Author Archives: Debbie

5 WESTERN MONTANA CONVENTION HOTELS FOR YOUR NEXT MEETING IN MONTANA

Western Montana’s Glacier Country has been gaining momentum with meeting planners looking for that unique destination experience to hold their next association meeting or convention. Our Montana-style warm western hospitality welcomes meeting planners and attendees with authentic experiences outside of the meeting rooms and customized options for inside the convention spaces.

Some planners might be 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 of the three cities, with 33,400 square feet at the University of Montana and 22,000 square feet at its 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 between the two.

However, it’s no surprise that the draw to meet in Montana often times falls outside of the conference room walls. When asked, here is what a few sales directors from our convention hotels had to say about what sets them apart in Western Montana’s Glacier Country and how they can help provide a memorable meeting or convention for your clients and attendees.

Glacier National Park as the backdrop.

Shopping in downtown Whitefish. Photo: Pursuit, Glacier Park Collection

Holiday Inn Missoula Downtown
“Location, location, location. The Holiday Inn Missoula Downtown offers easy access to everything that is uniquely Missoula. Whether it’s tubing and fishing on the Clark Fork River, Out to Lunch or Downtown ToNight in Caras Park or the Clark Fork Markets held on Saturday’s throughout the warmer months, the Holiday Inn Missoula Downtown is located in the heart of it all.” ~Dan Young, Sales Manager 

Holiday Inn Missoula Downtown. Photo: Holiday Inn

DoubleTree by Hilton –  Missoula-Edgewater
“After updating our ballroom space at the DoubleTree, we are now in the process of renovating our guest rooms. Our beautiful hotel sits along the shore of the Clark Fork River that runs through downtown Missoula with breathtaking views. Our updated private dining room space looks out over the river and seats up to 25 people—an excellent option for a VIP dinner. In the warmer months, our beautiful renovated deck provides the best views in town and seats about 50 people and can be rented out for a cocktail hour or special event. We have found it is definitely a ‘WOW’ for all guests.” ~Lydia Bryan, Director of Sales & Marketing

Reserve the deck for a cocktail hour. Photo: DoubleTree by Hilton

Private dining room overlooking the Clark Fork River. Photo: DoubleTree by Hilton

Red Lion Hotel Kalispell
“The Red Lion works closely with Discover Kalispell, our local CVB and our local community. We also help plan team-building and group events all around the Flathead Valley. We want our meeting attendees to get the most out of visiting Kalispell and leave knowing their event at the Red Lion was a huge success. I would say one of our best features is our location in the heart of historic downtown Kalispell. We are within walking distance of local shopping, great local food for dine-arounds, craft breweries and wonderful local history. If you want an affordable, true Montana experience without sacrificing comfort or style, the Red Lion is the spot.” ~Heidi Gilmond, Director of Sales

Evening hues at the Red Lion Hotel Kalispell. Photo: Red Lion Hotel Kalispell

Relax at the indoor pool. Photo: Red Lion Hotel Kalispell

The Lodge at Whitefish Lake
“As the only four diamond resort hotel in Montana, The Lodge at Whitefish Lake often encourage and package in or pre-sell services like cruises on Whitefish Lake on our unique watercraft, Lady of the Lake, along with spa treatments for VIPs or sometimes for all attendees. This has been particularly popular with incentive groups. Planners really seem to appreciate having these activities prearranged before they get to Whitefish, and it creates a more relaxed experience for attendees once they are on the property.”  ~Edna White, Sales & Marketing Director

Cruise Whitefish Lake aboard Lady of the Lake. Photo: The Lodge at Whitefish Lake

Spa treatments, yes please. Photo: The Lodge at Whitefish Lake

Grouse Mountain Lodge
Grouse Mountain Lodge is an ideal choice for groups due to our expertise with local attractions and additional accommodations. We strive to make the planning process as easy as possible. What truly sets us apart is our pre- and post-meeting specialties. We make visiting Whitefish and Montana a truly unforgettable experience. We help attendees plan their Glacier National Park vacations before or after their conferences. Our year-round call staff helps attendees work out logistics such as additional lodging outside or inside the park, transportation needs and suggestions for the best hiking trails and fishing spots.” ~Corinna Ceballos, Regional Sales Manager

With two major international airports—Missoula (MSO) and Glacier Park (FCA)—serviced by Allegiant Air, Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Delta Airlines, Frontier Airlines and United Airlines, with 13 direct flight options, there are plenty of routes to provide smooth travel plans for meeting attendees visiting Western Montana. 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.

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

Meet in Montana,

DP

GUEST POST: 5 HIDDEN GEMS AT THE HISTORICAL MUSEUM AT FORT MISSOULA

Located in Western Montana’s Glacier Country and just a few miles from downtown Missoula, the Historical Museum at Fort Missoula welcomes nearly 50,000 visitors annually. It’s a spacious site with stunning views of the Montana landscape, great educational exhibits, and community-centered special events. In addition, the museum has many features that make it unique. Below are the Top 5 hidden gems for groups experiencing Fort Missoula’s rich history.

Glacial Lake Missoula: You’ve traveled several hours by bus, and everyone is going a bit stir crazy. All your travelers want is to pull over and get some fresh air. Why not stop at the Historical Museum at Fort Missoula? You can stretch your legs on the museum’s 32 park-like acres, enjoying panoramic views of the beautiful Missoula Valley, and you may even see evidence of glacial lake Missoula.

During the Ice Age, what is the Missoula Valley today was once all under water. Glacial Lake Missoula drained suddenly, multiple times, as the glaciers retreated, sculpting the landscape of the Northwest. Today, evidence of Glacial Lake Missoula can be seen on the hillsides surrounding the Missoula Valley.

WWII Alien Detention Center: One of the least-known stories of Fort Missoula, but one that holds the most international significance, is that of the men who were interned at Fort Missoula during WWI. Fort Missoula was home to an Alien Detention Center that held 1,200 Italian and 1,000 Japanese foreign nationals. The Italians were merchant seamen, World’s Fair workers, and others trapped in the United States at the dawn of WWII. They were held at Fort Missoula from 1941 – 1945 out of the fear that if they were to return to Italy, they would fight against the U.S. allies in Europe.

The Japanese men held at Fort Missoula were a very different story. They were prominent West Coast community, business and religious leaders. As resident aliens, they were not permitted to apply for US citizenship due to the laws of the time. During their internment in Missoula, they were subjected to a series of loyalty hearings that were conducted in a now-restored courtroom on the museum grounds. The museum staff are happy to arrange private tours for groups to visit the courtroom and its related exhibit to learn more about this very dark time in American History.

Fort Missoula Alien Detention Center 1941-1944

The Teepee Burner: At one point during Western Montana’s past, Teepee Burners dotted the landscape. Teepee burners were used to burn waste from the many sawmills in the West. During the evenings, the teepee burners glowed, illuminating the valley.

Today, they have disappeared from Missoula as the waste from sawmills has been repurposed. One of the few that remains resides on the campus of the Historical Museum. Come out to rediscover this beautiful, yet controversial, artifact of the past.

The Teepee Burner sits within the Museum’s Forestry Interpretive Area

The Trolley Barn: Have you ever set foot on a streetcar trolley? Now is your chance. The Historical Museum at Fort Missoula has a fully restored interurban streetcar. Housed in the museum’s trolley barn, along with a restored stagecoach and Missoula’s first firetruck, group tours can arrange to not only view the streetcar up close, but climb aboard and experience what life was like for residents of Missoula in the 1920s.

The Trolley Barn houses the museum’s interurban streetcar 

The Collection: One of the little-known, but most interesting aspects of all museums are their collections. Currently, the Historical Museum at Fort Missoula houses over 45,000 objects, photos and documents from Missoula’s past. Artifacts range from furniture to postcards. In recent years, the Historical Museum has taken steps to raise awareness of this important aspect of all museums. The Historical Museum staff is happy to provide tours of “behind the scenes” areas allowing visitors to interact with the collection.

The Historical Museum at Fort Missoula is located at 3400 Captain Rawn Way, Missoula, MT, 59804. Please visit www.fortmissoulamuseum.org for more information or to book your group tour.

Guest post by Matt Lautzenheiser the Executive Director for the Historical Museum at Fort Missoula

 

THE 5 1/2 FREE THINGS YOU’LL RECEIVE WHEN YOU MEET IN WESTERN MONTANA

Everyone loves the word FREE, but we’ve all been conditioned to assume it’s “too good to be true.” If you’re choosing to hold your meeting or convention in Western Montana’s Glacier Country, let us show you how we do FREE and how it can help the bottom line for both meeting planners and conference attendees.

1. Let’s begin with hotel shuttles from either of our Western Montana airports. Missoula International Airport (MSO) is a short 7-minute drive to downtown Missoula. Glacier Park International (FCA), located in Kalispell, is a 15-minute drive to both Whitefish and downtown Kalispell. All of our larger branded conference hotels in Missoula, Kalispell and Whitefish offer FREE shuttles to and from the airport. If you’re traveling into our region on Amtrak’s Empire Builder, shuttles from Whitefish properties are available to pick up and drop off at the depot in Whitefish as well as some Kalispell properties.

Missoula International Airport. Photo: Missoula Airport.

2. Whether you’re driving in for a regional meeting or renting a car from the airport for a pre or post-conference sightseeing adventure in Western Montana, parking is always FREE at our lodging properties. While most of our hotels do not offer valet parking due to the easy parking-lot-to-lobby access, The Lodge at Whitefish Lake—the only 4 diamond hotel property in Western Montana—does offer FREE valet service.

Schedule a horse-drawn wagon ride with Bar W in Whitefish for a conference outing or pre/post vacation activity.

3. Wi-Fi is a necessity for conference attendees, and charging for it does not fit into our western hospitality philosophy here in Montana’s Glacier Country. All of our conference hotels offer FREE Wi-Fi in guest rooms and either FREE or minimal cost in conference spaces. When utilizing AV services, meeting planners will find that conference hotels in Western Montana offer very affordable rates on everything from projector packages to Polycom needs.

State-of-the-art AV services. Photo: SpringHill Suites Kalispell.

4. Staying healthy, focused and connected is critical while attending any meeting. Access to business centers, fitness centers, pools and hot tubs is never an additional charge in Western Montana conference hotels and resorts. So pack those running shoes and that swimsuit without fear of having to pay extra, it’s FREE.

Bring those workout clothes. Photo: Lodge at Whitefish Lake.

Bring those swimsuits. Photo: Lodge at Whitefish Lake.

5. Montana is one of only five states where there is no state wide sales tax, so we encourage attendees to leave a little space in their suitcases for lots of made-in-Montana items. Meeting planner clients will only see a service charge on a final BEO, not on guest rooms or other meeting services.

Utilize the great outdoor space found in Montana. Photo: Holiday Inn Downtown Missoula.

An outdoor dinner at the Conrad Mansion in Kalispell.

1/2. Bonus: At just 7%, Montana’s lodging tax is half of some neighboring states (10% in Whitefish, which includes their 3% resort tax). Look to Western Montana’s shoulder seasons (spring and fall)—specifically the months of March, April, May, October, and November—for the best availability and rates on guest rooms and conference space.

Spring in Montana is a great time to meet and visit Glacier National Park as a pre or post conference vacation.

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

Meet in Montana,
DP

REFLECTING ON 2018 IN WESTERN MONTANA’S GLACIER COUNTRY

As a new year approaches, it’s always fun to look back and reflect on the past year in Western Montana’s Glacier Country. We have had a wonderful year working with professional businesses from around the globe. It’s been a pleasure to help develop suggested itineraries for motorcoach tours wanting to showcase the history and early settlement of the West in Montana and find that perfect rodeo for their group to attend while in the region. Unique lodging options for the international visitor is a request we often receive. Accommodating with a teepee, treehouse, cabin in the woods, lakeside lodge or luxury guest ranch has been a joy. Introducing that perfect meeting space, offsite venue and activity to meeting planners and hearing them say, “This place is so beautiful, our attendees are going to love the authentic experience here,” is very heartwarming. We’ve held FAMs throughout the region, and when asked what surprised those visitors most about Western Montana—besides our stunning scenery and warm hospitality—it’s our amazing culinary scene that seems to rise to the top. Reflecting back on a great 2018, we’d like to say thank you to all who shared in the fun.

A FAM trip out to Glacier National Park with some of our closest international friends.

Line dancing lessons in a horse arena? Yes please.

Horseback riding with Triple Creek Ranch in the Bitterroot Mountains.

Touring the Smokejumpers Visitor Center in Missoula.

Introducing fly fishing to these visitors on the Bitterroot River.

Horse-drawn sleigh rides at Double Arrow Lodge in Seeley Lake with warm blankets followed by hot cocoa.

A perfect golf morning at Wilderness Club resort in Eureka.

Floating down the Clark Fork through the heart of Missoula with River City Brews Rafting Tours.

Our guests are ready for an outdoor dinner at the Conrad Mansion Museum in Kalispell.

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

Our red bus was ready to take us to see the scenery in Glacier.

Hello, gorgeous Glacier National Park.

The grand Glacier Park Lodge is a must see and/or stay while on the east side of Glacier.

TeePee stays on the Blackfeet Nation along Lower St. Mary Lake with stunning views of Glacier National Park.

Soaking up the sun aboard the DeSmet on Lake McDonald in Glacier.

Thanks, 2018, for a beautiful year, and here’s to an amazing 2019. Drop me a line if you need assistance in Western Montanan’s Glacier Country—I am always here to help.

DP

YELLOWSTONE TO GLACIER NATIONAL PARK ITINERARY

As the Tourism Sales Manager for Western Montana’s Glacier Country, I spend a significant amount of time traveling around the U.S. attending trade shows to promote the western region of Montana to domestic group tour operators, international tour operators and travel agents. One question that often comes up, “What’s the best route to take between Montana’s two national parks, Yellowstone and Glacier?” While each route offers its own scenic beauty and not-to-be-missed attractions along the way, one of the most direct routes is through Butte and Missoula. On this park-to-park trip, you’ll stick mainly to interstates and U.S. highways, but in Montana, even the freeways are scenic. You’ll also travel along some of this corridor’s coolest offerings—like the richest hill on earth in Butte and Lewis and Clark Caverns in Whitehall.

Day 1: West Yellowstone to Missoula
After adventuring in Yellowstone National Park, it’s time to head north. Leaving West Yellowstone, travel north on U.S. Highway 191 and then west on U.S. Highway 287 along the beautiful shores of Hebgen Lake and Quake Lake, both created in 1959 when an earthquake hit the Madison Canyon River Area. Stop in at the Earthquake Lake Visitor Center to see remembrances of the event.

Goodbye Yellowstone, headed to Glacier National Park.

Next up is the charming town of Ennis in the heart of heavenly trout fishing in Southwest Montana located on the banks of the Madison River. After leaving Ennis, give yourself enough time (two hours) to stop and see the Lewis and Clark Caverns, Montana’s first and best-known state park.

Ennis is one of Montana’s most popular fishing towns.

Montana’s largest state park, Lewis and Clark Caverns.

Head north again and meet up Interstate Highway 90. Follow the signs to Butte. History, personality and charm are part of the walkable “uptown” district, and it’s the perfect place to stop and eat lunch. Local favorites include a Wop Chop or a pasty (pronounced pass-tee). Then jump on a trolley tour to learn about the characters, famous folks, miners and scoundrels that lived and worked in Butte.

Farther west on I-90 (1.5 hours) is Missoula—the cultural hub of Montana. Spend the afternoon exploring the city’s downtown, including boutique shops, a thriving culinary scene, breweries and live music venues. Be sure to stroll over to the Brennan’s Wave overlook, where you are likely to see a kayaker (or several) playing on the man-made whitewater wave on the Clark Fork River. No visit to Missoula is complete without a stop at the Smokejumper Visitor Center, located near the Missoula International Airport. As the nation’s largest training base for smokejumpers, the visitor center showcases displays, dioramas and videos related to the lore of America’s legendary parachute wildfire fighters. Take a guided tour of the parachute loft and see the brave men and women that face these wildfires.

Shop the boutique stores in downtown Missoula.

Kayaker on Brennan’s Wave in downtown Missoula.

Overnight in Missoula

DAY 2: Missoula to Kalispell
Head north on U.S. Highway 93 out of Missoula and you’ll soon be on the tribal lands of the Flathead Indian Reservation. The reservation encompasses 1.3 million acres and is home to the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes.

At Ravalli, (30 minutes from Missoula) travel west on state Route 200 and north on U.S. Highway 212 to the National Bison Range—one of the oldest wildlife refuges in the nation. With more than 18,000 acres, the range is home to 350 – 500 head of bison, as well as black bear, bighorn sheep, pronghorn antelope, elk and white-tailed deer.

Over 350 bison roam the National Bison Range.

After leaving the National Bison Range, continue north on U.S. 212 to the town of Charlo, and stop at Allentown Restaurant (located in Ninepipes Lodge) for lunch and enjoy the breathtaking views of the Mission Mountains from the dining room. Following lunch, stroll over to the Ninepipes Museum of Early Montana to experience a treasure trove of information, including exhibits, artifacts and displays from early settlers. Take a quick peak in at Great Gray Gifts for the perfect made in Montana souvenir.

Views from Ninepipes Lodge and Allentown Restaurant.

From here, travel 20 minutes north on U.S. 93 to the community of Pablo and stop in for a visit at The People’s Center. Self-guided tours of the museum are available, but we suggest you schedule a tour with a guide for a truly memorable experience.

As you continue north on U.S. 93 and drop into the town of Polson, you’ll capture a breathtaking view of Flatead Lake—the largest natural freshwater lake in the West. Attractions in Polson include the Miracle of America Museum and its amazing collection of Americana curiosities.

Continue north around the west side of Flathead Lake to Kalispell, the commercial hub of the Flathead Valley. Stop in the Conrad Mansion Museum and visit the historic home of Kalispell’s founding family built in 1895.

Overnight in Kalispell

Day 3: Kalispell to Glacier National Park
Kalispell is located just 45 minutes from the west entrance to Glacier National Park. A wilderness of lakes, towering peaks and remnants of glaciers is readily accessible. Stop in West Glacier and get your provisions for the day. Include snacks and water, as those are scarce once you head into the park. Apgar Village offers watercraft rentals and spectacular views of Lake McDonald. Stop into Eddie’s for some delicious ice cream and a souvenir before heading over to the Apgar Visitor Center.

Views from Apgar Village in Glacier National Park.

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. Travel to the hand-hewn, grand Lake McDonald Lodge (20 minutes from West Glacier) where you can hop aboard a red bus for a tour of the 50-mile-long Going-to-the-Sun Road (various tour lengths available; reservations required). There are vehicle length restrictions on Going-to-the-Sun Road, so leave the driving to someone else. The historic canvas-top tour buses were introduced in the 1930s and have since been restored and outfitted with propane engines—gift from the Ford Motor Company. Additionally, Sun Tours offers tours on the Going-to-the-Sun Road including narrative from the Blackfeet Indian perspective.

Red bus on the Going-to-the-Sun Road in Glacier National Park.

Narrated boat tours on historic wooden boats with Glacier Park Boat Company are offered several times a day on Lake McDonald, Two Medicine Lake, St. Mary Lake, Swiftcurrent Lake and Lake Josephine. The St. Mary Visitor Center is also definitely worth a stop while you’re in Glacier National Park. Hike more than 700 miles of trails including short hikes to waterfalls,  extended backcountry hikes to unnamed lakes, and everything in between. Glacier National Park has something for everyone.

Imagine yourself sitting here on this boat cruise on Lake McDonald.

For this complete itinerary and other itinerary suggestions visit our tour operators site. If you need further assistance in itinerary planning feel free to drop me a line, I’m always here to help.

Happy Adventuring,

DP

ADDING TOUR OPTIONS TO YOUR GLACIER NATIONAL PARK ITINERARY

As tour operators plan for their next warm-weather tour into Western Montana’s Glacier Country, we’ve highlighted a few tour options that tend to fly under the radar. When visiting Western Montana, we know that Glacier National Park is a bucket list destination, and most visitors coming to Glacier Country have at least a couple days planned to see the sights in the Crown of the Continent. If your itinerary allows, we’ve included a few more options in the Flathead Valley that can be added to any itinerary, especially for the less active or senior motorcoach tour.

Climb aboard a red bus in Glacier National Park.

Purple Mountain Lavender
Tour the grounds of Purple Mountain Lavender just above Flathead Lake in Lakeside, Montana, featuring more than 1,000 lavender plants of 25 different varieties all grown in a chemical-free environment. Take in the breathtaking views of the Flathead Valley and learn about all the different uses for lavender—from oil distillation and cooking, to drying for arrangements. If your itinerary schedule is tight and you’d rather have a class brought to your group, they are available at your hotel location and are great fun for men and woman alike. Deb—the owner—will introduce you to lavender cookies, lemonade and show you how to make lavender sachets so you can take some Montana lavender home with you.
May – October

The views of Flathead Lake from Purple Mountain Lavender.

Walk the lavender fields with 25 different varieties.

Meet Humphrey, Sunshine and Flopsey.

Making lavender sachets to take home.

Kalispell Historic & Cultural Tour
Kalispell Montana is the county seat for the Flathead Valley and has some amazing history just waiting to be explored. Whether you request a step-on guide to board your motorcoach and make your way around Kalispell or you climb aboard a historic trolley for a customized tour, your group is in for a treat. Your guide will help lay out the history of downtown Kalispell and its historic homes and tell the story of the famous people who resided in them. Learn about the founder of Kalispell, William Conrad, and visit the Conrad Mansion Museum built in 1895. The mansion was quite innovative for its time, with a built-in dumbwaiter, fire hoses on every floor and a communication system throughout the house. Take a docent-led tour and learn about the dignitaries who stayed with the Conrad’s over the years. Visit the Hockaday Museum of Art—an original Carnegie Library—a beautiful gallery housing one of the largest collections of art and culture on the Blackfeet Indians and Glacier National Park. Originally built as a schoolhouse, The Museum of Central School in now the home of NW Montana exhibitions and delves into the railroad and logging history of the area.
May – November including a tour of Conrad Mansion

Explore the Conrad Mansion Museum and grounds.

The Hockaday Museum of Art was once a Carnegie Library.

Board a historic trolley for a unique view of Historic Kalispell.

Far West Boat Tours on Flathead Lake
Flathead Lake is the largest freshwater lake in the western United States, capturing the title from Lake Tahoe by a few miles of shoreline. What better way to see this beautiful lake and the magnificent Mission and Swan Mountain ranges than by boat. Book a charter for your group or take advantage of the summer schedule when the boat sets sail daily at 1 p.m. from the dock at the Lakeside Marina on the northeast side of the lake. The daily cruise is narrated by the Far West crew who will explain how the natural lake was carved out by glaciers and that is rated the cleanest lake in the U.S. Plus, they’ll tell you what kind of water species call the lake home. Cruise past the natural islands in the lake, the largest being Wild Horse Island—now a day-use state park—and witness where the Flathead Indians were reported to have pastured their horses to keep them from be stolen by other tribes. There are still a few wild horses on Wild Horse Island, along with bighorn sheep, mule deer and bald eagles. There is a 10% discount for groups over 10 on their daily cruises. For groups wishing to charter the boat, a fully-licensed bar is available and catering services can be arranged.
June – October

Learn about Flathead Lake from the deck of Far West Boat Tours.

Sunset cruise on Flathead Lake.

For more information on additional itinerary suggestions, where to stay, and where to find group-friendly restaurants, visit our tour operators page, or drop me a line. I’m always here to help.

DP

 

COLORFUL AUTUMN ROAD TRIPS IN WESTERN MONTANA

Western Montana’s Glacier Country offers up four very distinct seasons. While each has its own special place in our hearts, we have to admit that we are smitten with autumn. The season brings crisp mountain air at night while days are still warm enough for adventuring. The colors of the changing leaves are vibrant with golden hues of the cottonwoods and the western larch that cover the mountainsides along our wild and scenic rivers. We’ve rounded up a few of our favorite road trips through Western Montana that showcase fall in all its glory. These routes can be added to any regional itinerary for your FIT clients this fall (winter, spring and summer too).

SCENIC ROAD TRIPS 

Bitterroot Valley
This lush, forested valley nested between the Bitterroot and Sapphire mountain ranges is prime for leaf peeping. Pull over and explore any one of the Bitterroot’s storybook communities or watch wildlife at the Lee Metcalf National Wildlife Refuge. Fall harvest events and happening take place at the Daly Mansion, which boasts 50 kinds of trees offering lots of changing colors. Stop in at Bitterroot cidery for some fresh-pressed deliciousness—the core of fall flavor!

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

Montana Tour 200
Just north of I-90 is scenic Hwy. 200 in Sanders County which travels along scenic river banks brimming with fall colors, active wildlife and ample outdoor recreation opportunities. Stop midway in Thompson Falls for a home-cooked meal at Minnie’s Montana Café. 

Visit the damn at Thompson Falls.

Flathead Lake
Circle the largest natural freshwater lake in the west for fall-foliage lake views, and experience the charm of the Flathead Valley, home to authentic small towns. Make a stop at The Raven Bar & Grill in Woods Bay on the east side of the lake for delicious waterfront dinging—including gluten free and vegetarian fare—craft cocktails, and some of the best views in the region.

The beauty of fall in the Flathead Valley.

Seeley Swan Valley
Between the stunning Swan and majestic Mission mountain ranges, the Seeley-Swan Valley boasts hundreds of pristine alpine lakes and beautiful hiking spots. This exceptionally scenic valley is known for its large population of tamaracks—unique pine trees that lose their golden needles in the fall. Make your stay an overnight with an authentic Montana lodging experience at the Double Arrow Resort, offering four-season recreation, cozy accommodations and incredibly warm hospitality.

 

Golden hue of the tamarack trees.

Highway 2 – Kalispell to Libby
Running through Western Montana’s northern region, Highway 2 travels along some of the most scenic places in Western Montana and introduces road-trippers to off-the-beaten-path treasures and well-known attractions to the locals. Start in Kalispell, the perfect mix of small-town Montana and old-west charm, and end in Libby, one of the region’s most scenic and quietest corners.

Kootenai Falls near the swing bridge on our way to Libby.

For more information on where to stay throughout Western Montana, visit our tour operators website. If you need additional tour itinerary assistance, feel free to drop me a line; I’m always here to help.

Happy fall road tripping,

DP

TOP 10 PLACES TO VISIT THIS FALL IN WESTERN MONTANA

Many 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: fall is one of the best times to visit Montana. The changing colors of vibrant red and orange hues are breathtaking. The weather can have a flair for the dramatic, with bright blue skies one minute and snow the next, but that is what makes autumn in Montana uniquely pleasing. We’ve rounded up some of the top things to add to a fall itinerary under Western Montana’s big blue sky.

The view of Swiftcurrent Lake from Many Glacier Hotel.

Top 10 List:

  1. Glacier National Park – The Crown of the Continent encompasses more than 1 million acres and features the famous Going-to-the-Sun Road. Pro tip: boat cruises and hiking trails on the east side of the park, are less crowded and lead to stunning views.

    A red bus in Glacier National Park.

  2. Blackfeet Indian Reservation – Visit the Museum of the Plains Indian and the Blackfeet Heritage Center & Art Gallery to learn about Blackfeet culture and traditions.

    Statue of a Blackfeet warrior.

  3. Whitefish – This resort town offers fine dining, boutiques and breweries. An easy 15-minute drive to Whitefish Mountain Resort offers weekend activities on the mountain until the end of September.

    The Aerial Adventure Park at Whitefish Mountain Resort.

  4. Kalispell – Make Kalispell your home base for your Western Montana adventure, and explore this charming town’s museums and galleries. Flathead Lake is just a 10-minute drive away and it’s only 30 minutes to Glacier National Park.

    Montana Trolley ride in historic Kalispell.

  5. Flathead Lake – The largest natural freshwater lake in the West is home to ample water-sport activities, boat cruises and six state parks, including Wild Horse Island, which can only be accessed by boat.

    Sunset view of Flathead Lake

  6. Flathead Indian Reservation – Experience the traditions of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes at the People’s Center in Pablo.

    Cultural dancing at Ninepipes Lodge.

  7. National Bison Range – This 18,500-acre preserve is home to 350 head of bison, plus elk, antelope, bighorn sheep, deer, black bear and coyote.

    Bison roam the National Bison Range.

  8. Missoula – Home to the University of Montana and known as Montana’s cultural hub, Missoula is full of shopping, dining, breweries and distilleries, and offers Montana’s finest music scene.

    Hikers are able to hike the “M” trail and oversee all of Missoula.

  9. Seely Swan Valley – Considered one of the state’s most scenic drives and an outdoor lover’s haven, the Seeley Swan Valley offers lakes, trails, mountains and state parks. The perfect place to watch the western larch trees (also known as tamaracks) turn the forests and hillsides a vibrant gold.

    Tamarack trees in autumn.

  10. Bitterroot Valley – Discover history at the St. Mary’s Mission in Stevensville and Daly Mansion and Margaret Daly Memorial Arboretum in Hamilton. Chose to hike from over 100 trailheads or bike the 50-mile-long paved Bitterroot Trail.

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

For more information on where to stay throughout Western Montana, visit our tour operators website. If you need additional tour itinerary assistance, feel free to drop me a line; I’m always here to help.

 

Happy fall!

DP

MEET WITH MONTANA AT IMEX AMERICA 2018

For the fifth year in a row, Montana will be attending and exhibiting at IMEX America October 9 – 11, 2018 in Las Vegas, Nevada. This year, the Montana booth will be bigger and better than ever as we welcome meeting planners to stop in at the MONTANA booth get your photo taken with a real live Montana Cowboy 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, Big Sky 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 2018.

Daryl Schliem, Visit Bozeman – 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.

Candace Carr Strauss, Visit Big Sky – Big Sky Chamber of Commerce

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

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 opening in 2018, 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 Director of Sales and Services for Destination Missoula, Mimi Hall Gustafson will be returning to 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 Montana’s second busiest airport, Missoula International Airport from 13 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 1,200 guest rooms and 46,000 square feet of meeting space, Whitefish is perfect for groups up to 300 attendees and citywide events of 2,500 attendees. Plus, Whitefish has a unique combination of breathtaking scenery, year-round recreational pursuits and a vibrant town that offers diverse accommodations and outstanding hospitality. An added bonus: getting to Whitefish is easy. Amtrak’s Empire Builder makes daily stops in Whitefish from both Seattle/Portland and Chicago, while direct flights arrive regularly into nearby Glacier Park International Airport.

Debbie Picard, Western Montana’s Glacier Country Tourism

The final member of the Montana booth at IMEX America will be Debbie Picard, Tourism Sales Manager for Western Montana’s Glacier Country. Debbie works closely with the 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 2018, 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 Big Sky are taking separate appointments.

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

MEET IN MONTANA – A MEETING PLANNER FAM TRIP

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

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

Relaxing around the campfire at Paws Up.

After the site tour we returned to Missoula, Montana’s second-largest city and cultural hub—and met up with Mimi Hall Gustafson from Destination Missoula—the official convention and visitors bureau—and took a short walk along the Clark Fork River to Caras Park to watch river surfers on Brennan’s Wave. After tasting and touring Montgomery Distillery we ventured to one of downtown Missoula’s premiere restaurants, Plonk Wine Bar, where we dined in the elegant wine cellar. We had a restful night’s sleep at the Holiday Inn Missoula Downtown, (featuring 200 guest rooms and 15,000 sq. feet of meeting space) considered one of Missoula’s leading convention hotels. The next day started with a site tour and breakfast at DoubleTree by Hilton Missoula Edgewater (featuring 171 guest rooms and nearly 9,000 square feet of meeting space) before visiting some of Missoula’s meeting and event spaces including The Wilma Theater, Missoula College and the unique and expansive meeting space at the University of Montana followed by lunch overlooking the U of M Grizzlies stadium.

Colorful drinks from Montgomery Distillery.

The view from the Canyon Club overlooking University of Montana’s stadium.

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

Our next stop on the FAM tour was an overnight at Averill’s Flathead Lake Lodge. Family owned and operated for over 65 years, the 2,000-acre resort sits on the east shore of Flathead Lake—the largest freshwater lake in the West—where it offers both horse and water recreation, as well as accommodations that vary from small cabins to rustic lodges and 5,000 square feet of meeting space. While the resort hosts families for week-long vacations from mid-June through Labor Day, it can be reserved for groups the months of May, early June, September and October making it the ultimate spring or fall retreat destination.

Tour of Flathead Lake Lodge.

Fun ride home from Steak Fry via an old fire truck.

After a hearty ranch breakfast, we meet up with Dawn Jackson from Discover Kalispell—the Kalispell Convention & Visitors Bureau. After several site tours we ventured out to Purple Mountain Lavender, and owner Deb took us on a tour of her farm where she grows, cultivates, drys and manufactures everything lavender from sachets to lavender lemonade and shortbread cookies. The afternoon took us to downtown Kalispell and a lunch dine-around featuring DeSoto Grille, 406 Grill and Slit Rock Café. After some down time the planners enjoyed an insightful historical tour on the Montana Trolley, a service that’s used to transport groups on specialty tours and events throughout the Flathead Valley. The trolley dropped us at the Conrad Mansion—once the home to Kalispell’s founder, Charles Conrad—for a tour and delicious dinner served on the mansion lawn, the perfect setting for off-site receptions.

Group or spouse outings to Purple Mountain Lavender.

Beautiful dinner at the Conrad Mansion in Kalispell.

Our overnight accommodations were at the conveniently located Red Lion Kalispell in the heart of downtown Kalispell (featuring 170 guest rooms and 12,000 square feet of flexible meeting space).

Our final destination was the charming mountain town of Whitefish where we were greeted by Dan Hansen with Explore Whitefish—the Whitefish Convention and Visitors Bureau. Our first stop was to visit the newest boutique property in downtown Whitefish—The Firebrand Hotel (featuring 86 guest rooms, a small meeting room and board room). We headed up to Big Mountain and stopped in at Whitefish Mountain Resort and lodging options including the option to buy out the mountainside Kandahar Lodge for groups of 10 to 50 in the spring and fall months. We had lunch at Casey’s in downtown and enjoyed the rooftop lounge and the beautiful views of the mountains and valley.

Next on the itinerary and a highlight for the planners was a visit to Glacier National Park. Upon entering the park, we stopped for a photo at the Glacier Park sign, then continued on to Lake McDonald Lodge were we embarked on a boat cruise with Glacier Park Boat Company aboard the DeSmet on Lake McDonald. It was a perfect afternoon in Glacier National Park.

Welcome to Glacier National Park, ladies and gentlemen.

Having some fun on the DeSmet on Lake McDonald in Glacier National Park.

Our final evening was spent touring Grouse Mountain Lodge and dining at one of the local favorites, Abruzzo Italian Kitchen one of Whitefishes newest additions before heading to The Lodge at Whitefish Lake (featuring 101 guest rooms and 10,000+ square feet of meeting space) on the shore of Whitefish Lake for a restful night’s sleep.

Good morning from The Lodge at Whitefish Lake.

After a delightful breakfast, the planners departed Glacier Park International (FCA) (a 15-minute drive from downtown Whitefish) for home.

It was an action-packed week full of great food, fantastic venues, fun activities and lots of learning about Western Montana’s meeting options.

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

Meet me in Montana,

DP