Western Montana is excited to welcome group tours to Glacier Country in 2022 and beyond. While our summer season (July and August) experiences high visitation, we know that the lure of ascending the Going-to-the-Sun Road in Glacier National Park is often a bucket list experience for many and can only be accomplished late June through late September when the famed road is open in its entirety.
While travel restrictions and an enduring pandemic continue, people still have the desire to travel, and national parks have seen a surge in popularity and visitation over the past two years. Along with higher than usual visitation, tour operators need to be aware of a workforce shortage at many parks and surrounding areas in the U.S. Many national parks, park concessionaires and local restaurants and attractions have utilized international workers through the J-1 visa program. This program allows foreign nationals to come to the U.S. for a period of time to work and study and has been an integral part of summer workers for years. However, with the current travel restrictions, the program has been put on hold and these integral workers have been missed. Plus, with Covid variants, workers are calling in sick to recover from illness. We know it’s not just happening in Montana, but around the county. Making restaurant reservations and double checking those reservations seems like it should be enough, however, should tour operators find themselves in a situation where workforce shortages cancel those reservations while on the road and in the destination, we wanted to give a contingency plan for each of our primary destinations of Missoula, Kalispell and Whitefish where tour operators might need them most.
Also known as the Garden City, Missoula is the second-largest city in Montana and has a lot of group dining options. For tours passing through and wanting something close to Interstate 90 or overnighting in Missoula, here are several options. The Montana Club, at 4561 N. Reserve Street with a second location in Missoula at 2620 Brooks Street, serves American fare with a variety of options. MacKenzie River Pizza Co., located at 5210 Grant Creek Road, is a local favorite for casual dining with pizza and flatbreads along with Italian items and salads, with a second location at 3820 S. Reserve Street. Highlander TapHouse, at 200 International Drive, serves great pizza and beer in a fun atmosphere. They also have a nice, outdoor, covered pavilion that groups love. Rumour Restaurant, at 1855 Stephens Avenue, has a very contemporary feel and will work with tour operators to do a select menu for the group.
Don’t have reservations and need a contingency plan? Good Food Store, at 1600 S. Third Street W., has a café and full-service deli for sandwiches, salads, pizza, wok bowls and more (please note, it’s take-out only right now). Or drop your group off and let them choose from the many restaurants on Higgins Street in downtown Missoula: Five on Black, Basal, Catalyst Café, Charlie B’s, Doc’s Sandwich Shop, Dinosaur Café, El Cazador, Iron Horse Bar & Grill, Pangea Bar & Restaurant, Second Set Bistro round out the variety on just one street in Missoula’s downtown. If you happen to be in Missoula during the summer on a Wednesday at lunch time, plan to stop at Caras Park for Missoula Out to Lunch with live music and food trucks galore. Or, if it’s Thursday evening, Caras Park hosts Downtown ToNight, also with food trucks and live music.
As a prime host city for your excursion to Glacier National Park, your stay in Kalispell will deliver a great experience. Group dining options include Sacred Waters Brewing Co., at 3250 U.S. Highway 2 E., with plenty of outside seating and pub fare. The Montana Club, at 1301 S. Main Street, along with Sykes Diner, at 202 Second Avenue W., offers “Good Ol’ Grub” and $.10 coffee with your breakfast order. MacKenzie River Pizza Co. has two locations on the south and north sides of Kalispell. Brannigan’s Irish Pub, at 101 E. Center Street, has a lively atmosphere. Lunch is a treat out at Lonesome Dove Guest Ranch, at 149 Haywire Trail, in Kalispell.
Don’t have reservations and need a contingency plan? Downtown Kalispell’s Main Street has you covered. The coach can park at Depot Park on the north side of Main Street with access to Norm’s Soda Fountain, Hops Grill, Mercantile Steak, Bonelli’s Bistro, Wheat Montana Bakery and Deli, Ceres Bakery, Blue Samurai Sushi Bar and Kalispell Brewing with an amazing food truck out back. For a real Kalispell, Montana, experience (including a sawdust floor) visit Moose’s Saloon, at 179 N. Main Street, serving up draft beer, pizza, soups, salads and sandwiches.
Just a few blocks off Main Street is DeSoto Grill for those who love BBQ and hot rod cars. Currently, Montana only has one Chick-fil-A, and it’s located in Kalispell. While not Montana-esque, they can deliver in a pinch to Woodlawn, Lawrence or Depot parks for a picnic!
This charming mountain town of Whitefish does not disappoint when it comes to great restaurants, and quite a few have good group seating when reserved in advance. Abruzzo Italian Kitchen, at 115 Central Avenue, has a variety of dinner options. Craggy Range Bar & Grill, at 10 Central Avenue, offers American fare with great patio seating. Casey’s Whitefish, at 101 Central Avenue, has a second floor that can be reserved for groups. Bonsai Brewing Project, at 549 Wisconsin Avenue, has a walk-up order counter with lots of outdoor seating, and Last Chair Kitchen & Bar, at 1705 E. Lakeshore Drive, is the kind of restaurant that every ski town needs.
Don’t have reservations and need a contingency plan? Drop the group off at Depot Park at the North end of Central Avenue and chose from Montana Coffee Traders, Tupelo Grill, Wasabi Sushi, Ciao Mambo, Indah Sushi, Buffalo Café and Loula’s Café where pie is recommended for every meal. Seriously, it’s the best. In a pinch, consider ordering pizza from Jersey Boy’s or Paisano’s Second Street Pizza for a pizza feed at the hotel or local park like Depot Park, Grouse Mountain Park or Whitefish City Beach along the shore of Whitefish Lake.
Tour operators might consider using a caterer at a special event space, park or museum, where their group can walk out of the event to a special lunch or dinner offering.
For the coming year and beyond, stay up to date on all the happenings in Western Montana’s Glacier Country by subscribing to our B2B blog here. If you need assistance with itineraries, visit our website at www.touroperators.glaciermt.com or feel free to drop us a line. We’re always here to help.
DP & AS
January 20, 2022