There is nothing I love more than an impromptu road trip. Last week, my friends asked me if I wanted to tag along on a whirlwind vacation (whirlwind = 2.5 days) to Whitefish, Montana. Naturally, I cleared my schedule, told my responsible adult self to take mental leave until Monday and hit the road. I mean, let’s get real here, summer is drawing to a close and we all deserve one last getaway. You have one final, sunny long weekend left. Use it wisely.
The Montana resort town is only about five-and-a-half hours from Calgary. On the way down, take a pit stop in Fernie and head to the Fernie Brewing Co. for a bite and brew before heading across the border. Also, I should mention that B.C. is notably more expensive for gas, so fuel up before you leave or once you get into Montana. What can I say? I’m a bargain traveller.
Growing up, I’ve headed down to Whitefish many times to go snowboarding. The hill, in comparison to our Rocky Mountains, isn’t exactly towering, but the runs are nice and the snow is well maintained. In the spring/summer, the hill offers an array of activities from zip-lining to mountain biking to harnessing up and tackling an aerial park through the trees. Which, I imagine, would strongly encourage channelling your inner monkey.
We spent the majority of our days on Whitefish Lake. In comparison to most lakes in Alberta, this one was nice and warm. For the first time in my life I tried my hand at wake surfing, after proclaiming: “Tubing is for kids.” I still stand by that statement. Wake “surfing” is similar to wake boarding, but you aren’t strapped in, and you’re in closer contact to the waves/wake that are created by the boat’s propeller. After at least 20 unsuccessful attempts at standing up on the board and a short anger management course, I finally got the hang of it. I didn’t exactly feel like Kate Bosworth in Blue Crush, but it was definitely exhilarating. If you’re sans-boat in Whitefish, you can always relax on the city beach or rent a paddle board or sea kayak and enjoy the water closer to the shore.
As far as food goes here, I am always more than impressed. Hangover or no hangover, the best way to start your morning here is downtown at the ever-buzzing Montana Coffee Traders. The array of roasts and fresh baking you’ll find in Traders will perk up even the grumpiest morning person in your travel group (not that I recommend vacationing with those types).
If you’re looking for a solid brunch experience, any local will tell you that Loula’s is the place to go to satisfy your eggs benny or french toast cravings — all at a price point that won’t break the bank. We also loved Second Street Pizza (next door to Loula’s) for their reliably tasty grab ’n go slices of New York-style pizza. Also, Second Street wins bonus points for the surly, yet charming, owner/operator manning the counter.
Last, but not least, a true refined dining experience in Whitefish can be found at Café Kandahar. With a list of dishes that will make you immediately hungry if mentioned, Chef/owner Andy Blanton also offers daily tasting menus complete with vegan alternatives. Not too shabby for small town, hey? He was also nominated for a James Beard award this year. That’s like The Oscars, but for chefs. No big deal.
When I’m in the states I, like most Canadians, am always delighted at the price point in the grocery stores. For example, a 24 pack of every hipster’s favourite beer, Pabst Blue Ribbon, averages $16 here. Um, yes please! Also, bless their hearts, many shops and restaurants in Whitefish keep Clamato in stock due to the high volume of Western Canadian travelers.
We all know a day in the sun can be pretty draining. Make sure to take a quick power nap before dinner so you will have sufficient energy to check out the downtown nightlife. If you are the one in charge of making dinner and have to forgo a nap (me), make sure your friends thank you for your sacrifice (they did). In Whitefish, there are a handful of bars/pubs that are guaranteed to be hopping on any given night. The Bulldog Saloon is small, often packed wall-to-wall, and The Great Northern has cover bands to dance your heart out to. But be warned, the drinks are strong and the shots are jumbo-sized at both places.
Our vacation was primarily outdoors-fuelled, but if shopping is a top priority, you can take a short drive — about 20 minutes — into neighbouring Kalispell. Canadians seem to have an odd affinity for Target, which I’ll never quite understand, but you can find it here. A friend has also told me that Kalispell has a historic downtown and various landmarks worth investigating, but I’ll leave that for another weekend.
See you in the winter, Whitefish.