Tag Archives: Guest post

GUEST POST: 5 REASONS GUEST RANCHES ARE PERFECT FOR CORPORATE TRAVEL

One of the most common responses I get when talking to meeting planners and companies about hosting their meetings, retreats or incentive trips at Flathead Lake Lodge is ‘Huh…never thought about a guest ranch’. In an industry where success is based on the perception of the experience by leadership and the company, new can seem risky. So, head West with me and let’s walk through this risk and see how a place like Flathead Lake Lodge is suited to far exceed your meeting expectations.

1: Service. It all starts with service. No planner wants to put together a package that doesn’t provide their company or client great service. Often times this is measured in stars and plaques. Where Flathead Lake Lodge (a recipient of many stars and plaques) and other great guest ranches go even farther is the intangibles of western hospitality and the personal connection. Flathead Lake Lodge (FLL) and other family-owned ranches are hosting your company at their ranch, which is their home. This level of personal service, commitment and care cannot be matched by hotels and resorts relying on training models and hired staff.

Farm to table food served at every meal.

A great example I like to share is about a corporate group we hosted at FLL last fall. My father and I are at the fireplace in the Main Lodge every morning where we share a cup of coffee with our guests. We were talking about how the elk in the ranch’s preserve were starting to bugle and become more active, awesome to see! Before long we had talked enough people into jumping into our vintage military vehicle to take an off-road tour through the preserve to see the elk. This isn’t an extra charge—it’s simply natural, personal service. We want you to enjoy our ranch, and our staff embodies that ownership. We work with our guests and our planners every hour of the day to make their experience personally awesome. It’s why companies like Ford, General Mills, Red Bull, Caterpillar, Pepsi, Coke, YPO and more all have discovered Flathead Lake Lodge and keep coming back.

The grand fireplace in the lodge.

2: Location. Montana, to some, can seem about as far out there as Alaska! The good news is it is just as beautiful and a heck of a lot easier to get to. There are direct flights from nine major cities (Seattle, Portland, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, San Francisco/Oakland, Minneapolis, Chicago, Salt Lake City and Denver), not to mention great charter service.

We’re located in the northwest part of the state on the shores of Flathead Lake, the largest natural freshwater lake west of the Mississippi. And in case you’re wondering, yes, Flathead Lake is BIGGER that Tahoe (and cleaner too!). Glacier National Park is just 35 minutes up the road, the Bob Marshall Wilderness is out the back door and there are five major rivers nearby, so there is no shortage of outdoor recreation. In addition, the award-winning artisan village of Bigfork is 1 mile away. A 2,000-acre ranch, on a huge pristine lake, surrounded by mountains, a mile from a great town…trust me when I say we can find something for everyone to enjoy. Which reminds me…

Boating on Flathead Lake.

3: Recreation. One of a meeting planner’s hardest challenges is creating an itinerary for a group of people that has something for everyone to enjoy. This is where Flathead Lake Lodge is unparalleled. Being a ranch on a lake, we have the largest on-site recreation programming of any ranch or resort in the country. From horseback riding to sailing historic 51’ sailing sloops and mountain biking to massages—and everything in between—we work to create custom-tailored packages for your company and clients. Then, at the end of the day, we all share our day’s stories in the Saddlesore Saloon.

Belly up to the bar at the Saddlesore Saloon.

4: Exclusivity & 5: Intimacy. If you were to ask for a Flathead Lake Lodge referral, the top talking points that continually come up are service and the intangibles of exclusivity and intimacy. The funny thing is the later two are often overlooked and my honest opinion is they’re the most important yet. The ability to have your company and clients ‘take over’ the ranch creates an atmosphere and camaraderie very rarely experienced in corporate travel. The cabins are historic, cozy and comfortable with no TVs, which keeps people outside. Dining is done family style. Many of the intangible operations of Flathead Lake Lodge are designed to engage people, force interactions and encourage relationship building, which all contribute to our ranch having a 70 percent return rate. It is an environment that brings your company together, creates engagement, conversations and relationships. Simply put, it is like the whole company going to summer camp (a really nice summer camp), and for those of us who took summer adventures ask kids, we have lots of great memories to look back on.

Cozy comfort in our guest cabins.

Are you willing to take the risk yet? I’ll be honest, points 1 – 4 can be replicated. Service can be taught and recreation programmed. However, I’m confident our 73-year history and caliber of returning guests exemplify how Flathead Lake Lodge is able to combine these 5 trip factors unlike anywhere you’ve been. And we’re not alone. Many ranches, because of how personal their connection to the operation is are able to combine these 5 factors in a unique way that allows companies to come together through new adventures and grow. It may sound risky to trade in hotel rooms for open spaces, but sometimes all we need is a new perspective.

Thanks for reading! We hope to see you in Montana soon. For more information on Flathead Lake Lodge visit: www.flatheadlakelodge.com. For RFP’s and meeting planning questions please don’t hesitate to give me a shout at chase@flatheadlakelodge.com or 406.837.4391.

Cheers!
Chase Averill

3rd  Generation Owner | Flathead Lake Lodge

 

Guest Post: Winter in Montana – Board Room to Bucket List

Throughout my career, I have had the pleasure of producing hundreds of meetings and events in some of the world’s greatest destinations. While the purpose, scope and locations of these gatherings have varied, all of them were designed to inspire excellence, trust and community while nurturing new thinking about business relationships and value creation. More often than not, I aspired to showcase the event destination in a creative way, as we provided a unique and enriching experience for the attendees. As planners, we didn’t want to duplicate our company’s conference room in a different locale; we wanted to draw from the culture of the destination and inspire them through novel experiences, like skiing after a morning meeting or receiving a handmade box filled with local treats at turn down.

Taking in the view of Montana from the "top of the world" at The Ranch at Rock Creek.

Taking in the view of Montana from the “top of the world” at The Ranch at Rock Creek.

Throughout the last decade, my passion for event planning and marketing has continued to blossom because of that essential, powerful ingredient—experiential travel. After living and working in many US cities, I am grateful to call Montana my home, especially since Montana is a place where travelers are instantly captured by a sense of wonder. Montana, through my lens, is an extraordinary, transformative destination for everyone from homebodies to globetrotters; a place where bucket-list experiences are checked off left and right.

In my role as marketing director at a luxury guest ranch in Western Montana, I see the transformations happen on a daily basis. It’s magical when a guest fulfills a dream to learn how to fly-fish or discovers that unplugging in the wide-open spaces brings their family closer. There are many quiet and exhilarating moments to be relished when guests and staff find themselves bursting with appreciation of the beauty and peace of our American West at The Ranch at Rock Creek. 

Inside the main lodge at The Ranch at Rock Creek.

Inside the ranch’s main lodge.

The profound number of experiences to be discovered throughout every season is very meaningful for planners and hosts who aim to inspire their attendees with exceptional—even magical— company events. As the Montana winter approaches, here are some thoughts on why groups should consider the natural riches of the Treasure State for business retreats and meetings.

Winter at The Ranch at Rock Creek.

Winter at The Ranch at Rock Creek.

Limitless Outdoor Adventure
Not only is Montana stunningly beautiful when the snow falls, but it also offers a wide range of outdoor recreational opportunities. Among Montana’s diverse terrain are canopied forests and glistening meadows to explore by boot, snowshoe, ski, sleigh and snowmobile. I encourage planners to think about how wintertime outdoor recreation can bring attendees together to challenge themselves and each other. Our state boasts miles and miles of accessible cross-country skiing and snowmobiling trails. Some travelers are surprised to learn that Montana offers epic downhill skiing at world-class resorts and family-owned hidden gems—both with virtually no lift lines. We are partial to Discovery Ski Area just outside of Philipsburg, one of Montana’s most historic towns.

Skiing at Discovery Ski Area.

Skiing at Discovery Ski Area.

Near Discovery is The Ranch at Rock Creek, where I hang my professional hat. Sitting on 6,600 awe-inspiring acres that become a group’s playground during the length of their stay, The Ranch at Rock Creek is an all-inclusive luxury guest ranch located halfway between Glacier and Yellowstone national parks in the heart of Western Montana. Our guests enjoy twice-daily guided seasonal adventures, while groups from around the world travel to our remote ranching valley to reconnect, team build and conduct business. Their professional pursuits are infused with experiences like horseback riding through a meadow and casting a fishing line for the big one on the banks of our pristine trout stream, Rock Creek (home to 2,000 fish per river mile).

Our robust outdoor activity program includes over 20 year-round activities, while in the winter guests venture out to snowshoe, cross-country ski, ice skate, horseback ride, target shoot, sled, play hockey or bundle up on a sleigh ride or snowcat trek.

Guests enjoy a snoscat tour.

Guests enjoy a snowcat tour.

When working with groups to plan their on-ranch activities, our on-site coordinators customize experiences to suit the needs of your attendees, which means a group could snowshoe to a remote creek-side location for a gourmet picnic lunch, brainstorm around the campfire after dinner or team up in a survivor-skills competition in the forest.

The perfect gathering place after dinner.

The perfect outdoor gathering place after dinner.

Enrichment Through the Land and Lifestyle
For those who enjoy the stories of the legendary West, Montana is the perfect stop. Big Sky Country honors its history through the celebration and preservation of our pioneer spirit and American Indian heritage, while ranches and farms remain strong cornerstones of the Montana landscape and lifestyle.

The chef prepares an outdoor lunch.

The chef prepares an outdoor lunch.

Throughout the state, travelers discover thriving farm-to-table culinary experiences, due to the many hard-working ranchers, farmers and purveyors that make their home here. Visitors to Montana often have the opportunity to embark on a new epicurean journey—tasting foods for the first time such as elk, venison, morel mushrooms and huckleberries. At The Ranch at Rock Creek, our Executive Chef Josh Drage and his team thoughtfully select meats, produce, dairy and delicacies from over 50 Montana purveyors as he serves the best of Montana ranch cuisine paired with regional wines and award-winning local brews, including Philipsburg Brewing Company.

On-site bartenders create Montana-inspired cocktails.

Cocktails feature handcrafted Montana spirits and local ingredients. 

Besides reaping the bounty of the land, Montana guests can immerse themselves in the richness of the region when they explore the national parks, dip into thermal hot springs and trek around ghost towns throughout the year.

Reconnect in Nature
During most winter days, the Montana sky is filled with bright sunshine and puffy white clouds, allowing you to see for miles and miles across the Northern Rocky Mountains. Across the ranges and lower hills and rivers, you may spot elk, deer, moose, bighorn sheep and bald eagles, while in our rivers and lakes you’ll find a diverse selection of fish. Like many corners of Western Montana, The Ranch at Rock Creek is nestled among several mountain ranges and wilderness areas, which means our ranch is free of light pollution and offers incredible opportunities to see Montana’s star-filled and immense sky.
Sidenote: Read more about ways to reconnect in nature in “Cross It Off Your Bucket List,” a blog we published earlier this year.

A serene setting at the ranch.

A serene setting at the ranch.

As many business executives are attached to devices, The Ranch at Rock Creek offers meeting attendees the chance to unplug and immerse themselves in natural surroundings and to become rejuvenated as they watch the moonlight bathing the glistening snow or a never-ending sea of stars after the fire goes out.

The Milky Way in Glacier National Park. Photo: GNP Flickr

The Milky Way in Glacier National Park. Photo: GNP Flickr

Montana Hospitality on a Cold Winter Night
When I moved to Montana, I had no idea how helpful and welcoming my neighbors would be. It’s true that the warmth of Montana hospitality shines as a standout feature of the travel experience. Around here, our team believes that our guests should feel as if they are being invited into the family home as they experience authentic Montana.

The inside of the Buckle Barn, a great meeting space at The Ranch at Rock Creek.

The inside of the Buckle Barn, a beautiful and comfortable meeting space at The Ranch at Rock Creek.

Executive meeting hosts can absolutely feel confident that their attendees will be made to feel welcome and comfortable in Big Sky Country. It may sound simple with no glitz or glitter, but after a day of team building in the outdoors, guests find great enjoyment gathering around a grand stone fireplace sharing stories and toasting with a Moscow mule. Plus, during winter months, many resorts—including ours— invite event planners to consider special offers to encourage corporate groups and help them experience the best winter has to offer in Western Montana.

If you are in search of new exhilarating adventures, warm hospitality and spectacular settings in the American West to complement your business meeting objectives, we hope to welcome you to the Treasure State very soon.

Happy trails and meet me in Montana,
Heather Rue

The author, Heather Rue

The author, Heather Rue

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

About the author: Heather is the director of marketing at The Ranch at Rock Creek in Philipsburg, Montana where she leads the cross-channel marketing efforts to build awareness of and tell stories about The Ranch’s exceptional Montana travel experiences. She has produced hundreds of corporate, nonprofit and cause-marketing events and programs. Heather is active in her local community and is raising country kids, chickens and labs while soaking up all life in Montana has to offer. 

 

Guest Post: A New Dining Experience for Groups in West Glacier, Montana

For large tours groups who are looking for dining destinations when visiting Montana’s Glacier National Park, it can sometimes be difficult to find a location that can seat a large group. That’s where one of West Glacier’s newest group dining and meeting venues comes in. Meet the Park View Pavilion. Conveniently located on the doorstep of Glacier National Park, this beautifully crafted 2,900-square-foot covered log pavilion delivers incredible views of the Livingston Range in Glacier Park while creating a private, intimate setting and warm ambiance for guests to enjoy.

The Park View Pavilion has ample parking for vehicles and buses.

The Park View Pavilion has ample parking for vehicles and buses.

The welcoming entrance to the pavilion.

The welcoming entrance to the pavilion.

The Park View Pavilion was built in spring 2014 and has quickly become a desired location for tour groups and other large gatherings looking for a unique dining experience away from the crowds. With its easy accessibility off Highway 2 and amenities that include bathrooms, tabled seating for up to 200 guests and a large parking area (perfect for tour buses), the pavilion is a great dining option for your tour group. In the event of inclement weather, the pavilion is set up with weather-proof side walls and propane heaters to warm the space. An added bonus: the weather-proof walls provide tour groups the opportunity and flexibility to host dining events here in spring and fall.

The inside of the pavilion.

The inside of the pavilion.

Whether your group is interested in a casual lunch of sandwiches or hamburgers or a fine-dining experience with grilled steak, salmon and chicken accompanied by delicious appetizers, sides, salads and desserts, the chefs at Glacier Outdoor Center are able to cater menu offerings to the needs of your group.

A BBQ with a view.

A BBQ with a view.

A buffet-style setup inside the pavilion.

A buffet-style setup inside the pavilion.

If your group is looking for an activity to accompany their meal or just an activity alone, Glacier Raft Company also offers group rafting and fishing trips. As the longest running river outfitter in the state, Glacier Raft can customize trips based on your group’s desires and abilities. All trips run on the rivers that border Glacier National Park and have unparalleled scenery to go along with fun on the water and entertaining guides. Trips can be customizes and range from a few hours to an entire day. Plus, no experience is necessary and all gear is provided.

A group rafts the Middle Fork of the Flathead River.

A group rafts the Middle Fork of the Flathead River.

For more information on group rates, group dining and reservations on the edge of Glacier National Park, visit our website or call us at 406.888.5454.

Meet you in Montana,
Cassie Baldelli

The author, Cassie Baldelli

The author, Cassie Baldelli

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

About the author: Cassie Baldelli is co-owner of Glacier Raft Company. Her father Darwon Stoneman started the company in 1976 and in 2012, Cassie and her husband Jeff officially became partners with her parents Darwon and Terri. When not at the office, they love being out on the rivers and enjoying the beautiful place they call home.

Guest Post: Top Unexpected Offerings at Montana State Parks

Montana is home to 55 state parks that offer visitors to the region plentiful options for swimming, boating, hiking, camping and fishing. And here in Big Sky Country, 21 state parks are found in Western Montana’s Glacier Country and offer travelers, especially FIT visitors, distinct experiences in Montana’s wide-open spaces.

A late summer sunset at Placid Lake State Park.

A late summer sunset at Placid Lake State Park.

To help ensure your clients have a memorable stay in Montana, here are the top 5 unexpected offerings and experiences at Montana State Parks in Glacier Country.

1) Stay in a yurt on the shores of majestic Flathead Lake at Big Arm State Park
Big Arm State Park offers yurts for a unique camping experience on the shores of Flathead Lake—the largest freshwater lake in the West. The yurts sleep four or six people and are equipped with Montana-made custom log furniture. Easy lake access and hiking trails deepen this incredible Montana experience.

The yurt at Big Arm State Park.

A yurt at Big Arm State Park.

2) See a herd of bighorn sheep, wild horses and mule deer at Wild Horse Island State Park
Wild Horse Island State Park is located on Flathead Lake and offers world-class wildlife viewing opportunities for bighorn sheep, mule deer and a herd of wild horses. A hike along the self-guided interpretive trail takes you back in time to the early 1900s when homesteaders tried to settle the island. Several companies in the area offer guided boat tours to Wild Horse Island State Park from Bigfork, Lakeside and Polson, making it easy for your clients to visit the largest island on the lake.

Bighorn sheep graze on Wild Horse Island.

Bighorn sheep graze on Wild Horse Island.

3) Take a relaxing hike (minutes from downtown Kalispell) at Lone Pine State Park
With 7.5 miles of trails and within 2 miles of the heart of Kalispell, Lone Pine State Park offers an easy way to experience the outdoors without going “off the grid.” From the park, your clients will be able to see an incredible panoramic view of the entire Flathead Valley, including Glacier National Park, Flathead Lake and the Whitefish and Swan Mountains. Lone Pine State Park welcomes hikers, bikers, horseback riders and dog walkers to explore its trails. Plus, they host a number of educational programs at the visitor center. The park offers a wide array of seasonal interpretive programs that include birding, wildflower hikes and Junior Ranger programs.

Taking in the view of Kalispell from Lone Pine State Park.

Taking in the view of Kalispell from Lone Pine State Park.

4) Trace the footsteps of the Lewis and Clark Expedition at Travelers’ Rest State Park
Each summer from mid-June through Labor Day, travelers to Montana can join one of our local experts at Travelers Rest State Park in Lolo for a guided tour of the only archaeologically-verified campsite of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Guides will give a behind-the-scenes look at the scientific research that validated the site, all while weaving the story of the Lewis and Clark Expeditions travels to and from Travelers’ Rest in 1805 and 1806. While hiking along the short loop trail to the campsite, visitors will pass through the rich cottonwood forest that lines Lolo Creek, look for and learn about local birds and wildlife and have the opportunity to learn more about the Salish people, who called this valley home for thousands of years before the arrival of Lewis and Clark.

A historical reenactment in Lolo.

A historical reenactment in Lolo.

5) Paddleboard at Whitefish Lake State Park
Recreating on picturesque Whitefish Lake couldn’t be easier that it is at Whitefish Lake State Park.  Relax on the park’s white sandy beach or take advantage of a myriad or water toy rentals, including stand-up paddleboards, canoes and kayaks.This incredible park is located next to the resort town of Whitefish, Montana and is know for its easy access to outdoor recreation and Whitefish Mountain Resort, as well as its unique shops, restaurants and nightlife.

Enjoying the water on Whitefish Lake.

Enjoying the water on Whitefish Lake.

For more ideas on unique opportunities at Montana State Parks, visit our website or check out our instagram account here.

See you at a Montana State Park,
Pat Doyle

The author, Pat Doyle

The author, Pat Doyle

 

 

 

 

 

About the author: Pat Doyle is the Marketing and Communications Manager with Montana State Parks. In his free time, Pat’s always busy planning his next Montana adventure.

Guest Post: Best of the West; Insider Tips for Visiting Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming

Seeing the states of Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming by motorcycle, rental car, or motorhome is the most popular and practical way to go. I’m often envious of the people I’ve talked to over the years, who are able to take two – three weeks for a holiday to the Rocky Mountain West. Having grown up in Wyoming, I’ve traveled the region extensively and can still say with certainty that I have not seen or experienced it all.

Hitting the open road in Montana.

Hitting the open road in Montana.

These four states make up the Real America Region and are intrinsically connected to America’s western history and include many of the country’s greatest national treasures, including the world’s first national parkYellowstone; the crown jewel of the continent—Glacier; the only national park named after an American President—Theodore Roosevelt; and the symbol of American democracy—Mount Rushmore; all in one trip.

A red bus tour is a popular way to explore Glacier National Park.

Taking in the view of Glacier National Park.

Many experienced and well-respected tour operators and travel agents specialize in this region and work to provide their clients the best possible experiences the West has to offer. With a region as vast as Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming (Montana alone is the size of Germany), it’s easy to miss lesser-known attractions and experiences. 

Follow this LINK to download our Best of the West itinerary through the Real America. This 21-day journey is a top route offered by tour operators and travel agents across the globe. And if that’s not enough to get you started, I’ve rounded up a few additional tips to get you off the beaten path.

Getting Here: It’s Easier Than You Think
Direct flights and easy driving conditions make it ideal to fly directly into and out of major international hubs like Denver, Colorado, or Minneapolis/St. Paul/Bloomington, Minnesota, and rent a car or RV to take your family through the Real America. Denver is one of my favorite U.S. cities and provides an incredible Rocky Mountain welcome with sunshine, blue skies and a scenic mountain backdrop as you step off the plane. After 10 hours on a flight, that can make all of the difference! Take a stroll down the 16th Street pedestrian mall or get geared up with a your cowboy hat and boots at Rockmount Ranchwear; a Denver mainstay where western shirts with snap buttons were first introduced.

Wyoming: Hidden treasure at Bighorn Canyon; Prairie Dog Town at Devils Tower
As you head north from Denver, you’ll be headed to my home state of Wyoming. One hidden attraction on the route between Yellowstone and the South Dakota’s Black Hills is Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area. Opportunities for bicycling, boat tours, camping, fishing, hiking, horseback riding and wildlife watching are all abundant. I remember taking a boat cruise with Hidden Treasure Charters in what turned out to be awful weather on a spring day. I left, though, with lasting memories of Captain Mark navigating us through a magnificent canyon that I never knew existed.
Sidenote: Bighorn Canyon is the 3rd largest canyon in the United States and is largely unknown.

Touring Bighorn Canyon with Hidden Treasure Charters.

Touring Bighorn Canyon with Hidden Treasure Charters.

As you you continue to traverse your way through Wyoming, you may see more wildlife than people. As is the case in the northeast corner bordering South Dakota at Devils Tower National Monument. Here you’ll find America’s first national monument, an astounding geologic feature that protrudes out of the rolling prairie. But you’ll also find a colony of prairie dogs that are worth visiting if you truly want to be entertained. These little guys are cute, put a smile on your face and will even pose for your photos, but please do not feed them.

Getting the perfect shot of prairie dogs at Devils Tower.

Getting the perfect shot of prairie dogs at Devils Tower.

Montana: Mine for Sapphires in Philipsburg; Hike the M in Missoula
North of Wyoming is the big sky state of Montana. It certainly lives up to its name with the expanses of prairie valleys that extend into mountain peaks that seem to reach to the sky. One of my best memories of Montana is visiting Philipsburg, a charming small town on a scenic mountain route on your way from Yellowstone to Glacier National Park. Take scenic route Highway 1 from Butte to Missoula and plan to stop in Philipsburg at The Sapphire Gallery—the only all sapphire and ruby store in the U.S.

My best memory of Philipsburg: this pinky ring (that I mined myself) and gifted to my wife for her first Mother’s Day. It’s one of our most cherished family heirlooms.

My best memory of Philipsburg: this pinky ring (that I mined myself) and gifted to my wife for her first Mother’s Day. It’s one of our most cherished family heirlooms.

Continuing on your voyage to Glacier National Park, make sure to overnight in Missoula and hike the ‘M’ on Mount Sentinel, preferably in the early morning. I’ve done this twice now and if I lived there, would probably do it every day. It’s a short hike, with the help of 11 switchbacks, and offers an incredible view of the entire valley and surrounding mountains. Nice way to burn off a few of those vacation calories that are likely starting to add up from the varied culinary offerings en route.

The view of Missoula from the 'M' on Mount Sentinel.

The view of Missoula from the ‘M’ on Mount Sentinel.

South Dakota: Swim Evans Plunge in Hot Springs; See Mountain Goats at Mount Rushmore
Western South Dakota is home to Mount Rushmore and Badlands National Park, among many other attractions. A family favorite of ours is Evans Plunge in the southern Black Hills town of Hot Springs. Swim, splash and soak in the warm mineral waters that both Lakota and Cheyenne American Indians utilized for their healing properties centuries ago. The best part: the hot springs are all natural and have no additional chemicals added to them.

Evan's Plunge indoor pool, a favorite of my 10-year-old daughter.

Evans Plunge indoor pool, a favorite of my 10-year-old daughter.

In the central Black Hills—and at one of the most iconic spots along the Best of the West tour—is Mount Rushmore National Memorial. My best advice: after getting a picture of American presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln, take a hike on the Presidential Trail for a chance to see local wildlife and a different perspective of this iconic American attraction.

Great faces + mountain goats = a match made in South Dakota.

Great faces + mountain goats = a match made in South Dakota.

North Dakota: Pitchfork Fondue in Medora; Geographic Center of North America in Rugby
Hands down, North Dakota’s main attraction is Theodore Roosevelt National Park. A tract of land set aside in honor of the “Conservation President” and someone who exemplified preservation and the safeguarding of natural wonders, this pristine park has no accommodations or shopping but instead offers untouched nature and wildlife. After taking a scenic drive through the park, where you’ll likely see bison and horses, plan to spend an evening sampling a uniquely western meal at the Pitchfork Steak Fondue and Broadway-style entertainment at the Medora Musical. Every evening in the summer, chefs load steaks onto pitchforks and fondue them western style. Savor your meal outside in front of the picturesque badlands of North Dakota before being treated to a live musical performed by members of The Coal Diggers from the Medora Musical.

Medora Musical with Theodore Roosevelt National Park as its backdrop.

Medora Musical with Theodore Roosevelt National Park as its backdrop.

As you wrap your trip up and head east through legendary North Dakota, make sure you stop for a quick photo in Rugby. This is the Geographic Center of North America and makes for a fun conversation piece. The center is marked with a monument and lies at 48 degrees 21’19” N; 99 degrees 59’ 57” W.

Standing at the center of North America.

Standing at the center of North America.

Happy Trails: No Goodbyes; See You Next Time! 
At the end of your voyage, take time to visit St. Paul, Minnesota, a city steeped in American history. Explore the city’s Prohibition-era gangster past. Be sure to visit the James J. Hill House, an American Gilded Age mansion on Summit Avenue. The mansion is unreal and it was incredible to see what a railroad tycoon lived like in the late 1880s. On your last stop, make sure to visit the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota, before flying out on one of several direct flights to Europe and other major hubs.

See you in #RealAmericaUSA,
Mathias Jung

The author, Mathias Jung

The author, Mathias Jung

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

About the author: Mathias was raised, educated and well established in Wyoming, where he is owner and CEO of Rocky Mountain International in Cheyenne, Wyoming. He spends most of his free time with friends and family and you’ll regularly find him backpacking throughout the Rockies or at a baseball game in the summer. A beginner collector of 19th century American artwork and prints, Mathias loves the history and culture of the place he calls home and is lucky enough to promote this region as a profession. Mathias resides in Cheyenne, WY with his wife Catherine, daughter Sienna and son Ivan.

About Rocky Mountain International: A small business that specializes in international travel and tourism promotion for #RealAmericaUSA. Founded in 1990, RMI employs offices in Cheyenne, London, Munich, Sydney, Paris, Milan and Amsterdam.

Guest Post: Unplug Your Meeting in Western Montana

Meetings are meetings: typically you spend a significant amount of time inside a hotel convention center with run-of-the-mill meals and not a lot of activity. Well, not anymore. Meet Montana’s most undiscovered and off-the-grid meeting location: Glacier Park Lodge

Glacier Park Lodge in East Glacier Park, Montana.

The grounds and exterior of Glacier Park Lodge.

Built in 1912, Glacier Park Lodge is located in East Glacier Park, Montana, just outside Glacier National Park. The historic property features 160+ guest rooms, an expansive lobby, wood-burning fireplace, three spacious meeting rooms and an on-site restaurant and bar. Outside, you’ll find lush gardens, a 9-hole golf course, swimming pool and a covered deck perfect for watching the Montana sunset.

If you’re looking for a quiet destination to help eliminate everyday distractions for meeting attendees, Glacier Park Lodge is a prime corporate retreat location. At your Montana meeting, you’ll be trading modern conveniences (there are no TVs in the rooms and limited cell phone service) for incredible team-building opportunities and brainstorming sessions.

The lobby in Glacier Park Lodge.

The lobby in Glacier Park Lodge.

And while this location definitely takes you off-the-grid, Glacier Park Lodge still provides the space you need to meet in both boardroom and classroom settings. Each of our three meeting rooms (ranging from a small boardroom that can accommodate corporate groups of 25 people to a large space that has room for up to 150 people in a classroom setting) are home to interesting Montana history—including an indoor pool and casino.

When you’re ready to take your groups outside, the lawn at Glacier Park Lodge is perfect for team-building exercises, friendly games of soccer or volleyball. It’s also a great location for a tented cocktail reception or dinner under the stars and the watchful eye of Dancing Lady Mountain.

The back lawn at Glacier Park Lodge in East Glacier Park, Montana.

The back lawn at Glacier Park Lodge.

After your meetings, there are endless Montana activities for your group to enjoy. The Two Medicine Valley of Glacier National Park is just 15 minutes away and offers a wide variety of hiking trails, boat tours and picnic area. You can also book a red bus tour to take in the beauty of the Crown of the Continent from an iconic, roll-back top bus.

Taking in the view at Two Medicine.

Two Medicine in Glacier National Park.

The view of Two Medicine from Looking Glass Highway and a red bus tour.

The view of Two Medicine from a red bus tour on Looking Glass Highway.

After collaborating with your team and spending time in this grand historic lodge, you’ll return from your unplugged meeting refreshed and prepared to tackle your company’s goals.

For more information or to work with me on planning your meeting at Glacier Park Lodge, visit Glacier Park Inc

See you off-the-grid,
Rebecca Baker

The author, Rebecca Baker

The author, Rebecca Baker

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

About the author: As the marketing and public relations manager for Glacier Park, Inc., Rebecca oversees a comprehensive marketing and communication strategy that supports all of GPI’s lodging properties.

About Glacier Park Inc.: Headquartered in Montana’s Glacier Country, Glacier Park Inc. owns and operates seven lodging properties in and around Glacier National Park, including Glacier Park Lodge, St. Mary Lodge & Resort, Grouse Mountain Lodge, Motel Lake McDonald, West Glacier Motel & Cabins, Apgar Village Lodge and The Prince of Wales Hotel in Waterton Lakes National Park.

Guest Post: 10 Reasons to visit the American Rockies

There are a few destinations that are known around the world. One of them: the American Rockies. Spanning across six states—Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Utah, Colorado and New Mexico—the Rocky Mountains offer distinct experiences for every type of visitor. When putting together an American Rockies itinerary, there are numerous destinations, areas, activity options, experiences and attractions that are ideal for showcasing this part of the United States and creating a memorable trip with your clients in mind.

The Beartooth Mountains in Wyoming and Montana.

The Beartooth Mountains in Wyoming and Montana.

However unless your clients have a limitless budget (or are spending a part of their lives as a vagabond) it’s better to look at some of the top attractions and not-to-be-missed highlights when putting together a trip to the American Rockies. To help you in your travel planning, I’ve compiled a list of 10 of the best reasons to visit this amazing region.

1) The National Parks
The American Rockies are home to some of the most well-known national parks in the country, including Glacier National Park, Yellowstone National Park and Rocky Mountain National Park. And while there are several parks in the region, each one offers something unique and awe-inspiring.

Located in Montana, Glacier National Park takes you back in time as its landscape shows the impressive force of ancient glaciers that carved out the park’s terrain, from its jagged mountain peaks to lush mountain valleys and deep lakes. Today, Glacier National Park is home to an estimated 25 glaciers. Keep in mind that the remaining glaciers are much smaller than the massive glaciers that carved the Crown of the Continent.

Glacier National Park's St. Mary Lake and Wild Goose Island. Photo courtesy Donnie Sexton.

Glacier National Park’s St. Mary Lake and Wild Goose Island. Photo courtesy Donnie Sexton.

Yellowstone National Park, located in Wyoming, Montana and Idaho, was the first national park in the United States and is home to one of the few geyser basins around the world and undoubtedly the most well-know—Old Faithful Geyser. The majority of the park is located in Wyoming and sits atop an active super volcano, creating hundreds of thermal features throughout the park.

Colorado’s Rocky Mountain National Park is well-known for the 48-mile-long highway that traverses the park, Trail Ridge Road. This road begins at over 8,000 feet (2,438 meters) in elevation and reaches an elevation of over 12,000 feet (3,657 meters), providing a plethora of viewpoints looking down on the valley floor and on to the neighboring peaks.

Additional magnificent national parks in the region include Grand Teton National Park, Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve, Mesa Verde National Park and Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park.

2) Yellowstone in the Winter
Working at Rocky Mountain Holiday Tours, I am exposed to many beautiful destinations. However there are a few that I would consider a true “bucket list” destination. For me, Yellowstone National Park in the winter is at the top of my list.

A frozen Rustic Falls in Yellowstone National Park. Photo YNP flickr.

A frozen Rustic Falls in Yellowstone National Park. Photo YNP flickr.

Known worldwide for its thermal features, it’s no wonder that every summer more than 3 million visitors come to Yellowstone National Park. If you’ve ever been there during this time, you know that it can get a bit crowded in the park during the high summer season as crowds gather at the viewpoints, on the boardwalks, in the restaurants and on the side of the road to snap photos of the wildlife. While summer can be busy, winter in the park is just the opposite and offers your clients a pristine look at this quiet season. Your clients will travel into the park on a snowcoach and be awed by the snow-covered landscape, wildlife playing in the snow and most of all, the absence of crowds and cars. Instead, they can spend a day leisurely traveling about the park in small groups on a motorcoach or snowmobile, enjoying some cross-country skiing, watching Old Faithful (up close and personal without many other people) or simply sitting back and enjoy the serenity of Yellowstone National Park’s winter wonderland.

3) Skiing and Snowboarding in Montana, Wyoming, Utah, Idaho, New Mexico and Colorado
If your clientele enjoys skiing and snowboarding, then the Rocky Mountains are the perfect place for their winter trip! While most people are familiar with Colorado’s Vail, Aspen and Breckenridge, and although they offer an incredible atmosphere with great runs, there are more than 50 ski resorts throughout the six states with many lesser-known mountains that feature equally spectacular skiing, but at a lower cost and with shorter lift lines.

Idaho’s Schweitzer Mountain sits just outside the quaint town of Sandpoint and offers some of the most amazing tree skiing in the United States with over 1,200 acres in the Selkirk Mountains.

Montana is home to the two world-class ski resorts: Big Sky Resort and Whitefish Mountain Resort. Located south of Bozeman and north of Yellowstone National Park, Big Sky Resort offers over 250 runs and lots of mountain to explore while Whitefish Mountain Resort is perfect for those who prefer the more intimate mountain feeling, with 105 marked runs. Plus, it’s located only a few short miles from Glacier Park International Airport and Kalispell.

Wyoming’s Jackson Hole Mountain Resort is world-renowned for its challenging and steep terrain. With its great snow conditions and its location in the charming town of Jackson Hole, it’s quickly growing as a top destination for downhill skiers and snowboarders.

Located in Utah, Park City is perhaps one of the easiest ski resorts to get to as it sits only 30 miles southeast of Salt Lake City. It’s gained popularity over the years and has become one of the training locations for many Olympic skiers and snowboarders. Plus, with the merger of Park City and Canyons, it’s now America’s largest ski resort.

Largely forgotten in the ski industry is New Mexico. This is where I got my start in snowboarding and our family vacations were almost exclusively spent at a ski resort in New Mexico, so much so that our last vacation there was mainly spent looking for a vacation cabin to purchase. My two favorites: Angel Fire Resort and Taos.

Living in Colorado, I have lots of options but my resort of choice is generally Copper Mountain. The lines aren’t terribly long, the prices are reasonable and although the mountain is busy, it never seems crowded. The patio bar at the base also makes a very good spiked hot chocolate and has good specials on screwdrivers for après-ski.

4) Whitewater Rafting
The mountains bring snow, the snow brings runoff and that runoff creates ravenous rivers. The rivers in the American West feature some of the best whitewater rafting around and have rapids that rage at a variety of levels. With such diverse river flows, whitewater rafting is not just for the young crazy adventurous type but for the entire family.

Running the rapids on the Snake River. Image courtesy Snake River Photo.

Running the rapids on the Snake River. Image courtesy Snake River Photo.

Rocky Mountain Holiday Tours works with various rafting companies and their seasoned guides to ensure your clients can run the rivers in a fun, safe environment. Plus, whitewater rafting is a different way to experience nature and offers a new perspective that looks toward the shoreline, not out from it. Follow the pathways of the melting snow from Glacier National Park, Yellowstone National Park or Rocky Mountain National Park and you’ll likely see some of the eagles, bears and other animals that make their home near these waters.

5) Backpacking and Hiking
Your clients work hard. And chances are much of their time is spent on email or social media channels, while their children spend time on video games or tablets. The truth of the matter is that technology takes away our interaction with nature, which is one of the key attributes of visiting the American Rockies. I live in this region and can become distracted by daily life and online happenings, which is why every year I make it a point to get out and hike on the weekends. Recently I began backpacking adventures and although I take my phone for photos or emergencies, most of the time it stays in airplane mode or shut off. It’s about disconnecting from the emails, facebook (or Reddit in my case) and enjoying the sights and sounds of the world that we live in…the sights and sounds that surround us daily and are a large part of a trip to this corner of the world.

Backpacking in wilderness areas in the West brings you to views like this. Photo courtesy Chris Pilley.

Backpacking in wilderness areas in the West brings you to views like this. Photo courtesy Chris Pilley.

Throughout the American Rockies there are thousands upon thousands miles of hiking trails and hundreds of amazing backpacking destinations. My most recent trip was to The Cirque of the Towers in the Wind River Range of Wyoming. There were six of us in the group and we spent five days hiking, fishing, lying next to the lake and enjoying conversations and time in nature. Sure, at the end of the trip, we’re ready for a good meal, a hot shower and our beds, but we wouldn’t trade the experience for anything.

Fishing in the Wind River Range. Photo courtesy James Scoon.

Fishing in the Wind River Range. Photo courtesy James Scoon.

This annual trip and the memories that we create exploring this region already have us looking forward to our third annual trip in 2016. On our short list: Montana’s Bob Marshall Wilderness, Wyoming’s Teton Range and Colorado’s Roosevelt National Forest.

6) Visit a Guest Ranch
The American West is notorious for our cowboy and ranching heritage and that tradition carries on today. There are hundreds of all-inclusive ranches throughout the region, with experiences that include everything from the high-end luxury ranches (where your clients can expect to be pampered and dine on food prepared by a five-star chef) to authentic working ranches that will have them on horseback most of the day as they work with cattle, check fences or take care of the horses. The most common ranch type—the guest ranch—sits between those two and offers its guests amazing home-cooked meals served family style, leisurely trail rides and the opportunity to experience team penning or other arena activities, with a focus on providing a glimpse into the life of a cowboy or rancher but without the long working hours. Visiting my first ranch years ago is what drove me to my current job title and was by far one of my best vacations, so much so that I will be continuing to visit guest ranches as my personal vacation for years to come.

A group trail ride at the Tarryall River Ranch in Colorado.

A group trail ride at the Tarryall River Ranch in Colorado.

7) Abundant Wildlife Watching and Fly-Fishing
If your clients are interested in a trip where they will be able to see wildlife in their natural habitat, Montana and Wyoming are the perfect destinations. The opportunity to see wolves, bears, moose, elk and bison is fairly limited in the United States, but is abundant in this area. Conservation efforts across the region have brought the population of these animals back to strong numbers. It’s not unusual to see a herd of 100+ elk anywhere across the region, a herd of bison freely roaming around Yellowstone National Park or a bear or moose on one of your hiking adventures. Wolves are more of a rarity but around Yellowstone National Park, and parts of Montana, there are some great companies that focus on spotting wolves and offer early morning wildlife watching tours.

An elk in Yellowstone National Park. Photo courtesy Donnie Sexton.

An elk in Yellowstone National Park. Photo courtesy Donnie Sexton.

In addition, the rivers and streams in Colorado, Wyoming, Montana and Idaho have offer some of the best fly-fishing in the world, while their mountainous lakes are filled with wild trout.

8) Historic Trains
The American West has a strong mining history, which brought in many railways. A number of those historic railways are operating today and showcase the rich mining history of the region and offer a great way to see the beautiful area that they operate in. Take a ride back in time aboard the Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad which runs along the Animas River in Colorado, Royal Gorge Railroad that follows the Arkansas River through the 1,250 feet (380 meters) deep canyon of The Royal Gorge in Colorado, Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad that connects Colorado to New Mexico while crossing Cumbres Pass and ventures through Toltec Gorge or the Georgetown Loop Railroad which once serviced a booming silver mine (be sure to include the mine tour) in the mountains of Colorado. Many of these tours offer meals, as well as seasonal and special events that include Murder Mystery Rides, Oktoberfest, Christmas specials or simply a dinner ride.

The Durango Silverton Train rolls through the canyon. Photo courtesy Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad.

The Durango Silverton Train rolls along the Animas River in Colorado. Photo courtesy Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad.

9) Scenic Byways
With the mountainous roads in and around the Rocky Mountains come many amazing scenic byways. And while these roads may not always be the quickest route, your clients will remember taking these roads and the amazing viewpoints along the way. If you’re visiting Yellowstone National Park, advise your clients (especially if they are FIT) to take a little time and venture outside the northeast corner of the park on the Beartooth Highway. Winding its way through Montana, Wyoming and then back into Montana, the Beartooth Highway is also a prime motorcycling tour destination.

One of the views along the Scenic Beartooth Highway.

One of the views along the Scenic Beartooth Highway.

Another very fitting scenic byway is the Top of the Rockies National Scenic and Historic Byway. It rarely drops below 9,000 feet (2,743 meters) and runs through the highest incorporated town in the U.S., Leadville, and includes the thrilling and narrow drive on Independence Pass, which connects Leadville to Aspen. Independence Pass is also home to the Devil’s Punchbowl Swimming Hole for the adventurous traveler.

10) Craft Beer
Alright you got me: this growing trend can be found across the United States. However it’s safe to say that the craft breweries in the Rockies are the best bunch of breweries there are. You simply can’t plan a trip through this area without coming across five to 10 breweries. Colorado, Wyoming and Montana have three of the highest numbers of breweries per capita (per 100,000 21+ adults). And in these places, it’s evident that it’s not simply about brewing the beer, but taking a style and making it unique, making it bold, creating a new and delicious taste and, most of all, separating themselves from the bland, big breweries that dominate the market. That is why when I travel, I make it a point to ask my bartender or server for something local. Rest assured, you and your clients are well-advised to do the same. Some of my personal favorites include Odell Brewing Co., Snake River Brewing and Big Sky Brewing Co.

A local beer in the shadow of the Teton Range.

A local beer in the shadow of the Teton Range.

For more information or to work with me on creating customized fly-drive itineraries for your client or one-of-a-kind group tours, visit Rocky Mountain Holiday Tours.

See you in the American Rockies,
Chris Pilley

The author, Chris Pilley.

The author, Chris Pilley.

About the author: Chris is the Contract Manager for Rocky Mountain Holiday Tours, handling ranches, activities and groups. In his free time he can be found running the trails of Fort Collins or hiking the mountains of Colorado.

About Rocky Mountain Holiday Tours: Rocky Mountain Holiday Tours is the largest receptive operator in the American Rockies Region. Their staff has more than 62 combined years of experience in the region and specializes in the national parks and the western states.

Guest post: Creating Campfire Communities

Do you want to know how to use social media to grow your meeting attendance? It’s simple.

Stop using it to advertise your meeting or conference. Instead, leverage the power of social conversations to grow affinity for your brand, conference or meeting.

Create little campfires via Twitter Chats, private video-chats, Facebook or LinkedIn Groups and any other social platform where you can bring likeminded individuals together. Position your meeting or conference as the campfire around which everyone wants to gather to meet new folks, make new friends, learn new knowledge and improve their life.

campfire

Fanning the flame at a Montana campfire.

Then leverage social channels during and after your meeting to fan the flame for next year.

Let me explain what I’m talking about…

Stimulating Relevant Online Discussion
A few years ago, my company, Converse Digital, partnered with noted diabetes blogger Scott Johnson to begin a multi-year effort to stimulate online discussions about severe diabetic complications. We needed to get folks talking about complications so that diabetics start paying more attention to these things and to create opportunities for my client to engage in conversations.

As we built those conversations a funny thing happened: a community developed. While true, there was already an established diabetic community online, there really wasn’t one focused on scary long-term complications. But just the act of engaging in conversations via social media channels ignited previously unforeseen embers of opportunity.

The Social Media Strategy
Fan the flame. That was it. Our entire social media strategy could be summed up in one sentence: fan the flame.

We kept talking to the community. And they talked back. As the volume of those conversations grew, an opportunity emerged. An opportunity to gather all of those voices into a single place, at a single time, to share in a single conversation in the form of a virtual conference dedicated to creating hope amongst diabetics.

And it was all made possible by a brand. Think about that for a moment…your brand or meeting as a campfire.

Leveraging The Conversation
By focusing on creating hope, not selling a product, we would turn a campfire into a bonfire. With the power of social media (nothing can spread a message faster or farther) we started spreading the word about this great new conference. Then we crossed our fingers and prayed that someone would show up.

Luckily for all of us, over 250 people showed up. After three hours and three panels made up of panelists spread across the USA, we had succeeded in turning that campfire conversation into a bonfire that would continue to burn for the next year.

With little more than a SurveyMonkey survey and a bit more effort via email and social media, we were able to gain enormous post-event insights. We then used these insights to keep the fire burning while we planned version two of the conference.

Continuing The Conversation
Throughout 2013 and into 2014 we continued to engage with our audience in various campfire conversations. We invested in video technology that allowed us to have 20 – 25 concurrent video feeds and we used those to create small, invite only, private video chats where we could engage our audience more deeply than via Facebook or Twitter.

We continued to learn. More importantly, we continued to earn the trust, respect—and in some cases, adoration—of our community.

And then another really funny thing happened. Our campers started talking on our behalf. They started talking about the conference. They would tell anyone that would listen how it was needed and why folks should attend it. Major, established diabetic communities supported us by exposing their community to our message. In effect, all of these campers became unpaid ambassadors for the conference. They were inviting their friends to our campfires so they could see for themselves why they should attend next year’s conference.

Each person’s blog post, Facebook or Twitter update served to cast the embers of our campfire farther. Starting more little campfires. And in year two, our bonfire (conference) drew just over 500 of those embers who once again came together to spend a half-day stoking the flame of hope.

Using social media to grow attendance to your next event is easy. Stop promoting your event and start engaging your community.

Tom Martin
About the author: Tom is a no nonsense, straight-talking 20-year veteran of the advertising and marketing business who favors stiff drinks, good debates and helping companies grow their businesses.

As an internationally recognized digital marketing keynote speaker, blogger, founder of Converse Digital and author of The Invisible Sale, Tom marries his two passions, marketing & technology, to teach companies how to leverage digital marketing channels to achieve and sustain sales growth, enhance brand perception and painlessly prospect for new customers.

His first book, The Invisible Sale, is now available for sale at TheInvisibleSale.com. Follow him on Twitter @TomMartin or contact him at Converse Digital.

Guest Post: Top 5 Reasons To Have a Meeting in Missoula

As the Sales Manager for Destination Missoula, part of my job is to sell Missoula, Montana as a meeting destination. In my travels I meet with various meeting planners who have a diverse range of needs, from assistance with site selection to the creation of custom itineraries and everything in-between. For me, it’s important that I’m listening to the needs of the meeting planner to ensure that their attendees receive the best experience possible in Montana. As we discuss Missoula, one of the most common questions that I’m asked is, “What should my attendees do in their free time?”IMG_0347

While I may be bias, Missoula is a pretty incredible place with lots of fun and interesting things to do. And one of the best ways to experience a community–especially one as lively and distinct as Missoula–is to get the inside scoop from the locals. While Missoula has four distinct seasons and plentiful activities to go with each one, summer in Missoula is a favorite among locals. With long daylight hours that provide a variety of opportunities for meeting attendees to experience Montana’s second largest city, it can be difficult to focus on just one activity.

To help with the planning of your meeting or event, I’ve rounded up my top 5 summer activities in Missoula.

1. Fresh mountain air + locally roasted coffee = wake up and recharge.
There’s no better way to start the day than with crisp Montana air paired with spectacular views and locally roasted coffee. If your meeting attendees enjoy the outdoors, a great start to the day would be with a hike up the “M” Trail on Mount Sentinel. The trailhead is located within minutes of downtown and offers a hatchback trail system that guides hikers to Missoula’s iconic M and a stunning view of the valley. After a hike, end the morning at Black Coffee Roasting Co. and recharge over a freshly brewed cup of locally roasted coffee and toast.
Sidenote: their Vinyl blend coffee and avocado toast are my personal favorites.

Looking out over Missoula toward Mount Sentinel.

Looking out over Missoula toward Mount Sentinel.

2. Attend Out to Lunch and Downtown Tonight.
Missoula is dubbed as the “cultural center” of Montana, much in part to its vibrant downtown.  Centered in the heart of downtown and located along the banks of the Clark Fork River is Caras Park. Many of Missoula’s festivals and major events are held at Caras Park, including Out to Lunch  and Downtown Tonight. These mini music festivals take place weekly from June – August and provide a great opportunity to mingle with Missoula locals. On any given week, attendees can listen to talented Montana musicians while dining on an eclectic selection of local food vendors.

Taking in the view of Downtown Tonight at Caras Park.

Taking in the view of Downtown Tonight at Caras Park.

After getting a bite to eat and enjoying some tunes, end the event by grabbing a scoop of huckleberry ice cream from the Big Dipper Ice Cream truck and proceed to the viewing deck at Brennan’s Wave. Brennan’s Wave is a man-made whitewater wave where you can watch Missoula’s best try their hand at river surfing and kayaking. If your meeting attendees prefer to explore more of downtown Missoula, they can skip the ice cream truck and venture across the Higgins Avenue Bridge to Big Dipper’s flagship location.
Sidenote: Out to Lunch takes place from 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. on Wednesdays and Downtown Tonight is held from 5:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. on Thursdays. 

3. Rivers, rivers and rivers.
Located at the confluence of three rivers (Bitterroot, Blackfoot and Clark Fork), it’s no surprise that Missoula has world-class water focused recreation. One of the most Missoula-centric activities is to float the Clark Fork River through downtown. Enjoying the river can be as easy as grabbing an inner tube and hopping on in. There are also guided options available and you can work with one of our many outfitters to book an exhilarating whitewater rafting trip, scenic float or guided fly-fishing trip. Most Missoula outfitters offer both full and half-day guided trips.

Playing on the water at Brennan's Wave.

Playing on the water at Brennan’s Wave.

And if your meeting attendees don’t have enough time to recreate on the river, they can still enjoy breathtaking river views at Finn & Porter (located inside the DoubleTree Hotel). Sit outside on their deck or at an indoor table for views of the Clark Fork River and Mount Sentinel. Chances are you’ll also see a fly-fisherman trying his luck from the shore.
Sidenote: Finn & Porter’s location, happy hour specials and extensive wine selection make it one of my favorite after work spots.  

4. Discover one of Missoula’s stories.
I’m a person who loves anything with a story to be told, which makes it hard to resist a good antique store or historic tour. Missoula has a rich history which encompasses the end of Glacial Lake Missoula; the Salish, Pend d’Oreille and Kootenai tribes; a visit from Lewis and Clark in 1805; and its first European settlers in 1860. Traces of this history can be found throughout Missoula and the surrounding area, while downtown is decorated with historic landmarks and buildings, making it a great place to spend an afternoon.

Start the afternoon at Caffé Dolce for lunch and an espresso before proceeding across the Clark Fork River into the heart of downtown. The Missoula Downtown Association has created a fantastic self-guided historic walking tour of downtown, making it easy for meeting attendees to explore downtown on their own and see some of the treasured historic architecture that remains in Missoula. An easy enhancement to the tour is a stop at the Montana Antique Mall, located at 331 Railroad Street W. inside the Montana Hotel. The mall offers four floors of antique retail space and is the largest antique mall in Montana.
Sidenote: Self-guided tour maps are available at the Missoula Visitor Information Center, located at 101 E. Main Street or download a copy of the historic walking tour here.

5. Remarkable outdoor markets.
If your meeting will have attendees in Missoula on a Saturday morning between May and October, they are well-advised to visit one (or all) of Missoula’s award-winning markets. Missoula has three Saturday morning markets to choose from–the Missoula Farmers Market, the Clark Fork Farmers Market and the Missoula People’s Market, with each having their own distinct offerings.

Perusing one of the local farmers markets.

Perusing one of the local farmers markets.

Start off at the Clark Fork Market (located along the river under the Higgins Ave. Bridge) and grab a snack from one of the many food vendors before checking out locally grown produce, fresh baked bread, cheese and more. Proceed north on Higgins Ave. to the Missoula People’s Market to peruse hand-crafted goods, including jewelry and clothing. Finish your market experience by continuing north on Higgins to Missoula’s original market–the Missoula Farmers Market. Grab a pastry from one of the bakery carts and check out more fresh produce, including huckleberries and flowers. My advice: get an early start. The Farmers Markets are held from 8 a.m. – 12:30 p.m., while the People’s Market takes place from 9 a.m. – 1 p.m.

For more information on planning your meeting in Missoula, visit www.meetings.glaciermt.com or www.missoulameetings.com.

See you in Missoula,
Mary Holmes

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