Mille Lacs Indian Museum and Trading Post, Minnesota Historical Society, Onamia, Minnesota

Exploring Mille Lacs Indian Museum and Trading Post

Cover: Mille Lacs Indian Museum and Trading Post, Minnesota Historical Society, Onamia, Minnesota
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Article by Kim Hull


While visiting the Mille Lacs Lake area, we stopped by the Mille Lacs Indian Museum and Trading Post to learn more about the history of the area and the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe, who are believed to have settled in region in the 1700s.

A combination of beautiful exhibits, interactive displays, learning stations and educational information, the museum provides a view into the history and lives of the Ojibwe people and, next door, the Trading Post sells handcrafted American Indian arts and crafts.

Pow-wow outfits on display at Mille Lacs Indian Museum
Pow-wow outfits on display at Mille Lacs Indian Museum
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

History of the museum

Teaching displays at Mille Lacs Indian Museum
Teaching displays at Mille Lacs Indian Museum
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Built in 1996, the museum is one of 26 Minnesota Historical Society sites and museums and is located on the southwest shore of Mille Lacs Lake near Onamia, Minnesota.

The museum resides on the former property of Harry and Jeanette Ayers who began renting cabins on the grounds in the early 1920s. By the late 1930s, the Ayers were running a full resort business with cabins, boats, a trading post, gas station, and even a boat factory and maple syrup refinery.

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

Avid collectors of American Indian artifacts, art and memorabilia, the Ayers amassed a vast collection over their years of procuring items for the Trading Post. In 1959, they donated their collection, the buildings and the land to the Minnesota Historical Society.

The donated buildings and collections served as the museum until 1996, when the current building was built as result of a partnership between the Minnesota Historical Society and the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe.

Mille Lacs Indian Museum in Onamia, Minnesota
Mille Lacs Indian Museum in Onamia, Minnesota
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Visiting the Mille Lacs Indian Museum

Canoe at the Mille Lacs Indian Museum
Canoe at the Mille Lacs Indian Museum
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Visitors to the museum are treated to a wide variety of displays and exhibits, including hands-on activities for children.

Exhibits at the Mille Lacs Indian Museum
Exhibits at the Mille Lacs Indian Museum
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Exploring the spacious 22,810-square-foot museum, visitors learn the story of the Ojibwe people, from what their lives were like when they settled in the area to present day culture.

The Mille Lacs Indian Museum tells the history of the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe
The Mille Lacs Indian Museum tells the history of the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Many exhibits incorporate both the Ojibwe language and English in their descriptions and provide a glimpse into life on the reservation. We were fortunate to tour the museum with Travis Zimmerman, a descendant of the Ojibwe who is Site Manager of the museum.

Travis Zimmerman in the Four Seasons Room, Mille Lacs Indian Museum
Travis Zimmerman in the Four Seasons Room
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Popular for school field trips, Travis pointed out that the museum provides a wide view of Indian history, accentuating the similarities, not the differences, in the tribes, customs, foods, music, and games.

Displays at the Mille Lacs Indian Museum
Displays at the Mille Lacs Indian Museum
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Exhibits from the Ojibwe people at the Mille Lacs Indian Museum
Exhibits from the Ojibwe people
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The jewel of the museum, the Four Seasons Room contains beautifully designed dioramas with life-size figures that depict the life of Ojibwe people throughout the changing seasonal activities.

Life-size figures in The Four Seasons Room at Mille Lacs Indian Museum
Life-size figures in The Four Seasons Room
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

From depictions of harvesting wild rice in the autumn to making maple syrup to hunting and berry picking, the exhibits are exceptional.

Life-size figures in the dioramas at The Four Seasons Room
Life-size figures in the dioramas at The Four Seasons Room
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

While the dioramas date back to 1964 in the previous version of the museum, the life-sized mannequins were added in 1972.

Mille Lacs Indian Museum, The Four Seasons Room
The Four Seasons Room
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Travis explained that casts of actual tribe members were used to create the figures. Imagine how amazing it must be for the children and grandchildren of those members when they visit the museum to see depictions of their parents and grandparents from decades before.

The Four Seasons Room, Mille Lacs Indian Museum
The Four Seasons Room, Mille Lacs Indian Museum
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The Trading Post

Moccasins at Trading Post
Moccasins at the Trading Post
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The Trading Post is located next to the museum and offers a large selection of traditional and contemporary American Indian art and crafts from tribes across North America.

The Trading Post offers American Indian art and crafts
The Trading Post offers American Indian art and crafts
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Home to an amazing assortment of artists’ works, the Trading Post’s items include beads, books, blankets, moccasins, birch bark products, paintings, sculptures, pottery, jewelry, dream catchers, and more.

Beads at Trading Post & Mille Lacs Indian Museum
Beads at the Trading Post
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

In addition to the items for sale, an exhibit area can be found just inside the entrance with historical items from the Trading Post and those who have visited over nearly a century.

Postcard from 1964 at Trading Post & Mille Lacs Indian Museum
Postcard from 1964 at Trading Post
Photo: Kim Hull © Chasing Light Media

Know before you go

  • The museum and trading post are located at 43411 Oodena Dr., Onamia, MN 56359
  • Check the museum website for hours and admission fees.
  • Allow at least an hour to tour the museum and visit the trading post.

Disclosure & disclaimer: Special thanks to Explore Minnesota, Mille Lacs Indian Museum and Trading Post, the Minnesota Historical Society and Mille Lacs Area Tourism 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 catching her first fish, McQuoid's Inn, Lake Mille Lacs

I caught my first fish with McQuoid’s Inn on Mille Lacs Lake!

Cover: Kim Hull catching her first fish, McQuoid’s Inn, Lake Mille Lacs
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Article by Kim Hull


When I was about 5 or 6 years old my aunt took me fishing. We hauled all the gear out to a small, nearby lake and, upon arrival, she pulled out a can of worms and demonstrated how to put a worm on the hook. There was no possible way I was going to do such a thing, so she did it for me. About 10 minutes later, she explained to me that my constant talking was scaring the fish away. About 10 minutes after that, I’d eaten all of the snacks we’d brought. 10 more minutes – we loaded up the car and, as we headed back to town, she said she didn’t think I was going to be much of a fisherman.

If Eleanor could see me now.

Fishing with McQuoid’s Inn on Mille Lacs Lake

Lake Mille Lacs, Minnesota
Lake Mille Lacs, Minnesota
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

In the land of 10,000 lakes, I think babies are born with fishing poles in their hands, so I’m not sure anyone in Minnesota really believed that I had never caught a fish. But, that was soon to change with the help of McQuoid’s Inn on Mille Lacs Lake.

Kim Hull & Caitlin Rick, Lundeen's Tackle Castle, Lake Mille Lacs
Kim Hull & Caitlin Rick, Lundeen’s Tackle Castle, Lake Mille Lacs
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

After stopping by Lundeen’s Tackle Castle for a fishing license, we headed over to McQuoid’s Inn for an afternoon of fishing on beautiful Lake Mille Lacs.

Heading out to fish with McQuoid's Inn, Lake Mille Lacs
Heading out to fish on Lake Mille Lacs
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

We knew we were going to be in good hands with McQuoid’s Inn, who has offered launch fishing on Mille Lacs Lake for over 70 years. Their boat captains are expert fisherman and McQuoid’s offers both private and public charters on their comfortable and super clean boats. We were joined by a family for the afternoon, and with that, out we headed to fish.

Everything is provided by McQuoid's Inn, Lake Mille Lacs
Everything is provided by McQuoid’s Inn, Lake Mille Lacs
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

No worries with bait, tackle or equipment – everything is provided by McQuoid’s Inn. Our guide and boat captain, Mike, was terrific. He worked hard to find all the best spots where the fish hide and I never once had to touch the bait, which by the way were leeches – the things they used to stick on people to suck their blood under glass cups!

Kim Hull fishing on Lake Mille Lacs with McQuoid's Inn, Lake Mille Lacs
Kim Hull fishing on Lake Mille Lacs
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

We listened to 70’s rock (Eleanor definitely would not have approved) while we waited for the fish to find us – and it didn’t take long!

Fishing with McQuoid's Inn, Lake Mille Lacs
Fishing on Lake Mille Lacs
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The family that was with us caught a couple of Walleye, then I felt a tug on my line. Mike came running with his net and… Voila! I caught a 14″ Walleye!

Kim Hull fishing with Mike Verdeja, McQuoid's Inn, Lake Mille Lacs
Kim Hull fishing with Mike Verdeja, McQuoid’s Inn, Lake Mille Lacs
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Kim Hull & Mike Verdeja, McQuoid's Inn, Lake Mille Lacs, Isle, Minnesota Photo: Greg K. Hull © Chasing Light Media
Mike Verdeja assisting Kim Hull
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

How much fun was that! Mike told me how to hold it – it was rather wiggly – and we snapped the photos.

Kim Hull & Mike Verdeja, McQuoid's Inn, Lake Mille Lacs, Isle, Minnesota Photo: Greg K. Hull © Chasing Light Media
My first catch – A 14″ Walleye
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Walleye is a hugely popular fish in Minnesota and found on menus in nearly every restaurant in the state. We even had it for breakfast in a hash one day (it was amazing). However, for the 2016 season on Lake Mille Lacs, Walleye were classified as “catch and release” to rebuild the population at the lake. So, after Mike measured the little guy, off he went back into the water, and it was back to fishing for this now-experienced fisherwoman.

It wasn’t long before I felt another tug and Mike came running again with the net. This time – a 16″ Small Mouth Bass! With the first fish, in my excitement, I’d forgotten what I’d learned from our resident Minnesotan at lunch – when you take the photo, hold the fish out really far, close to the camera and it makes the fish look bigger.  Got it the second time!

They said to hold it close to the camera - it makes the fish look bigger
They said to hold it close to the camera – it makes the fish look bigger! Kim Hull, McQuoid’s Inn, Lake Mille Lacs, Isle, Minnesota
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Speaking of our resident Minnesotan, Caitlin Rick, who had organized the event, was still fishless as the afternoon was drawing to a close. But, we were doubting too soon and it was as if the fish knew she couldn’t go home without a catch. Just before we turned back to shore, Caitlin too got her catch for the day!

Caitlin Rick & Mike Verdeja, McQuoid's Inn, Lake Mille Lacs, Isle, Minnesota
Caitlin Rick & Mike Verdeja, McQuoid’s Inn, Lake Mille Lacs, Isle, Minnesota
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

What a fun afternoon! If you are in the Mille Lacs Lake area, contact McQuid’s Inn to reserve a spot on one of their charters. The boats are great, the guides are professional and fun, and the lake is beautiful!

Know before you go

  • McQuoid’s Inn provides the bait, tackle, and expert fishing advice.
  • You bring your fishing license, camera, food and beverage, and dress for the weather.
  • Private charters are available for groups of 5 to 85 guests. Bachelor and bachelorette party groups must privately charter launch trips.

Disclosure & Disclaimer: Special thanks to Explore MinnesotaMcQuid’s Inn and Mille Lacs Area Tourism 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, McQuoid's Inn, Lake Mille Lacs, Isle, Minnesota
Kim Hull, McQuoid’s Inn, Lake Mille Lacs, Isle, Minnesota
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
View of Gustavia harbor in St Barths

Can mere mortals visit St Barths? If so, what are some things to do in St Barths once you get there?

Cover: View of Gustavia Harbor in St Barths
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Article by Kim Hull


View our St. Barths photo gallery


There was a period of time when we only went on beach vacations. Our work lives were crazy at the time, so we escaped to an island every couple of months, even if it were only for a few days. Consequently, we visited quite a few sun-kissed spots around the globe, and have continued to do so, even though our travel destinations are now a bit less one-dimensional.

Throughout our journeys to islands located in varying oceans and seas around the world, one has stood the test of time and travels for the top spot on our favorites list – St. Barths. Over the last two decades, we’ve visited the island countless times, from day trips to week-long excursions. We’ve arrived by plane, ferried over by boat, stayed in hotels, rented villas, and watched the sun set while sipping champagne on a boat – ok, it was a small yacht (stay long enough, and these things sometimes happen).

The incredibly beautiful Gouverneur Beach, Saint Barths
The incredibly beautiful Gouverneur Beach, Saint Barths
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Saint-Barthélemy, typically shortened to St. Barts or St. Barths, is, of course, the tiny gem in the Caribbean known for its celebrity visitors and conspicuous consumption. Like the Côte d’Azur, Bora Bora or Aspen, there’s a reason certain places are frequented by those with ample funds seeking a quiet retreat with posh accommodations and a bit of pampering. Extraordinary resorts and villas, stunning natural beauty, fabulous dining and libations, and the best in shopping usually top the “needs” list for these destinations – and are easily fulfilled in St. Barths.

Things to do in St Barths
Things to do in St Barths
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

But, can those not arriving to Gustavia harbor by yacht, still enjoy the 8 square miles of paradise without selling their house in advance to fund the adventure? Yes – it’s still not cheap, but there are a couple of ways to fit it into most travel budgets. Whether you sample the island on a day trip from St. Martin or visit during lower seasons when the hotel rates aren’t quite as outrageous, St. Barths deserves a place on your “where to visit list.”

Sun sets on the Saint Barths yachts
Sun sets on the Saint Barths yachts
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

When to visit St. Barths

As timing is closely linked to prices, your St. Barths’ dollars (yes, they accept U.S. currency) will go quite a bit further at certain times of the year. Of course, there are a few trade-offs for the lower prices – like the possibility of hurricanes.

Fort Oscar, Gustavia Peninsula, St. Barths
Fort Oscar, Gustavia Peninsula, St. Barths
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures @Chasing Light Media

Mid-November to March

The highest season (i.e., costliest) to visit St. Barths is mid-November to March. Most websites will say December, but in the last few years, it seems to be creeping back to mid-November or at least around Thanksgiving. The weather is perfect during this time, St. Barths is a gorgeous alternative to the cold, and the prices are off the charts.

If want to go around December holidays, plan on booking months in advance for hotels and restaurants and you better have a high limit on your credit card. That said, carnival is really fun in St. Barths. The harbor fills with yachts and the entire island shuts down for a parade.

Day trips are a good bet for saving costs during winter months. While prices are high on all islands when it’s snowing in the northern hemisphere, they are exorbitant in St. Barths. A day trip from nearby from St. Maarten can save thousands of dollars and accomplish many of the same activities – just with you sleeping on a different island.

April and May

April to May is a good time to visit – the rain is only occasional and hotel rates start to drop.

June to late November 

Otherwise known in the Caribbean as hurricane season, prices are cheaper, but rain is more likely and your vacation could be interrupted by a hurricane. That said, historically, more hurricanes hit during August to October.

Days of the week

Most shops are closed in Gustavia on Sunday, so if shopping is on your agenda plan accordingly.

Getting to St. Barths

Gustaf III Airport, St. Barths
Gustaf III Airport, St. Barths
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures @Chasing Light Media

Typically, the first step in getting to St. Barths is to get to St. Martin / St. Maarten, which is about 15 miles away. Numerous flights arrive daily to at Princess Juliana airport (airport code: SXM) from the United States, Europe, South America and other Caribbean islands. Once in St. Maarten (the airport is on the Dutch side of the island), there are two primary methods of getting to St. Barths.

Aeroport Gustave III, Saint Barths
Aeroport Gustave III, Saint Barths
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The first is by plane. Small commuter airlines deliver and return passengers daily via the short 10-minute ride between St. Maarten and St. Barths (Airport code: SBH).  A little pricey and a bit precarious, the landing at St. Barths can be an adventure unto itself, as the landing strip is short and requires special training for pilots.  A few commuter flights are also available from Antigua, St. Thomas and San Juan as well.

Plane taking off at St. Jean, St. Barths
Plane taking off at St. Jean, St. Barths
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures @Chasing Light Media

The other option is by water, with the most common being the Great Bay Express ferry that leaves from Philipsburg in St. Maarten. Far more economical, the trip takes about 45 minutes, and you don’t have the added time of security and waiting at the airport.

Great Bay Express Ferry, St Maarten to St Barths
Great Bay Express Ferry, St Maarten to St Barths
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Luggage is no problem – it’s a common method of transportation for travelers between the islands. There are also a few other private charters and smaller ferries running from St. Martin / St. Maarten. For day trippers, the Great Bay Express has an option that leaves in the morning and returns in the evening, providing the option to explore St. Barths without paying the higher hotel rates found on St. Barths.

Luggage is fine on the ferry between St Maareten and Saint Barths
Luggage is fine on the ferry between St. Maarten/St. Martin and Saint Barths
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Upon arrival, whether by plane or boat, passengers must pass through customs. The airport is located at St. Jean and the ferries arrive in Gustavia. Taxis are available at both locations. Car rental locations are located at the airport, so those arriving by ferry and wanting to rent a car, need to cab over to the airport, which is about 5 or 10 minutes away. However, upon your return, most times the rental car company will transport you back to the ferry dock. For those staying on the island, the hotel will typically meet you at your point of arrival and provide transportation to the hotel.

When we first began going to St. Barths, Mini Mokes were prevalent on the island, followed by a period when Smart Cars were all the rage. Now though, everyone primarily gets around by regular cars and scooters.

Things to do in St. Barths

So, for the “Can I really afford St. Barths?” tally – the Great Bay Express is $80 RT from/to St. Maarten per person, a cab from the ferry port to the airport is about $10, and a one day car rental on St. Barths ran us $58 with tax. For our most recent experience, we did a day trip on a Sunday, so many businesses and shops were closed. Many day trippers don’t opt for the car rental – which I think is a mistake, unless you really can’t afford it. The only beach within easy walking distance from Gustavia is Shell Beach, which gets it name for the thousands of tiny shells that cover it. It’s small and nothing to write home about.

With a car, you can explore and, given it’s a tiny island, you can fit quite a bit into your day. Here are a few things that should be on your itinerary for the day….

Bask in the seclusion of Saline Beach

Sign at entrance to Saline beach, St. Barths
Things to do in St Barths: Go to Saline Beach
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures @Chasing Light Media

Saline is a stunningly beautiful, long, undeveloped beach with a laid-back, isolated atmosphere. The beach is deep, with plenty of room to find a spot far enough away from the water to not be bothered by those taking a stroll near the water’s edge.

Climbing over the dunes at the entrance to Saline Beach in St. Barths
Climbing over the dunes at the entrance to Saline Beach in St. Barths
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures @Chasing Light Media

While there is a parking lot at Saline, there are no facilities, so bring water and snacks. From the parking lot, it’s about a five-minute walk up and over the dunes to the beach. Although nudity is technically illegal in St. Barths, topless sunbathing is popular here and full nudity is common, especially on each end of the beach.

Saline beach, St. Barts
Saline Beach, St. Barths
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Languish over a luxurious lunch at St. Jean

St. Jean Beach, St. Barths
Things to do in St. Barths: Lunch at St. Jean Beach
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

After a morning of reading and relaxing on the pristine sands of Saline, you’ll wan to head to St. Jean for a bit of nourishment.

Baie de St. Jean, Saint Barths
Baie de St. Jean, Saint Barths
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

There are a variety of restaurants available in St. Jean, both across the street and along the beach. From pizza and casual fare to restaurants where the cuisine is only rivaled by the view, St. Jean has a fairly good selection of dining choices. We like to slip into French mode when on the island and enjoy a long, luxurious lunch – and decided to splurge on the experience. One of our long-time, go-to spots is Eden Rock.

On the beach at Eden Rock, St. Barths
On the beach at Eden Rock, St. Barths
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures @Chasing Light Media

A beautiful hotel, Eden Rock is perched on a rock overlooking the turquoise waters of St. Jean Bay. Constructed in the 1950’s, Eden Rock was the first hotel built on the island. Over the last 20 years, the hotel acquired adjacent properties and transformed into one of the most luxurious and diverse on the island with a variety of lodging types including standard rooms, cottages, suites, beach houses, and villas.

Sand Bar, Eden Rock, St. Barths
Sand Bar, Eden Rock, St. Barths
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures @Chasing Light Media

We’ve stayed at Eden Rock and it is a beautiful resort in a fabulous location – but on this trip, we just opted for lunch, which set us back $135 + tip for two drinks and two sandwiches. Yep – a little on the insane side of pricing for a fish sandwich. But, we essentially had a few hours at a resort where standard rooms were going for over $1000 per night during the time we visited.

Lunch at Eden Rock, St. Barths
Lunch at Eden Rock, St. Barths
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures @Chasing Light Media

Another beachside dining and drinking option at St. Jean is the famous Nikki Beach. If you plan to go, make reservations ahead of time and anticipate a price tag similar to Eden Rock. If the party scene is your thing, you’ll love it.

Dining, drinking, and watersports at St. Jean, Saint Barths
Dining, drinking, and watersports at St. Jean, Saint Barths
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Take a walk along St. Jean

Things to do in St. Barths: Take a walk along St. Jean Beach
Things to do in St. Barths: Take a walk along St. Jean Beach
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures @Chasing Light Media

All beaches on St. Barths are public and free, so a walk along St. Jean won’t cost you a dime.

Located next to the airport on the Baie de St. Jean, the white sand beach curves around the bay and is home to an array of water activities. Snorkel in the calm waters near the shoreline or head further out for wind-surfing or surfing.

Boat at Eden Rock, Saint Barthélemy
Boat at Eden Rock, Saint Barthélemy
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures @Chasing Light Media

Head over to Gouverneur

Sign at entrance to Gouverneur Beach, St. Barths
Things to do in St. Barths: Go to Gouverneur Beach
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures @Chasing Light Media

After all the activity at St. Jean, it’s good to finish the afternoon with some quiet time on Gouverneur Beach.

Gouverneur Beach, St. Barths
Gouverneur Beach, St. Barths
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures @Chasing Light Media

More remote, Gouverneur is a beautiful, serene beach with amazing views. Like Saline, Gouverneur can be reached by a paved road, has a parking lot, but does not have any facilities, so bring water, an umbrella and anything you wish to eat. Also like Saline, beach goers may opt for that full tan, going au natural.

Gouverneur Beach, Saint Barths
Gouverneur Beach, Saint Barths
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The drive to and from Gouverneur also yields some of the most spectacular views from the island, with a photo opportunity around each turn.

Overlooking Gouverneur Beach, St. Barths
Overlooking Gouverneur Beach, St. Barths
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Throw back a cold one at Le Select

Le Select, Gustavia, St Barths
Le Select, Gustavia, St Barths
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures @Chasing Light Media

After dropping off our car at the airport, they brought us back to Gustavia and we decided to take a stroll around town.

The story has it that Jimmy Buffet, a frequent patron of Le Select back in the 1970’s, cut a deal with the establishment’s owner, Marius Stakelborough. In exchange for rights to use the “Cheeseburger in Paradise” line from Buffet’s famous song, Buffet would have his tab covered at the establishment for life. Over the years, Buffet has returned to the corner where thousands have downed a beer and burger, for an impromptu concert or an anniversary party at the bar on the quay, which has been in operation over 60 years. A great spot for people watching and enjoying a cool drink under the shade trees, Le Select is open Monday – Saturday.

Shopping in Gustavia

Shopping in St. Barths
Shopping in St. Barths
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures @Chasing Light Media

A duty-free port, Gustavia is home to over 200 boutiques that line three streets in the quant village. While the names of luxury retailers range from Louis Vuitton and Bulgari to Cartier, Hermès and Chopard, many small shops offering beachwear, accessories, and t-shirts can be found as well. The shops are typically closed from noon to three but open again in the late afternoon until 7pm. Most high-end retailers are also closed on Sunday, but a few of the stores offering casual wear and t-shirt open in the late Sunday afternoon hours.

Saint Barths shopping
Saint Barths shopping
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Grab a drink and watch the sun set over the harbor

Saint Barths sunset
Saint Barths sunset
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

There are quite a few fabulous places to watch the sun set while on St. Barths, but we are always a fan of grabbing a cocktail and watching the boats return to the harbor as the sky fills with amazing hues of orange and purple.

Sunset, Gustavia Harbor, St. Barths
Sunset, Gustavia Harbor, St. Barths
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures @Chasing Light Media

For those leaving the island, the ferry returns at dusk to whisk you back to St. Maarten. For those staying on, the island changes after sunset. The day trippers leave, the stores close and a quiet settles over the island as visitors enjoy casually elegant dinners, before retiring to their hotel or villa or opting for a little nightlife at one of the late night cocktail bars.

Harbor Station, Saint Barths
Harbor Station, Saint Barths
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

How much did that day in St. Barths cost?

Let’s tally up our one day in St. Barths. Even with our splurge lunch, we spent just over $400 for the two of us. If we had opted for a not-on-the beach pizza for lunch, we could have easily cut it to $300. On the other hand, as it was high-season, if we had stayed on the island even one night, it would have run well over $1000. So, for us, an enjoyable day on one of our favorite islands for a couple of hundred bucks a piece was well worth it.


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

St Barths Harbor sunset
St Barths Harbor sunset
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures @Chasing Light Media
A Brainerd Zip Line high flying adventure

A Brainerd Zip Line high flying adventure

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


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

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

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

Gearing up

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

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

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

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

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

The guides

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Zipline training

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s go ziplining!

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

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

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

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

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

Navigating the suspension bridge

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

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

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

A 50-foot free fall finale

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

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

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

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

Know before you go

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

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

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

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

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

Wait until after your adventure for a beer.

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


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

Water tower at entrance of Martin Ray Vineyards and Winery, Sonoma County, California

Martin Ray Winery

Cover: Water tower at entrance of Martin Ray Vineyards and Winery, Sonoma County, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Article by Kim Hull


Driving up Laguna Road toward Martin Ray Winery, the first thing you’ll notice is a water tower soaring high above the vines against a perfect Sonoma sky. As you turn down the long drive, vibrant flowers and olive trees welcome you to the beautiful, historic winery just west of Santa Rosa.

Flowers & olive trees welcome you to Martin Ray Winery
Flowers & olive trees welcome you to Martin Ray Winery, Sonoma County, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

While we’d tasted Martin Ray’s wines over the years, this was our first visit to the winery and we quickly realized we’d uncovered a gem. Serene and lavishly landscaped, the winery is one of those where you grab a glass, find a chair near the vines or a table next to the gardens, and casually enjoy the wine country experience.

Relax in a chair near the vines at Martin Ray Winery
Relax in a chair near the vines
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

We visited on a Saturday afternoon during Grill 116, a tasting event hosted by 12 wineries along Route 116 in West Sonoma County where attendees sampled their way through wines and grilled specialties along the route.

Grill 116 event at Martin Ray, Sonoma County, California
Grill 116 event at Martin Ray 
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Tasting at Grill 116 at Martin Ray Vineyards and Winery, Santa Rosa
Tasting at Grill 116 at Martin Ray Vineyards and Winery
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

As visitors meandered about, enjoying the food, wines and a glorious Sonoma afternoon, we caught up with Andy Barker, Director of Consumer Sales & Hospitality, who gave us a tour and shared a bit of the winery’s history along the way – and quite a history it does have.

Kim Hull & Andy Barker, Martin Ray Vineyards and Winery, Santa Rosa, California
Kim Hull & Andy Barker, Martin Ray Vineyards and Winery
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The oldest continually operating winery in Sonoma County

Martin Ray Vineyards and Winery, Sonoma County, California
Martin Ray Vineyards and Winery, Sonoma County, California
Photo: Kim Hull © Chasing Light Media

Oh, the stories the vineyards surrounding the winery could tell. Martin Ray is the oldest continuously operating winery in Sonoma County and one of the oldest in all of California.

Back in 1881, Twin Fir Winery set up a vineyard and winery on this spot in the Russian River Valley of Sonoma County. In 1902, an Italian immigrant, Rafael Martini, purchased the winery and, in the years following, Martini further developed the estate, building a stable and bunk house where Italian immigrants stayed during harvest. Today, the Martin Ray Tasting Room is housed in this very structure.

Martin Ray Tasting Room, Santa Rosa, California
Martin Ray Tasting Room
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Tanks were crafted from old-growth redwood in 1904 and, soon thereafter, Martini turned the operations over to his sons. The Martinis produced wines that put the winery on the map. Enduring prohibition by producing sacramental wines, the winery survived and the Martinis resumed making wines for the public after it was repealed in 1933.

Old-growth redwood tanks at Martin Ray Vineyards and Winery, Santa Rosa, California
Old-growth redwood tanks at Martin Ray Vineyards and Winery
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

In 1950, Enrico Prati joined the Martini family, and the new Martini & Prati label produced wines at the location until the winery was sold to Courtney Benham in 2003.

Martin Ray Winery, Santa Rosa, California
Martin Ray Winery, Santa Rosa, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Courtney Benham brings Martin Ray Wines to Sonoma County

One of the reasons I love visiting a winery is hearing the history of the vineyard, the winemakers and the winery while walking the grounds and tasting the wine. Somehow, from then on, when the wine fills your glass, the provenance, the terroir, and the winery visit converge in your glass along with the juice, bringing the wine country experience to you as you taste the wine, wherever you may be in the world.

2014 Martin Ray Winery Pinot Noir Photo: Kim Hull © Chasing Light Media
2014 Martin Ray Winery Pinot Noir
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

By the time Courtney Benham acquired the Martini & Prati location in 2003, the winery had seen better days and was on the decline. Benham, who had acquired the rights to the Martin Ray brand in 1990, purchased the Martini & Prati vineyards and winery in 2003 and set about renovating the property, bringing it to modern standards, while still embracing its history and tradition.

Today, the winery is a great example of form and function coexisting. The beautiful barrel room serves as a stunning backdrop to parties and events but, when harvest rolls around, the tables are cleared out and the room is used as a production facility.

Beautiful Martin Ray barrel room serves as a stunning backdrop to parties and events Photo: Greg K. Hull © Chasing Light Media
Beautiful Martin Ray barrel room serves as a stunning backdrop to parties and events
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

State of the art storage facilities are housed in buildings that once were home to over 1.5 million gallons of the old redwood storage tanks. Utilizing a variety of production equipment and fermentation methods, the Martin Ray winemakers have at their disposal the tools required to produce the award-winning, artisanal wines for which they are known and respected.

Martin Ray production facilities Photo: Greg K. Hull © Chasing Light Media
Martin Ray production facilities
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Barrel room at Martin Ray Vineyards and Winery, Santa Rosa, California
Barrel room at Martin Ray Vineyards and Winery, Santa Rosa, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Leaving the barrel rooms and production facilities, we wandered over to the serene setting of the pavilion located under the water tower, which is available for corporate retreats and also used for winery events, such as wine under the stars evenings.

Event pavilion at Martin Ray Vineyards and Winery, Sonoma County, California
Event pavilion at Martin Ray Vineyards and Winery
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Lush landscaping at Martin Ray Winery, Sonoma County, California
Lush landscaping at Martin Ray Winery
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Speaking of wine, it was time to do some more tasting – next stop, the tasting room.

Yield to tasters, Martin Ray Winery, Sonoma County, California
Yield to tasters, Martin Ray Winery
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The Martin Ray tasting room

Tasting room at Martin Ray Vineyards and Winery
Tasting room at Martin Ray Vineyards and Winery
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Welcomed by a knowledgeable and friendly staff, the low-key tasting room is just what you’d expect in such an inviting atmosphere.

Martin Ray's casual tasting room
Martin Ray’s casual tasting room
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Martin Ray Wines

We’d tasted the Russian River Valley Chardonnay & Rosé during our tour and we really liked both wines and decided to also try/take home a few of the limited release wines. For our chardonnay choice, we selected the 2014 Mill Station Vineyard-Dutton Ranch Chardonnay from Green Valley.

While I’m generally not a chardonnay fan, Greg is, so we try to find chardonnays that appeal to both our tastes. This one fit the bill, refreshing and not too oaky, with a richness and clean finish. As far as the rosé – we’d loved the 2015 Estate Grown Rosé. Bone dry, complex, crisp – just a perfect summer wine.

Next up, the 2013 Puccioni Vineyard Dry Creek Zinfandel. Robust with an earthy tone and nicely balanced. Liked it, and in the box it went.

Martin Ray 2013 Puccioni Vineyard Dry Creek Zinfandel
Martin Ray 2013 Puccioni Vineyard Dry Creek Zinfandel
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Time to get serious, we moved on to the 2013 Martin Ray Atlas Peak Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley. A truly special wine, the Cab was full bodied, rich and simply divine. This one was a definite purchase and probably will make an appearance around the holidays.

Martin Ray 2013 Martin Ray Atlas Peak Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley
Martin Ray 2013 Martin Ray Atlas Peak Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Martin Ray 2007 Diamond Peak District Cabernet Sauvignon
Martin Ray 2007 Diamond Peak District Cabernet Sauvignon
Photo: Ryan Hull © Chasing Light Media

Martin Ray has a small quantity of older vintages available in their library collection. Highly-praised by fans and pros alike, you can also find Martin Ray wines on many quality restaurant wine lists.

Certified Sommelier and general manager of Boulder, Colorado’s L’Atelier, Ryan Hull explains why he regularly features Martin Ray wines in the restaurant:

Martin Ray was legendary…one of the first to bring the French philosophies of wine making and vineyard management to California. The proof is in the pudding. This is apparent from the juice in the glass.

I was recently pouring the 2007 Diamond Mountain District Cabernet Sauvignon by the glass and nearly every customer opted for a second. Amazing vintage, incredible complexity and luscious fruit.”

– Ryan Hull, CS & GM, L’Atelier

Martin Ray Vineyards and Winery, Santa Rosa, California
Martin Ray Vineyards and Winery, Santa Rosa, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Visiting Martin Ray

Getting there: Martin Ray Vineyards and Winery is located on the quieter side of the 101, about 10 miles west of downtown Santa Rosa. The address is 2191 Laguna Road, Santa Rosa, California 95401.

Hours: The tasting room is open daily from 10am to 5pm.

Book a tour or reserve a box lunch in advance. The winery welcomes visitors to pack a picnic and enjoy the beautiful gardens while having lunch or, call two days in advance to order a box lunch for your visit. A variety of tours and tastings are available and can be reserved on the Martin Ray website.


Disclosure & disclaimer: Special thanks to Martin Ray Vineyards and Winery 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.

Martin Ray water tower, Santa Rosa, California
Martin Ray water tower, Santa Rosa, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Warm welcome aboard Destiny Cruises, Gull Lake, Brainerd Minnesota

Enjoying beautiful Gull Lake aboard Destiny Cruises in Brainerd Minnesota

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


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

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

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

Destiny Cruises on Gull Lake

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Know before you go

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

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

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


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

Paul Bunyan, Paul Bunyan Land, Brainerd, Minnesota

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

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


Paul Bunyan knows your name!

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The amusement park

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Paul’s petting barn

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

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

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

This Old Farm Pioneer Village

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Where to stay

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

Know before you go

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

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

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


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

Mayor James Tufts & Former Mayor Bobby Tufts, Dorset, Minnesota

Dorset Minnesota: Home of America’s youngest mayor & the “Restaurant Capital of the World”

Cover: Dorset, Minnesota’s Mayor James Tufts & Former Mayor Bobby Tufts
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Article by Kim Hull


It’s not every day that you visit a town and, upon arriving, the mayor and the former mayor meet you and take you on a tour. But then, not every town is Dorset, Minnesota.

There’s a lot happening in this unique little town in north central Minnesota with a population of 22. The self-proclaimed “Restaurant Capital of the World,” Dorset has a newspaper that is published once a year “whether there’s unbelievable news or not” and has elected a three-year old mayor – twice.

The Youngest Mayor in America

Mayor James Tuft, Dorset, Minnesota
Mayor James Tuft, Dorset, Minnesota
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

When James Tufts became mayor of Dorset in 2015 at the age of three, he stole the record as Dorset’s youngest mayor from his older brother. Two-term former mayor, Robert “Bobby” Tufts, was also elected at the age of three but, with his win, James edged him out as the youngest by two days.

How did a three-year old become mayor, you may ask? In unincorporated Dorset, the mayor is drawn from the ballots cast during the annual Taste of Dorset festival. It’s a buck a ballot and anyone can enter their selection during the process, with the proceeds going to charity.

During their time in office, the Tufts brothers have gained international fame, appearing on the Today Show and Good Morning America and having made headlines in the NY Daily News, the Daily Mirror and countless other news outlets.

Mayor James Tufts, Kim Hull, Caitlin Rick, Dorset, Minnesota
Mayor James Tufts, Kim Hull, Caitlin Rick, Dorset, Minnesota
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

After a tour through several of James’ favorite haunts around town, such as the toy section of a local store and the miniature golf course, we stopped to catch some words of wisdom from the pint-sized politician who is quick to dispense sage advice.

And, it appears we are in good company – well, at least famous company. According to the local paper, the Dorset Daily Bugle, all of the presidential candidates have sought the mayor’s advice. James, now at the wise old age of four, provided these words of wisdom, “Be nice and no poopy talk.”

Dorset Daily Bugle, Dorset, Minnesota
Dorset Daily Bugle, Dorset, Minnesota
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Older brother Bobby, now a Dorset ambassador, seems happy to assist his younger sibling with his mayoral duties. But, if you think he’s completely retired from politics, you may want to think otherwise. It appears from his hat he’s already exploring a 2048 presidential bid.

Finishing up our time with the Tuft political dynasty, we moved on to investigate Dorset’s other claim to fame as the Restaurant Capital of the World.

Former Mayor Bobby Tufts, Mayor James Tufts, Kim Hull, Dorset, Minnesota
Former Mayor Bobby Tufts, Mayor James Tufts, Kim Hull, Dorset, Minnesota
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The Restaurant Capital of the World

Dorset, Minnesota restaurants
Dorset, Minnesota restaurants
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

With five restaurants serving the 22 residents of Dorset, it does seem the tiny town is worthy of the title of Restaurant Capital of the World.

This actually follows a two-year period when the town was down to only three restaurants. In September 2014, Campaneros and the Dorset House were destroyed by fire after being struck by lightning. Both restaurants were rebuilt and reopened in 2016, restoring the town’s assortment of dining options to five. While in town, we dined at La Pasta, which in addition to a wide selection of Italian delicacies, has ridiculously good breadsticks.

Trading Post, Dorset, Minnesota
Trading Post, Dorset, Minnesota
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Obviously, most visitors come to the Restaurant Capital of the World to eat but, when visiting, be sure to allow some time in your schedule for shopping as well.

Shopping in quaint Dorset, Minnesota
Shopping in quaint Dorset, Minnesota
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

A stroll down Dorset’s main street is a must and will undoubtedly result in a few finds that must make their way home with you. From souvenirs, to home decor to antiques to yes, James’ favorite, candy and toys await.

Dorset, Minnesota shops
Dorset, Minnesota shops
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Shopping in Dorset, Minnesota
Shopping in Dorset, Minnesota
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Things to do near Dorset

Shop Downtown Park Rapids. Only 6 miles from Dorset, Park Rapids has a charming downtown area with numerous shops, boutiques, and restaurants.

Cross the headwaters of the Mississippi at Itasca State ParkItasca State Park is home to the beginning of the Mississippi River, as well as 32,000 acres of towering pines, more than 100 lakes, hiking and biking trails, the largest pine tree in Minnesota, the historic Douglas Lodge and much more.

Visit Detroit Lakes. Only about an hour away from Dorset, Detroit Lakes is has a wide variety of outdoor activities, events, festivals, shopping, and dining.

Dorset, Minnesota
Dorset, Minnesota
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

We loved visiting Dorset and applaud the 22 residents and the nearby town of Park Rapids for their creativity in promoting this unique little place on the planet. Thank you to everyone who came out to meet us, to La Pasta for hosting us for lunch, and to James and Bobby for our tour of the town.


Disclosure & disclaimer: Special thanks to Explore Minnesota and the Park Rapids Chamber of Commerce 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.

Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire

Swimming with horses at Rancho Washikemba in Bonaire

Cover: Swimming with horses at Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Article by Kim Hull


Driving over on our way for a horse ride and swim at Rancho Washikemba in Bonaire, we had no idea what a cool morning we would experience.

Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

We expected a horseback ride along a trail, followed by a brief swim, then a ride back to the stables. Boy, were we surprised!

Swimming with horses at Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Swimming with horses at Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Rancho Washikemba in Bonaire offers a chance to ride a horse while the horse swims in a lagoon and it is truly an amazing experience.

Swimming with horses at Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Swimming with horses at Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Rancho Washikemba

Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Located on the rugged, eastern side of Bonaire in the Bara di Karta nature park, Rancho Washikemba is a horse ranch offering ride/swim tours, riding lessons, and children’s parties.

Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

We arrived a little early to get a chance to meet the horses and the owners, Bregje and Marc. Originally from the Netherlands, they moved to Bonaire 12 years ago, built the ranch in 2010, and now operate the only official, fully licensed and certified horseback riding ranch on Bonaire.

Lady, Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Lady, Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Sophia First of July, Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Sophia First of July, Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Upon our arrival at the ranch, some of the horses were finishing their breakfast, amidst wandering chickens and the ranch dog, Vlek, while others were playing in the horse pen.

Vlek, Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Vlek, Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Blaze's Joseph, Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Blaze’s Joseph, Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The 10 horses at Rancho Washikemba live in cheerful bright yellow stables that were exceptionally clean and the horses are very well cared for by Bregje and Marc.

Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

We’d never ridden a horse before and the only horses we’d been around were racehorses at the track so this would be a first experience.

Bregje and Marc had selected horses for us that fit our riding experience level, which obviously was none, and provided riding instructions, such as the distance to keep, how to tell them to turn, etc.

Kim on Blondy Studebaker, Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Kim on Blondy Studebaker, Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

We then mounted up and headed out into the gorgeous Bonaire countryside.

Horseback riding with Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Horseback riding with Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The Rancho Washikemba Lagoon Tour

We did the Lagoon Tour, which winds through the Bonaire backcountry to the eastern coastline and Lagoon Bay, then back to the ranch. Bregje led the way on Allreckdup, also known as Tango, an American Thoroughbred born in Maryland and now living in Caribbean paradise.

Bregje on Allwreckdup, Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Bregje on Allwreckdup, Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Along the way, Bregje would point out things along the trail and shared information about Bonaire and the Washikemba area.

Bregje on Allwreckdup, Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Bregje on Allwreckdup, Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

I rode Blondy Studebaker, who was born on Curacao and is a crossbred Paso Fino mare. Greg rode Poco Blonde Princess, an American Quarter Horse mare who was born in Florida.

Greg on Poco Blonde Princess, Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Greg on Poco Blonde Princess, Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

We both took photos throughout the ride and both horses were very easy to ride and gentle, making a first time horseback riding adventure a breeze.

Greg on Poco Blonde Princess, Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Greg on Poco Blonde Princess, Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Along the way, we saw iguanas and a few goats, who generally kept a safe distance, but for the most part, it was a quiet ride through the peaceful, natural environment.

Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

As we reached the top of a small hill, Lagoon Bay suddenly appeared – a very quiet, beautiful body of turquoise water rimmed with mangroves and rocky ledges.

Lagoon Bay, Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Lagoon Bay, Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

We rode to a large rock formation next to the lagoon and dismounted.

Poco Blonde Princess, Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Poco Blonde Princess, Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Greg was staying on shore to capture shots of me riding in the water, so Bregje and I stripped down to our swimsuits. Marc, who had met us at the lagoon unsaddled Greg’s horse, Poco, who they told us loves the water and would be the horse I would ride into the lagoon.

Blondy Studebaker, Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Blondy Studebaker, Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Bregje led us into the water and told me to hold onto the mane. When we got into the water, she told me I’d feel Poco push off when she started swimming.

Swimming with horses at Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Swimming with horses at Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Swimming with horses at Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Swimming with horses at Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

It was truly spectacular! Poco loves it so much that when Bregje would try to lead her back out, she’d pull back and wanted to stay swimming.

Swimming with horses at Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Swimming with horses at Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Swimming with horses at Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Swimming with horses at Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

After our swim, they saddled Poco back up, we got dressed, and continued our ride.

Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Greg on Poco Blonde Princess, Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Greg on Poco Blonde Princess, Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

In the distance, the Spelonk, Lighthouse, which was built in 1910, stands regally above the rough waters and barren landscape.

Spelonk, Lighthouse, Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Spelonk, Lighthouse, Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

After heading down the coastline, we turned inland, past the oldest tree on Bonaire, then by the rumored-to-be haunted, Plantation Washikemba, then continued on the trail back to the ranch.

Bara di Karta nature park, Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Bara di Karta nature park, Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Oldest tree on Bonaire, Bara di Karta nature park, Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Oldest tree on Bonaire, Bara di Karta nature park, Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Plantation Washikemba, Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Plantation Washikemba, Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Know before you go to Rancho Washikemba

Location: Rancho Washikemba is about 8 km /5 miles from Kralendijk on the eastern side of the island.

Booking a tour: Reservations are required and can be made by calling +599 788 8668 or +599 786 7321, via email at info@rancho-washikemba.com or by visiting the Rancho Washikemba website.

Horseback riding with Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Horseback riding with Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Attire: Wear a swimsuit under your clothes. The ride is more comfortable with long pants and closed-toe shoes, preferably with heavier soles to keep your feet from getting sore from the stirrups.

Sunscreen and a hat: The ride is fully exposed with no shade and the Bonaire sun is very hot, so sunscreen is a must and taking a hat and water are probably also a good idea.

Watch the video: Swimming with horses at Rancho Washikemba

Rancho Washikemba captured my ride/swim on video – see for yourself what a cool adventure swimming with horses is!

Disclosure & disclaimer: Special thanks to Rancho Washikemba 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.

Il Tigretto - Hank the Tank, Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Il Tigretto – Hank the Tank, Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Red Sail Sports, Aruba

Red Sail Sports Aruba

Cover: Red Sail Sports, Aruba
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Article by Kim Hull


Gliding through the waters aboard a catamaran watching the golds and oranges fill the sky is about as perfect an ending to a day in Aruba as one can experience.

Red Sail Sports Sunset Cruise, Aruba
Red Sail Sports Sunset Cruise, Aruba
Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The heat gives way to a cool sundown breeze and the lights in the hotels along Palm Beach and Eagle Beach twinkle against the dusk sky. Clouds turn pink and yellow, matching the rum punch in your hand.

Red Sail Sports Sunset Cruise, Aruba
Red Sail Sports Sunset Cruise, Aruba
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

As the catamaran gently cuts through the water, the romance and relaxation of an evening at sea quietly encapsulate the boat as the day’s rays slowly disappear on the horizon.

Red Sail Sports Aruba Sunset Sail

Red Sail Sports, Aruba
Red Sail Sports, Aruba
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

If I were to advise someone headed to Aruba on one not-to-be-missed activity to experience, it would be a sunset sail.

Firstmate Gerald Nicolaas, Red Sail Sports, Aruba
Firstmate Gerald Nicolaas, Red Sail Sports, Aruba
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Always a fan of a boat ride with an open bar, watching the day wind down on a sunset cruise is both a beautiful and fun experience. And, our Aruban adventure outfitter of choice has long been Red Sail Sports Aruba.

Our typical Red Sail Sports Aruba Sunset Sail begins with a happy hour drink on the pier near the Hyatt where the boat departs.

Palm Beach, Aruba, Red Sail Sports Sunset Cruise, Aruba
Palm Beach, Aruba, Red Sail Sports Sunset Cruise, Aruba
Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Even if you aren’t sailing, this is a great spot to enjoy a happy hour beverage and watch the dive boats return and the crew set up the catamaran for the evening sail.

Red Sail Sports, Aruba
Red Sail Sports, Aruba
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Firstmate Gerald Nicolaas, Red Sail Sports, Aruba
Firstmate Gerald Nicolaas, Red Sail Sports, Aruba
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

When it was time to sail, we boarded the boat with the assistance of the crew. Our hosts for the evening were Firstmates Randy Commenencia and Gerald Nicolaas.

Firstmate Gerald Nicolaas, Red Sail Sports Sunset Cruise, Aruba
Firstmate Gerald Nicolaas, Red Sail Sports Sunset Cruise, Aruba
Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

After some boat safety instructions, the bar opened, and Captain Darcy expertly maneuvered the catamaran away from the pier.

Firstmates Gerald Nicolaas and Randy Commenencia, Red Sail Sports Sunset Cruise, Aruba
First mates Gerald Nicolaas and Randy Commenencia, Red Sail Sports Sunset Cruise, Aruba
Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Captain Darcy Tromp, Red Sail Sports, Aruba
Captain Darcy Tromp, Red Sail Sports, Aruba
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The sails went up and off we went over the waters toward the waning sun.

Red Sail Sports, Aruba
Red Sail Sports, Aruba
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Captain Darcy Tromp, Red Sail Sports, Aruba
Captain Darcy Tromp, Red Sail Sports, Aruba
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

One of the nicest parts of choosing a provider with a large catamaran is that there’s plenty of room for couples and small groups to find a spot on the boat and enjoy the stunning views.

Red Sail Sports Sunset Cruise, Aruba
Red Sail Sports Sunset Cruise, Aruba
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

In addition to pouring tasty libations, Firstmate Gerald periodically distributed an assortment of appetizers, stopping to chat with passengers as he did so.

Firstmate Gerald Nicolaas, Red Sail Sports, Aruba
Firstmate Gerald Nicolaas, Red Sail Sports, Aruba
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

As we reached the end of Eagle Beach, the sun was beginning to mellow.

Eagle Beach, Aruba
Eagle Beach, Red Sail Sports Sunset Cruise, Aruba
Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

By the time we neared the Aruba cruise port, it was nearly gone.

Red Sail Sports Sunset Cruise, Aruba
Red Sail Sports Sunset Cruise, Aruba
Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Under a moonlit sky, we turned to head back.

Red Sail Sports Sunset Cruise, Aruba
Red Sail Sports Sunset Cruise, Aruba
Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Red Sail Sports, Aruba
Red Sail Sports, Aruba
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

As darkness surrounded us and we sailed back to the pier, the music cranked up, the drinks continued to pour, and the dancing began, where Firstmate Randy showed us some of his moves on the dance floor.

Firstmate Randy Commenencia, Red Sail Sports, Aruba
Firstmate Randy Commenencia, Red Sail Sports, Aruba
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The entire two-hour sail was perfect thanks to the beautiful surroundings, the large, clean Red Sail Sports catamaran, and the excellent crew.

Firstmate Gerald Nicolaas, Red Sail Sports, Aruba
Firstmate Gerald Nicolaas, Red Sail Sports, Aruba
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Firstmate Randy Commenencia, Red Sail Sports, Aruba
Firstmate Randy Commenencia, Red Sail Sports, Aruba
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Sunset Sails last 2 hours and are available on Monday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 5:30 pm to 7:30 pm.

Red Sail Sports Aruba

Red Sail Sports, Aruba
Red Sail Sports, Aruba
Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Having provided water and land-based adventures to thousands of visitors for over 25 years, Red Sail Sports is the most experienced tour company on the island, with a wide selection of activities available from the adventurous to the relaxing.

In addition to the Sunset Sail, Red Sail Aruba offers…

Red Sail Sports, Aruba
Red Sail Sports, Aruba
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Dive excursions for all skill levels, from beginner to expert, that provide opportunities to explore Aruba’s best dive locations. Red Sail Sports Aruba is a PADI 5 Star Dive Resort and operates dive programs aboard three custom-designed dive boats and, in addition to diving excursions, offers diving courses and night drives.

Red Sail Sports, Aruba
Red Sail Sports, Aruba
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Catamaran sailing options that include snorkeling and dinner sails along Aruba’s beautiful coastline. Sails include hors-d’oeuvres, beverages and snorkeling equipment, where applicable.

Red Sail Sports, Aruba
Red Sail Sports, Aruba
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Red Sail Sports, Aruba
Red Sail Sports, Aruba
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Hoverboard – a surf board that is attached to a jetski that propels the hoverboard above the water’s surface. Operated by Red Sail Sports’ Hoverboard Certified Instructors, who communicate with hoverboard riders from the jetski during their ride. Some participant restrictions apply.

JETLEV – a water-propelled Jetpack, enabling riders to fly over the ocean up to 30 feet above the water. A flight assistant accompanies each JETLEV participant and some restrictions apply.

ATV Tours that explore Aruba’s north coast off-road in the open air with numerous stops on the rugged back roads.

Beach Tennis combines tennis, badminton and beach volleyball with players using purposely built paddles and a slightly depressurized tennis ball. Both court reservations and lessons are available through Red Sail Sports.

A variety of Jeep Safaris are offered in four-wheel drive Land Rovers to various points around the island.

Red Sail Sports Jeep Safari, Aruba
Red Sail Sports Jeep Safari, Aruba
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Tour Fofoti and Tour Kini Kini each provide an opportunity to explore Aruba in the comfort of an air-conditioned tour bus. Tour Kini Kini runs daily and Tour Fofoti is offered on Fridays.

Deep Sea Fishing excursions provide those wanting a chance to catch Tuna, Blue Marlin, Wahoo, Barracuda, Shark and Sail Fish a perfect day of fishing on the beautiful Aruba waters with a captain who knows where to find the biggest catches.

Learn Kite Surfing or Windsurfing in one of the best spots in the world. Aruba’s winds combined with the flat waters at Fisherman’s Huts. Swimming capability is required.

Hop on the Kukoo Kunuku buses for a pub crawl or dinner and nightlife tour aboard the colorful party buses.

Kukoo Kunuku, Aruba
Kukoo Kunuku, Aruba
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Mountain Biking in Aruba aboard Trek aluminum frame mountain bikes with front shock suspension. Helmet, non-alcoholic beverages and light snacks are included with the tour.

Learn more about these and more Red Sail Sports activities at the Red Sail Sports Aruba website or stop by one of their shops around Aruba.

Kim Hull, Red Sail Sports, Aruba
Kim Hull, Red Sail Sports, Aruba
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Disclosure & disclaimer: Special thanks to Red Sail Sports for hosting us as their guests. The content & opinions expressed are entirely our own. We received no compensation for this article. Reviews are opinion only and Chasing Light Media accepts no responsibility for how the information is used.

Kim and Greg Hull, Red Sail Sports Sunset Cruise, Aruba
Kim and Greg Hull, Red Sail Sports Sunset Cruise, Aruba
Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Albucreepy Downtown Ghost Walk, Albuquerque, New Mexico

Ghost hunting with Albucreepy Downtown Ghost Walk

Cover: Blake, Albucreepy Downtown Ghost Walk, Albuquerque, New Mexico
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Article by Kim Hull


Who knew that when the sun sets on the town known for blue skies, hot air balloons, and green chile that a multitude of ghosts would be lurking around the corner?

Apparently, as a result of horrific accidents, murders, and other frightful tragedies, paranormal activity has taken up residence in what looks to be, on the surface at least, the quiet night streets of downtown Albuquerque.

Albucreepy, Albuquerque, New Mexico
Albucreepy, Albuquerque, New Mexico
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Head out for a 90-minute lantern-lit stroll on the Albucreepy Downtown Ghost Walk and those seemingly empty alleys and buildings may have your skin crawling with otherworldliness.

An evening of ghost hunting in Albuquerque

Albucreepy Downtown Ghost Walk, Albuquerque, New Mexico
Albucreepy Downtown Ghost Walk, Albuquerque, New Mexico
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Our Albucreepy evening began at the Albuquerque Tourism & Sightseeing Factory, which is located in the old First National Bank Building near the Hotel Andaluz in downtown Albuquerque. Year-round, Albucreepy takes guests on a 1.3 mile / 2.1 km walking tour, stopping at buildings that are thought to be haunted, and weaving in historic tales of the area along the way.

Before the tour started, one of our guides for the evening, Jordan Jonas, entertained the group with skillful sleight of hand, then it was down the stairs to the creepy old haunted basement.

Jordan Jonas, Albucreepy Downtown Ghost Walk, Albuquerque, New Mexico
Jordan Jonas, Albucreepy Downtown Ghost Walk, Albuquerque, New Mexico
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Led by paranormal investigators, Blake and Jordan, we headed out through the dark streets on our paranormal adventure. At each stop, Blake or Jordan provided the history of the location, the associated folklore, and then left it to the group to draw their own conclusions.

Albucreepy Downtown Ghost Walk, Albuquerque, New Mexico
Blake & Jordan, Albucreepy Downtown Ghost Walk, Albuquerque, New Mexico
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

What ghosts linger in Albuquerque’s haunted and historic locations?

Well, that would spoil the tour, now wouldn’t it? Let’s just say the tour covers…

The location of a shootout near the convention center

Blake, Albucreepy Downtown Ghost Walk, Albuquerque, New Mexico
Blake, Albucreepy Downtown Ghost Walk, Albuquerque, New Mexico
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The Wool Warehouse theatre

Albucreepy, Albuquerque, New Mexico
Albucreepy, Albuquerque, New Mexico
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

A commercial laundry where a female seems to never get the laundry finished (now that is really scary)

Albucreepy, Albuquerque, New Mexico
Albucreepy, Albuquerque, New Mexico
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The old Bernalillo County courthouse

Albucreepy, Albuquerque, New Mexico
Albucreepy, Albuquerque, New Mexico
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The KiMo Theatre where a little boy named Bobby was killed when a hot water heater exploded

Jordan Jonas, Albucreepy Downtown Ghost Walk, Albuquerque, New Mexico
Jordan Jonas, Albucreepy Downtown Ghost Walk, Albuquerque, New Mexico
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The mysterious light that comes on in a building with no electricity

Albucreepy, Albuquerque, New Mexico
Albucreepy, Albuquerque, New Mexico
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

and Hell’s Half Acre, Albuquerque’s former red light district.

Albucreepy Downtown Ghost Walk, Albuquerque, New Mexico
Albucreepy Downtown Ghost Walk, Albuquerque, New Mexico
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

At each location along the way, Blake and Jordan share stories that will be sure to send a chill down your spine.

Blake, Albucreepy Downtown Ghost Walk, Albuquerque, New Mexico
Blake, Albucreepy Downtown Ghost Walk, Albuquerque, New Mexico
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Jordan Jonas, Albucreepy Downtown Ghost Walk, Albuquerque, New Mexico
Jordan Jonas, Albucreepy Downtown Ghost Walk, Albuquerque, New Mexico
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Creepy good times

Blake & Kim, Albucreepy Downtown Ghost Walk, Albuquerque, New Mexico
Blake & Kim, Albucreepy Downtown Ghost Walk, Albuquerque, New Mexico
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Albucreepy tour participants are encouraged to bring their cameras and are even provided some pointers to assist with photographing orbs and apparitions to create that ever-so unique Facebook post. (No, we didn’t capture any images of those who have passed over to the other side). They also point out how to spot fake ghosts in photos.

Albucreepy Downtown Ghost Walk, Albuquerque, New Mexico
Albucreepy Downtown Ghost Walk, Albuquerque, New Mexico
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Additionally, Albucreepy attendees are educated on the methods that paranormal investigators employ in their hunt for ghosts, such as electronic voice phenomenon, or EVP, and they explain why most reported spirits are a result of traumatic endings.

Whether you believe in ghosts or not, it makes for an entertaining evening where you’ll learn about Albuquerque’s history – so booook a tour today!

Albucreepy, Albuquerque, New Mexico
Albucreepy, Albuquerque, New Mexico
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Albucreepy Downtown Ghost Walk: Know before you go

Blake, Albucreepy Downtown Ghost Walk, Albuquerque, New Mexico
Blake, Albucreepy Downtown Ghost Walk, Albuquerque, New Mexico
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Tickets and additional information are available on the Albucreepy website.

Wear comfortable shoes. The tour is 1.3 miles / 2.1 km of walking and takes about 90 minutes, so comfortable shoes will make the experience more enjoyable.

Ghosts don’t mind a bit of weather. The tour occurs year-round in all types of weather unless the sidewalks are not walkable. The majority of the tour is outside on the streets of downtown Albuquerque, so dress appropriately for the conditions and temperature.

Not for children. The tour contains a discussion of murders, suicides, and gruesome deaths, so it is probably too frightening for children and Albucreepy strongly suggests that young children do not attend and rates the tour PG-13.

Fido is welcome to join the group. Well-behaved, friendly pets and service animals are welcome on the tour.

Arrive a little early. If you’ve purchased a ticket online, arrive 15 minutes early. Allow for 30 minutes if you plan to buy your ticket on site.

Albucreepy, Albuquerque, New Mexico
Albucreepy, Albuquerque, New Mexico
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

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

Santa Anita Park, Arcadia, California

Santa Anita Park: A day at the races

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


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

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

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

Santa Anita Park and Seabiscuit

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Day at Santa Anita Park

Clockers’ Corner

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

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

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

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

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

All aboard the Seabiscuit Tram

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

The Paddock

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

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

Let’s eat and drink

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

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

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

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

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

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

“And away they go…”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Going for the win

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yep – we bet on them all.

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

Yay – Dragon Flower! You came through for us!

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

Santa Anita Park: Know before you go

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

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

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

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

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

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


Disclosure & disclaimer: Special thanks to Santa Anita Park for hosting us as their guests. The content & opinions expressed are entirely our own. Reviews are opinion only and Chasing Light Media accepts no responsibility for how the information is used. Some posts on this website may contain links to our partners’ websites and Chasing Light Media may be compensated by those partners.

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