By Staci Neilson, Phoenix, Arizona
When you live in Arizona, summer vacation criteria always include cool weather destinations. Our 2019 plans took us to Kalispell, Montana and the surrounding area. It did not disappoint! Here are my Top “Montana Style” vacation Wonders from our seven-day visit.
1. Family T-Shirts – I have never worn, previously thought to be over-the-top, matching vacation T-shirts until now. And oh, what fun! Our twelve-pack formed the Montana Mob. Touring and group outings all dressed like my favorite friends and family was priceless. As a bonus, a few other vacationers asked us where we bought them. My daughter and I were tickled our design was a hit!
2. Glacier National Park Souvenir Shops – All visitors, and even sales associates, at the West Glacier Entrance gift shops were happy and care-free. Our National Parks are a gift to be treasured – from unique preserved areas of the United States to reasonable camp sites, to exhilarating park activities. Our mob – including a one- and three-year old – took in a scenic raft trip down the Middle Fork of the Flathead River; America is beautiful!
3. Small Towns – Having a couple of unscheduled days was the perfect time to drive two-lane roads and enjoy some of Montana’s small towns. We spent time in Somers, Bigfork, Hot Springs and Whitefish appreciating unique shops, local restaurants and pubs. A couple of my favorites were Del’s Bar in Somers, the Barbershop Beer Parlor in Hot Springs and Bigfork Bay Gift in Bigfork.
4. Green – From the movies and the lore passed from previous visitors, I was looking forward to Montana’s beauty. It was impossible to take your eyes off the green trees, green grass, green mountains and even green weeds. My phone wallpapers are now covered with a couple personal favorites.
5. Riverside Log Cabin Living – We were lucky enough to stay in Ferndale in a genuine log cabin. The cabin and its bunkhouse were 30 yards from the Swan River equipped with a Pontoon boat for fishing and cruising. Spotting two bald eagles on July 4th in the Pontoon Boat Parade was certainly a highlight.
6. Hot Springs – Visiting a natural hot springs was only my Highly-Maybe Bucket List. I was in for another unexpected treat. It was fully outdoors, relaxing, reasonable, truly naturally warm and my fear of naked people walking around did not materialize. For those interested in bird watching, it turns out a few unique birds also like hot springs.
7. Enjoying through the Eyes of Children – Our Mob was lucky enough to span the ages from one to 84. The final favorite was marveling at the simple joys children appreciate: fireworks, a butterfly, spotting a fish swimming, the anticipation of a whitewater rapid, a water balloon fight, sitting on Great-Gran’s lap, hearing memories shared of years gone by and being part of their very own Montana Mob. Wondrous!
Although cool weather was a top summer vacation selling point, “Montana’s Style” and my own “Montana Wonders” are what really what made the trip.