Author Archives: Debbie

TRIBAL NATIONS IN WESTERN MONTANA

Located in Western Montana are two Tribal Nations, the Blackfeet Nation of the Blackfeet Indian Reservation and the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes of the Flathead Indian Reservation. Tribal history and culture can be added to any existing itinerary incorporating a Tribal Nations experience into your time spent in Glacier County. If you have a motorcoach tour, please be sure to call entities in advance to schedule your tours with a docent or tribal member.

Teepee at Chewing Black Bones Campground in Babb.

Missoula
Begin your day in Missoula—known as the Garden City—with a visit to the Payne Family Native American Center on the University of Montana campus. Built on the site of a historic Salish Indian encampment, the building is designed to reflect the legacy, heritage and culture of all Montana tribes. Housed in the building is a planetarium open to public and private offers shows that focus on star lore of different American Indian cultures. Please check with the university for showtimes.

The University of Montana’s Payne Family Native American Center houses a planetarium.

Flathead Indian Reservation
Heading north on U.S. Highway 93 from Missoula, enter the Flathead Indian Reservation, encompassing 1.3 million acres and the south end of Flathead Lake—the largest freshwater lake in the West. The reservation is home to the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes made up of the Bitterroot Salish, Pend d’Oreille and Kootenai peoples.

Arlee
This small town is named after Salish Chief Alee, with a population of just over 600 people. Arlee sits in the beautiful Jocko Valley with views of the Mission Mountains. The Arlee Powwow Esyapqeyni is a premier celebration held annually, the first weekend in July. Experience traditional dancing, singing and drumming along with hand-made beaded crafts and authentic food. Stop into the Huckleberry Patch Alpine Grill and Gift Shop for all things huckleberry (a berry that grows wild in the mountains of Montana) and the favorite berry of the region.

Cultural dancing at powwow celebrations.

Just north of Arlee is the Garden of One Thousand Buddhas. While not tribal in nature, this Tibetan Buddhist garden is a site to see. Seated in the center of the one thousand Buddhas is a 24-foot figure of Yum Chenmo who represents the union of wisdom and compassion. Open year-round, visitors of all faiths spend time walking the garden and reading the Buddhist inscriptions on the rocks.

Garden of One Thousand Buddhas is open year-round for visitors of all faiths.

St. Ignatius
Heading north on US-93 on the Flathead Indian Reservation, the next town is St. Ignatius, with a population near 900 people. Stop to see its main attraction—St. Ignatius Mission. Built in the early 1890s, this Catholic mission has 58 hand-painted murals that adorning the walls and ceilings. The murals were painted by Brother Joseph Carignano, an Italian Jesuit who was the handyman and cook at the mission in the early 1900s. Open year-round the mission offers Sunday mass, a museum, gift shop and a log home that was the original sisters’ residence when they first arrived in 1854.

The St. Ignatius Mission has 58 hand-painted murals inside.

Charlo
As you leave St. Ignatius, look out to the west. You will see the National Bison Range sitting on 18,500 acres. The self-driving range is open year-round, while one of the two scenic drive is open May – October, weather permitting. Today, the preserve is home to approximately 350 head of bison that are decedents of the herd that roamed the area in 1870s. In addition to bison, the National Bison Range is home to elk, bighorn sheep, mule deer, pronghorn, mountain lions and black bears. ($5 private vehicle, $25 bus or tour group).

Drive the range to see bison and other wildlife roaming.

A must-stop attraction is the Ninepipes Museum of Early Montana. The museum gives a glimpse of early Montana homesteading and life on the Flathead Indian Reservation. Enjoy lunch at the Allentown Restaurant located next door at Ninepipes Lodge or grab a coffee and shop for Montana-made gifts at Great Gray Gifts.

Pablo
Headquarters for the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes is located in Pablo along with the Salish Kootenai College and a notable attraction—The People’s Center. The museum highlights the Salish, Pend d’Oreille and Kootenai Tribes’ history, culture and traditions. Schedule a personal guide or use the audio presentation to understand life in the West from their perspective. Shop the shelves of beadwork, paintings, photos and jewelry in the gift shop.

Slop in at the People’s Center in Pablo.

Polson
As you head farther north on US-93, you will be stunned by the views of Flathead Lake—the largest freshwater lake in the West. Sitting on the southern tip of Flathead Lake is the charming community of Polson with a population of 5,000 residents. Stop in downtown and peruse its antique shops, art galleries and live theater. Stop in at the Miracle of America Museum to see an eclectic collection of curiosities. Get off the beaten path with a visit to Salish-Kootenai Dam called Seli’s Ksanka Qlispe’, formerly known as the Kerr Dam. Located on the Flathead River, this 204-foot structure has a viewing platform offering amazing canyon views and is open year-round from dawn to dusk. Stay at the tribally owned Kwataqnuk Resort and Casino in Polson and tour on Flathead Lake aboard The Shadow offering daily, sunset, dinner, brunch and specialty cruises.

The 204-foot dam is an impressive site to see built into the rock walls along the Flathead River.

Take a boat ride to Wildhorse Island State Park, a landmark as the largest island in Flathead Lake and where the Kootenai Indians were reported to have pastured horses to keep them from being stolen by other tribes. Whitewater raft or take a kayak tour with Flathead Raft Company. For the ultra-adventurous, participate in their overnight trip where you spend time with an elder or local tribal member and learn the history, culture and heritage while crafting dream catchers, medicine wheels or tanning hides. Sleep under the stars in a teepee after listening to stories of the past.

Blackfeet Indian Reservation
The 1.5 million acres of the Blackfeet Indian Reservation are home to over 17,000 enrolled members nationally—with roughly 10,000 living on the reservation today. This is one of the 10 largest tribes in the U.S. It’s located east of Glacier National Park bordering the Canadian province of Alberta. The Blackfeet Indian Reservation is easy to incorporate into an itinerary traveling on Interstate 15, north of Great Falls or traveling east on U.S. Highway 2 near Glacier National Park.

The Blackfeet were historically a hunting and gathering tribe that followed bison and moved their camps accordingly. The land that is now Glacier National Park was vital to their culture and still is today. You would be hard pressed to find a more scenic drive in the lower continental United States than the Going-to-the-Sun Road in Glacier National Park. A wilderness of lakes, towering peaks and remnants of glaciers is readily accessible. One of the best ways to experience Glacier National Park from the Blackfeet perspective is to take a tour with Sun Tours and learn insights and cultural significance and history about what Glacier National Park has meant to the Blackfeet Nation. Known by local tribal people as the Backbone of the World, the Blackfeet guides excite visitors with tales about the history and cultural connections to the local area and national park.

Views from Looking Glass Road on the Blackfeet Reservation overlooking Glacier National Park.

Browning
Headquarters for the Blackfeet Indian Reservation is Browningon U.S. Highway 2, home to the Museum of the Plains Indian. The museum offers a comprehensive collection of cultural artifacts and exhibits including clothing, horse gear, weapons, household implements and children’s toys. The museum represents the Blackfeet, Crow, Sioux, Arapaho, Shoshone, Norther Cheyenne, Nez Perce, Flathead, Cree and Chippawa tribes. If accessing Browning from Glacier National Park on US-2, be sure to keep an eye out for the Blackfeet Nation Bison Reserve roaming in their natural habitat.

Views from the Blackfeet Nation Bison Reserve.

Stop in at The Blackfeet Heritage Center & Art Gallery to see dioramas of Blackfeet culture. Shop the variety of arts and crafts at Faught’s Blackfeet Trading Post for moccasins or beaded bracelets and earrings. Visit the Lodgepole Gallery & Tipi Village to purchase one of their beautiful paintings, and then spend the evening sleeping in an authentic teepee under the big Montana sky.

Each summer, usually the second weekend in July, Browning hosts the North American Indian Days—one of the largest gatherings of U.S. and Canadian tribes. The pow wow includes dancing, drumming, traditional games, an Indian relay and rodeo.

Smaller towns on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation include Babb (stop at Two Sisters Café for huckleberry pie), Starr School, Heart Butte, and East Glacier Park home to Glacier Park Lodge and the East Glacier Park Amtrak Train Station for visitors coming by train on the Empire Builder.

The grand Glacier Park Lodge is a must see and/or stay while visiting Blackfeet Nation or Glacier National Park.

If group tours would like a step-on-guide, contact Blackfeet Cultural History Tour to accompany your tour to historical sites including a buffalo jump, tipi rings and medicine lodges, all making the history of Native American Indians come alive.

*To recreate (hiking, fishing, hunting, rafting etc.) on tribal lands a Tribal Conservation permit is needed and can be purchased at any convenience store on the reservations.

For additional information on touring Western Montana’s Glacier Country drop me a line or visit touroperators.glaciermt.com, I’m always here to help.

DP

LLAMA TREKKING IS ONE OF THE MOST UNIQUE HIKING TRIPS YOU WILL EVER TAKE

In September, Glacier Country Tourism hosted several travel bloggers and digital influencers on a press trip through Western Montana’s Glacier Country. One of the activities on the itinerary was a llama trek with Swan Mountain Outfitters. At Glacier Country Tourism we usually do some previewing, or what we call “product verification,” before taking folks out on an excursion we have yet to try ourselves, but we had full confidence in our tourism partners at Swan Mountain Outfitters. With that, we entrusted our group to them for a day trekking in the Seeley Swan Valley. The valley is majestic in nature with the Mission Mountains to the west and the Swan Mountains to the east. Our trek took us into the Swan Mountains in NW Montana—not far from Glacier National Park—and it was a delightful and unique experience we highly recommended for groups of all ages and athletic abilities.

Llama trekking is an all-around lovable affair, and it’s eco-therapy for the soul. When you trek with a llama you get to hike into the mountains or forest without having to carry gear, which makes hiking with kids and groups logistically easier and more enjoyable. Plus, llamas can travel to backcountry places horses are not able to.

Here’s a picture collage of our trek. See why everyone should put this activity on their bucket list.

We met up with our guides at the trailhead and were assigned our llamas.

Our guide explained how to trek with a llama and why they are such great mountainous companions to have on trips into the woods—from their agility to their acute sense of danger.

We all had a great time bonding with our new friends.

Every llama had a lead rope and just walked along behind each of us. This is my llama, Serge.

Our lead llama, Robusto, carried our lunch to a beautiful waterfall destination in the Swan Mountains.

Every once in a while, we stopped for a water or picture break, and the llamas munched on vegetation in the woods.

Once we got to our lunch destination, we all rested and ate.

After we ate our lunch, the llamas got treats. Look at those ears of anticipation!

We hiked back and took our end-of-the-trail photos. The llamas are used to the cameras and had fun posing.

Goodbye, from Robusto.

These “camels of the clouds” trekking tours allow for a variety of time-frames within different trip options. For the most adventurous, choose a half-day or full-day trek, as well as multi-day backpacking trips to pristine alpine lakes. A favorite trip offering is the three-hour evening “Wine and Cheese Llama Trek.” Now doesn’t that sound fun?

For more information on additional tours, guides and outfitters, we’ve got you covered here. For more information on where to stay throughout Western Montana, visit our tour operator website. If you need additional tour itinerary assistance, feel free to drop me a line; I’m always here to help.

Happy Adventuring!
DP

TOP 3 REASONS VISITORS LOVE FALL IN WESTERN MONTANA

One of the most frequently asked questions by tour operators and travel agents is, “When is the best time for my clients to visit Western Montana’s Glacier Country?” Without hesitation, I always answer, “The fall.”

While every season in Montana is notable and offers its own distinct offerings, there’s something special about fall in Glacier Country, especially when it comes to creating a memorable visit for your clients. To help plan the perfect fall itinerary, here are my top three reasons to visit Western Montana in autumn.

Glacier National Park
As Montana’s top attraction, Glacier National Park offers stunning scenery year-round, with fall colors adding an additional “wow” factor.

More benefits to a fall visit: Our national park is less crowded than the peak summer months of July and August, and the average temperatures are comfortable with daytime highs in the low 70s F (21 C). Plus, many of the activities available during the summer months are still offered in the fall, including interpretive tours with Sun Tours and the iconic red bus tours provided by Glacier National Park Lodges. Both companies take visitors over the Going-to-the-Sun Road until mid-October, weather permitting. Travelers can enjoy a leisurely cruise on one of the parks historic wooden boats with Glacier Park Boat Company through mid-September.

Remember Glacier National Park is open year-round (even after the closing of the Going-to-the-Sun Road in October) and welcomes visitors to explore the flora and fauna and see local wildlife, like elk, moose, mountain goat and bighorn sheep as well as black and grizzly bears.

Check out additional suggestions for fall activities in Glacier National Park and Western Montana here.

Beautiful fall colors along the Going-to-the-Sun Road.

Beautiful fall colors along the Going-to-the-Sun Road.

Fun fall day on a red bus tour.

Fun fall day on a red bus tour.

Mountain goats like the people trails too.

Mountain goats like the trails too.

Spectacular Fall Colors
With wide open spaces, minimal traffic and well-maintained highways in Montana, taking a fall drive is a must. If your tour is part of a larger regional itinerary and you have the chance to get off the main interstates and take the road less traveled along our scenic highways, do it. Just pick one of the scenic byways or scenic travel corridors and sit back and enjoy the views.

A couple of my favorites and not to be missed include, the Bitterroot Valley framed by the Bitterroot Mountains to the west and the Sapphire Mountains to the east, with beautiful fall foliage in every direction. As you cruise along Highway 93, stop in and visit the charming Montana towns of Darby, Hamilton, Victor and Stevensville. Stroll through their idyllic main streets and experience western hospitality as you browse through boutique stores and art galleries. Afterwards, please your palate with a stop at one of the local restaurants or breweries.

Beautiful fall colors in the Bitterroot Valley.

Stop at the Daly Mansion in Hamilton for this stunning fall foliage scene. Photo by Donnie Sexton

Stop at the Daly Mansion Museum in Hamilton for this stunning fall foliage scene. Photo by Donnie Sexton

The northwest corner of Montana is a bit off the beaten path, but with its expanse of old-growth forests and wilderness it’s a showstopper when it comes to fall foliage. The spectacular hues of the western larch—also known as the tamarack—are stunning. Take State Highway 37 along Lake Koocanusa with a stop at the Libby Dam Visitor Center and experience the power and beauty of the Kootenai River. Another spectacular drive is State Highway 2 between Libby and Troy. Be sure to stop to see Kootenai Falls and the swinging bridge. Also of note: This is where the movie The River Wild was filmed with Meryl Streep and Kevin Bacon.

Meet up with the locals in Libby, Troy and Yaak for a taste of small-town Montana. Don’t forget these additional scenic fall drives on these travel corridors that might be incorporated into your Western Montana itinerary.

Golden hue of the tamarack trees.

Golden hue of the tamarack trees.

Notable Fall Events
Events are often the best way for group tours and international visitors to get to know the flavor of the place they are visiting. There is no shortage of fall events to choose from in Western Montana. A few to note: Montana Dragon Boat Festival, Great Northwest Oktoberfest, McIntosh Apple Day and Liquid Apple Night and In the Footsteps of Norman Maclean Festival.

Held in Bigfork on the shores of Flathead Lake, the Montana Dragon Boat Festival takes place every September and welcomes teams from around the world. In addition to teams racing on the water, this event is fun for spectators and includes live music and vendors selling unique Montana-made products.

Montana Dragon Boat Festival on Flathead Lake.

Montana Dragon Boat Festival on Flathead Lake.

Great Northwest Oktoberfest runs over two weekends in Whitefish—the last weekend in September and first weekend in October. This festival is all about fun and includes traditional food, music and quirky competitions like keg hurling, log sawing and stein holding.

McIntosh Apple Day and Liquid Apple Night take place in Hamilton in October. This festival is all about apples, with highlights including live entertainment and a giant bake sale featuring homemade apple pies, caramel apples and apple butter.

McIntosh Apples make the best pies.

Good old-fashioned bake sale and McIntosh Apples that make the best pies.

Last but not least is the In the Footsteps of Norman Maclean Festival, a literary festival held in Seeley Lake and Missoula Montana, celebrating the work of outstanding western authors, including the works of Norman Maclean and his notable writing of A River Runs Through It.

For additional itinerary suggestions, visit our tour operators website or feel free to drop me a line. I’m happy to help plan your next fall itinerary in Western Montana’s Glacier Country.

DP

MEET WITH MONTANA AT IMEX AMERICA 2019

For the sixth year in a row, Montana will be attending and exhibiting at IMEX America this September in Las Vegas, Nevada. This year, the Montana booth will be bigger and better than ever as we welcome meeting planners to stop in at the MONTANA booth and learn more about Montana as a meeting destination. Whether you are looking for the perfect luxury guest ranch for a corporate incentive group, a large branded hotel with a ballroom and breakouts for the association conference or the mountainside resort for the board retreat, Montana has it all.

The perfect backdrop for a Montana dinner event.

We invite meeting planners attending IMEX America to make an appointment with our booth representatives from Western Montana’s Glacier Country—including the cities of Missoula and Whitefish—the new Sage LodgeBozeman Convention & Visitors Bureau, Big Sky Resort, Visit Helena including Helena Great Northern Hotel and The Ranch at Rock Creek to learn about the variety of meeting offerings in Montana. Without further ado, please meet the meetings experts from Montana that will be attending IMEX America 2019.

Liv Grubaugh – Big Sky Resort

Joining the Montana booth this year is Liv Grubaugh the National Sales Manager with Big Sky Resort. Liv will discuss with planners the inspiration that comes from alluring landscapes, fresh mountain air and unlimited outdoor adventure creating an authentic Montana meeting memory. Big Sky Resort offers a variety of lodging and venue options along with one-of-a-kind outdoor adventures. Winter is king at Big Sky Resort with ski-in ski-out properties offering 5,800 acres of skiing terrain. Summer offers more availability for meetings and retreats along with easy access to the west entrance of Yellowstone National Park only 40 miles away. Big Sky Resort is located an hour south of Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport with easy transfers.

Mike Peterson – Sage Lodge

New to the Montana booth this year is Mike Peterson the Director of Sales and Marketing for Sage Lodge. Located on the banks of the Yellowstone River in Montana’s Paradise Valley, Sage Lodge offers the perfect surroundings for a Montana luxury resort. The resort offers the perfect meeting space for corporate retreats, board meetings along with additional outdoor space with sweeping views. Three small meeting rooms allow for breakouts. Onsite dining in The Fireside Room or The Grill offer the best of authentic Montana fare. Customize your event with spa treatments, fishing expeditions or fireside chats at this beautiful retreat location located 35 minutes from the Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport.

Daryl Schliem – Visit Bozeman

Returning to the Montana booth this year is Daryl Schliem, the President and CEO of the Bozeman Convention & Visitors Bureau. The hospitality options and outdoor activities that attract meeting planners to the Bozeman area include an abundance of recreation, resorts, shopping, museums, breweries and its close proximity to Yellowstone National Park. In town, you’ll find plenty of local flavor in Bozeman’s historic downtown shops, restaurants and galleries. From a casual boardroom meeting to the formal ballroom soirée, Bozeman has plenty of meeting and function space as well as over 2,500 guest rooms. Boasting the largest and busiest airport in Montana, Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport offers many direct flights to major cities in the U.S., making Bozeman the perfect mountain meeting setting, providing everything a group needs to get business done by day along with an exhilarating Montana experience waiting just outside the conference room door.

Andrea Opitz – Visit Helena.

New to the Montana booth this year is  Andrea Opitz the Executive Director of Visit Helena the Helena Tourism Alliance. Meet with Andrea and learn about the capital city of Montana, conveniently located between Yellowstone National Park and Glacier National Park for pre or post excursions. Discover the meeting spaces both historic and modern that Helena has to offer that will have attendees excited. Offsite venues and attractions including a boat ride at Gates of the Mountains Boat Tour on the Missouri River or travel through Helena’s Mansion District on The Last Chance Tour Train. From board retreats to citywide conferences, Helena has something for everyone.

Karena Bemis – Helena Great Northern Hotel

Joining in on the Helena appointments is Karena Bemis, Director of Sales at Great Northern Hotel in Helena one of Best Western’s Premier hotels. Let Karena explain how J.D. Power has ranked Best Western Premier number 1 in guest satisfaction for the upscale segment and how guests can expect an elevated experience when they walk through the doors of this magnificent hotel. Located just minutes from downtown Helena and all the attractions of Montana’s capital city. The hotels convention space can accommodate groups up to 500 attendees.

Troy Hedenskog – The Ranch at Rock Creek

The Montana booth is excited to have National Sales Manager, Troy Hedenskog join the team this year from The Ranch at Rock Creek. The all-inclusive luxury guest ranch has the distinction of being the worlds first Forbes 5 star guest ranch. The Ranch at Rock Creek combines hallmark corporate retreat ideas like luxury accommodations, all-inclusive amenities, Relais & Chateaux dining and customized group activities. The ranch offers 29 one-of-a-kind accommodations and elegant event space and 20 year-round activities on the 6,600-acre ranch. Missoula International Airport is 1.5 hours drive to The Ranch and round-trip transportation is provided.

Emily Rolston – Destination Missoula

Serving as the Group Sales Associate for Destination Missoula, Emily Rolston will be attending IMEX to talk about meetings in Missoula this year. Missoula is the second largest city and cultural hub of Montana as it provides the perfect blend of business and pleasure for meeting attendees with outdoor adventure, abundant nightlife, unexpected sophistication and a thriving food scene. Whether the meeting is an intimate corporate retreat or a large association conference, Missoula has something for everyone. With nearly 170,000 square feet of meeting space and 3,400 guest rooms at hotels for every budget level, Missoula is a great destination for meetings up to 2,000 or citywide events for up to 5,000 attendees. Plus, direct flights arrive into Montana’s second busiest airport, Missoula International Airport from 13 major U.S. markets.

Dan Hansen – Explore Whitefish

As the Marketing and Sales Manager for Explore Whitefish, Dan Hansen focuses on group travel and will be joining the Montana booth this year. Whitefish creates lasting impressions and earns rave reviews for meetings, events and corporate retreats. With more than 1,200 guest rooms and 46,000 square feet of meeting space, Whitefish is perfect for groups up to 300 attendees and citywide events of 2,500 attendees. Plus, Whitefish has a unique combination of breathtaking scenery, year-round recreational pursuits and a vibrant town that offers diverse accommodations and outstanding hospitality. An added bonus: getting to Whitefish is easy. Amtrak’s Empire Builder makes daily stops in Whitefish from both Seattle/Portland and Chicago, while direct flights arrive regularly into nearby Glacier Park International Airport.

Debbie Picard – Western Montana’s Glacier Country Tourism

The final member of the Montana booth at IMEX America will be Debbie Picard, Tourism Sales Manager for Western Montana’s Glacier Country. Debbie works closely with the regional CVBs of Missoula and Whitefish along with other meeting venues in Western Montana outside of these two hub cities. Within the western region of Montana is an array of properties that are well-equipped to host meetings and conventions of various sizes, including small events, incentive travel, corporate retreats and large conferences. These properties include luxury guest ranches, hot springs resorts and mountainside lodges. And when you combine these meetings offerings with two international airports, shoulder season prices and team-building activities, it’s easy to see why meeting planners are taking a look at Western Montana as a meetings destination.

If you’re coming to IMEX America 2019, let us know. We’d love to meet with you and talk meetings in Montana.

A few things to keep in mind for IMEX:
*To meet with Montana’s Glacier Country, Missoula and Whitefish, make an appointment with Western Montana’s Glacier Country. The Western Montana representatives will be sharing each 20-minutes appointment session throughout the show (think of it as a one-stop Western Montana appointment stop).

*Bozeman, Big Sky Resort, Sage Lodge, Helena and The Ranch at Rock Creek are taking separate appointments.

*If you can’t meet with us during the pre-scheduled appointment times at IMEX, feel free to stop by our booth A420 anyway. We welcome drop-ins and will be hosting daily giveaways.

And if you’re a meeting planner not attending IMEX America, we’d still love to help you plan your Montana meeting. All of the contacts listed above are happy to help you find the perfect fit for your meeting needs.

For more information on meeting facilities in Western Montana, visit our Glacier Country meetings website. Or, if you need help locating the perfect destination for your meeting in Montana, drop me a line; I’m always here to help.

Meet in Montana,

DP

GUEST POST: TOP 4 REASONS TO MEET IN MISSOULA’S NEWEST HOTEL

1) Location
In Western Montana’s Glacier Country, flowing out from the lush green edge of the Rocky Mountains is the serene Clark Fork River carving its way through the middle of historic downtown Missoula. Here you’ll find architecture from the 1800s, more parks than parking lots, modern-day troubadours filling your ears with sweet melodies, and a welcoming smile upon the faces you pass by. Missoula is the dream destination for your next conference, board meeting or company retreat.

The Clark Fork River runs through the middle of Missoula.

In the heart of downtown Missoula is the brand-new Residence Inn by Marriott Missoula Downtown. Built at the site of the historic Missoula Mercantile, this is not your ordinary Residence Inn, and a small history lesson goes a long way to fully appreciate and understand this one-of-a-kind, custom hotel. Back in 1885, the Missoula Mercantile was established and, in true wild-west fashion—after some real-life Hatfield and McCoy like rivalry—it grew to be the largest department store between Minneapolis and Seattle. Through the years and with several different owners, the department store, affectionately called “The Merc,” remained in use until 2010. It sat deserted and deteriorating for seven more years before being deemed unsalvageable. It was then deconstructed piece by piece to save as much as possible of the beloved historic monument. On February 28, 2019 the Residence Inn opened its doors, welcoming guests to step inside its warm, modern industrial design that so elegantly represents Missoula, from the American Indians to the Mercantile, and the industrial drive that built the town to the love of arts that cultivates the culture here. Pieces of the original Mercantile were designed into the hotel throughout the lobby and the Mews: a hallway connecting the hotel to various tenants’ shops‑from gift and clothing boutiques to a beauty spa and art bars to multiple restaurants. Curated by Radius Art Gallery, spectacular art created by Montana artists adorns the halls, incorporating the story of the Mercantile, Missoula and Montana.

Welcome to the Residence Inn Missoula Downtown.

The new hotel is located in the heart of downtown Missoula .

The art installations curated by Radius Gallery, all have a historical aspect.

With new airlines and flights being added regularly to the Missoula International Airport, traveling to Missoula has never been easier. Upon landing, our convenient and complimentary “Suite Ride” shuttle will pick you up for the easy 10-minute drive to the hotel.

2) The Hotel
The Residence Inn by Marriott Missoula Downtown is a full-service, extended-stay hotel featuring:

  • 175 guest room suites each with a full kitchen, desk, living space, comfortable beds and spacious bathrooms with walk-in showers
  • Complimentary Wi-Fi in guest rooms and throughout the hotel
  • Complimentary grocery shopping and delivery service
  • Complimentary full hot American buffet breakfast daily
  • Onsite guest laundry
  • Evening bar services
  • A breathtaking rooftop patio with outdoor seating, fire pits, yard games, and a BBQ grill for guests, with gorgeous views of the city and surrounding mountains
  • Indoor swimming pool
  • Room service provided by various on-site restaurants
  • Complimentary shuttle service to and from the airport
  • Valet parking for an additional fee of $17 per day
  • Access through the Mews to a variety of on-site restaurants and shopping
  • Walking distance to dozens of cafés, bistros, restaurants, shops, galleries, entertainment and more

The Residence Inn Missoula is the desired home away from home for all guests wanting to experience the vibrant culture of downtown Missoula with access to the Clark Fork River, hiking trails, the University of Montana, downtown entertainment and so much more.

The lobby boasts elements of the Merc, and is a gathering place for guests.

The front desk and lobby offer a sense of old and new always with a warm welcome.

3) Meeting Space
Our beautiful meeting space is 1,500 square feet, which can easily and evenly be split into two rooms via an air wall. Gorgeous, artful photos of items found in the deconstruction of the Mercantile hang on the walls. Each end of the room has an 80-inch smart TV that can be connected to your device for presentations. House sound is also available in the meeting space, all at no additional cost. Our occupancy for the room:

  • 160 people – Theater
  • 104 people – Banquet
  • 80 people – Classroom
  • 50 people – Crescent Rounds of 5
  • 48 people – Hollow Square
  • 42 people – Conference
  • 30 people – U Shape

And don’t forget about the amazing rooftop patio that can be rented for your private event.

The meeting space offers state of the art technology.

The meeting space is perfect for board and corporate meetings.

The rooftop deck can be reserved for events as well.

4) Catering
One of the unsung heroes of Missoula is the amazing food. Treat your attendees to some of the delicious catering that is allowed to be brought into the meeting space. We also offer a limited menu of beverage service as well as some snack foods. Our onsite restaurants offering catering services include:

  • Basal – available for breakfast and dinner – offering fresh organic options for clean eating, including smoothies, wraps and sandwiches, gourmet salads, hearty bone broth soups, espresso, herbal teas and more.
  • Zoo Thai – available for lunch and dinner – offering quality street food from Thailand.
  • The Camino – available for lunch and dinner – offering fresh, house-made modern-inspired authentic Mexican dishes perfect for sharing, as well as a specialty tequila bar.
  • 1889 – available for lunch and dinner – a steak and seafood fine dining restaurant with a full bar.

Need a change of scenery between sessions? We also offer suggestions for off-site venues that can cater receptions or meals for your event. In addition to on-site restaurants, we are happy to suggest catering or dining from one of the many local breweries, distilleries, cafés and other delicious options within walking distance.

I would be happy to offer more information or provide a proposal for your next meeting in Montana. In the meantime, our website can offer a great overview of the new Residence Inn By Marriott Missoula Downtown.

Meet in Missoula,
Lacy DeQuattro

About the author: Lacy is the Director of Sales at the Residence Inn By Marriott Missoula Downtown and joined the Aimbridge Hospitality team in September 2018 to open the Residence Inn in historic downtown Missoula. Before that she was the Director of Sales at the Holiday Inn Bozeman. When she’s not at work she enjoys playing in the out of doors with family, friends and farm animals.

5 TOWNS IN THE BITTERROOT VALLEY TO ADD TO YOUR MONTANA ITINERARY

One of our hidden gems and relatively undiscovered destinations in Western Montana’s Glacier Country, is the beautiful Bitterroot Valley. A visit to this scenic valley will find the Sapphire Mountain range to the east and the Bitterroot Mountain range to the west with the Bitterroot River flowing through the middle of the valley. If your clients are looking for an off the beaten path from Yellowstone National Park to Glacier National Park or for that perfect balance of outdoor recreation, culture and history—not to mention some of the most charming lodging options in Montana—then I suggest an itinerary that includes some time for them to stay and play in Montana’s Bitterroot Valley.

The Bitterroot River flows through the valley.

Sunset over the Bitterroot Mountains.

Darby
For travelers looking to explore a truly western town, begin with the charming town of Darby. Or for those fans of the new series Yellowstone staring Kevin Costner, this is where the Dutton’s ranch is located. The towns wood-facade buildings provide a real western feel as you stroll through downtown. Recommended stops include the smallest brewery in Montana; Bandit Brewing, Old West Candy and Antiques Gallery and the Darby Pioneer Memorial Museum or make the short drive north and west to Lake Como for a plethora of recreational options that include water sport activities, hiking or mountain biking around the lake on well-maintained trails. Take a drive along the West Fork of the Bitterroot River for great fishing and a visit to Painted Rocks State Park where green, yellow and orange lichen cover the rock walls and granite cliffs. For some of the best winter skiing in Western Montana, visit Lost Trail Powder Mountain at the top of Lost Trail Pass on the border of Montana and Idaho. The lodging options in Darby range from quaint to luxury: in town lodging includes Travellers Rest Cabins and RV Park, while additional properties in picturesque settings and a little father out of town include Alta Ranch and Rye Creek Lodge. For those clients looking for a luxury guest ranch, enjoy the rustic elegance—and amazing culinary offerings—at the all-inclusive, adult only, Triple Creek Ranch.

Singing cowboy at Triple Creek Ranch. Photo: Triple Creek Ranch

Take a horseback trail ride at Triple Creek Ranch.

A beautiful view from the hike around Lake Como.

Hamilton
The largest town in the Bitterroot Valley is home to a buzzing art scene with many galleries and shops full of work from local artisans. Catch live art with the Bitterroot Performing Arts Series, a Montana A Cappella Society Concert or the Hamilton Players live theater. Other great activities include sapphire mining for that perfect gem at Sapphire Studios in Hamilton, fly-fishing on one of Western Montana’s most pristine rivers—the Bitterroot River—or hiking the popular Blodgett Canyon Overlook Trail for stunning views into the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness. Stop in at Higherground Brewing Co. for stone fired pizza, salads and handcrafted beers. Lodging in Hamilton is comfortable and cozy at the Bitterroot River Inn & Conference Center or Hamilton’s Quality Inn.

Just outside of Hamilton is the Daly Mansion. The former summer home turned museum of copper baron and millionaire Marcus Daly, his wife Margaret and their four children has evolved from a two-story farmhouse into a 24,000-square-foot mansion with 25 bedrooms and 15 bathrooms on 50 stunning acres in the heart of the Bitterroot Valley.

A day hike with impressive views from Blodgett Canyon Overlook.

Once the summer home of Marcus Daly, now the Daly Mansion Museum.

Stevensville
Following the East Side Highway north is the community of Stevensville.  Take a quick detour for a little history at Fort Owen State Park—one of the most important commercial centers in the northwest for many years in the mid-1800s. Stevensville is home to the historic St. Mary’s Mission—the first permanent pioneer settlement in Montana. Walk through history and see first-hand the fascinating chapter of Montana’s beginning. Dine at the French inspired Mission Bistro and try one of the seasonal beers at Blacksmith Brewing Company.

St. Mary’s Mission in Stevensville. Photo: St. Mary’s Mission

Florence
A little farther north on U.S. Highway 93 is the town of Florence. Travel east on the East Side Highway with a stop at the Lee Metcalf Wildlife Refuge. A naturalist’s paradise, look for tundra swans, woodpeckers, bald eagles and white-tailed deer from the comfort of your vehicle or walk the 2.5-miles of nature trails near the Bitterroot River.

Birding at Lee Metcalf Wildlife Refuge.

Lolo
Located on the north end of the Bitterroot Valley on U.S. Highway 93 is Lolo, home to Travelers’ Rest State Park—the campsite where Lewis and Clark and the Corps of Discovery rested and prepared for their journey to and from the Pacific Ocean over 200 years ago. It is home to the ONLY archaeologically verified campsite of their journey and was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1960. Recreational options abound including biking, running or walking the Bitterroot Trail—a 50-mile-long paved path that runs from Missoula to Hamilton and is a fun way to see the valley. Just a short drive east outside of Lolo on U.S. Highway 12 is The Lodge at Lolo Hot Springs. Rejuvenate in the mineral hot springs after a day spent hiking or biking in the region. Another favorite brewery in the Bitterroot Valley is Lolo Peak Brewery. Or plan dinner at Lolo Creek Steak House, one of Montana’s finest steakhouses. Catch happy hour at their new Lolo Creek Distillery, located behind the steakhouse.

Interpretive talks. Photo: Travelers’ Rest State Park

The Ravalli County TBID has more information on staying and playing in Western Montana’s Bitterroot Valley. If you need help planning an itinerary, visit our tour operator page here, or drop me a line here. I am always here to help.

DP

MEET IN MONTANA – A MEETING PLANNER FAM TRIP

We all know that the best—and quite frankly the only—way to really know if a destination is right for your next meeting, conference or corporate retreat is to experience it firsthand. With that in mind, the third week of June Western Montana’s Glacier Country Tourism invited four professional meeting planners from around the U.S. to Western Montana for a familiarization (FAM) tour to visit our three anchor cities of Missoula, Kalispell and Whitefish where we showcased meeting facilities, off-site venues, farm-to-fork culinary offerings and authentic Montana experiences custom-made for meetings. Come along for a recap.

A beautiful day in Missoula overlooking Brennan’s Wave on the Clark Fork River.

Tuesday
After flying into Missoula International Airport (MSO) the group took a scenic 30-minute drive to The Resort at Paws Up, an authentic working cattle ranch and one of Western Montana’s luxury guest ranches. The ranch has varying accommodations from lavish guest homes to riverside glamping tents that include a camp butler who’s dedicated to your group’s needs. The glamping tents were a hit with the planners, and we took a few minutes to relax around the fire ring.

Relaxing at The Resort at Paws Up.

Luxury camping or GLAMPING.

Restful sleep inside a luxury tent. with en suite bathroom.

After the site tour, we returned to Missoula, Montana’s second-largest city and the cultural hub of Western Montana. We toured several meeting venues including the new Residence Inn Missoula Downtown—a Marriott, that feels more like a boutique property, in the heart of downtown Missoula featuring 175 guest rooms and 1,500 square feet of meeting space. Next was the Historic Wilma Theater, a great off-site venue for dinner, theater or a concert within walking distance to several downtown hotels. We finished with a visit to the Holiday Inn Missoula Downtown, boasting the largest meeting space in the downtown core with 15,000 square feet and 198 guest rooms. After a short walk along the Clark Fork River—stopping to watch the kayakers and surfers on Brennan’s Wave—we tasted and toured Montgomery Distillery before heading off to one of downtown Missoula’s premiere restaurants, Plonk Wine Bar, where we dined in the elegant wine cellar. We had a restful night’s sleep at DoubleTree by Hilton Missoula Edgewater—featuring 170 newly renovated guest rooms and 9,000 square feet of meeting space—on the shores of the Clark Fork River.

Caras Park in downtown Missoula.

Colorful drinks from Montgomery Distillery.

A remarkable five-course meal paired with delicious wines at Plonk in Missoula.

Wednesday
The next day started with a site tour of the unique and expansive meeting space (33,000 square feet) at the University of Montana followed by the Hilton Garden Inn, Missoula’s largest convention hotel space with 22,000 square feet of flexible meeting space and 146 guest rooms with plenty of overflow guest rooms within walking distance.

The drive from Missoula to Kalispell north on U.S. Highway 93 happens to yield some of the most scenic vistas in Montana, including the National Bison Range and the Mission Mountain Range. With early summer wildflowers on full display, the drive through the Jocko and Mission valleys was stunning.

Our next stop on the FAM tour was Purple Mountain Lavender located in Lakeside, where owner Deb took us on a tour of her farm where she grows, cultivates, dries and manufactures everything from sachets to lavender lemonade and shortbread cookies, offering a great spouse outing or off-site venue activity. Next, we climbed aboard Far West Boat Tours for a cruise on Flathead Lake—the largest freshwater lake in the West—offering leisure excursions daily throughout the summer and charters for special events up to 150 people.

Purple Mountain Lavender offers something for everyone.

Far West Boat Tours on Flathead Lake.

Wild Horse Limousine provided our transportation in style on a historical tour through downtown Kalispell on our way to the Conrad Mansion Museum, once the home to Kalispell’s founder, Charles Conrad. After a tour of the mansion, several Kalispell ambassadors joined us for a delicious dinner served on the mansion lawn, the perfect setting for off-site receptions and dinners.

Beautiful dinner at the Conrad Mansion in Kalispell.

Our overnight accommodations were at the Hilton Garden Inn Kalispell featuring 170 guest rooms and 12,000 square feet of flexible meeting space, one of Kalispell’s premier meeting venues along with Red Lion Hotel Kalispell with 170 guest rooms and 12,000 square feet of meeting space.

Thursday
Next on the itinerary and a highlight for the planners was a visit to Glacier National Park. We made a quick stop for boxed lunches at Josephine’s Bar and Kitchen in Coram and headed to Lake McDonald Lodge. Once we finished our leisurely lunch taking in the atmosphere of the lodge, we embarked on a boat cruise with Glacier Park Boat Company aboard the historic DeSmet on Lake McDonald. To round out our afternoon in the park, we enlisted the guide service of Glacier Guides to take us on a nature walk. Our guide explained all about the flora and fauna in the park as we hiked. It was a perfect day spent in Glacier National Park.

Welcome to Glacier National Park.

A red bus tour offers a great way to sit back and enjoy the scenery.

The rain made the forest smell so good on the nature hike.

Friday
Our final destination was the charming mountain town of Whitefish. Our first stop in Whitefish was the boutique property of The Firebrand Hotel featuring 86 guest rooms, 1,100 square feet of meeting space and third floor board room. We headed up to Big Mountain and stopped in at Whitefish Mountain Resort to see their on-mountain lodging options and meeting space including a gondola ride to the Summit House. Their on-site teambuilding activity options include the multicourse aerial adventure park, alpine slide and zip lines. The afternoon had us horseback trail riding at Bar W Guest Ranch, which offers glamping tents, cabin suites and a main lodge for roughly 30 – 40 guests at capacity, great for corporate retreats.

Horseback ride through the glamping tents at Bar W Guest Ranch.

Our best cowgirl impersonation.

Our final evening was spent touring The Lodge at Whitefish Lake featuring 101 guest rooms and 10,000+ square feet of meeting space and dining at the Boat Club Restaurant on the shores of Whitefish Lake. The planners were surprised with a float-plane tour over Glacier National Park and the surrounding area by Backcountry Flying Experience to end the evening. What a thrill.

Hello from The Lodge at Whitefish Lake.

Backcountry Flying Experience takes off from the docks at Whitefish Lake.

A good-night’s sleep was provided at Grouse Mountain Lodge featuring 11,000 square feet of meeting space and 143 guest rooms.

Logan’s Bar & Grill at Grouse Mountain Lodge.

Saturday
The meeting planners departed Glacier Park International (FCA)—a 20-minute drive from downtown Whitefish (or Kalispell)—for home. It was an action-packed week full of great food, fantastic venues, fun activities and lots of learning about Western Montana as a meetings destination.

If you would like more information about Western Montana’s Glacier Country as a meetings destination (feel free to check out our week at #MeetInMontana on instagram) or, if you are interested in participating in the next meeting planner FAM highlighting our three anchor cities of Missoula, Kalispell and Whitefish, drop me an email here.

Meet me in Montana,

DP

BE INSPIRED IN MONTANA: SAY HELLO TO KALISPELL AND WHITEFISH

Planning your next board retreat, association meeting, corporate event or group tour just got even easier. Beginning today, American Airlines is offering nonstop flights from Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW), Los Angeles (LAX), and Chicago (ORD) to Glacier Park International Airport (FCA) in Kalispell, in addition to nonstop flights from nine other cities throughout the U.S.  Access to Kalispell, Whitefish and Glacier National Park has never been easier. Here are five reasons why you and your attendees or clients should head to Western Montana’s Glacier Country for a fresh perspective and some fresh mountain air.

Oh, Montana. You are beautiful.

MOUNTAINS OF INSPIRATION

Montana’s wide-open spaces and endless blue skies are nothing short of inspiring. Mesmerizing natural landscapes of towering mountain peaks, vast wildflower meadows and famous winding rivers really spark creativity. Combine all that with charming small towns, exceptional lodging and amenities, meeting planning assistance, unique venues, state-of-the-art technology, transportation and, of course, adventure, and we’ve got everything you need for an unforgettable time.

A quick canoe paddle from Apgar Village in Glacier National Park.

UNIQUE MEETING VENUES

From mountain-side hotels and conference centers to lake-side resorts, authentic  and luxury guest ranches, B&Bs and other uniquely Montana locales, our lodging options combine warm welcomes, comfortable meeting spaces, cozy accommodations, cutting-edge technology and ease of access to world-class adventure for groups big and small.

Sit fireside, or poolside at the Lodge at Whitefish Lake in Whitefish.

WESTERN HOSPITALITY

We’re known for warm welcomes, and whether you’re looking to accommodate three, 30, or 300+ we’ll move mountains for you. You’ll find exceptional hospitality along with surprisingly incredible culinary and entertainment scenes. We offer meeting, convention and trip support like service referrals, visitor information, photographs and marketing materials, welcome letters, itineraries and activity planning. Our goal is to ensure you not only have a positive Montana meeting experience, or tour through the region, but one you’ll never forget.

The perfect backdrop for a Montana dinner event.

ACTIVITIES + ADVENTURE

Book a group stay at a national hotel chain, or, for a quintessentially Montana retreat experience, consider a lodge or guest ranch. Team-building activities abound here, too. Gather your group for a guided whitewater, floating or fly-fishing excursion; a hike in Glacier National Park; a local festival or a live music event; a bike, fat bike, ski or snowshoe adventure; or a brewery, distillery or cidery tour. Groups come together in Montana because our recreation opportunities are second to none.

Excited for their bus tour in Glacier National Park.

LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION

There are many reasons why Kalispell and Whitefish make a spectacular mountain meeting or group tour destination, but one of the top reasons is their proximity to what makes Western Montana so exemplary. Both are bustling communities, Kalispell has a historic downtown district that pairs Old West charm with a lively arts and culture scene, and is centrally located between Flathead Lake—the largest freshwater lake in the West—and the Crown of the Continent—Glacier National Park. Whitefish is one of Montana’s most charming mountain towns—located at the base of Whitefish Mountain Resort—full of boutiques shops, art galleries, cafes and eateries offering fresh local foods. Both have unmatched outdoor recreation opportunities beckoning from every direction. Explore wilderness areas, national forests, countless rivers and lakes, two Indian reservations, wildlife-viewing areas, museums, galleries and let’s not forget the local micro brew and distillery scene. You’ll find endless options for day trips and side excursions that let you take in everything Western Montana’s Glacier Country has to offer, making your meeting, convention or group tour extraordinary.

The ultimate board meeting location overlooking Flathead Lake.

For more information on meeting facilities in Western Montana, visit our Glacier Country meetings website. For more information on tour itinerary options, visit our Glacier Country tour operator’s website. If you need additional information, drop me a line; I’m always here to help.

See you in Montana,
DP

TOP 7 MEETING PLANNER QUESTIONS ABOUT WESTERN MONTANA

Meeting planners are looking for new destinations that offer experiential components to drive attendance, engagement and leave a lasting impression. Hello, Montana! I’ve gathered the top seven most frequently asked questions by meeting planners who have never been to Montana, about meeting in Montana, and why choosing Western Montana as a meetings destination is the right decision.

The perfect backdrop for a Montana dinner event.

Q: My attendees/clients are looking for more experiential destinations; what can Western Montana’s Glacier Country offer for offsite experiences?

A: Adding an outdoor adventure to your next meeting agenda in Western Montana’s Glacier Country is easy when you utilize Montana’s most notable and stunning adventure assets—rivers, mountains and lakes—along with the services of professional guides and outfitters. Whether the group wants have their own rodeo at a local arena or take a trail ride by horseback near Kalispell (read more about meetings in Kalispell here), a mountain biking excursion in Whitefish, float the Alberton Gorge near Missoula (learn more about meeting in Missoula here) or take a guided hike through Glacier National Park, Western Montana has professional, experienced and well-equipped guides to make group adventures easy, safe, educational and a whole lot of fun.

A group rafts the Middle Fork of the Flathead River.

Meeting attendees enjoy a horse-drawn wagon ride.

For other experiential adventures, here is a partial list; you choose the fun. When in season, pick sweet Flathead cherries from an orchard. Ride the alpine slide or take a gondola ride for spectacular views at Whitefish Mountain Resort. Cast a line into a blue-ribbon trout stream. Soak in a hot spring. Stand-up paddleboard or kayak on the largest freshwater lake in the West—Flathead Lake. Personalize a Glacier National Park trip with The Glacier Institute. Set up a tour and meet with an actual smokejumper and see what he/she wears when parachuting in to fight a wildfire. Enjoy a historical walking/architecture tour. Take in a small-town rodeo. Mine for sapphires. Experience a Broadway-caliber theater performance. Visit a local Flathead Valley lavender farm and make lavender sachets or lemonade. Meet and listen to a cowboy poet. Learn to line dance. Talk with a wrangler at a chuckwagon dinner. The list goes on. In fact, here are 102 things to do.

Create your own rodeo along with line dancing lessons in a horse arena.

Wild Goose Island on St. Mary Lake in Glacier National Park.

Chuckwagon dinners where farm to table food is served at every meal.

Q: Montana seems to be a little more difficult to get to; how would my attendees get there, and which airports would they fly into?

A: Traveling to Montana is easier than you might think. There are two airports servicing Western Montana’s Glacier Country – Missoula International Airport (MSO) and Glacier Park International Airport (FCA) in Kalispell—offering 13 direct flights from six major airline carriers. Once on the ground it takes between five and 15 minutes to get to the majority of the convention hotels located in Western Montana—most of them offering free shuttles. Montana also has train service (Amtrak’s Empire Builder) that runs from Chicago in the Midwest to Seattle and Portland on the West Coast with stops at seven stations in Western Montana, Whitefish being the most notable for meetings. If driving or needing car rentals, our well-maintained highway system offers virtually traffic free travel. Interstate 90 runs east and west through our region, and U.S. Highway 93 runs north and south.

Empire Builder near Glacier National Park. Photo: Amtrak.

Q: How expensive is the airfare to fly into Montana?

A: According to the most recent data released from the Bureau of Transportation Services flying into or out of Missoula International Airport based on average ticket prices are the lowest in the state of Montana with an average fare at $406. Flying into or out of Glacier Park International is slightly higher. American Airlines began service to Western Montana last year and, with the increased competition, ticket prices from Delta, Frontier, United and Alaska airlines have decreased substantially.

Fly direct from Dallas, Chicago and Los Angeles on American Airlines. Photo: American Airlines

Q: My clients want four- or five-star properties only; do you have those?

A: The simple answer is YES. We have some of the world’s finest luxury guest ranches that are perfect for retreats, executive board meetings and corporate incentive travel programs offering one-of-a-kind experiences. Triple Creek Ranch, located in Darby, is a member of the prestigious Relais & Châteaux properties and caters to adults only. The Ranch at Rock Creek, located in Philipsburg, is the world’s first Forbes five-star guest ranch resort and offers world-class experiences. The largest guest ranch in Western Montana is The Resort at Paws Up, located on 37,000 acres just east of Missoula in Greenough and offers luxurious riverside glamping along with lavish guest homes and à la carte activities for up to 200 guests. Located in Whitefish, The Lodge at Whitefish Lake is the only four-star hotel resort in Montana.

The Ranch at Rock Creek’s Buckle Barn.

Sit fireside at the Lodge at Whitefish Lake in Whitefish.

Glamping and making s’mores around the fire at Resort at Paws Up.

While not rated by Forbes, other notable retreat locations that will give your attendees all the Montana feels include Flathead Lake Lodge in Bigfork, Wilderness Club located in Eureka, Quinn’s Hot Springs Resort located in Paradise, and Dancing Spirit Lodge in Columbia Falls. If a smaller lodge retreat is what you’re after, consider Laughing Horse Lodge in Swan Lake, or Hidden Moose Lodge and Kandahar Lodge in Whitefish. For a more downtown retreat, stay at the new Residence Inn by Marriott at the Mercantile in downtown Missoula, surrounded by boutiques, cafés, breweries, distilleries and fine dining options.

Guests can relax around the stone fireplace at Hidden Moose Lodge.

Private entrances amid the blossoms in the central garden at Laughing Horse Lodge.

Q: How large is the convention center in Western Montana?

A: Western Montana does not have your typical convention center with a hotel attached, however, we do have significant ballroom and flexible breakout space at convention hotels located in our larger cities of KalispellMissoula and Whitefish. Missoula boasts the largest meeting space in the region, with 33,400 square feet of flexible space at the University of Montana along with a full convention services staff to make the conference easy. Missoula’s largest convention hotel, which is a Hilton property has 22,000 square feet of flexible space. Kalispell’s largest convention hotel, again a Hilton property, offers 14,000 square feet of function space, while Whitefish has two convention hotels—The Lodge at Whitefish Lake and Grouse Mountain Lodge, with roughly 11,000 square feet of space at both properties. Visit our meetings website to see more options.

Choose from unique to conventional meeting spaces.

Q: Montana seems remote; do you have all the modern conveniences we need for a conference?

A: Western Montana has all the modern technology and conveniences without the spendy price tag found in tier one and two cities. Transportation: Most convention hotels offer free shuttle services from the airport and free parking for those renting or driving a car. Uber and Lyft ridesharing services are available. Wi-Fi is offered free in guest rooms and some conference spaces along with affordable rates on AV and video conferencing needs. Attendees don’t have to pay extra for business centers, fitness centers or pools. There is no statewide sales tax in Montana, so that final BEO will only have a service charge not additional taxes on food, AV or meeting services (note: Whitefish has is a 3% resort tax). BONUS: Montana’s lodging tax is 7% currently (8% starting January 2020), which is half of some of our neighboring states.

The food is what surprises people the most about Montana. It is tremendous.

Q: Do you have a DMC (Destination Management Company) in Western Montana to help with my all my meeting planning needs on-site?

A: Yes, we do. MNW Destinations is located in Western Montana but also helps plan conferences all over the country. They have offices in the Flathead Valley (covering Kalispell, Whitefish and Bigfork) and in Missoula. They specialize in helping companies and associations pull off the perfect Montana meeting.

An outdoor dinner at the Conrad Mansion in Kalispell.

For more information on meeting facilities in Western Montana, visit our Glacier Country meetings website. For more information on pre and post itineraries or if you need additional information, drop me a line; I’m always here to help.

Meet in Montana,
DP

THE BEST GUIDED TOURS IN WESTERN MONTANA

How many of you would rather see or experience a destination with a guide? Visitors usually say they get more out of a destination with a local expert. In Western Montana’s Glacier Country, we also know—especially for the international traveler—Montana can be a little intimidating as a destination. You’ve seen pictures of the expansive landscapes and viewed videos of the wildlife—yes, we have bears. And that big sky we talk about? During the day it’s stunning, and at night it produces a vast amount of stars (and a whole lot of darkness). Not to worry. We have experts to make your trip fun, exhilarating, experiential, informative and, most of all, memorable. Here in Western Montana the best way to explore is with an expert in the field. We’ve rounded up some of our most utilized guided tours in Western Montana’s Glacier Country to make your visit to Montana seamless and absolutely unforgettable.

Climb aboard Sinopah for spectacular views of Glacier National Park.

Hands down our most well-known tour is on an iconic red bus through Glacier National Park. Travel the famous Going-to-the-Sun Road—an engineering marvel and historic landmark—in a vintage 1930s restored bus. The buses seat 17 people each and have canvas roll-top roofs. The tour guide driver is called a Jammer, because, back in the early days, they used to have to jam the gears to get the buses to climb the steep hill grade. Tours depart from locations on the east and west side of the park and offer different tour times and lengths. Advance reservations are highly recommended in July and August.

Red bus tours are ready to show off the scenery in Glacier National Park.

Are you curious about American Indian culture? Take advantage of a tour with Sun Tours in Glacier National Park and the adjacent Blackfeet Indian Reservation. Sun Tour guides are all enrolled members of the Blackfeet Nation and tell the story from the Blackfeet perspective, explaining what the lands—now known as Glacier National Park—have meant to them and their culture. Many of the peaks, valleys and waterfalls are named after bygone Blackfeet tribal members.

Tour guests take in the views along the Going-to-the-Sun Road with Sun Tours.

Your trip to Glacier National Park is not complete without a tour from Glacier Park Boat Company on one of the many lakes within the park. Climb aboard a historic wooden vessel, cruise through pristine glacial water, and listen to the captain or a park ranger provide commentary. Boat tours are offered on five lakes in Glacier National Park including Lake McDonald, St. Mary Lake, Lake Josephine, Swiftcurrent Lake and Two Medicine Lake.

All aboard the DeSmet with Glacier Park Boat Company on Lake MacDonald.

For the animal lovers, Swan Mountain Outfitters offers guided llama trekking and horseback riding. Llama trekking adds something unique and novel to your Montana vacation plans. It doesn’t matter if you’re a novice or an experienced hiker, Swan Mountain llama trekking offers several options from two-hour treks to multiday adventures. Many agree that there is no better way to view Glacier National Park than to see the sites while horseback riding. For those visitors, Swan Mountain Outfitters guided horseback tours are a Glacier National Park vacation highlight.

A guest enjoys the scenery from the saddle during a trail ride with Swan Mountain Outfitters.

Trekking with llamas is one of the most unique hiking trips you will ever take.

Spring runoff is the perfect time to ride the rapids with Great Northern Whitewater Raft on the Middle Fork of the Flathead River or with Montana River Guides in the Alberton Gorge on the Clark Fork River just west of Missoula. Many of Montana’s rafting companies start offering rafting trips in May and June when spring runoff is at its peak and offer scenic rafting tours later in the summer. If you’re looking for an adrenaline-pumping adventure, you will have a blast with these two guides. Find additional options on our outfitters and guides page.

Ride the rapids with Great Northern. Photo: Great Northern Whitewater Raft

Montana River Guides offers fun in the Alberton Gorge. Photo: Montana River Guides 

Glacier Guides was chosen as the exclusive backpacking guide service in Glacier National Park. They offer a wide range of adventure hiking options. All trips are ecologically friendly, and family or custom adventures are available. New this year they are offering guided half-day nature walks on Tuesdays and Thursdays, May through September. With more than 700 miles of trails, Glacier National Park is a hiker’s dream.

Hiking in Glacier National Park. Photo: Glacier Guides

Prior to the seasonal opening of the Going-to-the-Sun Road to vehicular traffic, it’s open to cyclists. Biking in Glacier National Park is one of the most exhilarating things to do in Montana. The plowed portions of the road are open only to biker and hiker traffic until mid to late June, and pedaling a bike up the nearly empty, quiet, Going-to-the-Sun Road is nothing short of spectacular. Glacier Guides offers guided biking tours providing visitors with a bike, helmet, backpack, lunch, and a guide to explain all there is to see and hear along the way.

Biking the Going-to-the-Sun Road.

Thanks to the film “A River Runs Through It,” with scenes filmed in Montana, this part of the country has become well-known for its blue-ribbon trout streams and rivers. Whether you are a beginner or have been fly-fishing for years, it’s a great idea to enlist one of our expert fly-fishing guides to take you down one of those picturesque winding rivers in search of your next trophy catch. Glacier Anglers offers lessons and trips near Glacier National Park on the North Fork and Middle Fork of the Flathead River. Grizzly Hackle offers float and wading trips on Rock Creek and the Blackfoot, Clark Fork and Bitterroot rivers.

Fly fishing with Glacier Anglers near Glacier National Park. Photo: Glacier Anglers

Fishing the Bitterroot River with Grizzly Hackle.

Flathead Lake is the largest freshwater lake in the western United States, capturing the title from Lake Tahoe by a few miles of shoreline. What better way to see this beautiful lake and the magnificent Mission and Swan mountain ranges than by boat? Cruise past the natural islands in the lake, the largest being Wild Horse Island—now a day-use state park—and witness where the Flathead Indians were reported to have pastured their horses to keep them from being stolen by other tribes. There are still a few wild horses on Wild Horse Island, along with bighorn sheep, mule deer and bald eagles. Far West Boat Tours allows you to book a charter for groups or take advantage of the daily summer schedule departing at 1:00 p.m. from the dock at the Lakeside Marina on the northeast side of the lake. The daily cruise is narrated by the Far West crew who will explain how the natural lake was carved out by glaciers and how it is rated the cleanest lake in the U.S. Plus, they’ll tell you what kind of water species call the lake home. Find additional boating opportunities here.

Sunset cruise on Flathead Lake. Photo: Far West

The microbrew industry is more than alive and well in Montana with 30 breweries in Western Montana’s Glacier Country alone. Tour Missoula’s finest breweries by jumping on Thirst Gear (a bike with 15 seats) and use pedal power. If you are looking for a less strenuous way to visit our breweries, book a brewery tour with Montana Adventure Shuttle. They will escort you to the largest brewery in Montana, Big Sky Brewing, to taste their famous Moose Drool. Another stop includes the local-favorite KettleHouse Brewing Company for a taste of their famous Cold Smoke® Scotch Ale. River City Brews Rafting Tours lets you fill up a growler with your favorite brew and enjoy either the Blackfoot or Clark Fork rivers while sipping suds with 12 of your friends, or strangers who will become friends by the end of the tour. Big Sky Brews Cruise offers tours to the expanding brewery scene in Kalispell, Columbia Falls and Whitefish.

Peddle pub tour by Thirst Gear.

Brewery tours with Montana Adventure Shuttle.

Gearing up with River City Brews Rafting on the Clark Fork River.

For more information on additional tours, guides and outfitters we’ve got you covered here. For more information on where to stay throughout Western Montana, visit our tour operator website. If you need additional tour itinerary assistance, feel free to drop me a line; I’m always here to help.

Happy Adventuring!

DP