The MinneSODA Ice Cream Fountain, Park Rapids, Minnesota

Park Rapids Minnesota: Small town charm at the gateway to the Mississippi River

Cover: The MinneSODA Ice Cream Fountain, Park Rapids, Minnesota
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Article by Kim Hull


The center point of north central Minnesota, Park Rapids is abundant with natural beauty, outdoor adventures, and a relaxed charm.

With over 400 lakes in the region, hiking, cycling, numerous events to explore, and its close proximity to Itasca State Park, Park Rapids is a perfect retreat for a few hours or a few days. Add to that an inviting small town ambiance and the good eats found in the area, and you may want to stay even longer.

Things to do in and around Park Rapids

Go shopping in Downtown Park Rapids

Shopping in Park Rapids, Minnesota
Shopping in Park Rapids, Minnesota
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Small town America is alive and well in Park Rapids. With a downtown district filled with cute shops and an abundance of friendly locals, Park Rapids is a great spot to spend an afternoon browsing the specialty shops and boutiques filled with gifts, fashion, antiques and more.

Molly Poppin's Gourmet Snacks, Park Rapids, Minnesota
Molly Poppin’s Gourmet Snacks, Park Rapids, Minnesota
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

One foot in the door at Molly Poppin’s and you know you won’t be leaving anytime soon. The aroma is, well – I bet I gained weight just inhaling. Then you taste the samples and it’s all over, as bags of deliciousness fly into your arms and out the door with you.

Moving down the street, we spent the rest of our time in the quaint town exploring all the shops and dining options, having a throughly entertaining and casual afternoon on one of America’s classic main streets.

Artisan balsamic vinegars, Park Rapids, Minnesota
Artisan balsamic vinegars, Park Rapids, Minnesota
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Visit Dorset, the “Restaurant Capital of the World”

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

Every visit to the Park Rapids area must include a lunch or dinner at the nearby “Restaurant Capital of the World,” Dorset, Minnesota. Home to 22 people and 5 restaurants, Dorset lays claim to the title, with the restaurants per capita ratio being 1 restaurant to 5 people.

We dined at Dorset’s Italian option, La Pasta – a lovely lunch and the breadsticks were out of this world.

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

But, before lunch we had a tour of the town with the mayor, James Tufts, and his older brother and former two-term mayor, Bobby Tufts, who now serves as the town’s ambassador (you may have seen them on the Today Show and in other national news).

Elected at the age of three, as was former mayor Bobby, it’s safe to say that Dorset has a unique political system. Quirky, fun and definitely not to be missed, Dorset is so deserving of the hashtag #OnlyInMN. Learn more about our visit to Dorset, Minnesota »

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

Hike or bike the Heartland State Trail

While in Dorset, we noticed an awesome bike and hiking path passing through the town.

The Heartland State Trail is a 49 mile, paved multi-use trail reaching between Park Rapids and Cass Lake and was one of the first rail to trail conversions in the United States. The flat trail runs along the abandoned railroad the entire distance except for a four mile segment that uses a roadway north of Walker. 49 miles of paved bikeway? Sweet – we’ll be back.

Cross the headwaters of the Mississippi at Itasca State Park

Greg & Kim Hull crossing the headwaters of the Mississippi
Greg & Kim Hull cross the headwaters of the Mississippi
Photo: Caitlin Rick

Itasca State Park is a nature paradise just 26 miles from Park Rapids. The 32,000 acres of soaring pines and over 100 lakes are reason enough to visit, but it is also home to the Mississippi Headwaters. Truly a cool adventure – learn more about Itasca State Park »

Itasca State Park, Jacob V. Brower Visitor Center
Itasca State Park, Jacob V. Brower Visitor Center
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Attend Legends & Logging Days each August

Legends & Logging Days logo

Get your plaid shirt ready and head to Legends and Logging Days each August in Park Rapids. A summer festival that includes Lumberjack action, Water Wars, Chainsaw sculptors, music, food and much more, it’s fun in the summer and a celebration of the rich heritage of the region.

Spend some time on one the area’s 400 lakes

Spend some time on one of Minnesota's lakes
Spend some time on one of Minnesota’s lakes
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

No time in Minnesota, the land of 10,000 lakes (which I hear is actually 11,842), is complete without some time on the water and there are plenty of opportunities near Park Rapids. A wonderful spot for family vacations, the Park Rapids Lakes area offers a chance to explore the pristine lakes of Minnesota and engage in the water sports that abound in the region. Climb aboard a speedboat, kayak, paddleboat or pontoon for a sunset cruise or a spend the day on the water fishing for your own aquatic adventure.

 

Downtown Park Rapids, Minnesota
Downtown Park Rapids, Minnesota
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Know before you go

Location

Park Rapids, Minnesota is 186 miles northwest of Minneapolis-St Paul and 85 miles east of Fargo, North Dakota.

Climate

July is the warmest month in Park Rapids with average daytime highs of 82°F / 28°C and average lows of 56°F / 13.5°C. January is the coldest month with average daytime highs of 17°F / -8°C and average lows of -21°F / -6°C.


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.

Sun setting on Little Detroit Lake, Detroit Lakes, Minnesota

Fun awaits in Detroit Lakes Minnesota

Cover: Detroit Lake, Detroit Lakes, Minnesota
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Article by Kim Hull


Home to a wide variety of outdoor activities, events, festivals, shopping, and dining, Detroit Lakes is the place to be for year-round fun in Minnesota.

As one would anticipate, a city with “Lakes” in their name is the center of water pursuits and Detroit Lakes definitely delivers in this category. Outdoor splendor awaits on the sparkling waters for boating, fishing and water sports enthusiasts, with over 400 lakes within 25 miles of the city.

Detroit Lake at sunset, Detroit Lakes, Minnesota
Detroit Lake at sunset, Detroit Lakes, Minnesota
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

For those that prefer their water activities in the city, Detroit Lake’s pristine mile long beach is perfect for beach fun, while also providing access for launching boats and water activities.

Things to do in and around Detroit Lakes Minnesota

When you manage to tear yourself away from the clear blue waters of the Detroit Lakes region, so many activities await on land. From shopping to mountain biking to events, Detroit Lakes has something for everyone from sunrise to sunset.

Downtown Detroit Lakes

Downtown Detroit Lakes, Minnesota
Downtown Detroit Lakes, Minnesota
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

A stroll through downtown Detroit Lakes is a perfect way to spend an afternoon. Offerings range from antiques to boutiques and everything in between, with lots to see and explore. Stop for a bite, find a place for a beer, or just enjoy viewing the historic buildings and chatting with friendly locals.

Along the way, swing by the library and check out the cool sculpture of a child reading a book out front, which was created by local artist, Hans Gilsdorf.

Child reading a book sculpture by Hans Gilsdorf in Detroit Lakes, Minnesota
Child reading a book sculpture by Hans Gilsdorf in Detroit Lakes, Minnesota
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Then, head down to the Washington Square Mall for more shopping and dining options, perhaps to take in a movie and to snap a shot with your catch of the day.

Kim Hull, Washington Square Mall, Detroit Lakes
Kim Hull, Washington Square Mall, Detroit Lakes
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

What’s the deal with those pretty fish around town?

In 2002-2003, 50 sunfish were created and designed by local artists, with several of the fish auctioned to cover the artist’s expenses. All 50 were then placed around Detroit Lakes in public places and have since become a favorite of locals and visitors alike.

Want to see them all? Detroit Lakes has created a Sunny in Detroit Lakes map with locations of all of the fish statues – which assists with locating them, as the fish are moved from summer to winter locations and back each year.

Detroit Lakes Sunfish, Detroit Lakes, Minnesota
Detroit Lakes Sunfish, Detroit Lakes, Minnesota
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Festivals & events

Detroit Lakes hosts numerous festivals and events throughout the year ranging from markets to sporting events to concerts – so many that, according to the mayor, Detroit Lakes averages one event per week. Check the Detroit Lakes events calendar for a full list of things to do throughout the year.

Street Faire at the Lakes

Street Faire at the Lakes, Detroit Lakes, Minnesota
Street Faire at the Lakes, Detroit Lakes, Minnesota
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Summer in Detroit Lakes kicks off with Street Faire at the Lakes and we were in town for the 2016 edition.

Food court & live music at Street Faire at the Lakes, Detroit Lakes, Minnesota
Food court & live music at Street Faire at the Lakes, Detroit Lakes, Minnesota
Photo: Greg K. Hull © Chasing Light Media

Located across six blocks of downtown Detroit Lakes, the Street Faire includes 125 juried artists, live music, a food court, and children’s activities. Free to attendees, Street Faire at the Lakes is held annually in early June.

Children's activities at Street Faire at the Lakes in Detroit Lakes
Children’s activities at Street Faire at the Lakes in Detroit Lakes
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Andy Rogers trying out the chairs at Street Faire at the Lakes
Andy Rogers trying out the chairs at Street Faire at the Lakes, Detroit Lakes
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

WE Fest Country Music Festival

Each August since 1983, country music fans gather in Detroit Lakes for one of the top events of the year in the genre, the WE Fest Country Music Festival on the shores of Lake Salle. Held at Soo Pass Ranch, the natural amphitheater, which has a permanent stage and sound towers, holds over 50,000 people. Adjacent to the facility are 10 campgrounds that can accommodate up to 35,000. Past performers have included Vince Gill, Faith Hill, Brooks & Dunn, Carrie Underwood, Rascal Flatts and many more.

Other things to do in Detroit Lakes

Detroit Mountain

Detroit Mountain, Detroit Lakes, Minnesota
Detroit Mountain Resort, Detroit Lakes, Minnesota
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Here’s a really cool story. Detroit Mountain was the local ski hill for half a century until it fell into disrepair and closed in 2004. Missing the swoosh of the slopes, the local community pulled together, formed a non-profit, the Detroit Mountain Recreation Area, Inc., and began raising funds to bring skiing back to their community.

Talking with Jeff Staley of Detroit Mountain
Talking with Jeff Staley of Detroit Mountain
Photo: Greg K. Hull © Chasing Light Media

After raising $8.5 million dollars in private donations, the new lifts outside the all new lodge began to turn a decade later in 2014. Now a year-round facility, Detroit Mountain offers skiing, snowboarding, tubing, a terrain park, cross-country ski trails in the winter and summer mountain biking with flow and downhill trails and a skills course.

Learn more about Detroit Mountain »

Detroit Mountain's fat tire bike rentals
Detroit Mountain’s fat tire bike rentals
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Hiking

Hiking at Itasca State Park, Park Rapids, Minnesota
Hiking at Itasca State Park, Park Rapids, Minnesota
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Lace up your hiking boots and get ready to hit the trail because Detroit Lakes has multiple state parks and hiking options nearby. Maplewood State Park, Buffalo River State Park, and Smoky Hills State Forest are all within a 30-minute drive and Itaska State Park, where you can cross the headwaters of the Mississippi, is only an hour away.

Or how about a hike through Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge’s 43,000 acres? Located about 18 miles from Detroit Lakes, the refuge provides a chance to explore 20 lakes and three rivers, view 250 bird species, including bald eagles, and includes a segment of North America’s longest scenic trail, the North Country National Scenic Trail.

Let’s Go Fishing

Of course, fishing is huge in Minnesota and now that I’m an expert fisherwoman (I caught my first on our very first fishing excursion earlier in the week in Minnesota), I can tell you – I get it. Fishing in Minnesota is super fun and I am hooked (pun intended).

But, for our evening in Detroit Lakes, “Let’s Go Fishing” had a different meaning and we met some people who are the definition of “Minnesota nice.”

Dave Hochhalter, Ron Zeman, Betty Hochhalter, Cleone Stewart, Let's Go Fishiing, Detroit Lakes
Dave Hochhalter, Ron Zeman, Betty Hochhalter, Cleone Stewart, Let’s Go Fishiing, Detroit Lakes
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

“Let’s Go Fishing” offers lake adventures to seniors, veterans, youth and the physically challenged free of charge and we were fortunate to explore Little Detroit Lake by pontoon as their guest. Fully staffed by volunteers, our hosts for the evening were captain Dave Hochhalter, first mate Betty Hochhalter, and city council member, lake historian and comedian, Ron Zeman.

Momma Loon and her baby, Detroit Lake
Momma Loon and her baby, Detroit Lake
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

In addition to learning about the history of the area and their organization on our spectacular sunset ride, we saw a momma loon with her baby on her back, found a very talented SUP fisherman, and, of course, waved at everyone we passed by along the way.

SUP fisherman on Detroit Lake, Detroit Lakes, Minnesota
SUP fisherman on Lake, Detroit Lakes, Minnesota
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Such a beautiful way to end the day in Minnesota! Learn more about Let’s Go Fishing in Detroit Lakes Minnesota on their website.

Where to stay

Where to stay: Best Western The Lodge on Detroit Lake
Where to stay: Best Western The Lodge on Detroit Lake
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Detroit Lakes has a wide variety of accommodation options to suit all preferences and budgets. For our visit, we stayed at the beautiful, lakeside Best Western Premier Lodge on Lake Detroit.

The Lodge has an upscale feel with rustic accents and a relaxing atmosphere. Our spa suite was fabulous, with spectacular lake views, a jacuzzi, and a fireplace. The Lodge also has a day spa, fitness center, comfortable seating areas both inside and out, a delicious complimentary breakfast, and a friendly, helpful staff.

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

Learn more about The Lodge Detroit Lakes »

Places to dine and enjoy a beverage in Detroit Lakes

Zorbaz

Zorbaz Pizza Shack, Detroit Lakes
Zorbaz Pizza Shack, Detroit Lakes
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

There’z nothing like a cazual evening zipping Bobbin’ Blue Margaritaz while chowing down on nachoz and pizza as you gaze out at the beautiful blue waterz of Detroit Lakez at Zorbaz.

Kim Hull & Caitlin Rick at Zorbaz in Detroit Lakes
Kim Hull & Caitlin Rick at Zorbaz in Detroit Lakes
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Zince 1969, gueztz have flocked to the eclectic bar and reztaurant that substitutez every “s” for a “z.” Arriving by boat, car, foot and bike, people pack the iconic beach bar acrozz from Detroit Lakez beach. Zpecializing in Mexican food and pizza, Zorbaz haz a huge azzortment of tap beerz, live muzic on the weekendz, and a great patio. On the way out, head to the zhop next door and grab a t-zhirt. Not to be mizzed.

Huge assortment of tap beers at Zorbaz, Detroit Lakes
Huge assortment of tap beers at Zorbaz, Detroit Lakes
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Lakeside Tavern

Lakeside Tavern, Detroit Lakes
Lakeside Tavern, Detroit Lakes
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Just a couple of blocks down from Zorbaz, Lakeside Tavern serves 24 tap beers, burgers, pizza and other fare. And, if you feel someone brush against you as you sip your beer but, when you turn, no one is there – no worries, that may be just one of six reported ghosts that hang out at the Tavern as well.

Located in the former Lakeside Hotel, which was built in 1891 and has a colorful past filled with stories of bank robber owners, vanishing patrons, and ghosts, the present day Lakeside Tavern is reportedly haunted by a little girl, two men and three women. When we stopped by, no hauntings to report – just quite a few patrons enjoying some late evening sun, cold beer, pizza and stunning lake views.

Sunset on Detroit Lake
Sunset on Detroit Lake
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Know before you go

Kim and Greg on a pontoon on Detroit Lake
Kim and Greg on a pontoon on Detroit Lake
Photo: Caitlin Rick

Location

Detroit Lakes is about 205 miles northwest of the Twin Cities of Minneapolis-St Paul and 45 miles east of Fargo-Moorhead.

Climate

Summer time is ideal in Detroit Lakes, with average daytime highs reaching just under 80 F (27 C) then cooling off in the evenings to the 50s F (13 C).

Winter daily highs average in the teens and 20s F (-7 C), perfect for skiing and winter sports. At night, ramp up the fireplace and grab some hot chocolate, when temperatures hover around 0 F (-18 C).

Prepare for the outdoors and changing weather

As many summer activities in and around Detroit Lakes are outside, remember to bring sunscreen, mosquito repellent, good walking or hiking shoes, a rain jacket and a sweater or jacket for the evenings when the day begins to cool.


Disclosure & disclaimer: Special thanks to Explore Minnesota and the Detroit Lakes 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.

Deck at Detroit Mountain, Detroit Lakes, Minnesota

Detroit Mountain: Skiing & mountain biking in Detroit Lakes

Cover: Detroit Mountain Lodge, Detroit Lakes, Minnesota
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Article by Kim Hull


For half a century, locals, and visitors to the Detroit Lakes area had a local ski hill, Detroit Mountain, for winter fun on the slopes. Sadly, the resort fell into disrepair and shut down in 2004 and for a decade remained closed.

With no place to ski, the community formed a plan – to reopen Detroit Mountain as a year-round resort, with skiing, biking, and even hiking trails. They pulled together and formed a non-profit, Detroit Mountain Recreation Area, Inc., and began fund raising efforts to transform the idea into reality.

Painting from original Detroit Mountain, Detroit Lakes, Minnesota
Painting from original Detroit Mountain, Detroit Lakes, Minnesota
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

In 2014, after raising $8.5 million dollars in private donations, Detroit Mountain once again opened. Gone was the old lodge and in its place was a beautiful new facility. True to their vision, the resort has since offered year round activities with skiing, snowboarding, tubing, a terrain park, and cross-country ski trails, and in the summer, mountain biking with flow and downhill trails, a skills course, a Strider Adventure Zone for the little ones and hiking.

Now in its second summer season, the resort is hosting events such as the Detroit Mountain Shakedown mountain bike race. We stopped by Detroit Mountain the day before the race to learn a bit more and get a tour of the resort with General Manager, Jeff Staley.

Mountain biking

Fat tire bike rentals at Detroit Mountain, Detroit Lakes, Minnesota
Fat tire bike rentals at Detroit Mountain, Detroit Lakes, Minnesota
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Detroit Mountain turned to Progressive Trail Design out of Arkansas, who has built bike parks in bike-crazy locations like Park City, Utah; Aspen, Colorado; and Castle Rock, Colorado, to build their bike trails. With trails designed for all rider levels, the Detroit Mountain trails include lift accessed downhill flow trails, contour flow trails with some nice rolling terrain, and a skills course.

Kid's Strider rentals, Detroit Mountain
Kid’s Strider rentals, Detroit Mountain, Detroit Lakes, Minnesota
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

For the kiddos 18 months to 5 years, Detroit Mountain has a Strider Adventure Zone to get them learning balance, handling skills and the fundamentals of riding without the complication of moving pedals.

Downhill mountain bike trails
Downhill mountain bike trails
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Detroit Mountain operates a comprehensive bike rental shop with standard, premium and fat tire bikes rentals available with full day, half day and twilight options.

Bike Shop, Detroit Mountain
Bike Shop, Detroit Mountain
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Skiing and snowboarding

Intermediate slope sign
Intermediate slope sign
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

As a ski bum, I can only imagine how happy Detroit Lakes skiers were when the lifts on those brand new triple chairs began to turn in 2014.

With the capability for snowmaking on 100% of the terrain, as long as it is cold enough, Detroit Mountain can keep smiles on the faces of those skiers and boarders throughout the winter months regardless of snowfall amounts. Offering day and night skiing, the resort has skiable terrain ranging from a bunny hill to black runs, and the Scheel’s Terrain Park, with tricks, jumps, and rails. The resort has a full-service ski rental facility and offers lessons as well.

Just outside the lodge, a warming hut provides additional space for resting, eating and group events in a warm and cozy atmosphere.

Kim Hull & Caitlin Rick in Warming Hut, Detroit Lakes, Minnesota
Kim Hull & Caitlin Rick in Warming Hut, Detroit Lakes, Minnesota
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Tubing and Cross Country Skiing

In addition to downhill skiing and boarding, the Landslide Tubing Park, served by a Magic Carpet, provides fun on the snow with no special skills or equipment needed.

For those preferring Nordic skiing, Detroit Mountain’s 7 km of groomed cross country ski trails wind through the beautiful Minnesota countryside. In the summer, the trails are used for hiking.

Dining & drinking

Kim Hull at The Horses Neck Saloon, Detroit Lakes, Minnesota
Kim Hull at The Horses Neck Saloon, Detroit Lakes, Minnesota
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

All days on the hill require a bit of après time and Detroit Mountain has just the spot with the beautiful Horses Neck Saloon where you can hop on a saddle and enjoy a beer or glass of wine with fabulous mountain views.

Should hunger pangs arise, The Mountain Café offers a variety of tasty lodge fare with plenty of indoor seating or head outside to catch some sun on the deck and dine with a slopeside view.

The Mountain Café at Detroit Mountain
The Mountain Café at Detroit Mountain
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Getting there

The lodge at Detroit Mountain, Detroit Lakes, Minnesota
The lodge at Detroit Mountain, Detroit Lakes, Minnesota
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Detroit Mountain’s address is 29409 170th St, Detroit Lakes, MN 56501.

Detroit Mountain is about 3 miles from Detroit Lakes, approximately 49 miles from Fargo, ND and 214 miles from the Minneapolis-St Paul airport. Be sure and check road conditions before heading to the resort. Free parking is available at the resort.

Learn more about Detroit Mountain on their website.

Chairlifts, Detroit Mountain
Chairlifts, Detroit Mountain
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Where to stay

While we were in Detroit Lakes, we stayed at the beautiful Best Western Premier Lodge on the Lake, which is only about 3 miles from Detroit Mountain. Located along the shores of Detroit Lake, The Lodge has an indoor pool, day spa, fitness center, complimentary breakfast, spacious fireplace lounge, and a private beach.

Where to stay: The Lodge on Lake Detroit
Where to stay: The Lodge on Lake Detroit
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Kim Hull and Cleone Stewart
Kim Hull and Cleone Stewart
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Disclosure & disclaimer: Special thanks to Explore Minnesota and the Detroit Lakes 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.

Sitting around the firepalce at The Lodge on Lake Detroit, Detroit Lakes, Minnesota

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The rooms and suites

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The hotel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hotel amenities

Indoor pool

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

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

The beach and lakefront

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

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

Fitness center

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

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

Spa

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

Visiting the Best Western Premier Lodge on the Lake

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

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


Disclosure & disclaimer: Special thanks to Explore Minnesota and Best Western Premier The Lodge on Lake Detroit for hosting us as their guests. The content & opinions expressed are entirely our own. Reviews are opinion only and Chasing Light Media accepts no responsibility for how the information is used.

River Walk, San Antonio, Texas

San Antonio: So much more than the Alamo

San Antonio things to do: River Walk, San Antonio, Texas
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Article by Kim Hull


Mention you are headed to San Antonio and nearly always the reaction is, “Oh, you can visit the Alamo.” Yes, the famous fortress is a mainstay on all “San Antonio things to do” lists, but there is so much more.

In addition to a rich historic past, San Antonio has museums, lively districts, shopping, great dining, outdoor activities and the beautiful River Walk. The second most populated city in Texas is also one the cleanest and most well-cared for cities you’ll find, with fountains, waterfalls, flowers and massive cypress trees around every turn.

San Antonio: Where to stay

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

When in San Antonio, you, of course, want to stay on the River Walk, but not all locations along the river are the same. A hotel with a perfect spot, close to everywhere you want to be, but also in a quiet segment of River Walk, is Hotel Contessa. An all-suite hotel, Hotel Contessa is a beautiful hotel with large contemporary suites, a rooftop pool and hot tub, spa, a fabulous restaurant and bar, and a stellar staff.


Learn more about Hotel Contessa »


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

San Antonio: Things to do

The River Walk

Marriage Island on the River Walk, San Antonio, Texas
Marriage Island on the River Walk, San Antonio, Texas
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

There’s so much to love about the River Walk. Also known as Paseo del Rio, the River Walk is 15 miles of walkways lined with restaurants, bars, hotels, and boutiques, that wind through San Antonio next to the San Antonio River.

River Walk near Arneson River Theatre, San Antonio, Texas
River Walk near Arneson River Theatre, San Antonio, Texas
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

A stroll along the River Walk is a visual delight, with bright colors accenting the way as the paths lead to different areas of the city, looping through the downtown and beyond. With towering cypress trees overhead, the paths meander through arched stone bridges and lush gardens as squirrels and birds play in the heart of the city.

Double-Crested Cormorant along the River Walk, San Antonio, Texas
Double-Crested Cormorant along the River Walk, San Antonio, Texas
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Rio River Cruises

Casa Rio on the River Walk, San Antonio, Texas
Casa Rio on the River Walk, San Antonio, Texas
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

A guided cruise down the San Antonio River is a wonderful way to experience the River Walk while also learning about San Antonio’s history and landmarks.

The narrated boat tours are about 40 minutes and allow visitors to relax and take in the beautiful scenery as they glide along the river in San Antonio’s downtown district. In addition to the tours, Rio Taxi service stops at 39 spots continuously throughout the day. Taxi boats are identified by the checkered flags displayed on the back of the boats.

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

La Villita Historic Arts Village

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

One of San Antonio’s first neighborhoods, La Villita was transformed in 1939 and today is a charming arts community located in downtown San Antonio.

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

Adjacent to the River Walk and the Arneson River Theatre, La Villita is home to galleries, boutiques, restaurants, plazas and courtyards and hosts many events, festivals and concerts.

La Villita Church, San Antonio, Texas
La Villita Church, San Antonio, Texas
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Culinary delights

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

San Antonio has a diverse food scene, with culinary options to satisfy every palate. As no visit to Texas is ever complete without at least one Tex-Mex fix, a stop by long time standouts like Mi Tierra is always on the agenda (be sure and get take home pastries from the bakery).

Mi Tierra Cafe and Bakery, Market Square, San Antonio, Texas
Mi Tierra Cafe and Bakery, Market Square, San Antonio, Texas
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

But, far from just great Tex-Mex and barbecue, San Antonio’s restaurants are gaining widespread notoriety for their farm to table offerings using fresh local ingredients. Innovative eateries abound in the city, from the growing number of restaurants at Pearl, to the countless River Walk options that deliver creative cuisine against one of the most beautiful dining backdrops around.

Lunch along the River Walk, San Antonio, Texas
Lunch along the River Walk, San Antonio, Texas
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Briscoe Western Art Museum

Wells Fargo Stagecoach, The Briscoe Western Art Museum, San Antonio, Texas
Wells Fargo Stagecoach, The Briscoe Western Art Museum, San Antonio, Texas
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Named in honor of the late Texas Governor, Dolph Briscoe, Jr., the Briscoe Western Art Museum is a beautiful museum focused on the art, history and culture of the American West.

Saddles, The Briscoe Western Art Museum, San Antonio, Texas
Saddles, The Briscoe Western Art Museum, San Antonio, Texas
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Located in the former San Antonio Public Library building along the River Walk, the museum has nine galleries on three levels. Highlights of the collection include Pancho Villa’s saddle, an Alamo diorama, a Wells Fargo Stagecoach and works by Frederic Remington.

Walkara-Hawk of the Mountains, Greg Kelsey, Briscoe Museum, San Antonio, Texas
Walkara-Hawk of the Mountains, Greg Kelsey, Briscoe Museum, San Antonio, Texas
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Buckhorn Saloon & Museum and Texas Ranger Museum

The Buckhorn Saloon, San Antonio, Texas
The Buckhorn Saloon, San Antonio, Texas
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Seventeen-year-old Albert Friedrich first opened the Buckhorn Saloon in 1881 and soon discovered that patrons liked to partake of a beverage even when their pockets were empty. Coming up with a creative solution, Friedrich began accepting horns and antlers in exchange for drinks in the saloon. Albert married and his bride, Emile, decided jars of rattlesnake rattles would also be a good form of barter for a whiskey or beer. Interesting couple.

Polar bear exhibit, Buckhorn Saloon and Texas Ranger Museum, San Antonio, Texas
Polar bear exhibit, Buckhorn Saloon and Texas Ranger Museum, San Antonio, Texas
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

So, the collection grew and grew and grew. Legend has it the Buckhorn is where Teddy Roosevelt recruited Rough Riders and where Pancho Villa planned the Mexican Revolution. Today, the Buckhorn Saloon features over 520 species of wildlife from around the world, displayed in over 40,000 square feet, with multiple museums and attractions under one roof including a Carnival of Curiosities, the American Sideshow and the Texas Ranger Museum.

Wildlife, Buckhorn Saloon and Museum, San Antonio, Texas
Wildlife, Buckhorn Saloon and Museum, San Antonio, Texas
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

At the Carnival of Curiosities, Dr. Phineas Phiasco welcomes visitors to the attraction, where curiosities await ranging from a mystery mine where water flows upwards to an elephant the size of a tiny peanut. PT Barnum and Buffalo Bill holograms shares stories at the American Sideshow, which features shrunken heads and two-headed calves.

Buffalo Bill exhibit, Buckhorn Saloon and Texas Ranger Museum, San Antonio, Texas
Buffalo Bill exhibit, Buckhorn Saloon and Texas Ranger Museum, San Antonio, Texas
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Mystery Mine, Buckhorn Saloon and Texas Ranger Museum, San Antonio, Texas
Mystery Mine, Buckhorn Saloon and Texas Ranger Museum, San Antonio, Texas
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The newest of the exhibits, the Texas Ranger Museum is home to hundreds of Texas Ranger artifacts, a recreation of San Antonio in 1900 called Ranger Town, and a Bonnie and Clyde exhibit with a replica of the couple’s getaway car.

Bonnie and Clyde replica car, Buckhorn Saloon and Museum, San Antonio, Texas
Bonnie and Clyde replica car, Buckhorn Saloon and Museum, San Antonio, Texas
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Shopping San Antonio style

Garcia Art Glass, San Antonio, Texas
Garcia Art Glass, San Antonio, Texas
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

For those seeking some retail therapy, San Antonio has a vast array of shopping options from boutiques, to galleries, to malls. While large shopping malls can be found throughout sprawling San Antonio, if visiting downtown, Rivercenter Mall is a prime shopping spot, located along the River Walk with over 100 retailers including major department stores, restaurants, a comedy club and an IMAX® theater.

Rivercenter Mall, San Antonio, Texas
Rivercenter Mall, San Antonio, Texas
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Market Square – El Mercado

Shopping at Market Square, San Antonio, Texas
Shopping at Market Square, San Antonio, Texas
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

El Mercado, or Market Square, is the largest Mexican market in the U.S., with over three blocks of restaurants, shops, and produce stands.

Market Square shops, San Antonio, Texas
Market Square shops, San Antonio, Texas
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The place to find everything from decorative items to leather goods to toys, Market Square is a vibrant center celebrating the sights, sounds and flavors of Mexico. In addition to the shops, Market Square has several restaurants and is home to numerous working artists that set up along the plazas creating pottery, jewelry, paintings and other works of art.

El Mercado - Market Square, San Antonio, Texas
El Mercado – Market Square, San Antonio, Texas
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Mi Tierra Cafe, Market Square, San Antonio, Texas
Mi Tierra Cafe, Market Square, San Antonio, Texas
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

San Fernando Cathedral

The San Fernando Cathedral, San Antonio, Texas
San Fernando Cathedral, San Antonio, Texas
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The seat of the archbishop, Cathedral of San Fernando is one of the oldest cathedrals in the United States and the oldest continuously functioning religious community in the State of Texas.

Founded in 1731, the church is located on the west side of the San Antonio’s Main Plaza. The walls of the original church form the sanctuary of the cathedral as it stands today.

San Fernando Cathedral Altar, San Antonio, Texas
San Fernando Cathedral Altar, San Antonio, Texas
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The cathedral has played an important part throughout San Antonio’s history. At the Battle of the Alamo, the Mexican army’s General Santa Ana flew a red flag from the church tower to signal no mercy to the Texas Army. The cathedral has also been reported to house the remains of some of the men who died at the Alamo.

A beautiful cathedral, San Fernando is especially brilliant in the twilight just following sunset. For those seeking a bit more modern adaptation, a multimedia video show, involving light being projected onto the structure, is held after dark a few days of the week. The Main Plaza is also home to periodic events, festivals and evenings of music.

San Fernando Cathedral Altar, San Antonio, Texas
San Fernando Cathedral at night, San Antonio, Texas
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Pearl Brewery

Texas Transportation Company's Engine #2, Pearl Brewery, San Antonio, Texas
Texas Transportation Company’s Engine #2, Pearl Brewery, San Antonio, Texas
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Home to a weekend farmers market, dining, shopping and the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) San Antonio, Pearl is a vibrant neighborhood community located in the area that formerly was the sight of the Pearl Brewing Company. While at Pearl, be sure and stop by Local Coffee, a hot spot in the trendy urban district that serves up premium coffee creations using beans from their own roasting facility, Merit Roasting Co.

Pearl Brewery District, San Antonio, Texas
Pearl Brewery District, San Antonio, Texas
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

King Williams Historic District

Nix House in King William Historic District, San Antonio, Texas
Nix House in King William Historic District, San Antonio, Texas
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Meandering the tree-lined historic streets of the King Williams District provides a glimpse into San Antonio’s elegant past. Built by affluent German immigrants who originally settled in the area in the 19th century, today the elaborately designed homes of the area are used for cafes, art galleries, and museums, as well as many remain occupied as residences.

King Williams Historic District, San Antonio, Texas
King Williams Historic District, San Antonio, Texas
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

While visiting the area, the Edward Steves Homestead, an elegant three story Victorian home built in 1876, is open for tours, allowing a glimpse into life in the late 1800s.

Edward Steves Homestead, San Antonio, Texas
Edward Steves Homestead, San Antonio, Texas
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Guenther House

The Guenther House, San Antonio, Texas
The Guenther House, San Antonio, Texas
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Also located in the King Williams Historic District, Guenther House is a popular restaurant, museum and store in the former home of Pioneer Flour Mills founder Carl Hilmar Guenther. Built in 1859 as Guenther’s private residence, the Guenther House sits along the San Antonio River in the shadow of the Pioneer Flour Mills and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places in Bexar County, Texas.

Guenther House and Pioneer Flour Mills, San Antonio, Texas
Guenther House and Pioneer Flour Mills, San Antonio, Texas
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Blue Star Arts Complex

Blue Star Arts Complex, San Antonio, Texas
Blue Star Arts Complex, San Antonio, Texas
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Home to the Blue Star Contemporary Art Museum, art galleries, shops, studios, restaurants and a micro-brewery, the Blue Star Arts Complex is a mixed-use development in former warehouse buildings on the edge of the King Williams Historic District. With over 20 exhibitions each year, featuring both emerging and established artists, Blue Star is the city’s creative hub, enriching and inspiring visitors to explore San Antonio’s contemporary art scene.

Mural near Blue Star, Lead muralists: Jane Madrigan and Jose Cosme, San Antonio, Texas
Mural near Blue Star, Lead muralists: Jane Madrigan and Jose Cosme, San Antonio, Texas
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Tower of the Americas

Tower of the Americas, San Antonio, Texas
Tower of the Americas, San Antonio, Texas
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Panoramic views of San Antonio await at the 750-foot tall Tower of the Americas in downtown San Antonio. Built in 1968 for the World’s Fair, the Tower of Americas is home to the revolving Chart House Restaurant, an Observation Deck, and a 4D Theater ride.

View of San Antonio, Texas from Tower of the Americas
View of San Antonio, Texas from Tower of the Americas
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The Alamo

The Alamo at night, San Antonio, Texas
The Alamo, San Antonio, Texas
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

On February 23, 1836, General Antonio López de Santa Anna arrived in San Antonio with his Mexican army, launching an assault on the Alamo Mission. The siege continued for the next 13 days, with the Texians and Tejanos willing to give their lives rather than surrender in a battle they considered to be critical to the defense of not just the Alamo, but the State of Texas.

Courtyard outside Long Barrack, The Alamo, San Antonio, Texas
Courtyard outside Long Barrack, The Alamo, San Antonio, Texas
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

On March 6, the Mexican army scaled the walls of the Alamo and the defenders were unable to fend off the final attack. According to historical accounts, nearly all of the estimated 189 to 250 men died in defense of the Alamo. The nearly 20 women and children in the Alamo during the siege were spared.

Today, the Alamo remains hallowed ground serving as a memorial to those who died in their fight for freedom.

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

Over 2.5 million people visit the Alamo each year. The complex covers 4.2 acres with a variety of exhibits covering the Texas Revolution and Texas history in addition to the tours of the Shrine. Photography is not permitted inside the buildings and admission is free.

Flowers at The Alamo, San Antonio, Texas
Flowers at The Alamo, San Antonio, Texas
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Know before you go

Getting around. We rented a car, drove it to the hotel, and never used it again until we returned to the airport. The River Walk makes the city highly walkable, so bring a pair of comfortable shoes and get out and enjoy San Antonio at your own pace. To get to locations a bit further out, such as Kings Williams District or Pearl Brewery, several hop-on, hop-off buses depart from Alamo Plaza. We used City Sightseeing San Antonio, which covers all the major sites in downtown area and nearby districts.

San Antonio Bcycle, San Antonio, Texas
San Antonio Bcycle, San Antonio, Texas
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Other transportation options include water taxis and Bcycle bike sharing, where you can rent a bike at various kiosks throughout downtown and the surrounding neighborhoods to explore the city. Horse drawn carriages are also available in the downtown area.

Horse drawn carriages, San Antonio, Texas
Horse drawn carriages, San Antonio, Texas
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Climate

  • In the winter months (December-February), days average in the 60s (62°-67°F/17°-19°C) with lows averaging around 40°F/4°C.
  • The spring months (March-May) are wonderful, with average highs ranging from 74°F-86°F/23°C-30°C and lows normally getting down to 50°F-65°F/10°C-18°C.
  • The summer (June-August) is hot. Highs average 91°F-95°F/33°C-35°C and lows are typically around 73°F/23°C.
  • Fall is beautiful (September-November). While summer tends to hang around in September with highs averaging 90°F/32°C and lows around 69°F/21°C, it soon cools off and by November highs average 71°F/22°C and lows run around 49°F/10°C.

Disclosure & disclaimer: Special thanks to the San Antonio Convention and Visitors Bureau and  Hotel Contessa San Antonio for hosting us as their guest. Additional thanks to City Sightseeing Tours San Antonio, Rio San Antonio Cruises, and Tower of the Americas. 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.

Strolling in Chicago, Illinois

My kind of town… Chicago

Cover: Chicago, Illinois skyline
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Article by Kim Hull


Chicago has always had a fond place in my heart.

My father grew up on the south side of Chicago during the depression and loved telling stories of his Chicago adventures – from falling through the ice while skating on Lake Michigan and hurrying to the Field Museum to warm up, to going a few rounds with Joe Louis on the Midway, to marching into the Stevens Hotel during World War II, and many more that probably shouldn’t make print. All true? In Chicago style – hardly. All great? Absolutely.

As a little girl, we’d travel to Chicago from the small town where we lived in Kansas to visit my uncle and aunt – and it was magical. Uncle Phil and Aunt Hazel would take me to Marshall Field’s and spoil me with treasures, followed by a stop at their favorite bakery, where we’d pick up a huge layer cake. As we’d drive through the city in Phil’s big sedan with the windows down, all the sounds, colors, sights and energy of the city would mesmerize me.

Has the magic worn off for me over the years? Not in the least. Always one of our favorite places to return to, we recently spent a weekend in the Windy City visiting a few of our favorite spots along the way.

Chicago River, Chicago, Illinois
Chicago River, Chicago, Illinois
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

An afternoon stroll

Holy Name Cathedral, seat of the Archdiocese of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois
Holy Name Cathedral, seat of the Archdiocese of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Soon after arriving, we headed out for a walk under bright blue spring skies.

Roaming Chicago’s bustling downtown area provides an up close view of Chicago’s beautiful buildings and stunning architecture. As much of Chicago was destroyed in the Great Chicago Fire in 1871, the rebuilding resulted in innovative designs not mired in historical tradition and made Chicago home to some of the first modern skyscrapers.

The Chicago Theatre, Chicago, Illinois
The Chicago Theatre, Chicago, Illinois
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Today, Chicago is widely recognized for its landmark buildings of varying styles, with the city frequently voted in polls as having the nation’s best skyline.

Downtown Chicago, Illinois
Downtown Chicago, Illinois
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Finding ourselves on the iconic Wacker Drive, we turned to walk along the famous street that runs along the Chicago River.

The Chicago River, Wacker & Wabash, Chicago, Illinois
The Chicago River, Wacker & Wabash, Chicago, Illinois
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Unique in several ways, Wacker Drive is the only street in Chicago that runs in all directions – winding along the river, it has addresses east, north, south, and west. Wacker Drive is also a multi-level street, with Upper Wacker Drive, Lower Wacker Drive and, in a short portion, Lower Lower Wacker Drive.

Strolling in Chicago, Illinois
Strolling in Chicago, Illinois
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

By mid-afternoon on this Friday, the streets that earlier had been filled with those rushing from lunch in business attire began to relax, transitioning to a more casual environment filled with those seeking a stroll in the sunshine or an afternoon jog.

Bridges of Chicago, Illinois
Bridges of Chicago, Illinois
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

As pleasurable as simply wandering amongst the bridges and buildings was, we decided it was time to visit a few attractions and shortly found ourselves at Willis Tower (formerly Sears Tower).

Willis Tower in Chicago, Illinois
Willis Tower in Chicago, Illinois
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Travel tip: Get a CityPASS

Arriving at Willis Tower, we were met with a line that was estimated to be a 3-hour wait before getting access to the Skydeck. Ugh! I spotted a Fast Pass entrance area for those with a CityPASS with no line, so I went to the CityPASS website on my iPhone, bought two passes, and received the confirmation email within one minute. We headed over to the Fast Pass entrance, bypassed the main line, and were on our way to the Skydeck.

In addition to the Skydeck, the Chicago CityPASS allowed us VIP/Fast Pass entry to Shedd Aquarium, The Field Museum, a choice of the Art Institute or the Adler Planetarium, and a choice between 360 Chicago at the John Hancock Tower or the Museum of Science and Industry for $98 per adult, which would have been $208 in regular admission fees. What a sweet deal!


Willis Tower (Sear Tower) Skydeck

View of Chicago from the Skydeck at Willis Tower
View of Chicago from the Skydeck at Willis Tower
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Located on the western edge of Chicago’s Loop, the Sears Tower was completed in 1973, topping out at 1,451 feet (442 meters), making it the tallest building in the world at the time – a title it held for 25 years.

Skydeck Chicago at Willis Tower, Chicago, Illinois
Skydeck Chicago at Willis Tower, Chicago, Illinois
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

In 2009, the tower was renamed to Willis Tower, but is still commonly referred to as Sears Tower. Now the 8th tallest building in the world, Willis Tower is the second tallest building in the western hemisphere and offers amazing views of Chicago from the Skydeck on the 103rd floor.

Chicago from the Skydeck Chicago, Willis Tower, Chicago, Illinois
Chicago from the Skydeck Chicago, Willis Tower, Chicago, Illinois
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The Ledge at the Skydeck offers visitors the chance to stand in a glass box 1,353 feet over Wacker Drive. Each of the four clear glass boxes extends out 4.3 feet from the Skydeck, providing unobstructed views of the city and the streets below.

Navy Pier

Navy Pier & Chicago Children's Museum, Chicago, Illinois
Navy Pier & Chicago Children’s Museum, Chicago, Illinois
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Originally opened in 1916 for shipping and recreation along the shores of Lake Michigan, Navy Pier is a 3,300 foot (1,010 meters) pier that has grown into the #1 leisure destination spot in the Midwest, with nearly nine million visitors annually.

Family Pavilion, Navy Pier, Chicago, Illinois
Family Pavilion, Navy Pier, Chicago, Illinois
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Navy Pier, Chicago, Illinois
Navy Pier, Chicago, Illinois
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Home to a variety of restaurants ranging from sit-down dining to food court fare, Navy Pier also has parks, gardens, shops, and other attractions and entertainment options including the Navy Pier Ferris Wheel, sightseeing tours, dinner cruises, Crystal Gardens and an IMAX theater.

The Crystal Gardens, Navy Pier, Chicago, Illinois
The Crystal Gardens, Navy Pier, Chicago, Illinois
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

We stopped by for a beer and a bite at Harry Caray’s Tavern Navy Pier, one of the seven popular dining spots around the city bearing the name of the famous Chicago Cubs announcer.

Harry Caray's Tavern, Navy Pier, Chicago, Illinois
Harry Caray’s Tavern, Navy Pier, Chicago, Illinois
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Water Tower Place and The Magnificent Mile

North Michigan Avenue, The Magnificent Mile, Chicago, Illinois
North Michigan Avenue, The Magnificent Mile, Chicago, Illinois
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Luxury is ever apparent on the Magnificent Mile. One of the most opulent 13 blocks on the planet, the Magnificent Mile is a stretch of North Michigan Avenue from the Chicago River to the Oaks Street on the north, filled with 460 stores, 275 restaurants, 60 hotels and a wide variety of entertainment options.

Water Tower Place at night, Chicago, Illinois
Magnificent Mile at night, Chicago, Illinois
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Anchoring the north end of the Mag Mile is the Water Tower Place shopping mall, named after the nearby Old Chicago Water Tower District. Built in 1869 to conceal a standpipe that held water, the Chicago Water Tower was one of the few buildings to survive the Great Chicago Fire – and is still standing today.

Water Tower Place, Chicago, Illinois
Water Tower Place, Chicago, Illinois
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The Field Museum

The Field Museum, Chicago, Illinois
The Field Museum, Chicago, Illinois
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

One of the largest natural history museums in the world, The Field Museum was established in 1893 to house the exhibits and collections from the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition.

Originally called The Columbian Museum of Chicago, the name was soon changed to recognize its major benefactor, Marshall Field, founder of the Chicago-based department store chain Marshall Field’s.

The Field Museum, Chicago, Illinois
The Field Museum, Chicago, Illinois
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Throughout its history, The Field Museum has brought a view of the world and its peoples to the museum to enable visitors to explore the past and present world and its cultural diversity.

Exhibits at The Field Museum, Chicago, Illinois
Exhibits at The Field Museum, Chicago, Illinois
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

A highlight of the museum is Sue, the largest Tyrannosaurus rex ever discovered. Measuring 42 feet long, she has 58 teeth and holds court front and center in the museum’s atrium.

Sue the T. rex at The Field Museum, Chicago, Illinois
Sue the T. rex at The Field Museum, Chicago, Illinois
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Shedd Aquarium

Shedd Aquarium, Chicago, Illinois
Shedd Aquarium, Chicago, Illinois
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Known as “The World’s Aquarium,” the John G. Shedd Aquarium opened in 1930 and, to this day, is one of the largest indoor aquariums in the world.

Penguins, Shedd Aquarium, Chicago, Illinois
Penguins, Shedd Aquarium, Chicago, Illinois
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The Shedd has more than doubled in size since its inception, growing to 480,500 square feet with the addition of the Abbott Oceanarium and Wild Reef.

Home to 32,000 animals representing more than 1,500 species of fish, reptiles, amphibians, invertebrates, birds and mammals from waters around the world, the Shedd is a not-to-be-missed spot, especially for families with children.

Shedd Aquarium, Chicago, Illinois
Shedd Aquarium, Chicago, Illinois
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Art Institute of Chicago

The Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois
The Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Founded as both a museum and school for the fine arts in 1879, the Art Institute of Chicago has grown to house nearly 300,000 works of art, with the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and the Museum of the Art Institute of Chicago internationally recognized leading fine-arts institutions in the United States.

A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte, Georges Seurat, Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois
A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte, Georges Seurat, Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Well-known for its fabulous Impressionist and Post-Impressionist collection, the Art Institute also has a broad selection of American art, Old Masters, and contemporary art.

Elizabeth - Like the Queen, Andy Warhol, Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois
Elizabeth – Like the Queen, Andy Warhol, Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

One of the most visited museums in the world, the Art Institute welcomes 1.5 million visitors each year to its one million square feet of space spanning eight buildings.

Nighthawks, Edward Hopper, Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois
Nighthawks, Edward Hopper, Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

In addition to housing one of the finest collections in the country, the museum regularly hosts guest exhibitions. On our most recent visit, the museum presented Van Gogh’s Bedroom exhibition, which brings together all three versions of The Bedroom for the first time in North America.

Van Gogh's Bedroom Exhibit, Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois
Van Gogh’s Bedroom Exhibit, Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Morning stroll along the lake

Lake Michigan, Chicago, Illinois
Lake Michigan, Chicago, Illinois
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

A walk or run along Lake Michigan is the perfect start to any day in Chicago.

With spectacular views of the city and the sound of the lake splashing against the shore, the 18-mile multi-use path running along the eastern edge of Grant Park and continuing along the Lake Michigan shoreline, is a beautiful way to start your day.

A Sunday afternoon in Chicago, Illinois
A Sunday afternoon in Chicago, Illinois
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

360 Chicago at John Hancock Center

360 Chicago at John Hancock Center, Chicago, Illinois
360 Chicago at John Hancock Center, Chicago, Illinois
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

We ended our Chicago visit at 360 Chicago on the 94th floor of John Hancock Center.

It had started to rain and we questioned if we should go or not. We decided yes. We were rewarded with a nearly vacant Sunday night experience observing the city as it wound down from the weekend under the cover of clouds.

Night view, 360 Chicago Observation Deck, John Hancock Center, Chicago, Illinois
Night view, 360 Chicago Observation Deck, John Hancock Center, Chicago, Illinois
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

We wandered over to Tilt and watched as about half of the evening’s visitors decided to try out the glass and steel moveable platform that tilts visitors to an angle, with downward-facing views of Chicago and the Magnificent Mile.

Tilt at 360 Chicago at John Hancock Center, Chicago, Illinois
Tilt at 360 Chicago at John Hancock Center, Chicago, Illinois
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Wandering over to the bar, we grabbed a couple of vodka sodas, selected a table (they all have stunning views), and relaxed as we enjoyed our elevated happy hour above the windy, and tonight rainy, city.

Know before you go

Fly into Midway if you can. Located on the southwest side of Chicago, Midway is smaller than O’Hare, is closer to the city, and sees far fewer delays than busier O’Hare.

Bring your walking shoes. Chicago is very walkable, so put on some comfortable shoes, get some exercise, and enjoy the view.

Don’t put ketchup on your hotdog. A Chicago dog (and yes, veggie dogs are widely available) includes mustard, onions, slices of tomato, relish, peppers and a dill pickle slice. Chicagoans have strong feelings about ketchup and hotdogs – just don’t go there.

There’s wind chill and then there’s Chicago’s wind chill. Chicago didn’t earn the nickname “The Windy City” by accident. When the wind blows across Lake Michigan, it feels much colder than the actual temperature. If visiting any time other than summer, be prepared to bundle up.

"The Strip" Las Vegas Blvd at night, Las Vegas, Nevada

24 hours in Las Vegas

Cover: “The Strip” Las Vegas Blvd at night, Las Vegas, Nevada
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures @Chasing Light Media
Article by Kim Hull


If ever there was a city designed to make only 24 hours for a visit not only doable but also enjoyable, it’s Las Vegas.

24 hours in Las Vegas
24 hours in Las Vegas
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

With 15 of the world’s largest 25 hotels located on the 4 miles of Las Vegas Boulevard known as the Strip, a vast array of restaurants, casinos, shopping, and entertainment options are available for non-stop amusement.

The Paris Las Vegas Eiffel Tour at night, Las Vegas, Nevada
The Paris Las Vegas Eiffel Tour at night, Las Vegas, Nevada
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

While the average visitor to Sin City stays about three days, sometimes one night in the city where the party never ends is all the schedule allows, requiring some prioritization to make the most of the adventure. How would we spend our time between touchdown and wheels up – almost exactly 24 hours in Las Vegas? We turned to some tried and true favorites from our many previous visits, while still working in some time for our favorite activity in any city – wandering.

Here’s how it went…

1:00 pm Lunch at Mon Ami Gabi

After a quick cab ride to the hotel, we checked in and dropped our bags in the room. Most hotels have a 4:00pm check in time in Vegas, but hotels will either hold your bags in storage or some offer an early check-in option for a fee, which ours offered. We decided we didn’t want to have to worry about coming back to the hotel to deal with checking in later and opted for early check-in.

Mon Ami Gabi, Paris, Las Vegas, Nevada
Mon Ami Gabi, Paris, Las Vegas, Nevada
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Bags settled in the room, we were hungry and headed out for lunch at one of our favorite patios, Mon Ami Gabi at Paris Las Vegas. A great spot for people watching and viewing the fountains across the street at Bellagio, Mon Ami Gabi also delivers some fine French bistro fare.

Mon Ami Gabi, Las Vegas, Nevada
Mon Ami Gabi, Las Vegas, Nevada
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

2:30 pm Shopping at Bellagio

Las Vegas, Nevada
Las Vegas, Nevada
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Deciding we needed to do some walking to work off lunch, we headed over to Bellagio for a stroll.

Bellagio, Las Vegas, Nevada
Bellagio, Las Vegas, Nevada
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Built in 1998 at an original cost of $1.6 billion, Bellagio is an exquisite hotel inspired by Italy’s village of Bellagio near Lake Como. Elegance abounds at the resort with art collections and stunning décor throughout, including over 2,000 hand blown glass flowers by Dale Chihuly that cover the ceiling of the lobby.

Dale Chihuly glass, Lobby ceiling, Bellagio, Las Vegas, Nevada
Dale Chihuly glass, Lobby ceiling, Bellagio, Las Vegas, Nevada
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

On the north side of the hotel, Bellagio offers the finest in shopping with elaborate hallways lined with luxury brands such as Tiffany, Valentino, Prada, Louis Vuitton, Hermès, Giorgio Armani, Gucci, and many more.

Shopping at Bellagio, Las Vegas, Nevada
Shopping at Bellagio, Las Vegas, Nevada
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

After some intense decision making (black or brown?), we left with a new bag in tow, then headed to Caesar’s for a spin around the casino.

Shopping at Bellagio Las Vegas, Las Vegas, Nevada
Shopping at Bellagio Las Vegas, Las Vegas, Nevada
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

3:30 A visit to Caesars Palace

Caesars Palace Hotel and Casino, Las Vegas, Nevada
Caesars Palace Hotel and Casino, Las Vegas, Nevada
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

A classic that continues to update itself, Caesars has been located on the corner of Flamingo and Las Vegas Blvd in the heart of the Las Vegas Strip since 1966. Built by Jay Sarno, who wanted to have guests experience life as Caesar would have, the hotel is complete with palaces, statues, and opulence.

Having stayed at Caesars multiple times over the years, one of our favorite memories was staying in one of the round room suites in the old Roman Tower just before it was remodeled. Complete with a round bed and lots of red velvet, we jokingly checked the room to make sure the ghost of Elvis wasn’t hiding in one of the closets.

Caesar, Caesars Palace Las Vegas Hotel and Casino, Las Vegas, Nevada
Caesar, Caesars Palace Las Vegas Hotel and Casino, Las Vegas, Nevada
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Still one of our favorite hotels in Las Vegas, Caesars has grown to a massive resort with nearly 4,000 rooms and suites in six towers, a wide variety of restaurants and bars, a 166,000 square foot casino, The Coliseum at Caesars Palace, and The Forum Shops. All that shopping and walking left us parched, and it was 5:00, so that meant… cocktail time.

5:00 pm Martinis at Gordon Ramsay’s Steak

Vegas has no shortage of beautiful bars offering delightful libations. With only one night in town, selection of our happy hour destination deserved careful consideration. Should we unwind at the captivating Seahorse Bar at Caesars, which boasts actual sea horses in their aquarium?

Seahorse Bar, Caesars Palace, Las Vegas, Nevada
Seahorse Bar, Caesars Palace, Las Vegas, Nevada
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Mesa Grill, Bobby Flay’s first restaurant outside of New York which opened in 2004, has a beautiful bar and serves up some incredible southwestern cuisine.

Bobby Flay's Mesa Grill, Caesars Palace, Las Vegas, Nevada
Bobby Flay’s Mesa Grill, Caesars Palace, Las Vegas, Nevada
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Or, perhaps some chill time at the sleek bar at Martorano’s?

Martorano’s, Las Vegas, Nevada
Martorano’s, Las Vegas, Nevada
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures ©Chasing Light Media

So many tantalizing options, but the winner tonight – the lounge at Gordon Ramsay’s Steak at Paris.

Gordon Ramsay Steak, Las Vegas, Nevada
Gordon Ramsay Steak, Las Vegas, Nevada
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Sipping lemon drop martinis under the neon-lit ceiling adorned with a rendition of the Union Jack Flag brought back fond memories of celebrating a milestone birthday with the tasting menu in the restaurant a few years earlier, just after it had opened.

Ramsay’s chic London invasion of Vegas in Paris specializes in Ramsay’s classics, including the legendary Sticky Toffee Pudding.

Martinis at Gordon Ramsay Steak, Las Vegas, Nevada
Martinis at Gordon Ramsay Steak, Las Vegas, Nevada
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

6:30 pm A twilight stroll down the Strip

Early evening in Las Vegas, Nevada
Early evening in Las Vegas, Nevada
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Heading toward the south end of The Strip just as the sun began to set, we joined the crowds taking in the sights and sounds on the wide sidewalks lining the boulevard. Magicians entertained, singers performed, and thousands of people roamed between the casinos, shops, restaurants, and bars.

Street performers along the Strip, Las Vegas, Nevada
Street performers along the Strip, Las Vegas, Nevada
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

While the Las Vegas mega-resorts are impressive against the brilliant blue Nevada skies of the day, Vegas doesn’t really come alive until those millions of lights begin to twinkle. As we approached the Monte Carlo, which has occupied its place on Las Vegas Boulevard since 1996, the sun quietly disappeared leaving a brilliant blue hue in its wake.

Monte Carlo, Las Vegas, Nevada
Monte Carlo, Las Vegas, Nevada
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Like many of the hotels, which have expanded their presence in front of the hotels toward the Strip in recent years, Monte Carlo added BLVD Plaza in 2014, with multiple casual restaurant and bars.

Cantina Diablo, Monte Carlo, Las Vegas, Nevada
Cantina Diablo, Monte Carlo, Las Vegas, Nevada
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures ©Chasing Light Media

Next door, New York New York recreates the Empire State Building, the Chrysler Building, the CBS Building, and nine other of New York City’s most famous skyscrapers, with each hotel tower reaching a height approximately one-third the size of its inspiration. A replica of the Brooklyn Bridge leads into the hotel, casino, and shops.

Brooklyn Bridge, New York - New York Hotel and Casino, Las Vegas, Nevada
Brooklyn Bridge, New York – New York Hotel and Casino, Las Vegas, Nevada
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
New York New York, Las Vegas, Nevada
New York New York, Las Vegas, Nevada
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

And, of course, Lady Liberty welcomes visitors from around the world at the entrance.

Statue of Liberty at New York New York in Las Vegas, Nevada
Statue of Liberty at New York New York in Las Vegas, Nevada
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Near the southern end of the Strip, King Arthur holds Court at the Camelot-themed Excalibur, which glows magically each night.

Excalibur, Las Vegas, Nevada
Excalibur, Las Vegas, Nevada
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Across the intersection, the MGM Grand has been attracting visitors worldwide since 1993.

MGM Grand, Las Vegas, Nevada
MGM Grand, Las Vegas, Nevada
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The third largest hotel in the world based on the number of rooms, MGM Grand has over 5000 rooms and suites and is home to the largest casino in Clark County, the county where Las Vegas is located. Originally built with a Wizard of Oz theme, which included the yellow brick road, Dorothy and the rest of the Oz characters, the resort has evolved over the years to a more old-Hollywood, deco vibe.

MGM Grand, Las Vegas, Nevada
MGM Grand, Las Vegas, Nevada
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Heading back toward the north, the frenzy of Las Vegas was all around us. From flips flops to stilettos, from wedding dresses to pajamas, the crowds converge in search of lady luck along the famous boulevard. To that note, Vegas is a town that is best to walk if possible – even the hotel next door is always quite a distance away – so, bring your walking shoes, stop at each hotel for a bit of rest.

An evening on the Strip, Las Vegas, Nevada
An evening on the Strip, Las Vegas, Nevada
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Bellagio at night, Las Vegas, Nevada
Bellagio at night, Las Vegas, Nevada
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Arriving back at Bellagio, we gazed at Bally’s and Paris shimmering against a sky complete with a full moon and decided we should go check out the Eiffel Tower’s observation deck.

Ballys, Paris, Planet Hollywood, Las Vegas, Nevada
Ballys, Paris, Planet Hollywood, Las Vegas, Nevada
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

30 minutes later Vegas was at our feet.

8:30 pm Eiffel Tour Experience

“The Strip” Las Vegas Blvd at night, Las Vegas, Nevada
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

A half-scale replica of the famous Paris landmark, the Vegas version of the La Tour Eiffel offers the opportunity to see the city from a bird’s eye view, 46 stories above the Strip. Following a glass-elevator ride to the top, the Eiffel Tour Experience offers amazing 360-degree views of the city.

An open-air, caged deck, the platform has holes approximately the size of a camera lens placed at intervals around the platform for capturing stunning images of Las Vegas in all directions.

Bellagio and Caesars Palace from the Eiffel Tower Experience, Las Vegas, Nevada
Bellagio and Caesars Palace from the Eiffel Tower Experience, Las Vegas, Nevada
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

9:30 pm Dinner at Spago

Paris Las Vegas casino, Las Vegas, Nevada
Paris Las Vegas casino, Las Vegas, Nevada
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Arriving back down to the casino floor, we considered a bit of blackjack, but opted for dinner instead, with pizza definitely on the evening’s agenda.

Spago - Las Vegas
Spago – Las Vegas
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

One of our favorite pizza places has long been Spago’s, so off we went to Caesars Palace. Located in the Forum Shops, we asked for a spot on the patio for some late evening people watching and mushroom pizza. As we enjoyed our Italian pie and some vino, we discussed spots we hadn’t been in a while and decided that a bit of blackjack was now definitely in order and we should pay Rio and their Carnival in the Sky a visit in the process.

11:00 pm Games of chance at Rio

Grabbing a cab, we arrived at Rio just after 11:00 pm and quickly headed over to the Masquerade Tower casino in hopes we weren’t too late to catch the last show of the night.

The Carnival in the Sky began in 1997, with Mardi Gras-style floats circulating above the casino floor hourly, as dancers would toss beads to those below and to crowds on the balconies surrounding the casino.

Arriving, it seemed oddly quiet in the casino. The tracks where the floats circulated were still on the ceiling, but that was about it. A quick Google search and – oh no! We were late – by more than a few years. The show had stopped in March 2013.

Rio, Las Vegas, Nevada
Rio, Las Vegas, Nevada
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Bummer! We went back over to the more lively main casino to try our hand at a few table games, and then called it a night.

8:30 am Starbucks & a morning walk

Since we’d covered the southern end of the Strip the previous night, a hike up north was on the morning’s agenda. After grabbing a chai and muffin, we began our urban trek.

The Venetian is an all-suites hotel, with over 4,000 luxury suites in the main building and another 3,000 in the Palazzo wing of the hotel.

The Venetian, Las Vegas, Nevada
The Venetian, Las Vegas, Nevada
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Complete with a replica of St Marks Tower and a restaurant and boutique-lined Grand Canal, gondoliers offer rides both inside and outside the hotel.

Grand Canal Shoppes, The Venetian, Las Vegas, Nevada
Grand Canal Shoppes, The Venetian, Las Vegas, Nevada
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Further north, Wynn, Encore, the Stratosphere and the Fashion Show Mall awaited, but our time was running short.

Fashion Show Mall, Stratosphere, Encore, Wynn, Las Vegas, Nevada
Fashion Show Mall, Stratosphere, Encore, Wynn, Las Vegas, Nevada
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

10:00 am Last stop – The Forum Shops

The Forum Shops at Caesars Palace, Las Vegas, Nevada
The Forum Shops at Caesars Palace, Las Vegas, Nevada
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Arriving back at The Forum Shops entrance, we had a choice – continue down the street or take a “shortcut” through the mall and Caesars.

Home to more 636,000 square feet/59,100 square meters) of retail shops, restaurants, and a large collection of luxury boutiques ranging from Cartier to Channel to Versace, it is reported to be the highest grossing mall in the United States – with sales per square foot exceeding Rodeo Drive and the Magnificent Mile in Chicago.

Talking Statues, Fountains, and Aquariums at The Forum Shops at Caesars Palace, Las Vegas, Nevada
Talking Statues, Fountains, and Aquariums at The Forum Shops at Caesars Palace, Las Vegas, Nevada
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Following a couple of stops to watch the fountains and talking statues and a quick swing through the Apple store, we made our way to the hotel, retrieved the bags and grabbed a cab.

Caesars Palace, Forum Shops, Las Vegas, Nevada
Caesars Palace, Forum Shops, Las Vegas, Nevada
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Getting to the airport early in Vegas is a must – even with TSA Pre√ the lines can be excruciating at times – and it left us enough time to stop by Sammy’s.

11:30 am Lunch at Sammy’s Beach Bar at the airport

While some may know that Rock and Roll Hall of Famer, Sammy Hagar owns the Cabo Wabo Cantinas and a popular tequila company, many may have not made the connection when they walked by Sammy’s Beach Bar & Grill in Terminal C at McCarran.

Sammy's Beach Bar, McCarran Airport, Las Vegas, Nevada
Sammy’s Beach Bar, McCarran Airport, Las Vegas, Nevada
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

With fresh, tasty food and friendly, quick service, Sammy’s is a good choice for lunch at the airport. Add in that, as the menu states, “Sammy has dedicated his profits from this restaurant to local community children’s charities. Sammy wants you to enjoy a great meal, great drink and know that together we can make a difference!”

After a beer, some fabulous nachos, and a huge salad, we grabbed our bags and walked back over to our terminal, ready for our next adventure.

Until next time – Viva Las Vegas!

Las Vegas from the air
Las Vegas from the air
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.

Isle of Capri at sunset, JW Marriott Desert Ridge, Phoenix, Arizona

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

The rooms

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

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

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

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

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

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

The resort

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

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

Sky

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

Sunrises in Arizona are phenomenal.

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

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

Earth

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

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

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

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

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

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

Water

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

Water is abundant at this oasis in the desert.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fire

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

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

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

I couldn’t have said it better.

The restaurants and bars

stonegrill

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

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

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

Twenty6

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Revive Spa Bistro

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

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

Meritage Steakhouse at Wildfire Golf Club

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

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

Roy’s Pacific Rim

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

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

Just a Splash Bar & Grill

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

Starbucks

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

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

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

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

Revive Spa

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wildfire Golf Club

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tennis Center

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

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

Additionally, bikes can be rented at the tennis shop.

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

Fitness centers

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

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

Shopping

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

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

Top 5 things we loved about JW Marriott Desert Ridge

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

Disclosure & disclaimer: Special thanks to JW Marriott Desert Ridge Phoenix for hosting us as their guest. The content & opinions expressed are entirely our own. Reviews are opinion only and Chasing Light Media accepts no responsibility for how the information is used.

Sunrise at JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge Resort & Spa, Phoenix, Arizona
Sunrise at JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge Resort & Spa, Phoenix, Arizona
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Sierra at Tahoe Ski Resort

Sierra at Tahoe Ski Resort: Great skiing & boarding for all levels

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


Sierra at Tahoe is a resort that covers both ends of the skiing continuum, from beginner to expert and everything in between.

Gentle green runs, a great ski school, over 100 acres of terrain dedicated to beginners, and four beginner-only surface lifts make Sierra at Tahoe Ski Resort a popular destination for those just getting started on the hill.

Sierra at Tahoe base area and Broadway
Sierra at Tahoe base area and Broadway
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures  © Chasing Light Media

Top notch tree skiing and 320 acres of expert level backcountry terrain at Huckleberry Canyon have accomplished riders and skiers heading to the resort with frequency.

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

Anything for intermediates? Half the trails are rated blue, with a wide selection of groomers of varying grades and plenty of fresh corduroy.

Lower Main at Sierra at Tahoe
Lower Main at Sierra at Tahoe
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Sierra at Tahoe: Skiing and snowboarding

Top of Grand View Express at Sierra at Tahoe Ski Resort
Top of Grand View Express at Sierra at Tahoe Ski Resort
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

With 2,000 acres and a 2,212 ft vertical drop, Sierra at Tahoe’s 46 trails cover some ground across the mountain.

Three high-speed quads, five cozy doubles, and one triple whisk skiers and boarders up the mountain, with several separate areas on the mountain primarily defined by how they are accessed: Grandview, Huckleberry Canyon, Backside, Nob Hill and the West Bowl.

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

Grand View

Grand View Express lift, Sierra at Tahoe, Lake Tahoe, California
Grand View Express lift, Sierra at Tahoe, Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures  © Chasing Light Media

The Grand View Express lift, located behind the ski school, serves the east side of the mountain, delivering skiers and riders to spectacular views of Lake Tahoe.

View of Lake Tahoe from Sierra at Tahoe
View of Lake Tahoe from Sierra at Tahoe
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures  © Chasing Light Media

At the top of the lift, 360 Smokehouse BBQ is a great spot to grab lunch, head up to the rooftop deck for a photo opp of the lake, and check out Huckleberry Canyon.

360 Smokehouse BBQ at Sierra at Tahoe
360 Smokehouse BBQ at Sierra at Tahoe
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

On the front side of the hill, skiers and riders will find a wide variety of terrain including bumps, groomers, and glades.

Top of Grand View lift, Sierra at Tahoe Resort
Top of Grand View lift, Sierra at Tahoe Resort
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Just under the Grand View lift are some nice advanced runs or for a gliding groomer, head off toward the west to tackle the longest run on the mountain, Sugar n’ Spice, a 2.5 mile green run that winds down from the top of Grand View Express all the way to the lodge.

Sierra at Tahoe, Sugar n'Spice
Sierra at Tahoe, Sugar n’ Spice
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Sugar n'Spice at Sierra at Tahoe Ski Resort, Lake Tahoe, California
Sugar n’ Spice at Sierra at Tahoe Ski Resort, Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The Huckleberry Gates

Huckleberry Canyon at Sierra at Tahoe
Huckleberry Canyon at Sierra at Tahoe
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

A short hike from the top of the Grandview lift, the Huckleberry Canyon backcountry terrain can be accessed from five gates.

Hike to Huckleberry Canyon at Sierra at Tahoe
Hike to Huckleberry Canyon at Sierra at Tahoe
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The 320 acres of Huckleberry Canyon delivers some of the most challenging inbounds backcountry skiing and boarding at Lake Tahoe.

Expert skiing and boarding at Huckleberry Canyon, Sierra at Tahoe, Lake Tahoe, California
Expert skiing and boarding at Huckleberry Canyon, Sierra at Tahoe, Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

With cliff drops, chutes, bowls, glades, and cornices, it’s steep, it’s deep, and it’s definitely an experts-only adventure.

Boarding at Huckleberry Canyon, Sierra at Tahoe
Boarding at Huckleberry Canyon, Sierra at Tahoe
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures 
© Chasing Light Media

While the extreme riding of Huckleberry Canyon is out of reach for most of us – it’s fabulous to watch some of the best in the sport tackle the incredible terrain. In 2016, Sierra at Tahoe held the inaugural Huck Cup, an IFSA Free World Qualifier event.

Men's skiing finals, Huck Cup, Sierra at Tahoe
Men’s skiing finals, Huck Cup, Sierra at Tahoe
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures  © Chasing Light Media

For two days, more than 50 of the top freeride skiers and snowboarders from around the world competed for Freeride World Tour qualifying points and a share of $5000 in prize money. It was an awesome display of tricks, thrills, and spills on the natural, rugged terrain. Be sure and mark your calendars for the annual event!

Backside

Heading off the back of the mountain from the Grandview lift, the Backside has some fun trails and is home to Sierra at Tahoe’s boarder cross features. Located on the south side of the mountain, the sunny Backside is best skied in the morning once spring rolls around.

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

Nob Hill

Terrain off Nob Hill lift at Sierra at Tahoe
Terrain off Nob Hill lift at Sierra at Tahoe
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Popular with riders of all levels, Nob Hill departs near the base area and delivers skiers and riders to a variety of challenges, including access to the very wide and somewhat steep intermediate run, Lower Main, that ends in the base area.

Lower Main ski run, Sierra at Tahoe Resort
Lower Main ski run, Sierra at Tahoe Resort
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures  © Chasing Light Media

West Bowl

Moving to the west side of the mountain, West Bowl is a great place for intermediate and advanced skiers to play.

The high speed quad, West Bowl Express, accesses terrain ranging from long, fast cruisers to beautiful glade runs amidst the magnificent Red Fir trees for which Sierra at Tahoe is so well known.

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

Terrain Parks

Sierra at Tahoe has six terrain parks, the Smokey BoarderX course, and a halfpipe.

Designed with an emphasis on advancing skill levels in appropriate conditions, Sierra’s Burton Progression Park was created with first-timers in mind. From there, freestylers can tackle jumps, boxes, rails and build their trick repertoire at the various parks located throughout the resort.

Adventure Zones

Skiing for all ages at Sierra at Tahoe
Skiing for all ages at Sierra at Tahoe
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The kiddos love Sierra at Tahoe’s on-mountain themed adventure zones. With animated characters, educational signs and pint-sized terrain features, children are entertained as they learn their way around the snow.

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

Sierra at Tahoe Ski school

Along with a highly-friendly environment for those just finding their way around the slopes, Sierra at Tahoe has a great ski and snowboard school for riders of all ages and all abilities.

Parents rave about the Wild Mountain children’s program, which both gets kids on skis and entertains them at the same time. Located next to the Main Lodge, programs are grouped by age and ability and are designed to encourage children’s love of the sport and their progression through skill levels.

Wild Mountain Ski School at Sierra
Wild Mountain Ski School at Sierra
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures  © Chasing Light Media
Yoda's Riglet Park at Sierra at Tahoe
Yoda’s Riglet Park at Sierra at Tahoe
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Sierra at Tahoe: Dining & drinking

Sierra has some tasty options for dining and drinking, both on-mountain and at the lodge…

Golden Bear Terrace at Sierra at Tahoe
Golden Bear Terrace at Sierra at Tahoe
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

At the Main Lodge & Solstice Plaza

Solstice Plaza outdoor seating at Sierra at Tahoe
Solstice Plaza outdoor seating at Sierra at Tahoe
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Java Junction – Serving a wide variety of coffee selections, as well as breakfast and lunch items

Mama’s Kitchen – With fare from breakfast burritos to soups, sandwiches, pizza and mac and cheese

Aspen Café – Grilled items and a variety of lunch options served with one hour of free WiFi access

Golden Bear Terrace – Located outside the Main Lodge, specializing in burgers, sandwiches, craft beers and goggle tans

Golden Bear Terrace at Sierra at Tahoe
Golden Bear Terrace at Sierra at Tahoe
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Solstice Eatery – Specializing in tasty wraps, salads and whole wheat and gluten-free pizzas

Lunch at the Sierra Pub & Deli at Sierra at Tahoe
Lunch at the Sierra Pub and Deli at Sierra at Tahoe
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Sierra Pub & Deli – Serving sandwiches, nachos, and pizza – a great spot for après with live music, happy hour specials and “local bar” atmosphere.

Happy hour at Sierra Pub & Deli at Sierra at Tahoe
Happy hour at Sierra Pub & Deli at Sierra at Tahoe
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures  © Chasing Light Media
Live music at the Sierra Pub
Live music at the Sierra Pub
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures 
© Chasing Light Media

And perhaps the best beer bargain around – join the Sierra Pub Club and get happy hour prices all day long.

Happy hour at the Sierra Pub
Happy hour at the Sierra Pub
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures  © Chasing Light Media

On mountain

Baja Grill – At the foot of the West Bowl Express, the spot for fresh fish tacos, quesadillas, burritos, and tacos

360° Smokehouse BBQ – Located at the top of the Grandview lift at 8,852 feet, specializing in soups, BBQ and stunning Tahoe views (they have a veggie burger as well)

360° Smokehouse BBQ at Sierra at Tahoe
360° Smokehouse BBQ at Sierra at Tahoe
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Where to stay

A wide variety of hotels and resorts are available in South Lake Tahoe which is about 17 miles from Sierra at Tahoe.

The complimentary South Shore Shuttle provides transportation from South Lake Tahoe to Sierra at Tahoe – shuttle times and information can be found on the Sierra at Tahoe website or by calling 530-659-7453.

Getting to Sierra at Tahoe Ski Resort

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

Sierra at Tahoe’s address is 1111 Sierra at Tahoe Road, Twin Bridges, CA 95735.

Sierra at Tahoe is located 74 miles, or about 1 hour 45 minutes, from the Reno Tahoe airport. From Sacramento, Sierra at Tahoe is 91 miles, or about 1 hour 45 minutes, on Highway 50.

From the San Francisco airport (SFO), Sierra at Tahoe is 188 miles or about 3 1/2 hours.

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

Know before you go

Greg Hull at Sierra at Tahoe Ski Resort
Greg Hull at Sierra at Tahoe Ski Resort
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures 
© Chasing Light Media

Check on the Sierra at Tahoe website for discounts before you head to Sierra at Tahoe – the resort is known year after year for affordable lift tickets and great discounts on first timer lessons.

Reserve lessons and day care in advance. The kids programs are very popular, so reserve a spot for the little ones in advance. On the day of the lesson, drop off parking is available directly in front of the school.

Check the road conditions before you go. Chains are required frequently on Highway 50 so check the road conditions before heading to the resort at the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans).

Plan on traffic on the weekends and holidays. Sierra at Tahoe draws a big Sacramento and Bay area crowd, so arrive early to spend more time on the slopes and less in your car. Or, better yet, come midweek for no lift lines and plenty of untouched pow.

Heavenly Lake Tahoe, South Lake Tahoe, California

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Heavenly Lake Tahoe: Lay of the land

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Heavenly Lake Tahoe: Skiing and snowboarding

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Heavenly Lake Tahoe: On mountain dining and drinking

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

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

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

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

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

Heavenly Lake Tahoe:  Additional mountain activities

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

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

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

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

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

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

Heavenly Lake Tahoe:  Where to stay

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

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

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

Heavenly Lake Tahoe: Getting there and parking

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

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

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

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

Heavenly Lake Tahoe:  Know before you go

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

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

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

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

Learn more about Heavenly Lake Tahoe on their website.

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

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

Santa Cruz, California

10 Things to do in Santa Cruz County, California

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


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

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

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

Santa Cruz: Where to stay

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

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

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

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

Santa Cruz: Things to do

1. Stroll the Santa Cruz Wharf

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

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

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

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

2. Play at the Santa Cruz Boardwalk

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

4. Visit the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary Exploration Center

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

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

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

5. Explore the Santa Cruz Harbor area

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Across the harbor are Walton Lighthouse and Seabright Beach.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

6. Watch the surfers

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

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

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

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

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

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

7. Kick back at the beach

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

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

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

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

8. Sip some wine

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

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

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

9. Take a hike

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

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

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

10. Pay a visit to Capitola Village

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

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

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

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

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

Know before you go

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

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

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

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


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

Chaminade Resort & Spa, Santa Cruz, California

A relaxing retreat at Chaminade Resort & Spa in Santa Cruz

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


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

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

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

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

The rooms & suites

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The resort

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

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

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

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

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

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

Things to do

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

3 miles of private hiking trails

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

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

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

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

Fitness center

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

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

Spa at Chaminade

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tennis anyone?

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

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

Swimming pools and hot tubs

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

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

Dining & beverages

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

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

Linwood’s Bar & Grill

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

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

Chaminade special events

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

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

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

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

Sunday brunch at Sunset Restaurant

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The top 5 things we loved most about Chaminade

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

Disclosure & disclaimer: Special thanks to Chaminade Resort & Spa for hosting us as their guest. The content & opinions expressed are entirely our own. Reviews are opinion only and Chasing Light Media accepts no responsibility for how the information is used.

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