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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The one-day wine tour

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

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

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

Getting from San Francisco to Sonoma County by car

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

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

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

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

Uber San Francisco to Santa Rosa

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lyft and Uber in wine country

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

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

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

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

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

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

View of Miami & Miami River from Icon at Brickell,

Not a fan of South Beach? Try Miami Brickell instead

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Redsox vs Mariners, Safeco Field, Seattle

Buy me some peanuts and…

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Natural

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

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

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

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

Hit it Here Café & Bar

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kansas City Plaza Lights, a spectacular holiday tradition

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


View our Kansas City photo gallery


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

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


View the Kansas City photo gallery


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

View our Kansas City photo gallery


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.

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

Exploring Mille Lacs Indian Museum and Trading Post

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


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

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

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

History of the museum

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Visiting the Mille Lacs Indian Museum

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Trading Post

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Know before you go

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

Disclosure & disclaimer: Special thanks to Explore Minnesota, Mille Lacs Indian Museum and Trading Post, the Minnesota Historical Society and Mille Lacs Area Tourism for hosting us as their guests. The content & opinions expressed are entirely our own. Reviews are opinion only and Chasing Light Media accepts no responsibility for how the information is used.

Eddy's Resort, Mille Lacs, Onamia, Minnesota

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

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


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

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

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

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

The rooms & suites

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

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

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

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

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

Dining & beverages at the Launch Bar & Grill

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

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

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

Things to do at and near the resort

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Eddy’s Resort

Location: 41334 Shakopee Lake Rd, Onamia, MN 56359

Design: Contemporary eclectic

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

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


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

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

Exploring Brainerd Lakes Minnesota

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


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

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

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

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

Things to do when exploring Brainerd Lakes

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

Cruise Gull Lake with Destiny Cruises

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

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

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

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

Get an adrenaline rush at Brainerd Zip Line

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

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

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

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

Spend a day playing at a lake

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

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

Hit the links

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Where to stay at Brainerd Lakes

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

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

Read our review of Madden’s Resort »

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

Know before you go

Location

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

Climate

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


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