From meeting new people to experiencing new sights, sounds, and smells – is there anything more exciting or rejuvenating than a break from the day-to-day mundanity? Traveling is an excellent way to immerse yourself in a new culture, setting, or way-of-life, but the best part is this: you don’t have to venture far from home to enjoy what this world has to offer.
Whether your journey takes you across your own city, to an unexplored part of your state, or even to the other side of the world, there’s no doubt you will still learn a lot about your surroundings – and yourself – along the way.
While the culture an hour away from your home might not be drastically different from what you’re used to, you can still gain a deepened sense of appreciation for where you’ve laid your roots. Plus, traveling locally has a lot of benefits:
More cost-effective. Local travel is certainly a budget-friendly way to explore! Many activities and parks are free or have a low cost of entry. For day trips, you can also pack your own meals to save.
Eco-friendly way to travel. Travel is hard on the environment, but putzing around your area is more sustainable than air travel.
Quick trips. Getting out locally means you can do it more often! Long weekend trips are a lot easier to take when the destination is a short drive away.
Easy to plan. Preparing your itinerary for a local getaway will likely save you some time and stress.
More convenient. Especially if you have little ones, sticking close to home may be much more convenient than far-off destinations. If you forget something, have an emergency, or need to cut the trip short, being closeby definitely has its benefits.
Located in northwest Montana is the city of Kalispell, which is well-known for being the gateway to the world-famous Glacier National Park. The historic Downtown region is filled with restored 1800s buildings, as well as a charming downtown shopping district, craft breweries and distilleries, award-winning restaurants, and more. And as for the city’s surrounding scenery? Well, it just doesn’t get any better than its peaks, alpine trails, blue lakes, and expansive flats.
Even those who have lived in the city for a decade would agree they haven’t experienced all that Kalispell has to offer, while for those new to the region – well, they’ve got a lot to look forward to as well.
Ready to discover the best of Kalispell, Montana? Let’s get started!
*Note: Some of the suggestions may not be doable due to coronavirus closures, but keep this list handy for when things start opening back up more! Be sure to check individual pages for specific operation details.
Kalispell has loads of state parks and national parks both within and surrounding the area, all of which provide a tranquil escape for those looking to surround themselves by nature.
The gorgeous Lone Pine State Park is basically on your doorstep when you reside in, or are visiting, Kalispell. It’s just a 10-minute drive from the center of town and provides breathtaking views of the Flathead Valley vistas. On a clear day, you can even see the impressive Glacier National Park in the distance. While you’re here, you can enjoy activities such as archery, hiking, mountain biking, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and more.
Whitefish Lake State Park is another conveniently close natural area within the region. In fact, it’s just a 30-minute drive from the city. Because it’s situated on a scenic and expansive lake, it’s a popular place for activities such as boating, swimming, water-skiing, and fishing. With sandy shoreline and breath-taking mountain views, this state park offers the best of both worlds.
Flathead Lake State Park is so large, it’s home to multiple park units. These include: Wayfarers, Yellow Bay and Finley Point units (east side) and West Shore, Big Arm and Wild Horse Island units (west side). As a result, there’s a wide array of activities to be enjoyed here, including camping, boating, swimming, fishing, picnicking, hiking, sightseeing, and wildlife viewing.
Located on the cool, clear waters of Whitefish Lake is Les Mason State Park, which is also home to a smooth cobble beach that provides a great swimming, kayaking, and canoeing destination. With its shaded picnic tables and stunning scenery, it’s also the setting for many picnics, and is the perfect place to enjoy a relaxing morning or afternoon.
Kalispell is also a gateway to the world-famous Glacier National Park, as it is just a 45-minute drive from the Glacier National Park Headquarters in West Glacier. With over 700 miles of trails, not to mention pristine forests, alpine meadows, rugged mountains, and spectacular lakes, the national park is a hiker's paradise for adventurous visitors seeking wilderness and solitude. Glacier is an international peace park, biosphere reserve, and world heritage site, and we highly recommend spending a day (or three!) here.
If you’re craving seeing even more of the beautiful scenery that surrounds Kalispell, then there are also plenty of hiking and walking trails for you and your family to enjoy.
You’ll find the popular Strawberry Lake Trail No. 5 located in Flathead National Forest. It spans 9.7 kilometers and is rated as a difficult hike, so it’s best-kept for those with thorough hiking experience. It features a picturesque lake and is best used from May until October. It’s a steep and demanding climb featuring multiple switchbacks and ends at Strawberry Lake.
Also located in the Flathead National Forest is the Birch Lake Trail, which is an easier hike than Strawberry Lake and is rated as moderate. It’s around 10 kilometers in distance and features stunning lake views, so don’t forget to bring your camera or phone! It’s primarily used for hiking, nature trips, and bird watching.
Another moderate hiking trail that’s highly recommended by Kalispell locals is the Notch Trail, Overlook Trail, and Plum Creek Road Loop, which is located in Herron Park. It’s a 5.6 kilometer heavily trafficked loop trail that’s best used from May until October. It offers spectacular views too, and is well-worth the trip.
If you’ve worked up an appetite after a long hike, or simply feel like treating yourself to a delicacy, then you’re in luck. Here are our top restaurant recommendations!
The DeSoto Grill is a barbecue restaurant with a retro car and rockabilly theme. In other words, it’s unlike anything you’ve ever experienced before! Here, you’ll find much-loved Montana beers, as well as sandwiches, desserts, and BBQ favorites such as smoked beef brisket, St. Louis ribs, pulled pork, and more. They also offer live music and other fantastic events from time-to-time!
Moose’s Saloon has been serving Kalispell’s local community for over 60 years now, and they’re showing no signs of slowing down! They’re home to ‘world-famous pizza’, as well as soup, salad, sandwiches, and more. The Meat Lover pizza is a winner in many people’s eyes, while the Veggie pizza is a hit among vegetarians and vegans.
Looking for authentic and high-quality Mexican food within Kalispell? Casa Mexico is a must-visit dining destination for all your Mexican favorites, from tacos to chimichangas, and everything else in-between! They also have an endless variety of margaritas, serving as the perfect beverage to accompany your meal. Don’t miss the Street Tacos for a quick and tasty treat!
The Montana Club serves all of your mouth-watering favorites, including quality steaks, seafood and prime rib to our garden-fresh salads, juicy burgers and perfectly mixed cocktails. They also have restaurants in Missoula, Butte, Great Falls, and Billings, making them a Montana mainstay. You can also enjoy your favorite beers from regional microbrews, as well as $5 Happy Hour appetizers.
Blue Samurai Sushi Bar & Grill is located in Downtown Kalispell and is regarded as one of Montana's most popular Japanese destinations for dining. You’ll find everything from fresh raw fish and seasonal seafood, to rolls, yakitori, tempura, and much more. Their ingredients are always fresh and the recipes are perfected by a team of talented chefs.
After feasting and enjoying all that the hiking trails and state parks have to offer, you may be wondering: “what next?” Well, when it comes to Kalispell’s attractions and activities, you’re only just getting started. Here are some of the most fun things on offer in and around the city!
Looking to entertain some little ones? Or perhaps you’ve got some teenagers in-tow who are starting to get a little bored? Either way, these attractions will entertain both children, teens, and adults alike!
The Woodland Water Park is the only outdoor waterpark in the City of Kalispell. It features an activity pool, two 3-story waterslides, a large lazy river with water features, a six-lane lap pool, and snacks, drinks, and ice cream. Visitors of all ages will love it here, as there’s something fun for everyone to enjoy!
The Northwest Montana Historical Society is a non-profit organization that showcases the history of both the local and surrounding area. It offers several programs throughout the year, including regularly scheduled or annual events and special, one-time-only occasions, as well as exciting exhibitions, event spaces for hire, and more. Best of all, admission costs just $5!
What should you do in Kalispell once the sun goes down? We’re glad you asked! Here are our suggested night-time attractions.
Sweet Peaks Ice Cream isn’t your average ice creamery, which is why it’s a great night-time activity to add to your to-do list. It was founded in 2010 and uses Montana dairy and a selection of quality ingredients from the mountains to perfect their ice cream and sorbets. They offer up to 18 artisan ice cream flavors which rotate with each season, each with a signature Montana flair (like Montana Christmas: Pine Soaked Cream and Huckleberries). Delicious!
For a traditional sports bar and casino that also offer mind-blowingly good food, a visit to Fatt Boys Sports Bar & Casino is in order. Try your luck on their machines or on bingo night, then enjoy some live sport on the large TVs, followed by a delicious meal and beer on-tap. Wondering what to eat? We hear the Fatt fries and teriyaki chicken salad is phenomenal.
What can you do in or around Kalispell that won’t cost anything more than a few dollars? The answer: plenty! Here are just two of our favorite attractions within the area that can be enjoyed on the cheap.
Built in 1895, the Conrad Mansion Museum offers a glimpse into the life of a Montana pioneer. Here, you can learn about the wonderful Charles Conrad Family Estate through public tours, educational programs, and community events. Students (up to 18) and children can attend for free, while adults pay just $20 for admission.
The Hockaday Museum of Art aims to preserve the artistic legacy of Montana and Glacier National Park. The Discovery Gallery provides hands-on activities for children, while the Museum offers a permanent exhibit of Glacier National Park art and culture, as well as rotating exhibits by nationally renowned and emerging artists. Here, you’ll find everything from written work, photography, and paintings, as well as Park collectibles such as vintage maps and hand-tinted photographs.
Looking to get the most out of your time spent within the city of Kalispell? Whether you want a fun way to waste away a Sunday afternoon or a date idea that won’t break the budget – here are our most recommended things to do in Kalispell that won’t cost you a cent.
If you’re new to the region or simply want to rediscover your local area’s best haunts, then a free, self-guided walking tour of the Downtown region is a great way to spend a few hours or an entire day! Start at the Visitor Center to pick up a walking tour brochure, as well as your free wooden coin, which is good for $5 off a purchase at a local business. Not bad, hey?
Around a 30-minute drive from the center of Kalispell is the Hungry Horse Dam, which is the nation’s 11th highest dam. You’ll find it on the South Fork of the Flathead River in a deep, narrow canyon, while the Hungry Horse Reservoir is located high in the Rocky Mountains. The Visitor Center offers free tours of the dam's crest, as well as static and interactive exhibits that cover local area history and the dam’s construction.
Alright, by now you’ve probably been on your feet all day exploring the sights and delights that Kalispell has to offer. If you’re craving some rest and relaxation, or even a bit of pampering, these are two of the best spas in the region.
Located directly in the center of the Rocky Mountains in Kalispell is the Amore Salon & Spa, which is open 7 days a week. Along with hair and nail treatments, you’ll also find a long list of spa services to help you look and feel your best again. These include Swedish and deep tissue massages, reflexology, body wraps and scrubs, facials, and more.
At Mirabelle Salon & Spa, you’ll find the latest and greatest in hair, beauty, and salon treatments. They’ve been serving the community for over 20 years with their expertise, and provide services such as facials, hand treatments, massage, pedicures, manicures, spa parties, gift certificates, and more.
If rejuvenation for you is less about deep relaxation and more about sweating it out, then you’re in luck. Kalispell is home to some of the highest-rated gyms and yoga studios within the region.
Fuel Fitness offers a wide range of amenities that you won’t find anywhere else, including child care, the best trainers in the state, and a 24/7 staffed facility. In fact, the club has everything you need to reach your fitness goals! They provide popular classes such as crossfire, TRX, Zumba, and Oula, as well as free weights, cardio, and hammer strength.
Looking for some yoga classes instead? Kalispell Yoga is located on the South End of Kalispell and its studio space is heated at a constant 72 degrees for optimal comfort. All classes start with a warm-up based on Viniyoga, while all poses are taught with careful attention to safe, effective alignment based on Iyengar Yoga. You’ll feel so energized and relaxed afterwards!
Looking to fulfill your wanderlust by heading outside of the region for a day? You could spend decades within Kalispell without barely scratching the surface of all there is to do in this city, but consider these day trips next time you fancy a new adventure.
Just over a 2-hour drive from Kalispell is Missoula, a western Montana city known for its peaks, forests, and waterfalls. You’ll also find a full line-up of attractions to spend your day at, including the Snowbowl ski area, the Rattlesnake National Recreation Area, Caras Park, and the Historical Museum at Fort Missoula. It’s certainly worth the trip if you’re looking to fill a full day with exploration.
Bozeman is another city worth visiting within Montana and it’s less than a 5-hour drive from Kalispell. It’s home to Montana State University’s Museum of the Rockies, which traces the area’s history and mounts special exhibitions, as well as the Siebel Dinosaur Complex, Bozeman Hot Springs, Gallatin History Museum, the Montana Arboretum and Gardens, and more. Which attraction will you visit first?
As a final reminder, some of these activities may need to wait until businesses fully reopen from coronavirus closures. However, there is still much to see and experience in Kalispell that you can enjoy today! What are your favorite spots in Kalispell? Send them our way to [email protected] or by tagging us on Instagram @rvshare and using the hashtag #rvsharelocal.