Sonoma–Marin Area Rail Transit - SMART train at the San Rafael station

Why is it so difficult getting from San Francisco to Santa Rosa and Sonoma County?

Cover: Sonoma–Marin Area Rail Transit – SMART train at the San Rafael station
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Article by Kim Hull


San Francisco at sunset
San Francisco at sunset. Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Four years ago we decided we wanted to live near San Francisco. More accurately – we wanted to live in San Francisco but, to avoid the ridiculously high cost of living in the City by the Bay, we drew a circle around San Francisco taking in all cities located within 60 miles, and examined which cities seemed to have a somewhat reasonable cost of living (it’s California, so that is a relative term) with decent amenities.

Golden Gate Bridge at sunset, San Francisco
Golden Gate Bridge at sunset, San Francisco Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

We chose Santa Rosa, a mid-sized city, with two Whole Foods, quite a few restaurants, and a location in the center of Sonoma’s wine region. We envisioned daily life amongst the vines and frequent day trips into San Francisco for lunch and shopping.

Then, we encountered life with the 101. For those not acquainted with California’s north–south highway route, in northern California the 101 connects San Francisco to the North Bay area and frequently achieves near standstill conditions. We only went into the city a handful of times and, after eight months in the North Bay area, we decided to move to Lake Tahoe to be closer to the mountains.  In the end, we still spent about as much time in San Francisco as we did when we were living in Santa Rosa.

San Francisco
San Francisco Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Even now with our nomad lifestyle, we still get back to the west coast multiple times per year and one thing that continues to amaze us is how few good/easy options exist for getting between San Francisco and Sonoma County. According to the San Francisco Tourism Board, over 25 million people visit San Francisco each year. I’m betting quite a few of them drink wine and would like to visit the beautiful wine region of Sonoma – so why is it so difficult to get there?

View of San Francisco and Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco
View of San Francisco and Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The one-day wine tour

Drinking wine in Sonoma
Drinking wine in Sonoma, Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

If you are in San Francisco and want to just do a one day Sonoma or Napa day wine tour, there are a variety of private coach tours for about $120-$150 per person available that leave San Francisco in the morning and return in the evening. However, if you are seeking a true wine country experience, spending a day or two (or more) while casually sampling wines and enjoying the slower pace of Sonoma County, a one-day tour just won’t do.

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

Getting from San Francisco to Sonoma County by car

There are many cities where renting a car is as big a hassle as it is an expense. By the time you rent a car, navigate where you need to go, find parking, pay for parking, pay for in and outs, and pay for gas – that’s quite a bit of irritation and money that could have been used for taking Ubers or Lyfts – and nobody has to drive. For those opting for the rental car experience, once you leave San Francisco, you get to hop on the 101 and head north for a not so leisurely experience getting to Santa Rosa. While having a car in wine country is convenient, it also requires designating a driver, which if there are only two of you, takes a bit of the fun out of wine tasting.

Getting from San Francisco to Santa Rosa by Uber or Lyft – Cost: About $100 for 2

Lyft San Francisco to Santa Rosa
Lyft San Francisco to Santa Rosa

In the U.S., ride sharing, namely Uber and Lyft, is our typical mode of transportation. We’ve only had a few bad experiences (filthy car, bizarre driver, and, one of my favorites, the driver got lost and wouldn’t believe the app knew how to get there and just yelled back at the phone as we drove in the wrong direction). But, those are by far the exception – we take numerous ride shares every week of the year and most are great.

Uber San Francisco to Santa Rosa

That said, a long distance ride share can be expensive. A comparison of both Uber and Lyft fees revealed the ride to Santa Rosa would be about $100 + tip. Doable, but a bit pricey – so we continued exploring options.

Grapes on the vine, Sonoma County
Grapes on the vine, Sonoma County Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Airporter: San Francisco to Santa Rosa – Cost: $86 for 2

When we lived in Santa Rosa and we’d fly out of SFO or Oakland, we’d use the Airporter to get to and from the airport. The Airporter picks up/drops off at the Park & Ride near the fairgrounds in Santa Rosa or at the Santa Rosa airport. A one-way adult fare to/from either SFO or the Oakland airports and Sonoma County is $34 per person. The buses are comfortable and it’s a good option if going straight to/from Santa Rosa to/from either airport.

But, what if you want to spend a few days in San Francisco then head up to Sonoma for a few more days? The Airporter doesn’t run between downtown San Francisco and Santa Rosa, so you need to get back out to SFO or OAK from San Francisco to catch one. BART fare from downtown San Francisco to SFO is $8.95 per person or a Lyft or Uber runs about $35-$50 to the airport. So for two people, the trip to Santa Rosa from downtown San Francisco using the BART – Airporter route would run about $86.

Getting from San Francisco to Sonoma County by the SMART train – Cost: $75 for 2

SMART (Sonoma–Marin Area Rail Transit) train at the San Rafael station
SMART (Sonoma–Marin Area Rail Transit) train at the San Rafael station Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The first phase of the SMART (Sonoma–Marin Area Rail Transit) train, a 43-mile / 69-kilometer rail service between Northern Santa Rosa and Downtown San Rafael, began operating in June 2017. Over the next few years, SMART is scheduled to expand service to Larkspur on the south end of the route in Marin County and to Windsor, Healdsburg, and Cloverdale on the northern end in wine country.

But, first, you have to get to San Rafael from San Francisco. Option1 is taking a bus from San Francisco to San Rafael – not expensive, but rather slow with many stops. Option 2 is to catch the Golden Gate ferry from the San Francisco Ferry building to the Larkspur Ferry Terminal, then taking the route 31 shuttle to connect to the SMART train station. The ferry cost is $11.50 for each person. Option 3 is to take an Uber or Lyft to the SMART train station in San Rafael.

Uber from San Francisco to San Rafael SMART station
Uber from San Francisco to San Rafael SMART station Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Considering we needed to get from our hotel on Nob Hill to the ferry terminal or bus station and each had a large roller bag, we would have needed a Uber or Lyft to get that far, so we decided on option 3 for simplicity. The Uber to the San Rafael SMART train station cost $45 + tip. We then caught the SMART train to Santa Rosa for $9.50 per person using the mobile app. The train is about an hour ride from San Rafael to Santa Rosa. The train was clean, with plenty storage areas for luggage and bikes. Some seats on the train have tables, others are airline style.

Riding on the Sonoma–Marin Area Rail Transit (SMART) near Petaluma
Riding on the Sonoma–Marin Area Rail Transit (SMART) near Petaluma Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The train was packed – standing room only. While I tried to get a bit of work done on the ride, we had seatmates at our table and the train was very loud, so it was a bit challenging. I’m not sure if it is some sort of acoustic issue or we just had a car of extremely loud talkers, but we’ve ridden trains in 10 countries this year and I’ve yet to experience so much noise on a train. The kid behind me screamed most of the way and kicked my chair while his father stood in the aisle playing with a yo-yo. In the end, we got to Santa Rosa and it was fairly inexpensive, but not what I’d call a relaxing experience.

Lyft and Uber in wine country

Drinking a Larsen Projekt grenache rosé in Santa Rosa
Drinking a Larsen Projekt grenache rosé in Santa Rosa Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Once we arrived at the Santa Rosa airport train platform, we called a Lyft. Our wait time was only 3 minutes and the fare to our hotel was $10 + tip. We were a bit worried that ride share may not be plentiful in Sonoma Country but we used Uber the entire time during our three-day stay and typically only waited 5-10 minutes for the car to arrive.

Sonoma County wine tasting
Sonoma County wine tasting Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

That is good  – no, great news. If ever there was a place to not drive, it is in wine country. Uber provides the flexibility to craft your own tasting agenda – you pick the wineries, you chose the amount of time spent at each location, and everyone can sample the wines and safely return to their hotels without driving.

Fountaingrove Round Barn, Santa Rosa
Fountaingrove Round Barn, Santa Rosa Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

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

Boutiques, galleries, bars, and restaurants along Rue Crescent, Montreal, Quebec

Eating (and drinking) in Montreal

Cover: Boutiques, bars, and restaurants along Rue Crescent, Montreal, Quebec
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Article by Kim Hull


During our month long visit to Montreal in August, we sampled our way through quite a few dining and drinking establishments around the city. From quick and simple to celebratory fare, we found Montreal’s dining scene to be tasty and satisfying, with some excellent patio options. Here are a few are our favorites…

L’Avenue

L’Avenue Montreal Eggs Benedict, Montreal, Quebec
L’Avenue Montreal Eggs Benedict, Montreal, Quebec Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The first time we walked by L’Avenue we thought the long line out front was waiting for a bus (it was mid-week and there’s a bus stop there, so it was plausible.) Nope. It was the for the awesome food in this quirky eatery with a great staff. They bring skewers of fruit to munch on while you wait for your food to arrive and the Eggs Benedict is worth the wait.

L’Avenue
Time of day visited: Brunch
Location: The Plateau, 922 Mont-Royal Ave E

L’Avenue Montreal fruit skewers
L’Avenue Montreal fruit skewer, Montreal, Quebec Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Vegetarian/Vegan

General Copper Bowl at Copper Branch, Montreal, Quebec
General Copper Bowl at Copper Branch, Montreal, Quebec Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

It seems like hipsters and vegans/vegetarians seem to have a relationship that falls somewhere between dislike and hate, so the amount of vegan/vegetarian restaurants we found in the Plateau and Mile End was a pleasant surprise. We eat 70%-80% plant-based, so we gave quite a few in the neighborhood a try. Two of our faves – Copper Branch for quick, tasty options and Aux Vivres for a great selection of creative dishes.

Time of day visited: Lunch
Locations:
Copper Branch, multiple locations around Montreal
Aux Vivres: Mile End, 4631 St Laurent Blvd

Ikanos

Greg Hull, Ikanos, Montreal, QuebecWhen looking for a place to celebrate Greg Hull’s birthday, we chose Ikanos and were extremely pleased. Great service, comfortable atmosphere, and superb Greek seafood cuisine. We went early and had a couple of martinis at the bar, then moved to the dining room for dinner. Excellent flavors and the best grilled Octopus we’ve ever had.

Ikanos
Time of day visited: Evening
Location: Old Montreal, 112 Rue McGill #1

Pikolo Espresso Bar

Pikolo Espresso Bar, Montreal
Pikolo Espresso Bar, Montreal, Quebec Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Montreal has no shortage of coffee shops and we sampled our fair share of espressos and cappuccinos throughout the month. Our favorite was recommended by a friend that had been in Montreal just before us – Pikolo Espresso Bar. Small, pleasant and unique.

Pikolo Espresso Bar
Time of day visited: Afternoon
Location: Just off Sherbrooke West at Park Avenue, 3418b Park Ave

Les 3 Brasseurs

Beers at Les 3 Brasseurs, Montreal, Quebec
Beers at Les 3 Brasseurs, Montreal, Quebec Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

We came across one of the four Les 3 Brasseurs at St Catherine and Crescent on a Sunday afternoon and stopped for a beer (we eventually found all four Montreal locations). The last time we’d been to a Les 3 Brasseurs was almost 20 years ago in Tahiti, so it was a bit nostalgic. We didn’t eat, but it has a nice patio to enjoy a beer or two.

Les 3 Brasseurs
Time of day visited: Afternoon
Location: 1356 St Catherine West

Sea Salt and Ceviche Bar

SeaSalt & Ceviche Bar, Montreal, Quebec
SeaSalt & Ceviche Bar, Montreal, Quebec Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

We had a very late lunch at Sea Salt and Ceviche Bar, which is located just across from Alexandra Pier in Old Montreal. Great patio with comfortable teak furniture and a nice view. After cocktails – they only serve Grey Goose vodka, so that simplified things in the vodka selection process – we started with ceviche. We were a bit surprised at the limited ceviche offerings given the restaurant name, but it was quite good. Next, we both had the Citrus Salad which consists of kale, spinach, Mujol dates, Kalamata & Cerignola olives, grapefruit, oranges & toasted black rice. Spectacular! We whiled away the rest of the afternoon with a bottle of rosé wine, which made for a pretty nice finish to a relaxing, enjoyable lunch.

SeaSalt & Ceviche Bar
Time of day visited: Late afternoon
Location: Old Montreal, 351 Place Royale

Dirty Pizza

Dirty Pizza on Mont-Royal, The Plateau, Montreal, Quebec
Dirty Pizza on Mont-Royal, The Plateau, Montreal, Quebec Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Our apartment was located directly across from Dirty Pizza on Mont-Royal and after watching the sheer volume of people that frequent the place, we decided we needed to indulge in a pie. We were pleased to find creative combinations and opted for the Angry Goat which is topped with goat cheese, roasted red peppers, pesto sauce, a balsamic reduction. Great crust and super tasty pizza.

Dirty Pizza
Time of day visited: Late evening
Location: Plateau-Mile End, 25 Mont-Royal Ave E

Taverne Gaspar

Taverne Gaspar, Auberge du Vieux-Port, Montreal
Taverne Gaspar, Auberge du Vieux-Port, Montreal, Quebec Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Located at Auberge du Vieux-Port, Taverne Gaspar is casual, comfortable and has a great patio in Old Montreal. We had cocktails and dinner on the patio and then moved inside to the bar for after dinner drinks. Service was good both inside and out, the food was ok, but it’s a really great spot to meet for drinks.

Taverne Gaspar
Time of day visited: Evening
Location: Old Montreal at Auberge du Vieux-Port, 97 de la Commune St E

Mange Moi

Cocktails in the Plateau, Montreal, Quebec
Cocktails in the Plateau, Montreal, Quebec Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Mange Moi was the first place we visited after arriving in Montreal. Great patio for martinis. Inside is very nice and rustic, with lots of wood. The nachos are good and abundant. The place is continually busy.

Mange Moi
Time of day visited: Late afternoon
Location: Plateau-Mile End, 35 Mont-Royal Ave E


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

Old Montreal, Quebec

August in Montreal

Cover: Strolling through Old Montreal
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Article by Kim Hull


What’s Montreal like in August? Rainy, breezy, muggy, sunny, cloudy … and that’s all before lunch. Weather fluctuations aside, Montreal is beautiful in August, with average daytime temperatures peaking at 81°F / 27°C and lows averaging 57°F / 14°C. So, for those wanting to escape the hotter summer temperatures of the U.S., August in Montreal is the perfect cooler getaway.

Hôtel de Ville de Montréal / Montreal City Hall, Quebec
Hôtel de Ville de Montréal / Montreal City Hall, Quebec Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

August is also peak tourist season so, in the areas of the city where tourists are prevalent, such as Old Montreal and Downtown, it can be very crowded. Both districts are fun areas to visit, but preferring a less touristy neighborhood for daily life, we selected the Plateau for our home while in Montreal.

View of Downtown Montreal from Hôtel de Ville de Montréal / Montreal City Hall
View of Downtown Montreal from Champ de Mars, Montreal, Quebec Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The Plateau and Mile End

Cocktails in the Plateau, Montreal, Quebec
Cocktails in the Plateau, Montreal, Quebec Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The Plateau is the hipster, artsy neighborhood filled with color, life, and attitude. Our apartment overlooked Mont-Royal near Saint-Laurent Boulevard – a perfect perch above the bars, cafés, specialty boutiques, and resale shops that line the streets in abundance.

Morning, Mont-Royal in The Plateau, Montreal, Quebec
Morning, Mont-Royal in The Plateau, Montreal, Quebec Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Mont-Royal divides the Plateau and Mile End districts, so technically we stayed in the Plateau and looked across Mont-Royal to the Mile End neighborhood, both of which are part of the Plateau-Mont-Royal borough.

The best thing to do in the Plateau? Wander. Stroll the streets, have a coffee, take in the daily life, and admire the colorful buildings and the fabulous street art.

Street art in the Plateau, Montreal, Quebec
Street art in the Plateau, Montreal, Quebec Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Getting downtown from the Plateau is simple – it’s just a straight walk down Saint Laurent Boulevard. The journey from Mont-Royal to Rue Sherbrooke is about a mile / 1.6 kilometers.

A walk along Sherbrooke Street West

Queen Victoria statue, MISQA, Pollack Concert Hall, Montreal, Quebec
Queen Victoria statue, MISQA, Pollack Concert Hall, Montreal, Quebec Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Rue Sherbrooke / Sherbrooke Street a major Montreal thoroughfare, with Saint Laurent serving as the divider between east and west. A stroll along Sherbrooke Street West is a beautiful way to spend an afternoon.

Musee des Beaux-Arts de Montreal
Musee des Beaux-Arts de Montreal Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

In addition to numerous hotels located along the street, including the Ritz Carlton Montreal, Sherbrooke West is home to galleries, boutiques, McGill University and the Musee des Beaux-Arts de Montreal museum.

Ritz Carlton Montreal on Rue Sherbrooke, Montreal, Quebec
Ritz Carlton Montreal on Rue Sherbrooke, Montreal, Quebec Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

From June 5 -October 29, 2017, Sherbrooke is also the site of a public art exhibition in celebration of Montreal’s 350th anniversary, the 50th anniversary of Expo 67 and Canada’s 150th anniversary.

Flags from the 13 Canadian provinces and nearly 200 countries flutter above Sherbrooke Street during the exhibition, named La Balade pour la Paix: An Open-Air Museum. The kilometer-long exhibition features 72 works of art from artists from around the world.

Art along Rue Sherbrooke Montreal
Pumpkin by Yayoi Kusama, La Balade pour la Paix in Montreal along Rue Sherbrooke Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Even if you can’t make it to Montreal during the exhibition, permanent works of art can also be found in the Sherbrooke West area, such as Ugo Rondinone’s Human Nature, which evokes the Inukshuk, a symbol of Canada’s Inuit peoples.

Ugo Rondinone, Inukshuk amongst the buildings along Rue Sherbrooke, Montreal, Quebec
Ugo Rondinone’s Human Nature, evoking the Inukshuk, along Rue Sherbrooke, Montreal, Quebec Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Another interesting installation just off Sherbrooke on Avenue McGill College is The Illuminated Crowd by Raymond Mason. The work is said to represent the flow of man’s emotion through space.

The Illuminated Crowd by Raymond Mason, 1985, Montreal, Quebec
The Illuminated Crowd by Raymond Mason, 1985, Montreal, Quebec Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Downtown Montreal

Avenue McGill College, Downtown Montreal, Quebec
Avenue McGill College, Downtown Montreal, Quebec Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Heading along Avenue McGill College towards the heart of Downtown Montreal, the buildings turn into skyscrapers and the shopping begins.

Shopping in Downtown Montreal, Quebec
Shopping in Downtown Montreal, Quebec Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

In addition to the thousands of outdoor, above-ground retail stores located in Downtown Montreal, one can head inside to malls such as Complexe Desjardins on Rue Sainte-Catherine or underground to access the 30+ kilometers of interconnected areas and passageways leading to hotels, shopping centers, and businesses.

Complexe Desjardins on Rue Sainte-Catherine Montreal, Quebec
Complexe Desjardins on Rue Sainte-Catherine Montreal, Quebec Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Chinatown

Chinatown, Montreal, Quebec
Chinatown, Montreal, Quebec Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

A vibrant area near La Gauchetière Street, Le Quartier Chinois de Montréal / Montreal’s Chinatown, is home to many Asian restaurants, import stores, and food markets. A great spot to grab a bite or take a stroll, Montreal’s Chinatown is one of the oldest Asian communities in North America.

Old Montreal

Hôtel de Ville de Montréal / Montreal City Hall at night
Hôtel de Ville de Montréal / Montreal City Hall at night, Montreal, Quebec Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Dating back to 1642, Montreal, or Ville-Marie as it was first known, was established in the area that is now referred to as Vieux-Montréal / Old Montreal.  A major tourist attraction, Old Montreal is one of the oldest urban areas in North America.

Countless restaurants, cafés, bars, hotels, galleries, and shops line the winding, narrow paths of Old Montreal. Popular attractions include the beautiful Hôtel de Ville de Montréal / Montreal City Hall, quaint Saint Paul Street, the lively Bonsecours Market, and the stunning Notre-Dame Basilica.

Notre-Dame Basilica Montréal

Notre-Dame Basilica, Montréal, Quebec
Notre-Dame Basilica, Montréal, Quebec Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Notre-Dame Basilica Montréal was dedicated in 1829 and is located at the corner of Saint Sulpice and Notre Dame West across from Place d’Armes Square. Notre-Dame was the first Gothic Revival style church built in Canada and was designed by New York architect, James O’Donnell. O’Donnell is the only person buried in Notre-Dame’s crypt.

Notre-Dame Basilica Montréal interior, Montreal
Notre-Dame Basilica Montréal interior, Montreal, Quebec Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Intricate wood carvings are set against a backdrop of gorgeous hues of blues, purples, and golds inside the grand cathedral. In 1982, Notre-Dame was raised from a church to the status of a minor basilica by Pope John Paul II.

Notre-Dame Basilica pipe organ, Montréal
Notre-Dame Basilica pipe organ, Montréal, Quebec Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The Casavant et Frères of Saint-Hyacinthe pipe organ dates back to 1891 and has 7,000 pipes, 92 stops distributed over four keyboards, and a pedalboard.

Candles in Notre-Dame Basilica Montréal
Candles in Notre-Dame Basilica Montréal, Quebec Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

St Lawrence River Cruise

View of Montreal from the St. Lawrence River, Montreal, Quebec
View of Montreal from the St. Lawrence River, Montreal, Quebec Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

After walking miles and miles exploring Montreal, we felt we needed a break and decided to relax aboard a river cruise on the St. Lawernce River.

City of Montreal viewed from the St. Lawrence River
City of Montreal viewed from the St. Lawrence River, Quebec Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

While there are multiple companies offering different cruise options, we opted for a late afternoon cruise that departed from Alexandra Pier in Old Montreal. Food and beverages were available with waiter service aboard the boat allowing us to sit back and enjoy the views while sipping on a lovely Viognier. Cheers!

Enjoying wine aboard Montreal river cruise, Montreal, Quebec
Enjoying wine aboard Montreal river cruise, Montreal, Quebec Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Olympic Park

Statues of adolescents wearing sports jerseys at Pie IX-Sherbrooke, near Olympic Stadium in Montreal
Statues of adolescents wearing sports jerseys at Pie IX-Sherbrooke, near Olympic Stadium in Montreal. The statues represent 1608 (founding of Quebec City), 1642 (founding of Montreal), 1967 (Expo 67) and 1976 (the Montreal Olympic Games). Photo: Kim Hull © Chasing Light Media

Montreal hosted the 1976 Summer Olympics, with 6,084 athletes participating from 92 countries. During the games, Nadia Comăneci scored the first perfect 10 in gymnastics and Bruce Jenner won a gold medal for the decathlon, setting a world record of 8,634 points.

Today, visitors to Parc Olympique de Montréal / Olympic Park can ride a cable car to the Observatory at the top of Montréal Tower, attend one of the many events held throughout the year, or visit the Rio Tinto Alcan Planetarium, Botanical Garden, Montréal Insectarium, or the Biodôme.

Biodôme at Olympic Park

Originally used as the velodrome (cycling stadium) during the Olympics, the building was converted to the Montreal Biodôme and opened to the public in 1992.

Penguin swimming at Biodôme, Olympic Park, Montreal
Penguin swimming at Biodôme, Olympic Park, Montreal, Quebec Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Visitors to the Biodôme de Montréal explore four ecosystems found in the Americas – the Tropical Rainforest, the Laurentian Maple Forest, the Gulf of St. Lawrence, and the Sub-Polar Regions.

Atlantic Sturgeon at Biodôme, Olympic Park, Montreal
Atlantic Sturgeon at Biodôme, Olympic Park, Montreal, Quebec Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The Montreal Biodôme replicates the different eco-systems, providing visitors an up-close encounter with over 4,500 animals from over 220 different species and thousands of plants. 

Jellyfish at Biodôme, Olympic Park, Montreal
Jellyfish at Biodôme, Olympic Park, Montreal, Quebec Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Fish at Biodôme, Olympic Park, Montreal
Fish at Biodôme, Olympic Park, Montreal, Quebec Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Eating in Montreal

Boutiques, galleries, bars, and restaurants along Rue Crescent, Montreal, Quebec
Boutiques, galleries, bars, and restaurants along Rue Crescent, Montreal, Quebec Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Montreal has a vast selection of dining options with cuisines from around the globe and available at all prices. We dined on excellent Greek, Italian, seafood and vegetarian fare, along with finding some fabulous spots for coffee and cocktails. Check out a few of our favorites in Eating (and drinking) in Montreal »

Know before you go to Montreal in August

Bring your walking shoes. While Montreal has good mass transit, it is a highly walkable city. If visiting during the warmer months, bring a good pair of shoes and enjoy the sites while getting some exercise.

Rainfall. August is typically Montreal’s most rainy month, with a historic average of 100 mm of rainfall over 15 days of the month. Comparably, the least rainy months are January-March, with an average of 60mm of rain each month.

Bring the sunscreen. Montreal averages almost 8 hours of sunshine per day in August.

Language: Montreal is a bilingual city, with French spoken as the primary language, but 56% of the population speaks both English and French.


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

View of Miami & Miami River from Icon at Brickell,

Not a fan of South Beach? Try Miami Brickell instead

Cover: View of Miami and the Miami River from Icon at Brickell, Miami, Florida
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Article by Kim Hull


We recently needed to be in Miami for a week and decided to stay in Brickell instead of out at the beach. We’ve never been a fan of the South Beach party scene and on our last visit, we stayed in quieter North Beach. However, we’d heard quite a bit about Brickell lately – it’s currently one of Miami’s hottest areas – so, we gave it a try.

Heineken boats on Miami River, Brickell, Miami, Florida
Heineken boats on Miami River, Brickell, Miami, Florida Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Brickell is located just across the Miami River from downtown and north of Coral Gables and Coconut Grove. Known as the financial district, Brickell has a high number of banking institutions and is sometimes called the “Manhattan of the South.”

Skyscrapers under construction in Brickell, Miami, Florida
Skyscrapers under construction in Brickell, Miami, Florida Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Brickell is also one of the densest areas in the United States and is home to a vast amount of high-rise condos, with numerous more under construction. The buildings offer amazing views of either downtown Miami, the Biscayne Bay, or both and typically have rooftop or elevated pools and common areas. We rented a condo in one of the towers with city views and lived like a local. There are also a few hotels in Brickell, including the JW Marriott and East at the newly opened, Brickell City Centre.

Rooftop patio view of Biscayne Bay, Brickell, Miami,
Rooftop patio view of Biscayne Bay, Brickell, Miami, Florida Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

It was a particularly rainy week during our stay and each day we’d watch the clouds roll in from our Airbnb in one of the towers. To that note, it rained nearly every day, which is not that surprising in south Florida in the summer. What was surprising was that during our stay Brickell flooded. It had been raining most of the day and while walking home from Mary Brickell Village in the afternoon, the streets were flooding. Over the next few hours it grew worse, cars stalled in the high water, and traffic was at a standstill for hours.

Storms approaching Brickell, Miami at sunset
Storms approaching Brickell, Miami at sunset, Florida Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Speaking of Mary Brickell Village, it is the heart of Brickell, with boutiques, restaurants, bars, and a Publix grocery store. While we tried out quite a few of the Brickell Village eateries, a couple of our favorites included Rosa Mexicano and Toscano Divino.

The Scorpione Fuoco: Vodka, basil, grapefruit juice, jalapeño & ginger at Toscana Divino, Brickell, Miami
The Scorpione Fuoco: Vodka, basil, grapefruit juice, jalapeño & ginger at Toscana Divino, Brickell, Miami, Florida Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Toscana Divino is a lovely Italian restaurant with good service, delicious food, and creative cocktails. The Scorpione Fuoco is fabulous – a mix of vodka, basil, grapefruit juice, ginger, and jalapeño.

Chile relleno at Rosa Mexicano, Brickell, Miami, Florida
Chile Poblano Relleno at Rosa Mexicano, Brickell, Miami, Florida Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Another good option is Rosa Mexicano. Try the table side guacamole, margaritas, and the massive Chile Poblano Relleno – a roasted poblano chile filled with goat cheese, rice, sautéed mushrooms and grilled chayote. Tasty.

View of Heineken boats on the Miami River, Brickell, Miami
View of Heineken boats on the Miami River, Brickell, Miami, Florida Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

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

Redsox vs Mariners, Safeco Field, Seattle

Buy me some peanuts and…

Cover: Redsox vs. Mariners, Safeco Field, Seattle
Photo:  Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Article by Kim Hull


Move over peanuts and Cracker Jacks, food at MLB ballparks has definitely improved in recent years. Sure, peanuts are still readily available (and consumer), but these days going to a ballgame doesn’t have to mean abandoning food preferences or simply not eating at all.

Bags of peanuts at Safeco Field, Seattle
Bags of peanuts at Safeco Field, Seattle Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

We stopped by Seattle on our way to Miami from Vancouver and ventured to Safeco to watch the Redsox lose to the Mariners last night. Fortunately, the food was better than the outcome :).

We attended the game with our son, Ryan and his friend, Kate, so we split up and sampled several of the many drink and food options at Safeco Field. Here’s how it went…

Edgar’s Cantina and Edgar’s Tacos in The Pen

Safeco Field fans are welcomed to The Pen area of the stadium early during batting practice, so we started the evening a little early with margaritas at Edgar’s Cantina and Edgar’s Tacos in The Pen during batting practice.

Margaritas at Edgar’s Cantina and Edgar's Tacos in The Pen, Safeco Field, Seattle
Margaritas at Edgar’s Cantina and Edgar’s Tacos in The Pen, Safeco Field, Seattle Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Edgar’s is also home to the newest food offering at Safeco Field in 2017, Chapulines or toasted grasshoppers. We did not partake of any insects and, although the person at the next table ordered some, I thought it would be rude to ask her if I could take a photo.

View of the bullpen from Edgar’s Cantina in The Pen, Safeco Field, Seattle
View of the bullpen from Edgar’s Cantina in The Pen, Safeco Field, Seattle Photo: Ryan Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Edgar’s is located next to the bullpen, providing an up close view of any activity during the game – as you can see captured during the 5th inning by Ryan and Kate.

The Natural

Healthy eats at The Natural at Safeco Field, Seattle
Healthy eats at The Natural at Safeco Field, Seattle Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

As Greg and I are mostly vegetarians, eating only a bit of fish here and there, we chose to dine on food from The Natural which offers hummus, salads, fresh fruit, veggie trays, sandwiches, cheese trays and veggie dogs.

Veggie dog at The Natural at Safeco Field, Seattle
Veggie dog at The Natural at Safeco Field, Seattle Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The dogs are reportedly Field Roast vegan dogs and were quite good. The fruit was fresh and the line was short at the Natural.

Hit it Here Café & Bar

View from Hit it Here Café & Bar, Safeco Field, Seattle
View from Hit it Here Café & Bar, Safeco Field, Seattle Photo: Ryan Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Ryan and Kate made their way out to center field to the Hit it Here Café & Bar, which offers dining in a restaurant-style environment overlooking the field.

Prosciutto and arugula flatbread pizza, Hit it Here Café & Bar, Safeco Field, Seattle
Prosciutto and arugula flatbread pizza, Hit it Here Café & Bar, Safeco Field, Seattle Photo: Ryan Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Selections include a variety of burgers, sandwiches, soups, salads, and pizza, as well as nachos, fish and chips, and hot dogs. Ryan and Kate enjoyed the prosciutto and arugula flatbread pizza and a bánh mì sandwich.

Bánh mì sandwich, Hit it Here Café & Bar, Safeco Field, Seattle
Bánh mì sandwich, Hit it Here Café & Bar, Safeco Field, Seattle Photo: Ryan Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Thanks go Ryan and Kate for the assist with the article and pictures. See you soon at Fenway!

Ryan and Kate, Safeco Field, Seattle
Ryan and Kate, Safeco Field, Seattle Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

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

July in Vancouver

Cover: Downtown Vancouver at night
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Article by Kim Hull


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After 45 days of roaming around England, Scotland, and Ireland, we were ready to settle in one spot for a month. Seeking cool temperatures to avoid the summer heat and some good dining options, where better than Canada?

We found a great Airbnb in the heart of Vancouver with stunning views and settled in for a month of relaxation. We arrived the last of June, and with a little over a month to explore the bustling, diverse city that frequently makes livability top five lists, we planned on taking it slow, simply experiencing Canada’s west coast jewel at our leisure.

Downtown Vancouver at sunset
View from our balcony in downtown Vancouver at sunset Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Vancouver International Jazz Festival

The Vancouver International Jazz Festival was running the weekend we arrived, with the main stages in Robson Square, which our balcony overlooked. While the sounds faintly wafted into our apartment along with the breeze, we decided to pay the festival a visit for a closer look and headed downstairs.

Vancouver International Jazz Festival
Vancouver International Jazz Festival Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Produced by the Coastal Jazz and Blues Society, the TD Vancouver International Jazz Festival actually occurs over two weeks each year at venues in and around Vancouver, with free public performances and paid shows at clubs throughout the area. While it was unseasonably warm during the event, the cool sounds and cold beverages kept the crowds chilled out and entertained throughout the event.

Happy 150th birthday Canada!

Canada 150 celebration

Canada celebrated its 150th birthday on the 1st of July with country-wide festivals, fireworks, events, and exhibitions.

The second largest celebration in Canada was held in Vancouver at Canada Place, with music, food, parades, and fireworks. Vancouver’s official celebration, named “Canada 150+,” recognized the much longer history of the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations peoples of the area. Proud Canadians turned out in red and white attire and Canadian flags were in abundance throughout Vancouver during the celebration.

Canada Day 150, Vancouver, Canada
Canada Day 150, Vancouver, Canada Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Vancouver’s neighborhoods

As the most densely populated city in Canada and the fourth most in North America, towering skyscrapers loom above in much of the downtown area – yet tree-lined streets below soften the city and beckon strolls. We spent hours walking in the beautiful city under bright blue skies, enjoying the summer days.

Holy Rosary Cathedral
Holy Rosary Cathedral Vancouver Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Along the way, we’d pop into an antique shop, grab a coffee, or stop to admire the flowers, gardens, and fountains so abundant throughout Vancouver.

Fountains in Yaletown, Vancouver
Fountains in Yaletown, Vancouver Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

All that walking can work up an appetite and Vancouver’s diversity provides the backdrop for a dynamic food scene. From high-end restaurants to sidewalk cafes to a vast amount of food cart options, we found creative, tasty dining in each neighborhood we explored.

Downtown Vancouver

Downtown Vancouver is filled with restaurants, bars, theatres and a wide-range of shopping options. From Gucci to independent boutiques to department stores – you’ll find it in Vancouver. CF Pacific Centre is several blocks long and offers indoor shopping and a good food court that even has some healthy options like Living Foods, which offers fresh, creative salads.

Robson Street, Vancouver
Robson Street, Vancouver Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Robson Street is a vibrant, three-blocks of boutiques, restaurants, and bars. A great spot to spend a few hours and grab a bite and/or a beverage, we liked the Robson Street Cactus Club – especially the patio for great happy hour fish tacos, cocktails and people watching.

Fish tacos at Cactus Club, Robson Street, Vancouver
Fish tacos at Cactus Club, Robson Street, Vancouver Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Yaletown

If you want to eat, drink, get your hair styled or do a little shopping, head to Yaletown.

Yaletown, Vancouver
Yaletown, Vancouver Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

In a former warehouse and railyard district, Yaletown is located between Homer Street and Robson Street, along the north side of False Creek. A fun area, Yaletown is a great spot for lunches, with an abundance of restaurants with patios.

Wildtale Coastal Grill in Yaletown, Vancouver
Friday Fish special at Wildtale Coastal Grill in Yaletown, Vancouver Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

After a leisurely lunch, a walk along the waterfront is a perfect way to work off those extra calories. A multi-use path runs right along the water, with splendid marina views, and access to David Lam Park and George Wainborn Park along the way.

False Creek waterfront Yaletown, Vancouver
False Creek waterfront Yaletown, Vancouver Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Granville Island

Downtown Vancouver at nightHome to the massive Public Market, restaurants, shops, galleries, artist studios, theatres, waterfront activities and boat tours, Granville Island is a must visit when in Vancouver.

Vancouver Fish Company, Granville Island, Vancouver
Cioppino, West Coast Super Salad, and Sockeye Salmon Burger, Vancouver Fish Company, Granville Island, Vancouver Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

We arrived in time for a late lunch  – the only issue was choosing which restaurant. Public Market has a large selection of vendors and an outdoor dining area for enjoying the food along with some sun, and there is also a huge variety of restaurants ranging from casual to upscale within the community. We decided on the beautiful patio of Vancouver Fish Company and enjoyed a fabulous lunch overlooking the harbor.

Farmers Market, Granville Island, Vancouver
Farmers Market, Granville Island, Vancouver Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Following lunch, we wandered through the Granville Island galleries and stores and shopped at the Farmer’s Market, which is held on Thursdays in the summer, with plants, fruits, vegetables and local artisan crafts, before heading into the Public Market.

Double smoked salmon, Granville Market
Double smoked salmon, Granville Market, Vancouver Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

A foodie’s dream destination, Granville’s Public Market is internationally recognized as one of the top markets in the world. Aisles and aisles of fresh produce, baked goods, gourmet items, meats and fish of every type are available. Our favorite find – double smoked salmon. Absolutely heavenly.

To get to Granville Island on foot, head down the end of Hornby or to David Lam Park in Yaletown and take the Vancouver Aquabus across False Creek.

Gastown

Gastown clock, Vancouver
Gastown clock, Vancouver Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Vancouver’s oldest neighborhood, Gastown, dates back to 1867 when “Gassy” Jack Deighton began pouring drinks in a tavern there. Today, the district is one of the most popular destinations in the city.

Unique boutiques, souvenir shops, jewelry designers, galleries, artisans, bars and tasty restaurants line the streets, some of which are still cobblestone, in Gastown. The centerpiece of the community is the musical steam clock, which draws tourists every quarter hour as it comes to life steaming and whistling.

Hungry? Head across the street to the Water Street Cafe on the corner and grab a table on the patio. Start with the warm Mediterranean olives, then move on to the Linguine Alle Vongole. Splendid dining – and you’ll have a front row seat to watch the clock and the Gastown happenings.

Linguine Alle Vongole at Water Street Cafe, Gastown, Vancouver
Linguine Alle Vongole at Water Street Cafe, Gastown, Vancouver Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Know before you go to Vancouver in July

Temperature: The average temperature in Vancouver in July is 17°C / 64°F, with an average high of 21°C / 70°F and an average low of 13°C / 55°F.

Rainfall. July is typically Vancouver’s least rainy month, with a historic average of 40mm  of rainfall over 9 days of the month.

Plenty of sunshine. Bring the sunscreen – Vancouver averages 13 hours of sunshine per day in July.

Watersports. Water temperatures average 14°C / 57°F in July.

Air-conditioning (or lack there of). As with many locations where the highs are generally pleasant, unseasonably warm temperatures may occur, as they did during the first two weeks of our stay. Many apartments do not have air conditioning. When booking an Airbnb, check if fans are available in case you need them.


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

Kansas City Plaza Lights, a spectacular holiday tradition

Cover: Kansas City Plaza Holiday Lights
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Article by Kim Hull


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While there are many spots around the world that transform into winter wonderlands during the holidays, the Midwest is home to one of the United State’s most beloved annual holiday traditions – the Plaza lights in Kansas City.

Plaza lights in Kansas CityPlaza lights in Kansas City Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media


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Dating back to 1925 when a single strand of lights was hung at the nation’s first suburban shopping district, the Kansas City Plaza lights have grown into a magical display that is now known worldwide for its beauty and grandeur.

Tower decorated with lights at The Plaza in Kansas City
Tower decorated with lights at The Plaza in Kansas City Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Beginning on Thanksgiving, when the lights are illuminated in a huge lighting ceremony complete with fireworks, the Plaza lights shine brightly through mid-January. Each night beginning around 4:30 the 15-block shopping district is filled with festive, twinkling lights. Stores stay open late during the season and the shops are decked out with dazzling window displays.

Plaza lights after dark in Kansas City Plaza lights after dark in Kansas City Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Visiting during the Plaza lights season is also one of our favorite times for a stop in Kansas City, having done so numerous times over the past decades. While planning our December calendar this year, we discovered some available time between Cabo and Cuba, and happily scheduled a Kansas City Plaza lights visit.

Visiting Kansas City at Christmas
Visiting Kansas City at Christmas Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Having stayed at the Intercontinental since it was the Alameda Plaza in the 70s, it is always our hotel of choice when visiting Kansas City. Conveniently located across from the Plaza, the hotel has a great staff, large stately rooms and stunning views of the Plaza lights.

Hotel Intercontinental at Christmas in Kansas City Hotel Intercontinental at Christmas in Kansas City Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Strolling through the Plaza in the crisp early evening air is a wonderful time to simply enjoy the joy of the season.

Carriage rides at The Plaza in Kansas City Carriage rides at The Plaza in Kansas City Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The clip clop of the horses pulling carriages, the sound of laughter as friends headed for drinks and dinners, the wide eyes of children as they marvel at the magic of it all, and, of course, the shoppers as they bustle from store to store – it’s as if a holiday card has come to life.

BM3V8934 Kansas City’s Country Club Plaza at Christmas Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The Plaza is a beautiful setting for a beautiful season. Happy holidays!


Disclosure: 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.

Kansas City Plaza Lights
Kansas City Plaza Lights Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

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

Sunrise to sunset in Cabo San Lucas

Cover: Sunrise on the beach, Cabo San Lucas, Mexico
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Article by Kim Hull


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Sitting at the southern tip of the Baja California peninsula, the former fishing village of Cabo San Lucas is a popular destination for those seeking sun and fun in a laid-back atmosphere.

DN7R9271Resorts in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

With luxury resorts, a wide variety of activities, great dining options, a vibrant nightlife and, of course, miles and miles of beautiful beaches, each day in Cabo can be filled with as much adventure or relaxation as one desires.

Here’s how we spent a bit of our time in Cabo…

BM3V8725 Sailing at sunset in Cabo San Lucas Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Let the day begin

BM3V8689 Sunrise in Cabo San Lucas Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

As the sun hinted of its quickly approaching presence, it was time to head out to the ocean. With the exception of a scattering of fisherman and a few early risers, the beach was quiet as the waves made their way to the shore.

DN7R9220 Beaches at Cabo San Lucas, Mexico Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Waiting for the warmth of the day to begin, I dug my toes into the cool sand underfoot and simply took in the beauty of the simplicity of the morning. Dozens of fishing charters headed out of the marina, gliding by on the azure waters of the Pacific. A dolphin playfully jumped in the distance. The buildings on the hills basked in the warm glow of the early dawn light.

The sky continued to fill with a myriad of oranges and yellows until, in an instant, the sun reached above the horizon and a new day in Cabo San Lucas was underway.

DN7R9213 Early morning fisherman at Cabo, Mexico Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Do everything or nothing at all

Beach time in Cabo San Luca Beach time in Cabo San Lucas Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

One thing about Cabo – you can fill your day with as much or as little as you please. The resorts have calendars overflowing with activities ranging from blackjack to yoga to pool exercise classes. Not quite your thing? Grab a chair and a book and relax as the Baja sun warms your body and the stresses of the real world melt away.

DN7R9229 Playa Grande Resort, Cabo San Lucas, Mexico Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

While it may be tempting to simply while away to the sound of the ocean for your entire stay, an array of pursuits also await outside the gates of your resort. Spend an afternoon shopping in San Lucas or San Jose, play a round of golf on one of Cabo’s numerous golf courses, or if you are seeking something more daring, several adventure companies offer activities ranging from scuba diving and snorkeling to ziplining to camel rides.

Throughout our stay, we took in our share of beach time, explored San Lucas and opted for a bit of adventure with an afternoon at Wild Canyon.

Take a ride on the wild side at Wild Canyon

Riding camels at Wild Canyon, Cabo San Lucas
Riding camels at Wild Canyon, Cabo San Lucas
Photo: Miriam Fiol

Camel rides in Cabo? You bet! Located about 20 minutes outside of Cabo San Lucas, Wild Canyon is home to ziplines, ATV and UTV touring, a bungee drop, an animal sanctuary and Camel Quest camel riding tours.

Feeding the camels at Wild Canyon in Cabo San Lucas
Feeding the camels at Wild Canyon in Cabo San Lucas
Photo: Miriam Fiol

Our Cabo Camel Ride adventure began with an introduction to the camels we would be riding and some riding instructions. After a fun ride through the canyon, we took a short hike for an up-close view of an unexpected waterfall – something thoroughly enjoyed by the wild animals that call the canyon home.

Feeding the camels at Wild Canyon
Feeding the camels at Wild Canyon
Photo: Miriam Fiol

Following our hike, we rode the camels back to their habitat, where we fed them and learned more about these beautiful creatures.

Camel kisses at Wild Canyon
Camel kisses at Wild Canyon
Photo: Miriam Fiol
Greg Hull at Wild Canyon
Greg Hull at Wild Canyon
Photo: Miriam Fiol

Next up was a tour of Wild Canyon’s Kingdom, an animal sanctuary, where we held….
an iguana

Greg holding an iguana at Wild Canyon in Cabo
Greg holding an iguana at Wild Canyon in Cabo
Photo: Miriam Fiol

and a baby crocodile

Kim holding a baby crocodile at Wild Canyon in Cabo San Lucas
Kim holding a baby crocodile at Wild Canyon in Cabo San Lucas
Photo: Miriam Fiol

and love birds

Love birds at Wild Canyon in Cabo San Lucas
Love birds at Wild Canyon in Cabo San Lucas
Photo: Miriam Fiol

and parrots.

Parrot naps at Wild Canyon in Cabo San Lucas
Parrot naps at Wild Canyon in Cabo San Lucas
Photo: Miriam Fiol
Parrot kisses
Parrot kisses
Photo: Miriam Fiol

We finished our afternoon of adventure with a drink and snacks at the Lion’s Den before being whisked back to our hotel on the Wild Canyon shuttle.

Wild Canyon sunsetSunset at Wild Canyon in Cabo San Lucas Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

As the sun retires for the day…

DN7R9243 Sailing in Cabo, Mexico Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

As nightfall draws near, a new set of options await. Restaurants in Cabo range from quiet to chic, with cuisines spanning the culinary continuum. Many of the larger resorts also hold themed dinners each evening, providing dinner and entertainment without venturing into town.

BM3V8723 Cabo San Lucas marina Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

An additional evening option that combines drinks, dinner and a beautiful way to view the Land’s End is a sunset cruise. Several leave from the San Lucas marina each afternoon and we decided this would be the perfect way to end our last day in the Baja.

DN7R9238 Sailing at Land’s End in Cabo, Mexico Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

As we boarded the boat, we were handed cocktails, which were replenished as often as we wished throughout our evening’s journey. Our first stop after leaving the marina was Lover’s Beach and the El Arco de Cabo San Lucas.

BM3V8726 Lover’s Beach, Cabo, Mexico Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The Arch is a rugged rock formation at the very end of Baja Peninsula, referred to as Land’s End.

BM3V8728 Land’s End, Cabo San Lucas Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The spot is called Land’s End because it is just that – the end of the Baja Peninsula and the point where the Pacific Ocean meets the Sea of Cortez, also called the Gulf of California. Lover’s Beach, or Playa del Amour, is the beautiful, secluded beach next to the Arch.

BM3V8715 Sea lion, Cabo San Lucas Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

After our stop at The Arch, we left the Sea of Cortez and made our way up the Pacific Coast shoreline, with dolphins and sea lions playing in the waters along the way. The crew said whales also could be spotted between late December through March, when the migration brings humpback whales to waters off the shore of Cabo San Lucas.

DN7R9253 Resorts near Land’s End in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

We continued parallel to the shoreline, passing resorts and mansions high on the hills before we turned and casually headed back toward San Lucas. As we gently glided along, the chefs prepared dinner on the grills along the back of the boat.

DN7R9268 Cabo San Lucas, Mexico Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Following a spectacular sky bursting with thousands of shades of orange, the sun disappeared for the day.

DN7R9279 Cabo San Lucas, Mexico sunset Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Anchoring in the bay outside the marina, we enjoyed a delicious dinner of fajitas, an assortment of side dishes and dessert. Following dinner, we enjoyed a glass of wine and some conversation as the lights from the resorts sparkled along the shore.

BM3V8770 Cabo San Lucas at night Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Know before you go

Airport: The San Jose Del Cabo International Airport (SJD) is located about 29 miles / 48 km) from Cabo San Lucas and about 8 miles /13 km from San Jose del Cabo. Transportation to the resorts can be arranged via car rental, taxi, shared shuttles or private shuttles.

Currency: The official local currency is the Mexican Peso but U.S. dollars are widely accepted in Cabo.

Power: Cabo San Lucas uses 110v electricity so power adapters from the U.S and Canada are not required.

Language: Spanish is the national language of Mexico, although some amount of English is spoken by most Cabo locals.

Timeshares: Timeshare sales agents are prevalent in Cabo and are tenacious. You will be offered everything from free cab rides to free activities or even cash for attending a presentation. Unless you want to dedicate half of your day to a high-pressure sales presentation, just say no and enjoy your vacation.


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

Sunrise to sunset in Cabo San Lucas
Sunrise to sunset in Cabo San Lucas Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
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.

Eddy's Resort, Mille Lacs, Onamia, Minnesota

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

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


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

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

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

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

The rooms & suites

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

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

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

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

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

Dining & beverages at the Launch Bar & Grill

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

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

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

Things to do at and near the resort

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Eddy’s Resort

Location: 41334 Shakopee Lake Rd, Onamia, MN 56359

Design: Contemporary eclectic

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

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


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

View of Madden's Resort from Gull Lake, Brainerd, Minnesota

Exploring Brainerd Lakes Minnesota

Cover: Exploring Brainerd Lakes
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Article by Kim Hull


As we continued on our journey around Minnesota with Explore Minnesota, we discovered an outdoor paradise in central Minnesota, a beautiful region just a couple of hours north of Minneapolis-St. Paul: Brainerd Lakes! The region has luxury resorts, gorgeous golf courses, fine dining, spas, and an abundance of activities and fun things to do, from zip lining to yacht cruises to amusement parks. And, watching a spectacular Minnesota sunset is a truly amazing way to end the day in Brainerd Lakes.

Exploring Brainerd Lakes Minnesota: Take in a sunset
Exploring Brainerd Lakes Minnesota: Take in a sunset
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The Brainerd Lakes area is located in the center of Minnesota and home to multiple cities and several countries. With over 500 lakes and rivers, including beautiful Gull Lake, it’s no wonder that the Brainerd Lakes region is so widely known as a premier vacation destination.

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

Things to do when exploring Brainerd Lakes

While the list of things to do in Brainerd Lakes is long, there are a few adventures that are “must do” activities and attractions when visiting the area.

Cruise Gull Lake with Destiny Cruises

Explore Brainerd Lakes with Destiny Cruises
Explore Brainerd Lakes, Minnesota with Destiny Cruises
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Our cruise aboard Destiny Cruises’ luxury yacht was one of the highlights of our time spent exploring Minnesota.

A relaxing afternoon enjoying delicious food and beverages while gazing at the shimmering, blue waters of Gull Lake, it was the perfect way to explore Gull Lake and view the beautiful coastline. The Destiny Cruises crew is fun and provide excellent service, delivering an authentic Minnesota welcome aboard their beautiful boat. While we experienced a lunch cruise, Destiny Cruises also offers happy hour, dinner, brunch and sunset cruises, as well as private charters.

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

Get an adrenaline rush at Brainerd Zip Line

Once you’ve seen Brainerd Lakes from the water, you need to see it from the air.

Exploring Brainerd Lakes: Brainerd Zip Line
Exploring Brainerd Lakes, Minnesota: Greg Hull at Brainerd Zip Line
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Ziplining at Brainerd Zip Line Tour is exciting, fun and offers some of the most amazing views you’ll find in the Brainerd Lakes area. With 7 zip lines of varying lengths, a 65-foot suspension bridge, and an optional 50-foot free fall jump, Brainerd Zip Line Tour will have you soaring at top speeds over the trees at Mount Ski Gull, while taking in spectacular, panoramas of Agate Lake and Gull Lake.

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

Spend a day playing at a lake

Exploring Brainerd Lakes Minnesota: Water sports
Exploring Brainerd Lakes Minnesota: Water sports
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Celebrate the natural beauty found in the state of 10,000 lakes with a day of water activities and family fun. Whatever your water sports preference may be – boating, paddleboarding, snorkeling, tubing, water skiing, fishing, canoeing or simply floating on a raft – the crystal clear waters of the Brainerd Lakes region is the place to play on the water.

Hit the links

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

Nationally recognized by leading golf publications as a top golfing destination, the Brainerd Lakes area is home to courses that are nestled amidst tall trees and set against a backdrop of stunning lakeside landscapes. Emerald greens and fairways, resorts with vast amenities, and a variety of courses playable by all skill levels attract golfers from across the nation to this section of central Minnesota.

Madden’s Resort on Gull Lake is home to four courses, including Minnesota’s oldest 18-hole resort golf course and the top-rated Classics course.

Brainerd Lakes: A top golfing destination
Brainerd Lakes: A top golfing destination
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Put on your plaid shirt and pay Paul Bunyan & Babe a visit

Exploring Brainerd Lakes Minnesota: Paul Bunyan, Paul Bunyan Land
Exploring Brainerd Lakes Minnesota: Paul Bunyan, Paul Bunyan Land
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

No visit to the Brainerd Lakes area is complete without a visit to see and talk to the legend himself, Paul Bunyan. Greeted by the giant Babe the Blue Ox in the parking lot, a visit to Paul Bunyan Land offers a full day of family fun with 40 amusement rides and attractions, Paul’s petting barn, The Pioneer Village, and of course, the famous 26 foot tall lumberjack with eyes that blink and a head that swivels, that greets you by name as you enter.

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

Where to stay at Brainerd Lakes

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

With accommodation options in the Brainerd Lakes area ranging from campgrounds to luxury resorts, there’s a perfect place to stay for every taste and budget. A fabulous choice for the utmost in relaxation and amenities is Madden’s on Gull Lake. From time on the fairway to luxuriating at the spa, to enjoying fine dining, Madden’s is the spot for enjoying all that Minnesota has to offer in peaceful, laid-back luxury.

Read our review of Madden’s Resort »

Where to stay when Exploring Brainerd Lakes: Madden's Resort
Where to stay when Exploring Brainerd Lakes: Madden’s Resort
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Know before you go

Location

Brainerd Lakes, Minnesota is approximately 200 miles north of Minneapolis-St Paul in central Minnesota.

Climate

Summer temperatures (June-August) in the Brainerd Lakes area range from 76°F to 80°F, with average lows between 52°F to 57°F. January is the coldest month of the year, with average daytime highs of 20°F and average lows of -4°F.


Disclosure & Disclaimer: Special thanks to Explore Minnesota and the Explore Brainerd Lakes 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.

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.