For many travelers Kalispell, Montana serves as a base camp for enjoying the lovely outdoors. While this is absolutely true, we spent some time visiting Kalispell in the Fall, and found a lovely small town that was rich in both culture and history.
Lauren and I first found out about Kalispell, MT while planning a road trip to Glacier National Park. Admittedly, our time during our first visit to the town was mostly spent sleeping there. We decided to come back and visit Kalispell a second time and are thrilled that we did. We found a town that was steeped in history and filled with fun activities that can be enjoyed year-round.
We spent our first day in Kalispell, MT doing what we always do: road tripping around and exploring nature. We found a couple state parks that were absolutely incredible and were a nice contrast to Glacier National Park. We began our exploration by visiting Lone Pine State Park, which is just outside of Kalispell to the West. The park has several hiking trails and is dog friendly as long as you keep your pooch on a leash. The best part of the park though has to be the stunning vistas of the Flathead Valley and the town of Kalispell.
We then took a drive further Southwest the city, along the Western coast of Flathead Lake to make our way to West Shore State Park. The drive itself was lovely and filled with great views as you pass though quaint little towns.
When we we arrived at West Shore we were pleasantly surprised by how incredibly beautiful it was. The park is largely used for camping and picnics but the main draw has got to be this fantastic beach.
After spending a day exploring the outdoors and the outskirts of the town, we decided to better get to know Kalispell itself and were pleasantly surprised. Our historic tour of Downtown Kalispell began with where we were staying; the Kalispell Grand Hotel. Conveniently located in the heart of downtown, this lovingly restored property has a long and sordid past.
Originally opened in 1912, the Kalispell Hotel was a luxury hotel charging a hefty $2 a night. Sadly over the coming decades the Hotel went through several renovations and at one point was reduced to a property that charged hourly rates (wink wink). Thankfully the hotel was purchased and lovingly restored, and now operates as a fantastic medium sized hotel. The property is pet-friendly and is run by a very caring staff that provides a daily homemade breakfast that included delicious home made quiche and other goodies.
Many smaller towns don’t do a great job of preserving their history, but the exact opposite was true here. Many of the buildings throughout the downtown area have been carefully preserved or restored giving the town a very rustic feel. We spent a good part of the day taking a walking tour through downtown and were glad we did.
While exploring downtown make sure to stop in and check out Norm’s News. This little soda shop has been open since the 1930’s and serves classic burgers and deli style sandwiches that are to die for along side an operating news stand.
If you don’t have room for lunch, it’s worth stopping in for a malt or one of their gigantic ice cream cones. This is a single scoop of their famous huckleberry!
After exploring downtown we decided to head over to the Museum at Central School.
Operating out of an old school building the museum features a large collection of historic artifacts that includes an in depth collection of Native American artifacts, pieces from Western pioneers, as well as pieces from the early 1900’s. If you’re a history buff, it’s definitely a sight to see.
Since we spent a few days in Kalispell, we also had the opportunity to enjoy some of the towns restaurants, and knowing us, we absolutely HAD to check out their local craft brewery the Kalispell Brewing Company. Opened in 2014, they have an impressively deep selection for such a small and new brewery. What makes the spot extra cool, is the fact that they bought an old car dealership building and turned it into a brewery thus preserving a part of historic downtown.
The Kalispell brewing company doesn’t serve food (as they prefer to focus on beer ), so once you’ve had a beer or two you have to head out on the town to get some grub or you can bring in your own food to enjoy with your brew.
We tried a few different places in Kalispell, but really enjoyed these two the best. If you are looking for good ole pub grub don’t miss Brannigan’s Irish Pub. Conveniently located in the heart of downtown, it was within walking distance of our hotel and the brewing company. They have lots of traditional pub grub like Bangers and Mash and Fish and Chips along with a good beer list. Make sure you try their Beef Pasties as they were some of the best we’ve ever had.
If you find yourself craving something a bit more ethnic, skip the Americanized Chinese restaurants and head on over to the Charlie Wong’s Saigon Garden. Located on the South side of town on HWY 93 this is a family run spot opened by a 1st generation Vietnamese Family. The food was fantastic and the portions were incredibly generous. Lauren and I have eaten Asian food in nearly every city we’ve ever visited and this was some of the best we’ve ever had.
While Kalispell, MT is a fantastic place to explore the outdoors and spend your time hiking, kayaking, and fishing, there’s much more to it than that. Being in the heart of the Flathead Valley, it’s the economic center of the area and because of this it has so much more to offer. Lauren and I were both unexpectedly pleased with the vibrant history and culture of the area and would recommend it to anyone as a great base to plan a trip to Glacier National Park and the surrounding area or just as it’s own fun destination for a short getaway.
Where we Stayed in Kalispell, MT
Kalispell Grand Hotel
100 Main Street
Kalispell, MT 59901
- Pet Friendly, Free WiFi, Breakfast Included