Author Archives: Racene

20 Great Group Tour Activities for Spring in Montana

Spring has arrived in Western Montana’s Glacier Country, which means Mother Nature has decided to stretch and wave her wand to wake up the country-side. As spring is one of Montana’s shoulder seasons, it means fewer people and lower prices for rooms and activities, while still offering many options for group travel during April and May.

Here are my top 20 spring group tour activities in Western Montana.

1.    Libby DamLibby, Montana

  • Highlights: views of Lake Koocanusa, 422-foot tall dam, picnic area
  • Open seasonally
  • Tours: large groups by appointment only, daily tours small groups begin Memorial Day weekend
  • Bus parking: yes
  • Fees: no

2.    Glacier Park Boat Company, Lake McDonald Lodge, Glacier National Park

  • Highlights: historic boats tours, Lake McDonald, views of Glacier National Park including this magical lake, valley and mountains carved by glaciers centuries ago in the heart of the Apgar Mountain Range in the Rocky Mountains
  • Open seasonally
  • Spring tour: Lake McDonald Tour, begins May 23
  • Bus parking: yes
  • Fees: yes

3.    Red Bus Tours, Apgar Visitor Center or Lake McDonald Lodge, Glacier National Park

  • Highlights: historic boat tours, departs from Lake McDonald Lodge and views of glacial-carved terrain in Glacier National Park
  • Open seasonally
  • Spring tour: Huckleberry Mountain Tour, begins May 23, 2015; ends June 18, 2015
  • Bus parking: yes
  • Fees: yes

4.    Conrad Mansion Museum, Kalispell, Montana

  • Highlights: pre-1900 mansion, 90% of the original family furnishings, beautiful grounds
  • Open seasonally; year-round by appointment
  • Tours: Begin May 15, 2015
  • Bus parking: yes
  •  Fees: yes

5.    Hockaday Museum of Art, Kalispell, Montana

  • Highlights: 100-year-old turn-of-the-century Carnegie Library Building, Glacier National Park art and culture including: A Timeless Legacy – Women Artists of Glacier National Park and Plein Air Glacier – Exploring Glacier’s Timeless Legacy
  • Open year-round
  • Tours: by appointment
  • Bus parking: yes
  • Fees: yes

6.    Lone Pine State Park, Kalispell, Montana

  • Highlights: 7.5 miles of trails, breathtaking overlooks of the Flathead Valley, visitor center with gift shop
  • Open year-round
  • Tours: by appointment
  • Bus parking: yes
  • Fees: yes (permit must be secured in advance)

7.    Stumptown Historical Museum, Whitefish, Montana

  • Highlights: historic Great Northern Railroad Depot, operational depot for Burlington Northern and Amtrak’s Empire Builder, gift store, located in downtown Whitefish
  • Open year-round
  • Tours: self-guided
  • Bus parking: yes
  • Fees: no

8.    Bigfork Summer Playhouse, Bigfork, Montana

  • Highlights: live professional theatre, Broadway-caliber acting and singing talent
  • Open seasonally
  • Spring production begins May 15
  • Bus parking: yes
  • Fees: yes

9.   Port Polson Players, Polson, Montana

  • Highlights: live community theatre and performing arts on Flathead Lake
  • Open seasonally
  • Spring production: yes, begins May 8
  • Bus parking: yes
  • Fees: yes
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Sunrise on Flathead Lake near Polson, Montana

10.   National Bison Range, Moiese, Montana

  • Highlights: Bison, wildlife and bird watching, 350 – 500 bison roam free, visitor center
  • Open year-round
  • Tours: by appointment
  • Bus parking: yes
  • Fees: yes

11.   St. Ignatius Mission, St. Ignatius, Montana

  • Highlights: landmark Roman Catholic mission, located on the Flathead Indian Reservation, 58 original paintings by Brother Joseph Carignano, open for worship and visitors
  • Open year-round
  • Tours: self-guided
  • Bus Parking: yes
  • Fees: no

12.   Ninepipes Museum of Early Montana, Charlo, Montana

  • Highlights: located across from Ninepipe National Wildlife Refuge, memorializes the history and culture of the Flathead Indian Reservation and early Montana, gift shop
  • Open seasonally, April 1 – November 28
  • Tours: by appointment year-round
  • Bus parking: yes
  • Fees: yes
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View of the Mission Mountains from Ninepipes Museum of Early Montana

13.   The Historical Museum at Fort Missoula, Missoula, Montana

  • Highlights: historic Fort Missoula (1877-1947), Alien Detention Center between (1941 – 1944), home of the first US Military Infantry Bicycle Corps
  • Open year-round
  • Spring tours: Tuesday – Sunday, 12 p.m. – 5 p.m., Closed Monday
  • Bus parking: yes
  • Fees: no

14.   Missoula Downtown, Missoula, Montana

  • Highlights: vibrant downtown district, shopping, dining, breweries, distilleries, museums, entertainment, farmers markets, visitor information center
  • Open year-round
  • Bus parking: yes
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Surfing and kayak viewing on Brennen’s Wave in Downtown Missoula

15.   Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and Visitor Center, Missoula, Montana

  • Highlights: interactive displays, world record elk mounts, gift shop, walking trail
  • Open year-round
  • Tours: by appointment
  • Bus parking: yes
  • Fees: no

16.   Travelers’ Rest State Park, Lolo, Montana

  • Highlights: only archaeologically verified campsite of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, walking trail, gift shop, visitor center
  • Open year-round
  • Tours: by appointment
  • Bus parking: yes
  • Fees: yes (permit must be secured in advance)

17.   Lee Metcalf National Wildlife Refuge, Stevensville, Montana

  • Highlights: 2,800-acre refuge, hunting, fishing, wildlife observation and photography, environmental education and interpretation
  • Open year-round
  • Tours: by appointment
  • Bus parking: yes
  • Fees: no

18.   Historic St. Mary’s Mission, Stevensville, Montana

  • Highlights: first pioneer settlement in Montana, Salish encampment, where Indian and European cultures merged
  • Open year-round
  • Tours: Tuesday – Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Saturday, 11 a.m. – 3 p.m. *tours are also available by appointment
  • Bus parking: yes
  • Fees: yes

19.   Hamilton Players, Hamilton, Montana

  • Highlights: live community theatre and performing arts
  • Open seasonally
  • Spring production: yes, began April 17
  • Bus parking: yes
  • Fees: yes

20.   Daly Mansion, Hamilton, Montana

  • Highlights: historic home of Montana Copper King Marcus Daly, Queen Anne style Victorian home, arboretum and botanic garden
  • Open seasonally
  • Spring tours: by appointment *opens for season on May 10
  • Bus parking: yes
  • Fees: yes

As a bonus, the views of the snow-capped mountains and green valleys are free and available for viewing your entire trip–no appointment necessary.

Spring in Montana awaits you,

RF

10 Reasons to Have Your Meeting at the University of Montana

It’s no secret that Missoula is a special place. Located at the convergence of five valleys and with three blue-ribbon trout streams nearby, the Missoula Valley has been a gathering place for groups of people for years. It’s also home to one of the best locations for meetings in Western Montana — the University of Montana. With more than 37,000 square feet of meeting space, over 42,000 square feet of indoor event space and on-site resident halls, it’s a unique setting for all types of meetings, from youth and sporting camps to business gatherings.

10 Reasons to Consider Hosting Your Meeting at The University of Montana

1) Its location in Missoula, Montana.
Surrounded by our best asset, our great outdoors, Missoula is made only better by having the University of Montana at its center. Missoula is a beautiful city that perfectly combines an urban feel with the scenic beauty of Montana.
Sidenote: This was recently recognized when the University of Montana was named one of “The 25 Most Beautiful College Campuses in America” by Thrillist.com.

The view of Missoula from the M Trail is spectacular.  Located right outside the UM conference center.

Hiking the “M” Trail – the view is spectacular.

2) Affordable and unique.
While the University of Montana at its center is an educational facility, a core component of their mission statement is to be part of the community and provide services to the public at a fair market price. For the meeting planner, this means high quality facilities with abundant amenities for a very reasonable rate.

3) Open and available year-round.
Planning a meeting, conference or special event at a university is a new idea to many people. While they are mostly thought of as educational institutions, colleges and universities welcome groups to book events year-round. The University of Montana’s conference facility has a dedicated floor in the University Center building for events. In fact, most of the other meeting rooms and facilities across campus are available 12 months a year.

The UM Native American Center is a favorite location for receptions and educational tours.

4) Ideal for both small and large groups.
With a variety of locations for meetings, the university can accommodate up to 500 at the University Center (UC) or from 3,000 to 5,000 campus-wide.

5) Inclusive guest experience.
Missoula’s University of Montana pays special attention to accessibility for all meeting attendees by providing building access door openers, communication access services, convenient ADA parking, clear transportation corridors and routes free of snow during the winter season. They are dedicated to making all visitors to campus feel welcome and safe.

6) Sustainability programs.
Sustainability programs for the university are the norm and are a key part of their mission statement. The UM farm-to-college program brings fresh, locally grown food to campus through direct relationships with resident farmers, ranchers and businesses. This particular program is unique because similar plans across the nation vary in their definition of “local,” but UM focuses on Montana-sourced products. This in-state concentration allows the university to work directly with Montana businesses to measure the impact of their program on the state’s economy, all while providing delicious food that offers a real taste of Big Sky Country for meeting attendees.

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Fresh food being raised for onsite food services.

7) Farm-to-college program leads the nation.
The University of Montana’s dining and culinary services program is nationally recognized as one of the best in the country. Professional catering staff will serve high quality, delicious cuisine and healthy sustainable choices to your participants at banquets, buffets, receptions, classroom breaks and themed events. Custom designed with fresh offerings and home-baked desserts, chefs prepare a variety of selections to meet the various needs of your group.

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Culinary dishes are both fresh and beautiful.

8) Team building.
The University of Montana’s campus has easily accessible venues and activities that can be used for building a stronger and more engaged group. With activities based on trust, teamwork and respect, your team can engage in recreation like rock climbing, swimming, court-based sports, games, rafting and more. All of these can be done on or near campus.
Insider note: The Clark Fork River runs on the north side of campus and is a great place for meeting attendees to learn to paddleboard, surf or kayak the rapids at Brennan’s Wave in downtown Missoula, just a short walk from campus. 

9) All-inclusive services and attractions.
While many university campuses have great amenities, there’s something extra special about the University of Montana. It is the official State Arboretum for Montana and is home to native plant gardens, tropical gardens inside the conference center, art galleries and the not-to-be-missed Native American Star Gazing Center. An added bonus: guests have access to the many recreational facilities and they can even rent outdoor recreational equipment on campus.

The beautiful gardens across campus are home to native plants and trees.

The beautiful gardens across campus are home to native plants and trees.

10) Customized transportation.
Parking garages and lots are located all over campus and can be made dedicated parking for visiting groups. Transportation services can even set aside spots for recreational vehicles if attendees prefer to stay in their RVs. The University of Montana has their own bus system that runs direct routes from campus as far west as Russell Street, north to Broadway Street and south to South Avenue East. When not in use for student transit, this system can be used to transport attendees to and from hotels. If that doesn’t quite meet your needs, their conference staff works with other private and public transit companies to ensure your meeting participants can get to and from where ever they need, whether event related or to explore Missoula on their own.

For more information on planning your meeting or convention at the University of Montana, learn more on our meetings and convention site.

Montana awaits you,
RF

Western Montana’s Glacier Country + Your Business = Happy Clients

Living and working in Western Montana’s Glacier Country is a deeply satisfying and unique way of life and it’s a lifestyle that we love sharing with leisure groups and meeting planners who do business here.

A typical day in the life of a Montanan includes heading out the door, coffee in hand and making our scenic commute to work as the sunrise wakes up the colors of the sky. The fresh Rocky Mountain air, sunshine and stunning scenery gets us prepped and ready for an interesting and exciting day of helping people discover why Western Montana is the perfect place to do business.

Cup of java on my way to work.

Cup of java on my way to work.

Armed with as many reasons as there are stars in Montana’s big blue sky, I’ve narrowed down the top 10 reasons for doing business in Western Montana.

Top 10 Reasons to do Business in Montana’s Glacier Country

1. Montana is beautiful.  Montana is beautiful. If you bring your meeting here, I can almost guarantee that your clients will be using their smart phones for taking pictures (instead of checking email), ensuring they’re participating in networking and creative team building activities in our great outdoors. A couple activities of note are the Aerial Adventure Park at Whitefish Mountain Resort and the beautiful River Walk Trail in Missoula.

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Team building on a sunny winter day

2. Big Sky Country has the most spectacular unspoiled nature in the lower 48 states, so the fresh air and recreational opportunities are sure to keep attendees motivated and energized.

3. Properties of all scopes and quality for Montana group tours, as well as corporate retreats and meetings are available across the region. Our towns will charm you and your clients and before you know it, you will start planning a return visit. We have all the popular hotels, but be sure to check out our independent accommodations like The Lodge at Whitefish Lake, Bigfork’s Mountain Lake Lodge and Whitefish’s Grouse Mountain Lodge, as well as our boutique properties, bed-and-breakfasts, guest ranches and resorts.

4. Meetings in Missoula are a great choice, especially since it’s Montana’s second largest city and the state’s cultural hub. The University of Montana is our largest conference facility with 37,000 square feet of meeting space and over 42,000 square feet of indoor event space. With over 3,300 hotel rooms and countless varieties of on-site and off-site meeting venues, Missoula delivers both small town charm while still having all the services and amenities of a big city.

5. Home of the Montana Dragon Boat Races, Montana Spartan Race and the Montana Pond Hockey Classic, Kalispell is perfectly located right in the middle of the Flathead Valley. Tour operators and meeting planners are easily able to host an event or group at one of the many quality hotels and conference centers. Kalispell’s central location allows attendees to venture out and enjoy some of America’s greatest natural wonders like Glacier National Park (45 minutes away) and Flathead Lake (15 minutes away).

6. Whitefish is a resort community that caters to business travel as beautifully as it does to leisure. Conveniently located at the bottom of Big Mountain and along the shores of Whitefish Lake, this town has something for your clients to enjoy in every season. Experience the year-round business travel options at Whitefish Mountain Resort, Bar W Guest Ranch and many other facilities who welcome tours and meetings. Whitefish is a Western Montana gem and one your customers will appreciate and remember.

7. For the foodies, microbrew and distillery lovers, Western Montana will make your palate sing. One of my favorite things is enjoying the locally made/locally sourced food and beverage businesses making my tummy and taste buds very happy. Not only do many of our restaurants and caterers feature farm-to-table cuisine, but some are dedicated to it. Two of note:

University of Montana Catering features local and regional favorites and creates customized menus featuring local food through their UM Farm to College Program, while integrating sustainable best practices across campus for all food services. It is delicious!

Tap Room Tours will take you on a guided tour of breweries and distilleries in Missoula or the Bitterroot Valley. And with their comfortable van and an expert driver, it’s the perfect way to sample local spirits as you kick back and enjoy the ride.

8. Getting to Glacier Country is easier than you may think. We have two international airports —Missoula (MSO) and Glacier Park (FCA)— while Amtrak’s Empire Builder provides great railroad access to the northern tier communities. Once your groups or meetings are here, we have ample car rentals, charter buses and a well-maintained highway system (anchored by Interstate 90 running east and west and Highway 93 running north and south) that makes it easy for them to soak up the spaces between the places.

9. If keeping costs affordable is important, the value of the Western Montana experience will truly be a game changer for you and your client. Montana has no general sales tax and our average daily room rate is roughly 10 percent to 15 percent less expensive than other Rocky Mountain states. We recommend the months of April, May and November for larger events and budget conscious groups. Note: Some smaller Montana resort towns do have a small sales tax.

10. We love sharing Western Montana’s Glacier Country and hope you will consider planning your tour, meeting or event in one of our communities. And while Montana is a huge state full of beautiful scenery, it’s also a place full of genuine and friendly people who want to create an experience that your clients will remember for a lifetime. You are sure to get the famous Montana hand wave, nod and smile everywhere you go.

Hope to share Montana with you soon,
RF