Tag Archives: Hot Springs

MEET WITH MONTANA AT IMEX AMERICA

For the fourth year in a row, Montana will be attending and exhibiting at IMEX America October 10 – 12, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada. This year, the Montana booth will be bigger and better than ever as we welcome meeting planners to stop in booth #A1310 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 hot springs 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 Bozeman, Great Falls and Western Montana’s Glacier Country—including the cities of Kalispell, Missoula and Whitefish—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.

Daryl Schliem, Bozeman CVB

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.

Rebecca Engum, Great Falls CVB

Rebecca Engum is the Executive Director at the Great Falls Convention & Visitors Bureau and will be joining the Montana booth to discuss the alluring landscapes, rugged independence and genuine experiences that create authentic Montana meeting memories in Great Falls. Offering top-notch meeting space along with quality accommodations, Great Falls—the third largest city in Montana—has additional highlights that include the C.M. Russell Museum, Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center, fine dining and one-of-a-kind outdoor adventures. With nearly 2,200 guest rooms available and more than 120,000 square feet of meeting and exhibit space, Great Falls can accommodate groups of more than 2,000 attendees and citywide events of up to 5,000 attendees.

Dawn Jackson, Discover Kalispell – Kalispell CVB

Representing Discover Kalispell in the Montana booth again this year is Group Sales Manager, Dawn Jackson. As the gateway to Glacier National Park and Flathead Lake, Kalispell is in the middle of Montana’s most iconic natural places and the ideal environment to increase conference attendance and utilize the city’s venues and modern amenities to conduct effective business. With two new hotels that opened in 2016, and more coming in 2017, Kalispell offers over 1,800 guest rooms and 56,000 square feet of meeting space for citywide groups of up to 4,000 attendees. Kalispell’s community is filled with unique shopping, cultural offerings, fine restaurants, wonderful events and welcoming smiles. Kalispell’s international airport, Glacier Park International, offers year-round direct flights to five major markets and additional seasonal directs to another five markets making access to Kalispell incredibly easy.

Mimi Hall Gustafson, Destination Missoula – Missoula CVB

Serving as the Group Sales Manager for Destination Missoula, Mimi Hall Gustafson will be at 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 attendees or citywide events for up to 5,000 attendees. Plus, direct flights arrive into Missoula International Airport from 12 major U.S. markets.

Dan Hansen, Explore Whitefish – Whitefish CVB

As the Marketing and Sales Coordinator 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 1,100 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

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 three regional CVBs of Missoula, Kalispell and Whitefish along with other meeting venues in Western Montana outside of these three 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 2017, 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, Kalispell, Missoula and Whitefish, make an appointment with Western Montana’s Glacier Country. The four 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 and Great Falls are taking separate appointments.

*If you can’t meet with us during the pre-scheduled appointment times at IMEX, feel free to stop by booth #A1310 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

CANADIAN ROCKIES AND AMERICAN ROCKIES TWO NATION VACATION LOOP TOUR

This year, Montana’s Glacier Country would like to congratulate our neighbors to the north in Canada as they celebrate their 150th birthday. Parks Canada is inviting visitors and locals to celebrate with them by offering free admission to all of their national parks and historic sites with a Discovery Pass for 2017. We’ve put together a seven day loop tour that incorporates northwest Montana along with some of these historic and iconic sites in British Columbia and Alberta, Canada, making a great two nation vacation. Here are the highlights if you’d like to come along.

Day 1: NW Montana and Eureka
Fly into Glacier Park International (FCA) in Kalispell. Car rentals are available from the airport. Highway 93 passes through the charming town of Whitefish, where you can grab a quick bite at one of the local eateries on Central Ave. Next stop off Highway 93 is the quaint town of Eureka which sits on the banks of the Tobacco River. Eureka’s small-town hospitality is evident with the welcome signs and flag-lined streets. Stop in at the Tobacco Valley Historical Village—a collection of restored buildings from the 1880s to the early 1900s. Have a picnic at Riverside Park, which hosts a farmers market every Wednesday from 4 p.m. – 7 p.m. in the summer months.

Charming downtown Eureka.

Northwest Montana from The Wilderness Club in Eureka.

Day 2: British Columbia, Canada
After crossing the border into British Columbia stop in the town of Fort Steele Heritage Town. Fort Steele was an outpost for the North-West Mounted Police who came to bring law to the itinerant gold seekers from America’s wilder West. Here, over 60 buildings have been restored since the site was designated a Provincial Heritage Site in 1961. Visit the heritage tradesman and women who were essential to daily life including blacksmith, leather workers, dressmakers, tinsmiths and gold panners. See livestock demonstrations, including daily care and feeding of the Clydesdale’s that provided the horse-power back in the day.

Fort Steele Heritage Town.

Continue your travels north through the beautiful sprawling pasturelands of the valley with the jagged Canadian Rockies to the east eventually coming into Canal Flats. Be sure to stop at Canal Flats Overlook for a breathtaking view of the Kootenay River Valley and Columbia Lake. This lake is the originating source of the Columbia River, that eventually flows south through the Columbia River Gorge between Washington and Oregon and empties into the Pacific Ocean at Astoria, Oregon.

Stop in at one of British Columbia’s legendary attractions, Fairmont Hot Springs, Canada’s largest natural hot springs. There are accommodation options from RV to hotel lodging. Further on up the highway is the ultra-charming village of Radium Hot Springs that greets visitors with a welcome sign that reads “The Mountains Shall Bring Peace to the People.”

Overnight in Radium Hot Springs.

Day 3: Kootenay National Park/Banff National Park
The west gate of Kootenay National Park is located just outside of town. Sinclair Canyon serves as the entry into Kootenay National Park with striking cliffs of colored rocks on either side. Make sure you allow some time this morning to soak in the natural soothing waters of Radium Hot Springs while being surrounded by dramatic cliffs. And don’t worry if you forgot the towels or swimsuits, they are available for rent along with lockers.

Due to all of the wildlife, binoculars and cameras are highly recommended.

The hiking possibilities start immediately after your soak so take your lunch, bear spray, binoculars and enjoy your day in Kootenay National Park. Don’t forget to stop at the many viewpoints that overlook the Kootenay Valley or at the Continental Divide separating the Pacific and Atlantic watersheds. Leaving Kootenay National Park takes you straight into Banff National Park for an evening at Lake Louise.

Stop at overlooks for amazing views.

Overnight in Lake Louise.

Day 4: Lake Louise/Banff

Make this an early morning for the very best views of Lake Louise before the crowds begin to form (before 9 am or after 7 pm). The Victoria Glacier on Mount Victoria forms a dramatic backdrop at the head of Lake Louise for the most photographed location in the Canadian Rockies.

Magnificent Lake Louise.

Take the famed hike to Lake Agnes Tea House, open June 4 – October 10, located 3.5 km (2.1 miles) from the Lake Louise parking lot. The tea house—open since 1905—is set on the shores of Lake Agnes. Together with Mirror Lake and Lake Louise, these lakes are often called the “Lakes in the Clouds”. Choose from more than 100 varieties of teas, along with hearty homemade soup and sandwiches on freshly baked bread.

If not for an overnight, be sure to step into the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise to see the elegant yet relaxed atmosphere of the 552 room luxury resort. The 125-year-old resort also boasts the finest dining around. Choose from The Walliser Stube or fine dining at The Fairview or Lago Italian Kitchen, or enjoy the tradition of afternoon tea with views of Lake Louise.

Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise.

Leave enough time to visit the ultra-charming town of Banff. Walk along Banff Avenue and visit boutiques, galleries, museums and eateries along with chateau-style hotels and curio shops.

Strolling downtown Banff.

Overnight in Banff.

Day 5: Waterton Lakes National Park
Today is another recommended early start and a bit of a travel day as you make your way through Alberta on Highway A1 east towards Calgary the largest city in Alberta. Stop and see the cosmopolitan city. Memorial Drive along the Bow River offers views of metropolitan activities from bikers to runners and walkers.

Calgary is the largest city in Alberta.

As you head south look for the interpretive center, Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump World Heritage Site. This archaeological site built right into the cliffs preserves the remarkable history of the Plains People. Due to the native peoples understanding of the bison behavior and regional topography they hunted bison by stampeding them off cliffs.

The visitor center is set into the hillside at Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump.

Continue on to Waterton Lakes National Park and part of the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park where Montana’s Glacier National Park and Alberta’s Waterton Lakes National Park meet at the border between the United States and Canada. Designated the first International Peace Park in 1932 to commemorate the bonds of peace and friendship between the two nations.

Local residents of Waterton.

There is plenty of activity options in Waterton Lakes National Park but a “must do” is a cruise from Canada across the border into the United States on Waterton Shoreline Cruise Co. Listen to experienced local guides give informative and entertaining commentary for the 2-hour cruise. July through mid-September the boat will stop at Goat Haunt—the northern gateway to the wilderness of Glacier National Park.

Cruising Waterton Lake.

While there are options for your overnight stay, we recommend a room at a true historic icon, the Prince of Wales Hotel. As one of the most photographed hotels in the world, the Prince of Wales hotel sits on a bluff with stunning views of Waterton Lake, Waterton Lakes National Park and Glacier National Park.

The iconic Prince of Wales Hotel.

Overnight in Waterton.

Day 6: Glacier National Park (east side)
There are two border crossings into the U.S. from Waterton Lakes National Park. The most convenient is Chief Mountain border crossing on AB 6 crossing over onto Montana Highway 17. However, it is a seasonal crossing only open May 15 – September 30, from 9 AM – 6 PM. Dates and times may vary. Several miles east utilizing AB 2 and U.S. Highway 89 is the Piegan/Carway border crossing open daily, 7AM – 11PM year-round.

Just beyond Babb is the road to Many Glacier Hotel. Stop in to visit the historic lodge that just received a multi-million dollar renovation including a restored spiral staircase. This would be a good day to combine a boat tour on Swiftcurrent Lake and a day hike to Grinnell Glacier, catching another boat back after the hike.

Mount Grinnell at Swiftcurrent Lake across from Many Glacier Hotel.

Stop at the St. Mary Visitor Center to gather daily information on park activities, open trails, wildlife watch areas. The east side of the park offers wonderful day hiking opportunities and interpretive boat tours on Two Medicine Lake, St. Mary Lake and Swiftcurrent Lake with Glacier Park Boat Company.

If time allows take a trip into Browning, the largest city on the 1.5 million-acre Blackfeet Indian Reservation. Exhibits of cultural artifacts at the Museum of the Plains Indian are among the finest in the West. The Blackfeet Heritage Center and Art Gallery and the Lodgepole Gallery and Tipi Village feature traditional and contemporary arts and crafts.

Glacier National Park’s east side.

Travel the park’s southern boundary along Highway 2. Visit Essex, home to the historic Izaak Walton Inn that once housed workers for the Great Northern Railroad. Visit the small town of West Glacier before heading towards the west entrance of Glacier National Park.

Overnight at Izaak Walton Inn, Lake McDonald Lodge or Belton Chalet.

Day 7: Glacier National Park (west side)
You’d 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. Hop aboard a red bus tour of the 50-mile-long Going-to-the-Sun Road. The red bus drivers, known as Jammers, are your tour guides and provide information about the park’s flora and fauna, history, geology and glaciology.  Another tour option is Sun Tours, which tells the perspective from the Blackfeet Indian and the emphasis Glacier National Park has had on Blackfeet Nation throughout the centuries. NOTE: The Going-to-the-Sun Road traverses a high mountain pass and due to weather is only open from the end of June to the middle of October (weather permitting). Driving the Going-to-the-Sun Road is restricted for private vehicles longer than 21 feet or wider than 8 feet.

Red bus tours in Glacier National Park.

If time allows take a scenic boat tour on Lake McDonald or a guided horseback trail ride with Swan Mountain Outfitters or hike the most popular trails on the west side, Trail of the Cedars and Avalanche Lake trail. Make a reservation at the historic Belton Chalet (built in 1910) for a gourmet dinner in the lovely dining room.

Overnight in West Glacier or Kalispell before departing your two nation vacation.

Find the full Two Nation Vacation itinerary 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.

DP

MONTANA’S BITTERROOT VALLEY IS THE PERFECT OUTDOOR PLAYGROUND

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 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. The towns wood-facade buildings provide a real western feel as you stroll through downtown and their signature event—Darby Logger Days—pays tribute to the town’s logging roots. Recommended stops include 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 Triple Creek Ranch.

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

A beautiful day at 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. Lodging in Hamilton is comfortable and cozy at the Bitterroot River Inn & Conference Center or Hamilton’s TownHouse 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.

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.

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

Florence
A little farther north on 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 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 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.

Interpretive talks. Photo: Travelers’ Rest State Park

The Bitterroot Valley Chamber of Commerce 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

TOP 10 SPRING EXPERIENCES IN WESTERN MONTANA

Many of our visitors to Western Montana’s Glacier Country arrive in July and August, but I’d like to let you in on a little secret that you can share with your FIT/Group clients: spring is one of the best times to visit Montana. Baby animals emerge, dotting the pastures, and wildflowers pop up, blanketing the surrounding hillsides. The weather can have a flair for the dramatic, with bright blue skies one minute and snow the next, but that is what makes springtime in Montana uniquely pleasing. We’ve rounded up some of the top things to add to a spring itinerary under Western Montana’s big blue sky.

1) Golf
With the warming temperatures, many of the golf courses in Western Montana open by mid-April, welcoming players back to the greens. Some of our recommended courses include Buffalo Hill Golf Club in Kalispell, Canyon River Golf Club in Missoula and Whitefish Lake Golf Course in Whitefish.

Golf one of the many courses in Montana.

2) Tour the St. Mary’s Mission in Stevensville
Opening for the season in mid-April, the Historic St. Mary’s Mission in Stevensville marks an important place in Montana history as the first settlement. Be sure to take a guided tour of the complex and peruse the incredible American Indian photographs inside Chief Victor’s cabin.

The chapel at St. Mary’s Mission.

3) Soak in Natural Hot Springs
Spring is ideal for soaking in one of Montana’s many natural hot springs, and Western Montana has several sprinkled throughout the region. Try one of the hot springs in Lolo, Paradise or the aptly named town of Hot Springs.

Paradise found at Quinn’s Hot Springs.

4) Bike in Glacier National Park
Prior to the opening of the Going-to-the-Sun Road to vehicular traffic, it’s open to bikers and hikers. Biking in Glacier National Park is one of the most exhilarating things to do in Montana.
Side note: with the arrival of spring, wildlife are active in the park. Be sure to carry bear spray when hiking or biking in Glacier National Park.

Biking the Going-to-the-Sun Road.

5) Whitewater Raft the Middle Fork of the Flathead River
Many of Montana’s rafting companies start offering rafting trips in May and June when the spring runoff from the mountains is at its peak. If you’re looking for an adrenaline-pumping adventure, our outfitters and guides have you covered.

Adrenaline pumping whitewater adventures.

6) Fly-fish the Bitterroot, Blackfoot or Clark Fork rivers
This part of the country is well known for blue-ribbon trout streams and rivers. 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.

In search of the elusive brown trout.

7) Visit Libby Dam and the Swinging Bridge over Kootenai Falls
Located in northwest Montana, Libby Dam holds back the waters of Lake Koocanusa (a lake that spans between the U.S. and Canada) and helps control flooding on the Columbia River. While in Northwest Montana, make it a point to take the short walk down from Highway 2, visiting the swinging bridge and capturing the view of the water tumbling over the falls.

Kootenai Falls near the swing bridge.

8) Go Birding at Lee Metcalf National Wildlife Refuge
Enjoy watching the spring migration a few minutes from Stevensville at the Lee Metcalf Wildlife Refuge. This 2,800-acre refuge is home to a variety of wildlife and birds. The refuge also has accessible trails and offers gorgeous views of the Bitterroot Mountains.

A group sees a baby bald eagle through the scope.

9) Hike the “M” Trail Overlooking Missoula
One of the most popular hiking trails in Montana, this trail starts at the base of Mount Sentinel and works its way up to the M. A total length of .75 miles, the trail has 11 switchbacks, an elevation gain of 620 feet and an incredible view of the Missoula Valley below.

Victory celebration above the M overlooking the Missoula Valley.

10) Drive the National Bison Range
Situated at the base of the Mission Mountains, the National Bison Range is one of the most easily accessible and beautiful adventures in Western Montana. In early spring, visitors can travel along the west loop, while Red Sleep Drive (the 19-mile-long one-way drive that winds through the range) opens in early May. Be sure to keep an eye out for baby bison. Insider tip: bring your binoculars.

Antelope roam the National Bison Range north of Missoula.

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 spring!
DP

MONTANA TALKS MEETINGS AT IMEX AMERICA

In October, Western Montana’s Glacier Country along with our partners from Missoula, Kalispell and Whitefish had the privilege to exhibit at IMEX America—the largest trade show in the U.S. for meetings, corporate incentive travel, conventions and events—in Las Vegas, Nevada. We spent three days talking with meeting planners from around the world about opportunities to meet in Montana. Conversations spanned topics from airlift into Montana to types of meeting venues and activity offerings. For those meeting planners that did not attend IMEX or for those that didn’t make it by the Montana booth, here is a brief overview of what you will find if you host a meeting in Western Montana’s Glacier Country.

Western Montana ladies at IMEX America.

Western Montana ladies at IMEX America.

Corporate Incentive
At the top of many meeting planners lists were corporate incentive destination for their clients that offer sales incentive programs. Several had corporate clients that wanted experiential and activity-driven destinations as an alternative to the white sandy beaches that they had been going to for years. Montana guest ranches seemed to be a great fit for those planners, especially since Western Montana has properties that range from all-inclusive luxury ranches to rustic and authentic dude ranches to name a few, Flathead Lake Lodge, The Ranch at Rock Creek, The Resort at Paws Up and Triple Creek Ranch. Learn more about some of our guest ranch offerings here.

Howdy from Triple Creek Ranch.

Howdy from Triple Creek Ranch.

Association Meetings and Conventions
Planners at IMEX were pleasantly surprised to find that Western Montana has significant ballroom space at convention hotels located in our larger cities of Kalispell, Missoula and Whitefish. Missoula boasts the largest meeting space with 33,400 square feet at the University of Montana and 22,000 square feet at the largest convention hotel. Kalispell’s largest convention hotel offers 14,000 square feet of function space, while Whitefish has two convention hotels with roughly 11,000 square feet of space at both properties.

Beautiful ballroom space in Kalispell.

Beautiful ballroom space in Kalispell.

Board Retreats
When it comes to retreats, the lodging options in Montana are as unique and vast as the big blue sky. Choose from lakeside cabins, mountainside lodges, riverside hot springs resorts or quaint historic inns where you can hold your meeting in the morning and enjoy the great outdoors in the afternoon.

Historic Izaak Walton Inn near Glacier National Park.

Historic Izaak Walton Inn near Glacier National Park.

Team-building and Outdoor Adventure Opportunities
Montana offers unimaginable variety all four seasons of the year for team-building and outdoor adventures. One example is Whitefish Mountain Resort, where in the summer months Big Mountain provides opportunities for teamwork, team building and team bonding at the Aerial Adventure Park, an obstacle course that sits among the trees. Other options include group rafting trips that have meeting attendees paddling as a team as they maneuver the raft through the rapids on the Middle Fork of the Flathead River near Glacier National Park or the Alberton Gorge near Missoula. At Flathead Lake Lodge in Bigfork, team competitions take place with dummy steer roping, team roping, canoe racing and cocktail making.

Team-building fun at Whitefish Mountain Resort. Photo: Whitefish Mountain Resort

Team-building fun at Whitefish Mountain Resort. Photo: Whitefish Mountain Resort

Getting to Montana
With two airports serving both the northern tier—Glacier Park International (FCA)—and southern tier—Missoula International (MSO)—of Western Montana’s Glacier Country, getting here is easier than you think. Both airports have direct flights on major carriers including United, Delta, Alaska and Allegiant that arrive regularly from hub cities. Plus, it’s only 7 minutes from Missoula International Airport to downtown Missoula, while Whitefish and Kalispell are both located an easy 15 minutes from Glacier Park International Airport. Amtrak’s Empire Builder makes twice daily stops in Whitefish and other small communities in the northern tier of Glacier Country (read more about that here). And our well-maintained highway system, anchored by Interstate 90 and Highway 93, makes driving in Glacier Country easy.

Now that you’re pondering which clients would love Montana or which meeting would work best in Montana, remember that we are here to help make your next meeting a success under Montana’s big blue sky. And if you want more information about how to meet in Montana, sign up for our meeting planner newsletter here.

We look forward to having you meet in Montana,

DP

MEET WITH MONTANA AT IMEX AMERICA

For the third year in a row, Montana will be attending and exhibiting at IMEX America October 18 – 20, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada. This year, the Montana booth will be bigger and better than ever as we welcome meeting planners to stop in booth 812 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 hot springs resort for the board retreat, Montana has it all.

The perfect backdrop for a Montana dinner event.

The perfect backdrop for a Montana dinner event.

We invite meeting planners attending IMEX America to make an appointment with our booth representatives from Bozeman, Great Falls and Western Montana’s Glacier Country—including the cities of Kalispell, Missoula and Whitefish—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.

Daryl Schliem, Bozeman CVB

Daryl Schliem, Bozeman CVB

Joining 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 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.

Rebecca Engum, Great Falls CVB

Rebecca Engum, Great Falls CVB

Rebecca Engum is the Executive Director at the Great Falls Convention & Visitors Bureau and will be joining the Montana booth to discuss the alluring landscapes, rugged independence and genuine experiences that create authentic Montana meeting memories in Great Falls. Offering top-notch meeting space along whttp://rebecca@visitgreatfalls.orgith quality accommodations, Great Falls—the third largest city in Montana—has additional highlights that include the C.M. Russell Museum, Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center, fine dining and one-of-a-kind outdoor adventures. With nearly 2,200 guest rooms available and more than 120,000 square feet of meeting and exhibit space, Great Falls can accommodate groups of more than 2,000 attendees and citywide events of up to 5,000 attendees.

Dawn Jackson, Discover Kalispell – Kalispell CVB

Dawn Jackson, Discover Kalispell – Kalispell CVB

Representing Discover Kalispell in the Montana booth again this year is Group Sales Manager, Dawn Jackson. As the gateway to Glacier National Park and Flathead Lake, Kalispell is in the middle of Montana’s most iconic natural places and the ideal environment to increase conference attendance and utilize the city’s venues and modern amenities to conduct effective business. With the addition of a new hotel in 2016, Kalispell offers 1,800 guest rooms and 56,000 square feet of meeting space for citywide groups of up to 4,000 attendees. Kalispell’s community is filled with unique shopping, cultural offerings, fine restaurants, wonderful events and welcoming smiles. Kalispell’s international airport, Glacier Park International, offers year-round direct flights to five major markets and additional seasonal directs to another five markets making access to Kalispell incredibly easy.

Mary Holmes, Destination Missoula – Missoula CVB

Mary Holmes, Destination Missoula – Missoula CVB

Serving as the Director of Sales and Services for Destination Missoula, Mary Holmes will be back to talk about meetings in Missoula again 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 attendees or citywide events for up to 5,000 attendees. Plus, direct flights arrive into Missoula International Airport from 12 major U.S. markets.

Jessica Downing, Explore Whitefish – Whitefish CVB

Jessica Downing, Explore Whitefish – Whitefish CVB

As the Marketing Coordinator for Explore Whitefish, Jessica Downing 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 the addition of two new hotels in 2016 and more than 700 guest rooms and 46,000 square feet of meeting space, Whitefish is perfect for groups up to 300 attendees and citywide events of 1,500 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

Debbie Picard, Western Montana’s Glacier Country

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 three regional CVBs of Missoula, Kalispell and Whitefish along with other meeting venues in Western Montana outside of these three 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 2016, 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, and the CVB’s in Kalispell, Missoula and Whitefish, make an appointment with Western Montana’s Glacier Country. The four Western Montana representatives will be sharing each 20-minute appointment session throughout the show (think of it as a one-stop Western Montana appointment stop).

*Bozeman and Great Falls are taking separate appointments.

*If you can’t meet with us during the pre-scheduled appointment times at IMEX, feel free to stop by booth 812 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

THE TOP 5 REASONS TO CHOOSE WESTERN MONTANA FOR YOUR MOUNTAIN MEETING

Meeting planners know that inspiring destinations generate inspired ideas. Whether it’s the fresh mountain air, the outdoor activities or the soaring altitude, planners often say meetings held in the mountains are the most productive meetings. With that in mind, I would like to introduce our venues here in Western Montana’s Glacier Country that offer spectacular settings for your next meeting or event, whether it’s a larger conference in Missoula with mountain views in every directions or a board retreat at a mountainside lodge atop Big Mountain at Whitefish Mountain Resort.

Sunrise at Many Glacier Hotel in Glacier National Park.

Sunrise at Many Glacier Hotel in Glacier National Park.

Here are the top 5 reasons to hold your next meeting in the Rocky Mountains of Western Montana.

1. Stunning Scenery. If you’re looking for snow-covered peaks, look no further than Glacier Country and our bevy of  mountain ranges including the Mission, Swan, Cabinet, Whitefish, Flathead, Purcell, Bitterroot and Sapphire mountains, as well as the stunning peaks in Glacier National Park. In the spring, feast your eyes on blankets of mountainside wildflowers and the breathtaking bear grass that flowers every five to seven years. The fall offers an array of red, orange and yellow hues and Montana’s tamarack trees—also known as the western larch—are stunning in autumn. The majestic views of Big Sky Country in the summer are something to behold and we’re certain that stargazing at Montana’s star-filled night skies (with little to no light pollution) are something attendees will talk about long after the meeting is over.

Tamarack trees in autumn.

Tamarack trees in autumn.

Snow-capped peaks of the Mission Mountains.

Snow-capped peaks of the Mission Mountains.

2. Unique Lodging and Conference Options. The lodging and conference venues in Western Montana range from charming hot spring resorts to mountainside lodges and larger branded hotels and conference centers to rustic lakeside guest ranches. Western Montana’s Glacier Country is also home to three of Montana’s luxury guest ranches and a prime destination for corporate incentive meetings and retreats (read more about those here.

Rejuvenating pools at Quinn’s Hot Springs.

Rejuvenating pools at Quinn’s Hot Springs.

Mountainside lodging at Whitefish Mountain Resort.

Mountainside lodging at Whitefish Mountain Resort.

3. Networking Opportunities. Because of the relaxed environment—the nature and scenery that surrounds them—attendees are able to relax and be more productive in thoughts and ideas. Without the big-city sights and sounds to draw their attention and time, people usually stay and network at the self-contained mountain destination. This allows for an increase in networking, bonding and a better exchange of idea that leaves your meeting attendees very satisfied with the mountain meeting experience. Volunteering has become a big part of meetings and is another way to bond and network, all while giving back to the community where the meeting is held.

Networking lakeside, Montana style.

Networking lakeside, Montana style.

Volunteering at a Montana state park while at a conference.

Volunteering at a Montana state park while at a conference.

4. Team-Building Opportunities. Few settings can match the mountains: the terrain found in Montana offers unimaginable variety all four seasons of the year. At Whitefish Mountain Resort, the summer months offer opportunities for teamwork and team bonding while having fun at the Aerial Adventure Park, an obstacle course that sits among the trees and off the ground at the resort.  Or paddle as a team as you maneuver your raft through the rapids on the Middle Fork of the Flathead River near Glacier National Park or the Alberton Gorge near Missoula. At Flathead Lake Lodge in Bigfork, team competitions take place with dummy steer roping, canoe racing and cocktail making.

Canoe racing competition on Flathead Lake.

Canoe racing competition on Flathead Lake.

Hiking to the M above Missoula for a team selfie.

Hiking to the M above Missoula for a team selfie.

5. Accessibility and Affordability. With two international airports in Western Montana—Missoula International Airport located in Missoula and Glacier Park International Airport located in Kalispell and only 20 minutes from both Whitefish and Glacier National Park—along with increased air service and decreasing ticket prices, getting here for that spectacular mountain meeting is easy. Historically, spring and fall have been the prime meeting and conference seasons which fits perfectly with Western Montana’s shoulder seasons, offering great rates and plenty of availability. Choose to stay in the charming mountain town of Whitefish (more on meeting in Whitefish here) or the regional shopping hub of Kalispell (more on meeting in Kalispell here) or the 2nd largest city and cultural hub of Montana, Missoula (more on meeting in Missoula here).

The charming mountain town of Whitefish, with world-class skiing at Whitefish Mountain Resort. Photo Explore Whitefish

The charming mountain town of Whitefish, with world-class skiing at Whitefish Mountain Resort. Photo Explore Whitefish

The bustling town of Kalispell, and the shopping hub of the Flathead Valley. Photo Donnie Sexton

The bustling town of Kalispell, and the shopping hub of the Flathead Valley. Photo Donnie Sexton

The cultural hub of Montana, Missoula is home to the University of Montana.

The cultural hub of Montana, Missoula is home to the University of Montana.

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

Meet in Montana,

DP

STAY AND PLAY IN WESTERN MONTANA’S BITTERROOT VALLEY

As the Tourism Sales Manager for Western Montana’s Glacier Country, I am often asked about our hidden gems or the undiscovered places in the region. Without hesitation, I think of one of my favorite places, the Bitterroot Valley. If your clients are looking 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.

Sunset over the Bitterroot Mountains.

Sunset over the Bitterroot Mountains.

The Bitterroot River flows through the valley.

The Bitterroot River flows through the valley.

Located just south of Missoula on 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 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.

Interpretive talks. Photo: Travelers’ Rest State Park

Interpretive talks. Photo: Travelers’ Rest State Park

A little farther south on 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.

Birding at Lee Metcalf Wildlife Refuge.

Continue south on the East Side Highway and you’ll come to 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.

For overnight stays, try the The Stevensville Hotel or Bitterroot River Bed & Breakfast. Built in 1910 and located one block from Main Street, The Stevensville Hotel is an award-winning property that’s on the National Historic Register. Meanwhile, the charming Bitterroot River Bed & Breakfast sits along the Bitterroot River and offers four beautifully appointed rooms and a scrumptious breakfast.

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

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

A little further south just outside of Hamilton is the Daly Mansion. The summer home 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.

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. Depending on the time of year, 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.

Lodging in Hamilton is comfortable and cozy at the Bitterroot River Inn & Conference Center or Hamilton’s TownHouse Inn.

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

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

Impressive views from Blodgett Canyon Overlook.

Impressive views from Blodgett Canyon Overlook.

For travelers looking to explore a western town, travel a bit farther south through Montana’s Bitterroot Valley on Highway 93 to the charming town of Darby. Darby’s wood façade buildings provide a real western feel as you stroll through downtown and their signature event—Darby Logger Days—pays tribute to the town’s logging roots. Recommended stops include 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 Triple Creek Ranch.

A beautiful day at Lake Como.

A beautiful day at Lake Como.

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

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

Bitterroot Valley Chamber of Commerce 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

MAY IN MONTANA – AN INTERNATIONAL FAM TOUR

In early May, Glacier Country Tourism will join the Real America Region in welcoming a few of our international tour operator colleagues from France, Germany, Italy and Australia for Roundup, an annual conference that brings tour operators to explore the #RealAmericaUSA—a region made up of Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming. After Roundup, we’ll set out on a familiarization tour (FAM) from Cody, Wyoming to Kalispell, Montana. This FAM tour will be showcasing some of the wonderful things to see and do on an itinerary between Yellowstone National Park and Glacier National Park, two of Montana’s icons.

Grand Prismatic Spring in Yellowstone National Park.

Grand Prismatic Spring in Yellowstone National Park.

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

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

To kick things off, we are offering a sneak preview of this FAM tour here on the blog. But that’s not all. We also want you to join us for a first-hand experience of the attractions and stunning scenery on this two-state itinerary by following along using #MayInMontanaUSA on Instagram and Twitter from May 7 – 12, 2016.

As an added bonus, this itinerary through Wyoming and Montana would be a perfect route for tour operators to package, especially as an FIT route for travelers who want to explore some of the region’s most scenic places.

Day 1
Today we leave Cody, Wyoming and head into Yellowstone National Park through the east entrance on Highway 14. Inside the park, we will follow along the Yellowstone River with a stop at Canyon Overlooks and Visitor Center. Since it is spring, we hope to see baby wildlife including bison, bighorn sheep, elk, deer, pronghorn antelope and, if we’re lucky, a grizzly or black bear. We’ll round out our stay in Yellowstone with a stop at Mammoth Hot Springs and the iconic Roosevelt Arch in Gardiner, Montana. This is the original entrance to the park and the only entrance that is open year-round.

Any day is a good day spent in Yellowstone National Park.

Any day is a good day spent in Yellowstone National Park.

As we head north through Paradise Valley, we will pass the town of Emigrant, Montana.  Home to Chico Hot Springs, a world-renowned bed-and-breakfast regarded for its exceptional dinners and soothing hot spring pools.

Gorgeous views in Paradise Valley.

Gorgeous views in Paradise Valley.

Continuing our journey north on Highway 89, we’ll follow the Yellowstone River as we arrive in Livingston, one of southwest Montana’s most charming towns. Over the last several decades, Livingston has become an arts mecca, with many artists and writers living in the area. The downtown boasts more than 15 art galleries, along with an eclectic blend of shops, museums, live theater and music, as well as tasty restaurants.

Heading east on Interstate 90, our next stop is the fastest growing city in Montana— Bozeman. One of the most diverse small towns in the Rocky Mountain West, Bozeman has an eclectic mix of ranchers, artists, professors, ski enthusiasts and entrepreneurs who are drawn here by world-class outdoor recreation and easy accessibility. Bozeman is home to Montana State University as well as the Museum of the Rockies—a Smithsonian affiliate and federal repository for fossilsOur time in Bozeman will include a stop at the museum to see one of the largest and most famous dinosaur collections in the world, as well as  a planetarium and displays of dinosaurs and dinosaur eggs unearthed in Montana.

Sunset views outside of Bozeman.

Sunset views outside of Bozeman.

Overnight in Belgrade.

Day 2
After leaving Belgrade, we’ll travel north on Highway 287 along the mighty Missouri River for Helena—the capital city of Montana. Helena became the “Queen City of the Rockies” with the boom brought on by the 1864 gold strike. A one-hour tour on The Last Chance Tour Train (season begins May 15) provides interesting, entertaining and colorful insights into Helena’s history.

Capitol building in Helena.

Montana’s capitol building in Helena.

As we head north out of town on Interstate 15, we will pass by the Gates of the Mountains area on the Missouri River. Insider tip: the Gates of the Mountains are what we call a “must visit” in Montana. Both group tours and FIT travelers are well-advised to take the two-hour boat tour along the towering walls of limestone and past stunning scenery to see American Indian pictographs painted on the rock walls by Montana’s First Nations centuries ago.

From our boat tour on the edge of Helena, we’ll head to Rocking Z Guest Ranch, one of Montana’s many guest ranch experiences. Rocking Z has one of the best equine vacation experiences in the state and is deeply rooted in Montana tradition, welcoming horsemen from advanced riders to the novice. Additional highlights: comfortable accommodations, great home-cooked meals and a welcoming family atmosphere.

Heading west on Interstate 90 (and a 2-hour drive from Helena), our final stop of the day is Missoula—Montana’s Garden City. The second largest city in Montana, Missoula is home to the University of Montana, as well as nine historic districts, funky boutiques, live theater and a thriving music scene. The city of Missoula sits at the convergence of five valleys and three rivers, making it a prime launching point for outdoor recreation.

Overnight in Missoula.

Day 3
One of Montana’s most active cities, this morning we’ll embrace the outdoor culture Missoula offers. Overlooking the city of Missoula and donning the letter M is Mount Sentinel. The trail to the “M” is one of the most popular hikes in Montana and with 11 switchbacks to the top, hikers are rewarded with stunning panoramas of the Missoula Valley. After taking in the view of the city, we’ll explore it on a walking tour of the numerous art galleries located downtown, with a final private guided tour of the Missoula Art Museum.

Mount Sentinel and the Clark Fork River.

Mount Sentinel and the Clark Fork River.

Our last stop in Missoula:  the Smokejumper Visitor Center . Here, we’ll take a guided tours (available regularly in the summer and by appointment year-round) and see a first-hand look at  the brave men and women—known as smokejumpers—who fight fires deep in the country’s wilderness areas.

Following our tour, we hit the road and travel north on Highway 93 to the Flathead Indian Reservation, home to the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes. Within the boundaries of the reservation are the National Bison Range, Mission Mountains and the Mission Mountain Wilderness, along with several communities, including Arlee, Charlo, Ronan and Polson.

Just a little further north (about 45 minutes from Missoula), we’ll make our first official stop on the reservation at Ninepipes Museum of Early Montana in Charlo. Nestled under the Mission Mountain Range and named after Joseph Ninepipes, a Salish Chief, the museum offers a look into more than a century of life on the Flathead Indian Reservation, as well as homesteading in early Montana with artifacts, antiques and early photos.

As we continue north to the town of Polson, we’ll travel Highway 35 up the east side of Flathead Lake. The largest freshwater lake in the western United States, Flathead Lake is 48 kilometers long (30 miles), 24 kilometers wide (15 miles) and 91 meters (300 feet) deep in some places and is ideal for water recreation like fishing, sailing and kayaking.

Bigfork is our next stop and sits on the northeast corner of Flathead Lake. One of the top 100 best small arts towns in the U.S., Bigfork boasts 50 shops, 16 galleries and fantastic restaurants. Plus, the Bigfork Summer Playhouse offers live plays six nights per week in the summer months.

Charming town of Bigfork.

Charming town of Bigfork.

Overnight in Bigfork.

Day 4
After a delicious breakfast in downtown Bigfork, today we travel through the beautiful Flathead Valley to the mountain town of Whitefish and a visit to the Bar W Guest Ranch. Sitting on Spencer Lake, Bar W has  3,000 acres of terrain that are perfect for horseback riding and outdoor activities like skeet shooting, archery, fishing, hiking, mountain biking, cattle penning and square dancing.

Wagon loads of fun at Bar W Guest Ranch.

Wagon loads of fun at Bar W Guest Ranch.

After getting a taste of the West, we’ll unwind with a free afternoon of exploring shops, galleries and watering holes in downtown. Whitefish is home to Whitefish Mountain Resort—a world-class ski resort and summer recreation hub that offers zip lining, Walk in the Treetops, an Aerial Adventure Park, hiking, mountain biking and an alpine slide.

Overnight in Whitefish.

Day 5
The last day of our trip will be spent in the Crown of the Continent, Glacier National Park. Encompassing more than 1 million acres, the park is open year-round and has 762 lakes, 25 glaciers and the 80-kilometer-long (50 miles) Going-to-the-Sun Road. Established in 1910, Glacier National Park is home to historic lodges, two backcountry chalets and motor inns. Activities include hiking, boat tours and horseback trail rides, along with a number of ranger-led activities throughout the year.

Great photo opportunities on the boat tours in Glacier National Park.

Great photo opportunities on the boat tours in Glacier National Park.

While we are in Glacier National Park, we will board a vintage 1930’s red bus for a guided tour from Apgar Village to Lake McDonald Lodge. The bus drivers are the guides—also known as jammers—(back in the early days they had to “jam” the buses into gear to get them to climb the Going-to-the-Sun Road) who tell about the history of the park, the building of the road and the flora and fauna seen throughout the park.

Red bus tour stop at the top of Logan Pass.

Red bus tour stop at the top of Logan Pass.

After a day spent in Glacier National Park, we’ll head to the Flathead Valley’s largest community, Kalispell. Known for offering great shopping options for both big box stores and charming downtown boutiques, it also has a handful of historic museums and one of the best local breweries in Montana, Kalispell Brewing Company.

Our FAM tour comes to and end with a farewell dinner—along with a stop at the famous Moose’s Saloon—before heading to bed for early flights out of Glacier Park International the next morning.

If you would like more information on any of the attractions on this itinerary or need help planning an itinerary for your own group, visit our tour operator page here, or drop me a line here. I am always here to help.

Remember to follow along at #MayInMontanaUSA on Instagram and Twitter during the week of May 7 – 12 to see real-time images and comments from our international FAM guests.

I hope you enjoy May in Montana,

DP

TOP WINTER MEETING RETREATS IN WESTERN MONTANA’S GLACIER COUNTRY

Awe, winter: the time of year when Western Montana’s Glacier Country offers crisp refreshing air and the opportunity for great winter recreation. Why not combine that with some amazing corporate retreat locations and meeting venues that provide warmth and relaxation, along with some inspiration in the colder months? Pack up your best sweaters, throw in your mittens, hats and wool socks—along with your favorite pair of boots—and let us help spice up that winter board meeting or plan that exceptional corporate retreat in Western Montana.

Scenic Montana highway drive in winter

Scenic Montana highway drive in winter

About an hour northwest of Missoula and surrounded by lush forest lands is a quaint retreat that sits on the banks of the Clark Fork River. Quinn’s Hot Springs Resort, located just outside of Paradise—yes you read that right, Paradise, Montana—is a little slice of heaven. Choose to stay in the beautiful 15-room Glacier Lodge or one of the resort cabins that range from standard accommodations to deluxe riverside suites with luxury bedding, leather furniture, kitchen amenities and beautiful views of the Clark Fork River. Meetings can be held in Quinn’s new 9,000 square foot Paradise Hall event space on the banks of the Clark Fork River and can host up to 300 attendees. Catering options include their outstanding on-site restaurant Harwood House Restaurant. After your meeting, relax in Quinn’s six hot spring pools: two for swimming and four for soaking. The natural mineral water—high in calcium, magnesium, sodium, potassium and iron—is chemical-free and flows continuously, offering excellent health benefits.

Quinn’s natural mineral hot springs

Quinn’s natural mineral hot springs

Harwood House Restaurant at Quinn’s

Harwood House Restaurant at Quinn’s

Double Arrow Resort, located in Seeley Lake and surrounded by the Mission and Swan mountains, is a meeting destination that is great year-round, with winter offering a little something extra special. Outdoor winter recreation abounds for visitors, whether your group is interested in snowmobiling, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing or ice fishing. Your meeting can take place in the Blackfoot Conference Center or the Great Hall in the historic Double Arrow Lodge. Finish the retreat with a winter sleigh ride and then cozy up to the large stone fireplace with a hot toddy of choice. Lodging choices range from cozy rooms in the historic main lodge (built in 1929) to log cabins and houses.

Horse-drawn sleigh rides at Double Arrow Resort

Horse-drawn sleigh rides at Double Arrow Resort

Hot beverages by the fire in the historic lodge

Hot beverages by the fire in the historic lodge

Another great winter destination is Mountain Lake Lodge. This impressive lodge overlooks  magnificent Flathead Lake, the largest freshwater lake in the West, and is located only 5 miles from one of the 100 best small art towns in the U.S.—Bigfork. The 30 well-appointed suites at the lodge offer cozy fireplaces and signature bedding in each room, with meeting space in the Fireplace Room or Jest Gallery. Leave time in your schedule to visit the picturesque community of Bigfork that’s home to world-class art galleries, fine dining and live theater.

Guest suites at Mountain Lake Lodge

Guest suites at Mountain Lake Lodge

Evening lights and décor in downtown Bigfork

Evening lights and décor in downtown Bigfork

Daytime shopping in Bigfork

Daytime shopping in Bigfork

Located in the charming mountain town of Whitefish, The Lodge at Whitefish Lake will greet your retreat attendees with a roaring fire in the stone fireplace as you pull up to the front entrance. Check into your lake view or mountainside rooms, all adorned with elegant furnishings. Once you and your meeting attendees have checked in, take a few minutes to prop your feet up in front of the cozy fireplace in your guest room and relax.  Meetings can be held in the 10,000 square feet of flexible meeting space and their banquet staff can accommodate any catering needs. Retreat amenities include a full-service day spa and indoor pool and hot tub. Attendees can also slip outside to the year-round lakeside hot tub. Only 15 minutes away at Whitefish Mountain Resort is world-class skiing and snowboarding with 3,000 acres of downhill terrain and 105 marked runs for a variety of skill levels. Be sure to carve out some time to dine and shop in downtown Whitefish, as well as  check out the town’s kick-up-your-heals nightlife.

Festive entrance to The Lodge at Whitefish Lake

Festive entrance to The Lodge at Whitefish Lake

Lakeside relaxation awaits

Lakeside relaxation awaits

For more information on the winter retreat meeting locations above or to explore other options, visit our Glacier Country Meetings website or drop me a line; I’m always here to help.

Meet in Montana,

DP