hotel Contessa San Antonio entrance
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Isle of Capri at sunset, JW Marriott Desert Ridge, Phoenix, Arizona

JW Marriott Desert Ridge Resort & Spa Phoenix: Delightful indulgences in an idyllic setting

Cover: Isle of Capri at sunset, JW Marriott Desert Ridge Resort, Phoenix, Arizona
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Article by Kim Hull


When it’s time to relax and recharge, JW Marriott Desert Ridge in Phoenix delivers the ultimate resort and spa experience.

Combining approachable luxury and an idyllic setting, delightful indulgences and stunning views await around each corner of the resort’s 316 acres.

Great area at JW Marriott Phoenix, Arizona
Great area at JW Marriott Phoenix, Arizona
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

With unparalleled hospitality, four acres of sparkling pools and waterways, two championship golf courses, an amazing array of family activities, an award-winning spa, and fabulous restaurants, the resort is a perfect destination for those looking for adventure, relaxation – or both.

JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge Resort & Spa, Phoenix, Arizona
JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge, Phoenix, Arizona
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The rooms

Guest room at JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge, Phoenix, Arizona
Guest room at JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge, Phoenix, Arizona
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Always a fan of JW Marriott hotels, we were especially looking forward to visiting the resort during spring training, which is always an exciting time in Phoenix. So, when invited, we booked flights and were on our way to enjoy some relaxation and baseball.

Checking into our beautiful room overlooking the Isle of Capri, we resisted the urge to just fall into the beautiful bed with its crisp white linens, loads of fluffy pillows, and a comfy duvet. A loveseat and an overstuffed chair provided plenty of space to both relax and get a bit of work done. A desk, flat-panel TV, mini-fridge and large safe rounded out the room’s amenities.

Guest room, JW Marriott Desert Ridge Resort, Phoenix, Arizona
Guest room, JW Marriott Desert Ridge Resort, Phoenix, Arizona
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

A large, free-standing shower, soaking tub, and large vanity, along with bathrobes, stacks of thick towels and Aromatherapy Associates toiletries, created a relaxing, well-designed bath environment.

Guest room bath, JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge Resort, Phoenix, Arizona
Guest room bath, JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge Resort, Phoenix, Arizona
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The resort

Fire, water, earth, sky, JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge, Phoenix, Arizona
Fire, water, earth, sky signs at JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge, Phoenix, Arizona
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Set against the backdrop of the McDowell Mountains and the Sonoran Desert, JW Marriott embraces the resort’s peaceful, natural setting with a creative blend of design that reflects the elements of fire, water, earth, and sky.

Sky

Sunrise by the fire pit at JW Marriott Desert Ridge, Phoenix, Arizona
Sunrise by the fire pit at JW Marriott Desert Ridge, Phoenix, Arizona
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Sunrises in Arizona are phenomenal.

Ironically, the only time we set an alarm clock is when we are traveling – for early morning flights and sunrises. When visiting the resort – set the alarm at least one of the days, stop off at Starbucks for a coffee or tea, find a spot by one of the many fire pits at Desert Ridge, and simply enjoy the majestic rising of the sun.

Stroll by the water, JW Marriott, Phoenix, Arizona
Stroll by the water at sunrise, JW Marriott, Phoenix, Arizona
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Earth

Sage Court, JW Marriott Phoenix, Arizona
Sage Court, JW Marriott, Phoenix, Arizona
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Colorful gardens, vibrant landscaping and the natural beauty of the arid Arizona landscape unify to create an exceptional environment that soothes the senses at Desert Ridge.

An area not to be missed – the beautiful desert botanical garden – an ideal spot for relaxing amongst the trees, plants, and cacti native to Arizona.

Desert botanical garden, JW Marriott Phoenix , Arizona
Desert botanical garden, JW Marriott Phoenix, Arizona
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

One of our favorite activities while at the resort was the Chef’s garden tour. Located near the spa, the garden produces some of the fruits and vegetables served at the Spa Bistro and contributes the herbs for Revive Spa’s signature product line. One of the resort’s horticulturists, Candace, gave us a tour of the gardens, which was both educational and tasty, with fruit and vegetable samples as we went. Nasturtium tastes remarkably like wasabi – who knew? And the creosote bush, it smells like rain. Such a fun morning and tours are available to all hotel guests.

Chef's garden at JW Marriott Desert Ridge
Chef’s garden at JW Marriott Desert Ridge
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Water

Relaxing by the pools at JW Marriott Desert Ridge, Phoenix, Arizona
Relaxing by the pools at JW Marriott Desert Ridge, Phoenix, Arizona
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Water is abundant at this oasis in the desert.

Four acres of sparkling pools and waterways wind their way through the resort, providing guests countless opportunities to bask in the gorgeous Arizona sun alongside cooling waters.

Lazy river at Desert Ridge Resort, Phoenix, Arizona
Lazy river at Desert Ridge Resort, Phoenix, Arizona
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Everyone enjoys a plunge into the lazy river for a tranquil, relaxing time floating along through the courtyard and the kids delight in slip-sliding down the serpentine water slide.

Waterslide, JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge Resort & Spa
Waterslide, JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge Resort & Spa
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Natural water features are also abundant throughout. From the incredibly beautiful lake near the golf course to the meandering streams and falls, the soothing sound of water provides a relaxing background to life at the resort.

Rolling streams at JW Marriott Desert Ridge, Phoenix, Arizona
Rolling streams at JW Marriott Desert Ridge, Phoenix, Arizona
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Fire

Meeting new friends at the fire pits, JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge Resort & Spa, Phoenix, Arizona
Meeting new friends at the fire pits, JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge Resort & Spa, Phoenix, Arizona
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Fire pits are abundant at Desert Ridge and provide a wonderful place to end the day and meet new friends.

After dinner at Stonegrill, we brought our bottle of Twenty6 Pinot over to enjoy under the incredible Phoenix stars and were soon joined by four new friends from an old spot – Dallas! As one of our new acquaintances later said, “New friends are wonderful, especially when discovered in such a beautiful atmosphere.”

I couldn’t have said it better.

The restaurants and bars

stonegrill

Stonegrill, JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge Resort & Spa, Phoenix, Arizona
stonegrill, JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge Resort & Spa, Phoenix, Arizona
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

We enjoyed dinner at stonegrill the first night we arrived and it set the tone for our entire stay. The food was superb, the service was stellar, and the atmosphere was comfortable and inviting.

We started with lemon drop martinis and calamari, then moved on to our main courses of salmon and shrimp and grits – yep, the south ventured to the southwest in a delicious transition. We loved it! Seriously good food in a relaxed, upscale environment.

Twenty6

Twenty6, JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge Resort & Spa, Phoenix, Arizona
Twenty6, JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge Resort & Spa, Phoenix, Arizona
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The Twenty6 lounge is located in the center of the hotel overlooking the expanse of the pools and terraces, and features hand-crafted cocktails, wines, beers, and other beverages, and a selection of tasty small plates.

So, the obvious question about Twenty6 is – why is it called Twenty6? Desert Ridge was the 26th JW Marriott and, hence, they have christened their bar and casual restaurant with the title of Twenty6.

While the signature prickly pear margarita is an absolute must, Twenty6 also has a very cool beverage endeavor underway.

Prickly pear margarita, JW Marriott Desert Ridge, Phoenix, Arizona
Prickly pear margaritas, JW Marriott Desert Ridge, Phoenix, Arizona
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Desert Ridge has partnered with a local brewery in Flagstaff to create the Twenty6 ale and with the renowned Paul Hobbs Wines from Sonoma County to deliver the Twenty6 chardonnay, pinot noir, and cabernet.

We had both the pinot and the cab – absolutely delightful wines and such a very cool program celebrating their unique part of the JW Marriott brand.

Twenty6 wines at JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge Resort & Spa, Phoenix, Arizona
Twenty6 wines at JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge Phoenix, Arizona
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

In addition to the lively interior of Twenty6, the terrace provides a fabulous vantage point to experience the vibrancy of Desert Ridge.

Sharing a bottle of wine on the Twenty6 patio late afternoon on a Sunday while watching the resort in full swing, it was as if experiencing a modern day version of Seurat’s A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte.

Music from Roy’s Aloha Hour filled the air as children played games on the lawn, couples quietly shared conversations, people strolled in from the pools, and large groups laughed and conversed around the fire pits – a colorful blend of guests and activities sharing and enjoying their day.

Revive Spa Bistro

Revive Spa Bistro, JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge Resort, Phoenix, Arizona
Revive Spa Bistro, JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge Spa, Phoenix, Arizona
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Revive Spa Bistro hits the spot for a healthy, organic breakfast or lunch. After touring the Chef’s garden, we stopped by for smoothies, a salad and a sandwich for lunch on the the patio near the pool. The food was fresh and delicious and the atmosphere was tranquil.

Meritage Steakhouse at Wildfire Golf Club

Meritage Steakhouse, JW Marriott Desert Ridge, Phoenix, Arizona
Meritage Steakhouse, JW Marriott Phoenix, Arizona
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Located at Wildfire Golf Club, Meritage Steakhouse specializes in steaks, fresh seafood and fine wines with a country-club like atmosphere. Open for lunch or dinner, Meritage also has an outdoor patio that overlooks the botanical garden and ballroom lawn areas.

Roy’s Pacific Rim

Roy's Pacific Rim, JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge Resort & Spa, Phoenix, Arizona
Roy’s Pacific Rim, JW Marriott Phoenix Phoenix, Arizona
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Well-known for their Hawaiian fusion cuisine, Roy’s outdoor patio is the place to be early evening for Aloha Hour specials and live music. On into the evening, Roy’s delivers dishes crafted from fresh local ingredients with signature cocktails and fine wines.

Just a Splash Bar & Grill

Salads, sandwiches, burgers and a full bar conveniently located poolside.

Starbucks

Starbucks at JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge Resort & Spa, Phoenix, Arizona
Starbucks at JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge Phoenix, Arizona
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Always fans of a hotel with a Starbucks, we stopped by frequently to grab a beverage or snack and would sit on the patio viewing the botanical garden and watching the golfers come and go at Wildfire Golf Club.

We waited in line one morning for our chai lattes next to pro golfers, Cheyenne Woods and Sadena Parks, who’d pulled in for a breakfast on their way to the links. Both would be playing the following week in the fifth edition of the JTBC Founders Cup, an LPGA event held each March at the resort.

Cheyenne Woods and Sadena Parks at Wildfire Golf Club, JW Marriott Desert Ridge, Phoenix, Arizona
Cheyenne Woods and Sadena Parks at Wildfire Golf Club, JW Marriott Phoenix, Arizona
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Revive Spa

Pool at Revive Spa, JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge Resort in Phoenix, Arizona
Pool at Revive Spa, JW Marriott Phoenix, Arizona
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

When it’s time to relax, it’s time to head to Revive Spa for a bit of pampering.

The 28,000 square foot spa includes 41 treatment rooms, private locker rooms, showers, steam rooms, a sauna, a fitness center, the spa bistro, and a full-service salon – making it easy to schedule a full day of relaxation and rejuvenation at Revive.

Salon at the JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge Resort & Spa, Phoenix, Arizona
Salon at the JW Marriott Phoenix, Arizona
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

However, even if you can only fit an hour or two in, check out the pedicures. I opted for the Gingerita pedicure and it was heavenly!

While sipping white ambrosia and coconut tea with honey pearls, my pedicure began with an exfoliating watermelon-basil vodka infused sugar scrub, followed by a warm citrus cilantro vitamin soak with grapeseed and olive fruit oils. Next up, a silky ginger body milk application, and finally, a finish of red polish. Spectacular!

Pedicure at Revive spa, JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge Resort & Spa, Phoenix, Arizona
Pedicure with Leah at Revive spa, JW Marriott Phoenix, Arizona
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Wildfire Golf Club

Wildfire Golf Club at JW Marriott Desert Ridge, Phoenix, Arizona
Wildfire Golf Club at JW Marriott Desert Ridge, Phoenix, Arizona
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Home to two 18-hole championship golf courses designed by Arnold Palmer and Nick Faldo, Wildfire Golf Club also offers a chipping green, two putting greens, a driving range, golf carts with GPS, Meritage restaurant, and a spectacular pro shop.

Wildfire Golf Club pro shop, JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge Resort & Spa, Phoenix, Arizona
Wildfire Golf Club pro shop, JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge Resort & Spa, Phoenix, Arizona
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The 18 hole, 7,145 yard Palmer course winds around the resort and through the picturesque Sonoran desert, featuring expansive fairways and average green sizes of 7,000 square feet.

Wildfire Golf Club, Desert Ridge, Phoenix, Arizona
Wildfire Golf Club, Desert Ridge, Phoenix, Arizona
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The 6,846 yard Faldo course, meanders over 174 acres with large greens, multiple tee boxes, and features 108 sand bunkers.

Wildfire Golf Club green at JW Marriott Desert Ridge, Phoenix, Arizona
Wildfire Golf Club green at JW Marriott Phoenix, Arizona
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The practice facilities at Wildfire include an all-grass driving range, and putting & chipping greens and bunkers.

Driving range, JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge Resort & Spa, Phoenix, Arizona
Driving range, JW Marriott Phoenix, Arizona
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Tennis Center

Tennis courts at JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge Resort & Spa, Phoenix, Arizona
Tennis courts at JW Marriott Phoenix, Arizona
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

If swinging a racquet is more your game, the Tennis Center offers eight lighted tennis courts and a full-service pro shop. Group and one-on-one instruction is available.

Additionally, bikes can be rented at the tennis shop.

Bike rentals at the tennis pro shop, JW Marriott Desert Ridge, Phoenix, Arizona
Bike rentals at the Tennis Center pro shop, JW Marriott Phoenix, Arizona
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Fitness centers

Fitness Center, JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge Resort & Spa, Phoenix, Arizona
Fitness Center, JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge Spa & Resort, Phoenix, Arizona
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Desert Ridge has two fitness centers, with the primary center located near the pool courtyard and lazy river and the second at Revive Spa. Both fitness centers include cardio equipment and free weights, with the spa fitness center also offering fitness classes for an additional fee.

Shopping

Retail shops at JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge Resort & Spa, Phoenix, Arizona
Retail shops at JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge Spa & Resort, Phoenix, Arizona
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

For those that think shopping is a form of cardio, the retail shops at Desert Ridge have a great selection of offerings ranging from forgotten necessities to local artisan creations, to clothing and much more (including a great selection of Moleskins, of which several now call my backpack home).

Top 5 things we loved about JW Marriott Desert Ridge

Wildlife, JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge Resort & Spa, Phoenix,
Wildlife, JW Marriott Phoenix, Arizona
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
  1. A culture of hospitality. Desert Ridge has a friendly, helpful staff that make you feel truly welcome – and that is something considering the size of the resort. Special thanks to Joshua, Candace, Owen, Leah, Karyn and the entire Desert Ridge team who made our stay so awesome!
  2. Fabulous location woven into the natural beauty of the desert. It’s easy to forget you’re so close to the city when at Desert Ridge, with its amazing mountain and desert views. Yet, when you want to get to an attraction or event in Phoenix, it is just minutes away.
  3. A resort fee that provides tons of value. The daily resort fee includes self parking, use of the Revive Spa fitness center, a complimentary dinner appetizer per entree purchased (2 per room max), unlimited balls and use of clubs on the driving range at Wildfire Golf Club, free golf bag storage, complimentary use of the tennis facilities and use of four racquets, and a free two hour bike rental for up to four bikes.
  4. A resort for golfers and non-golfers. While golfers can enjoy two championship golf courses, there are so many activities at the resort that non-golfers can fill their days with adventures or relaxation, never giving thought to fairways and greens.
  5. Superb dining and drinking options. The food at all the restaurants was delicious and fresh and the creative Twenty6 beverage programs added a fun, local spin while delivering high-quality wines and beers.

Disclosure & disclaimer: Special thanks to JW Marriott Desert Ridge Phoenix 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.

Sunrise at JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge Resort & Spa, Phoenix, Arizona
Sunrise at JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge Resort & Spa, Phoenix, Arizona
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
JW Marriott Starr Pass in the morning light, Tucson, Arizona

JW Marriott Starr Pass Tucson Resort: An oasis of luxury in the desert

Cover: JW Marriott Starr Pass Tucson Resort
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Article by Kim Hull


Overlooking miles and miles of massive saguaro cacti, JW Marriott Starr Pass Tucson Resort welcomes visitors to a beautiful resort filled with luxurious comforts, creating a unique dichotomy in the Sonoran Desert.

JW Marriott Starr Pass Tucson Resort entrance, Tucson, Arizona
JW Marriott Starr Pass Tucson Resort entrance, Tucson, Arizona
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The vivid green golf course dotted with white carts and brightly dressed players winds through the arid landscape of majestic plants and fauna.

Golfing at JW Marriott Starr Pass Tucson Resort in Tucson
Golfing at JW Marriott Starr Pass Tucson Resort in Tucson
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The azure blue waters of the pools and the lazy river sparkle against the rugged Arizona countryside.

JW Marriott Starr Pass Tucson Resort pool, Tucson, Arizona
JW Marriott Starr Pass Tucson Resort pool, Tucson, Arizona
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Tranquilly perched on a hill above the city, the resort offers stunning panoramic skyline views of bustling Tucson.

Sunrise on the morning hike at Starr Pass, Tucson, Arizona
Sunrise on the morning hike at Starr Pass, Tucson, Arizona
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

An oasis of luxury in the middle of the desert, JW Marriott Starr Pass Tucson Resort is truly a destination resort, with three nine-hole golf courses, countless non-golfing activities, an array of dining options, a full-service spa, and a helpful, friendly staff – all in an upscale, relaxed atmosphere. Thank you to JW Marriott Starr Pass Tucson for hosting us as their guest.

JW Marriott Starr Pass Tucson Resort in the morning light, Tucson, Arizona
JW Marriott Starr Pass Tucson Resort in the morning light, Tucson, Arizona
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The rooms

Living area, Executive Suite, JW Marriott Starr Pass Tucson Resort, Tucson, Arizona
Living area, Executive Suite, JW Marriott Starr Pass Tucson Resort, Tucson, Arizona
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

We’d never been to Tucson before this trip, so we gladly accepted the invitation to stay at such a gorgeous resort and explore the beautiful Tucson area – both which far exceeded our expectations. During our visit to Starr Pass, we enjoyed a luxurious executive suite with a long balcony overlooking the golf course and stunning western mountain views.

View of Starr Pass Golf Club from our balcony
View of Starr Pass Golf Club from our balcony 
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Upon entering the room we were greeted with a welcome note and an assortment of delectable chocolates and cookies. What a sweet arrival!

A sweet welcome treat from Starr Pass, Tucson, Arizona
A sweet welcome treat from Starr Pass, Tucson, Arizona
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Our 900 square feet/81 square meters of relaxing bliss included a huge living area with a couch, chairs, desk and a large flat panel TV.

The large bedroom featured a king size bed with a comfy pillow-top mattress and duvet, an oversized chair and ottoman, and another flat panel TV. Both rooms accessed the balcony seating, which included four chairs and two tables.

Bedroom in Executive Suite at JW Marriott Starr Pass Tucson Resort in Tucson, Arizona
Bedroom in Executive Suite at JW Marriott Starr Pass Tucson Resort in Tucson, Arizona
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The marble bathroom included a separate bathtub and shower enclosure, stacks of big fluffy white towels and divinely fragranced Aromatherapy Associates toiletries. The room also had large closets, three robes, a coffee and tea maker, a mini-fridge, an iron and ironing board, and a large safe.

JW Marriott Starr Pass Executive Suite bath, Tucson, Arizona
Starr Pass Executive Suite bath, Tucson, Arizona
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The resort

Salud Terrace, JW Marriott Starr Pass Tucson Resort, Tucson, Arizona
Salud Terrace, JW Marriott Starr Pass Tucson Resort, Arizona
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Having stayed at JW Marriott hotels and resorts around the world, we knew that Starr Pass would deliver the exceptional service and quality for which the brand is known, but Starr Pass also included some surprises, adding their own unique flavor to the visit.

The gorgeous, expansive lobby has comfortable nooks for small groups, larger ones, and couples to share moments from the day or for those seeking a little solitude for reading or catching up on email.

JW Marriott Starr Pass Tucson Resort lobby, Tucson, Arizona
JW Marriott Starr Pass Tucson Resort lobby, Tucson, Arizona
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Staying hydrated in the desert is crucial and Starr Pass has multiple flavors of water to make sure you do so – plain, spicy (there are jalapeños in there!), citrus and soothing melon.

Spicy, citrus and melon waters, JW Marriott Starr Pass, Tucson, Arizona
Spicy, citrus and melon waters, JW Marriott Starr Pass Resort, Tucson, Arizona
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

A sprawling resort brimming with activities, Starr Pass offers something for everyone in a relaxed, casual atmosphere.

Starr Pass Resort pool, Tucson, Arizona
Starr Pass Resort pool, Tucson, Arizona
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The huge terraces outside Salud, one of Starr Pass’ restaurants and bars, are the gathering point for the hotel from the beginning of the day to end.

While the early bird may get the worm, the early risers at Starr Pass truly get the treat each morning in the form a majestic sunrise.

Sunrise by the fire pit at JW Marriott Starr Pass Tucson Resort, Tucson, Arizona
Sunrise by the fire pit at JW Marriott Starr Pass Tucson Resort, Tucson, Arizona
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

After grabbing a beverage from the Starbucks just inside, a spot near one of the fire pits is the place to be for a time of tranquility and beauty before the day’s adventures begin. As the darkness disappears, the Arizona sky transforms into a vast array of oranges, reds, golds, pinks, and purples.

Sunrise on the terrace at Starr Pass Resort, Tucson, Arizona
Sunrise on the terrace at Starr Pass Resort, Tucson, Arizona
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

For those wanting to start their activities while experiencing the sunrise, Starr Pass also offers a guided hike each morning on trails that begin just outside the front door of the resort.

Morning sunrise hike

Sonoran Desert sunrise, JW Marriott Starr Pass, Tucson, Arizona
Sonoran Desert sunrise, JW Marriott Starr Pass, Tucson, Arizona
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

A trek through the beautiful Sonoran desert as the morning sky comes to life is an amazing way to start the day.

Greg Hull on Sunrise hike at JW Marriott Starr Pass, Tucson, Arizona
Greg Hull on Sunrise hike at JW Marriott Starr Pass, Tucson, Arizona
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Winding through the Tucson Mountain District in the crisp morning air, the one hour hike is an easy trek against the backdrop of the brilliant morning colors.

The guides are great – taking the time to explain the Saguaro cacti, the native plants, and the animals that reside in the region. A not-to-be missed activity – so the night before when you are contemplating setting the alarm – do it!

Learning about the saguaro cactus on the morning hike at Starr Pass
Learning about the saguaro cactus on the morning hike at Starr Pass
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Following a morning of desert adventure, the hike arrives back at the resort just in time for the Mitakuye Oyasin morning ritual.

Mitakuye Oyasin morning ritual

Mitakuye Oyasin morning ritual, JW Marriott Starr Pass, Tucson, Arizona
Mitakuye Oyasin morning ritual, JW Marriott Starr Pass, Tucson, Arizona
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

One of the key elements of enjoying travel is gaining an appreciation for the culture of the area visited.

Tuscon’s unique and rich cultural fabric is woven from a blend of the Hispanic, Old West and Native American traditions that have been passed down through the generations. Starr Pass celebrates this history each morning, inviting guests to participate in the Mitakuye Oyasin morning ritual.

An interconnected world, Mitakuye Oyasin morning ritual, JW Marriott Tucson
An interconnected world, Mitakuye Oyasin morning ritual, JW Marriott Tucson
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

As the sun begins to warm the day, the traditional Native American ceremony pays tribute to the world view of interconnectedness.

Sage prayer tie, Mitakuye Oyasin morning ritual, JW Marriott Starr Pass, Tucson, Arizona
Sage prayer tie, Mitakuye Oyasin morning ritual, JW Marriott Starr Pass, Tucson, Arizona
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

With words of wisdom, the playing of the Native American flute, burning of a sage prayer tie and receiving of the eagle feather blessing, the ceremony is a beautiful time for reflection and connection for all.

Kim Hull, burning of a sage prayer tie, JW Marriott Starr Pass in Tucson
Kim Hull, burning of a sage prayer tie, JW Marriott Starr Pass in Tucson
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Activities, activities and more activities

Flowers on hike at Starr Pass
Flowers on hike at Starr Pass
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The only challenge with regard to activities at Starr Pass is how to fit them all into your stay.

For those that didn’t set their alarm for the sunrise hike, multiple trails leave from the front of the hotel (remember water and sunscreen – the Arizona sun is very strong mid-day). Trails can be used for hiking or mountain biking and when out in the desert, be sure to keep an eye out for rattlesnakes and javelina, which look like wild pigs, but are actually members of the peccary family.

Hiking trails, JW Marriott Starr Pass, Tucson, Arizona
Hiking trails, JW Marriott Starr Pass, Tucson, Arizona
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

If lounging poolside or splashing about is more what you have in mind, Starr Pass has a multi-level outdoor pool, the Starr Canyon lazy river, and the Monsoon Falls waterslide. All are heated and towel service is provided.

The fitness center is located at the Hashani Spa, with a wide variety of cardio equipment, free weights, and a lap pool.

JW Marriott Starr Pass resort fitness center, Tucson, Arizona
JW Marriott Starr Pass resort fitness center, Tucson, Arizona
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Speaking of spas, the Hashani Spa offers a full range of services, including massages, wraps, and other rejuvenating treatments.

Hashani Spa, JW Marriott Starr Pass, Tucson, Arizona
Hashani Spa, JW Marriott Starr Pass, Tucson, Arizona
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The shops at Starr Pass go way beyond bottles of water and some aspirin. Items range from local artisan wares to clothing to cycling kits.

Starr Pass Resort shops, Tucson, Arizona
Starr Pass Resort shops, Tucson, Arizona
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

And, last but certainly not least, is the renowned Starr Pass Golf Club.

Golfing at Starr Pass

Starr Canyon lazy river, JW Marriott Starr Pass, Tucson, Arizona
Starr Pass Golf Club
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

72 holes across three courses deliver a lush golfing paradise for those with a penchant for swinging a club.

Starr Pass Golf Club, Tucson, Arizona
Starr Pass Golf Club, Tucson, Arizona
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The Arnold Palmer designed Rattler Course (3,490 yards/par 36) is considered the most challenging of the three and offers stunning views and the exceptionally challenging 5th hole. The Roadrunner Course (3,241 yards/par 35), which is closest to the resort, offers ambitious holes, impressive elevation changes, and more gorgeous views. The Coyote Course (3,512 yards/apr 36), is more tranquil, surrounded by natural beauty and is frequently visited by wildlife.

A good spot for more shopping for golfers and non-golfers alike, the Starr Pass Golf Club pro shop has a great assortment of clothing and accessories.

Pro shop at Star Pass Golf Club, Tucson, Arizona
Pro shop at Star Pass Golf Club, Tucson, Arizona
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Be sure and download the Starr Pass Golf Club app, where you can book a tee time, get the weather forecast, keep score, and even connect with Starr Pass on Facebook and Twitter within the app.

Arriba, Abajo, al Centro, al Dentro, Salud!

Arriba, Abajo at JW Marriott Starr Pass, Tucson, Arizona
Arriba, Abajo at JW Marriott Starr Pass, Tucson, Arizona
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Each evening as the sun winds down for the day, Starr Pass guests gather on the Salud terrace for a tequila toast and the nightly telling of the legend of Arriba, Abajo.

Toast to the legend of Arriba, Abajo at JW Marriott Starr Pass, Tucson, Arizona
Toast to the legend of Arriba, Abajo at JW Marriott Starr Pass, Tucson, Arizona
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The story is one of love and one of tequila, of which Salud has over 150 artisan varieties, with the fable ending with a toast – “Arriba, Abajo, al Centro, a Dentro, Salud!” (Up, down, out and in). I won’t spoil the story – so you have to visit to learn the legend and enjoy one of the infused tequilas. Salud!

The restaurants

Signature Grill bar at Starr Pass Resort, Tucson, Arizona
Signature Grill bar at Starr Pass Resort, Tucson, Arizona
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

We had the opportunity to try most of the Starr Pass restaurants while visiting. Casual & comfortable, each restaurant offered fresh, modern dishes and outstanding service. We loved them – so much so that we never left the resort, visiting some of the restaurants multiple times because they were so tasty!

Here’s a day’s worth of favorites…

Breakfast at Starbucks

We love hotels that have Starbucks. We are usually up early to catch the sunrise and we don’t typically eat a large breakfast, so having the ability to grab a chai tea and a muffin fits our routine perfectly.

Starbucks at JW Marriott Starr Pass, Tucson, Arizona
Starbucks at JW Marriott Starr Pass, Tucson, Arizona
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

For those looking for something more substantial – Signature Grill serves breakfast specialties both a la carte and on a buffet.

Breakfast buffet at Signature Grill at Starr Pass Resort, Tucson, Arizona
Breakfast buffet at Signature Grill at Starr Pass Resort, Tucson, Arizona
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Lunch… and dinner at Signature Grill

Dining on the patio in the evening at Signature Grill combines stunning starlit views as Tucson twinkles in the distance with outstanding cocktails and cuisine.

Night view from Signature Grill, JW Marriott Starr Pass, Tucson, Arizona
Night view from Signature Grill, JW Marriott Starr Pass, Tucson, Arizona
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Starting off the evening with lemon drop martinis, we then progressed through salads (try the Knife & Fork salad – it’s seriously good), and on to expertly prepared main courses of Ahi Tuna and Salmon. Both were splendid! After dinner, we lingered, savoring our wine next to one of the patio fire pits before retiring for the evening.

Lemon drop martini, Signature Grill, JW Marriott Starr Pass, Tucson, Arizona
Lemon drop martinis, Signature Grill, JW Marriott Starr Pass, Tucson, Arizona
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The next day we were back at Signature for lunch at the bar (which is really cool) for the incredibly delicious vegetarian enchiladas.

Appetizers and drinks at Salud

Salud at the JW Marriott Starr Pass, Tucson, Arizona
Salud at the JW Marriott Starr Pass, Tucson, Arizona
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The de facto meeting place for the hotel, Salud, is lively all day long both inside and out on the terraces.

Cantina-style cuisine, signature cocktails, and the 150+ tequilas are the specialties. The open faced quesadillas are killer and the nachos looked fabulous as well.

Salud Terraces at Starr Pass, Tucson, Arizona
Salud Terraces at Starr Pass, Tucson, Arizona
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Dinner at Primo

Primo, JW Marriott Starr Pass, Tucson, Arizona
Primo, JW Marriott Starr Pass, Tucson, Arizona
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

James Beard award-winning chef, Melissa Kelly, serves up local, fresh and modern cuisine at Primo – it even says it on the door – and I couldn’t think of a better description. Farm to table fresh, with many of the ingredients grown at the resort.

Primo bar at Starr Pass, Tucson, Arizona
Primo bar at Starr Pass, Tucson, Arizona
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Having enjoyed appetizers at Salud a bit earlier, we headed straight into main courses of scallops and bass. So good and creative!

Whether you dine at one or all of the Starr Pass restaurants, the artfully crafted cuisine and fabulous service will be a culinary experience you won’t forget.

Primo dining room, JW Marriott Starr Pass Tucson Resort, Tucson, Arizona
Primo dining room, JW Marriott Starr Pass Tucson Resort, Tucson, Arizona
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Top 5 things we loved about JW Marriott Starr Pass Tucson Resort

Tucson Mountain District, Tucson, Arizona
Tucson Mountain District, Tucson, Arizona
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
  1. Stellar staff. The staff was friendly, helpful, and went above and beyond to get it right, without intruding.
  2. Stunning location. I love how it’s as if someone delicately picked up a luxurious, grand resort and oh so carefully placed it in the middle of the natural beauty of the Sonoran Desert.
  3. A celebration of the local culture. The unique activities – the guided sunrise hike, the morning ritual, and the tequila tasting – all highlighted the pride in the local culture and surroundings.
  4. Great dining options. The food was stellar, with multiple restaurants and options, so we didn’t have to get the car out once.
  5. Not stuffy. The atmosphere is upscale, casual without the pretense and stuffiness found in many high-end resorts. Visitors can simply relax and enjoy their time at Starr Pass.
Starr Pass resort pools, Tucson, Arizona
Starr Pass resort pools, Tucson, Arizona
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Disclosure & Disclaimer: Special thanks to JW Marriott Starr Pass Tucson 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.

Kim Hull at JW Marriott Starr Pass Tucson Resort, Tucson, Arizona
Kim Hull at JW Marriott Starr Pass Tucson Resort, Tucson, Arizona
Photo: Greg K. Hull © Chasing Light Media