Best Family-Friendly Things to do in Whitefish, Montana
Whitefish may not be the first city you think of when you think of Montana but if you love small ski towns, outdoor adventure, local shops and easy access to a ski-resort then Whitefish needs to be on your radar. Home to Whitefish Mountain Resort and twenty minutes to Glacier National Park, Whitefish, Montana is the ultimate winter destination if you are looking to get away with your family and avoid the crowds common to ski resorts in the Western US. While skiing and snowboarding are popular activities in Whitefish, there are truly so many ways to enjoy the season and landscape of this area.
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Where to stay in Whitefish, Montana
The Lodge at Whitefish Lake
Lodge-style hotel with rustic-chic rooms located on the shores of Whitefish Lake
The Firebrand Hotel & Spa
Lodge-style hotel located just steps from the shops, restaurants and art galleries in Whitefish, Montana.
Grouse Mountain Lodge
Mountain lodge with traditional rooms located just a short drive from Glacier National Park.
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Things to do in Whitefish, Montana
Whitefish Mountain Resort
Most people go to Whitefish to ski or snowboard and for good reason - it is an incredible place to do so. With ample snow, multiple lifts and runs for all levels and smaller crowds, Whitefish Mountain Resort is ideal for beginner skiers and experienced ones alike! The resort offers lessons, guides, rentals and clearly marked maps for easy navigation. Less than 15 minutes from downtown Whitefish, even if you are not staying in the resort, it's easy to get to.
You can spend a full day skiing in Whitefish because the resort offers many dining options at the base and on the trails, including a few ski-in/ski-out restaurants. From famous nachos to cold beers and hot cocoa, there is food for everyone to enjoy.
Tickets can be purchased the day or in advance and rentals can be arranged on site. If you plan to do those when you arrive, be sure to arrive early to avoid the lines. Rental equipment can be found in town as well if you want to save money and don't mind carrying your gear.
We went to Whitefish Mountain Resort in February and really did not experience lines at the lifts. The most we had to wait was five minutes to get on, which is unheard of in peak ski season. Everyone at the resort was friendly and helpful, making new visitors like us feel right at home.
If you love to ski or snowboard but are a beginner, Whitefish Mountain Resort is an excellent option. There are manageable runs and you are not over run by crowds or aggressive skiers. Everything about this resort is well-managed and well-maintained so it is safe for skiers and snowboarders of all levels.
Winter Activities to enjoy beyond skiing
There is truly so much to do in Whitefish in the Winter, even if skiing is not your thing. A few of the local favorites, hosted by local guides and business owners include:
Going on a Dog Sled ride. If your legs are tired, this is a great way to experience a local tradition and take an exhilarating ride through the beautiful landscapes of Montana. Check out Dog Sled Adventures for available excursions. You'll want to book your spot in advance.
Another option could be to go on a snowmobiling tour. A high speed ride through the snowy mountain trails is a fun way to see the views Montana has to offer. This is a great experience for families with teens and young adults! There are a few outfits that provide these tours. You can check out Northwest Montana Adventures for more info.
If a walk on trail is more your speed, then I highly recommend snowshoeing. There is something so peaceful and serene about enjoying mountain trails in the snow. It's quiet, thanks to the snow cover and fewer crowds. Snowshoeing is a great way to explore Glacier National Park since most roads & trails are closed in the winter. The only way to see the park is by snowshoe!
Another option to enjoy winter sports in Montana is to ice-skate. In Whitefish, there is a local ice rink that offers public skates. If you have younger kids, this is a great option to spend a few hours and escape the outdoor elements.
You can also enjoy cross-country ski trails in the area too, courtesy of the Glacier Nordic Club.
Places to eat & drink in Whitefish, Montana
If you love supporting local, then you will love Whitefish. This quaint ski town, home to about 8000 full-time residents doesn't have a chain store or restaurant in sight! All restaurants and shops are locally-owned-and-operated and there are so many good eats to choose from! A few of our favorites are:
Places to eat breakfast around Whitefish
Places to eat lunch around Whitefish
Places to eat dinner around Whitefish
Places to eat dessert around Whitefish
For those that believe ice cream is a year-round dessert be sure to check out Sweet Peaks for tasty treats.
Places to eat outside of downtown Whitefish
Backslope Brewing in Columbia Falls, MT. This is between Whitefish and Glacier National Park and is absolutely worth the stop. Great local beer, creative and healthy menu and fresh baked goods make it a very family friendly place to eat.
If you are on the slopes and want to check out the "hot spot" for food and drinks, be sure to go to Hellroaring Saloon and Eatery in Whitefish Mountain Resort. You are to ski/snowboard to it but it's worth the effort! If you have kids with you, Ed & Mully's might be a better, more family-friendly option.
With almost all restaurants and locations in downtown Whitefish, it is strongly encouraged to make reservations. These restaurants are small and many don't save seats for walk-ins so it's crucial to reserve your table in advance.
Need to Know
Whitefish quickly became our new family favorite place to ski. We truly couldn't find anything that we didn't like. Whitefish is a 15 minute drive from the Kalispell Airport and less than a 15 minute drive to the resort. Downtown Whitefish is a ski town that is walkable in every way, friendly and has a come-as-you-are attitude. If you love the outdoors, supporting local businesses and an appreciation for white capped mountains and the gorgeous views that Montana has to offer, you will fit right in!
Renting a car will be necessary during your stay in Kalispell but it is super easy to get around. We spent 4 days in the area and did not manage to see and do it all, you could easily spend a week here- there are great areas just outside Whitefish to continue your outdoor adventures if you opt to stay longer.
Whitefish is truly a hidden gem for skiing and especially perfect for families like ours that don't ski on a regular basis. If it's your first time skiing, this is also a great resort to go to -fewer crowds and easier trails make it an epic place to learn how to ski.
If I can answer any questions about a trip to Whitefish, please don't hesitate to reach out! We loved it so much that we are determined to go back to experience it in another season. Whitefish is truly a four season destination perfect for families and outdoor enthusiasts!
Ready for more outdoor adventure? Check out my guide to the Galapagos: Adventure Vacation to the Galapagos Islands.
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