Mini-guide to Kalispell, Montana

I leave Kalispell this Saturday, make a short stop in Atlanta to visit family and celebrate my 30th birthday, and then head back to our home-base in New Orleans.  We’ve been living in Kalispell since July and it has been a wonderful temporary home.  But, it’s starting to get cold and I’m ready to embrace the humidity of the South with open arms and lots of sun dresses. 

We didn’t have a lot of information about Kalispell before we packed our car to move here 3 months ago.  The Southerner was offered a locum tenens job and I work remotely so the decision to move was fairly easy and extremely exciting.    However, our lack of information about the town was somewhat frustrating to me since I’m the type of person who will obsessively research every single thing about a particular area before I travel there, especially the food. 

Three months is a long time to go without certain possessions that you didn’t think you would need, i.e. your hair dryer.  I didn’t realize how much I missed it until we went to a hotel one weekend and there was a hair dryer in the bathroom and I thought to myself, what is that interesting looking object?  The item I’ve missed the most  is my bathrobe.   I know that this is ridiculous, but I work remotely damnit which means I am at home for loooooong stretches of time with no one to impress other than the Southerner when he comes home for lunch.  Consequently, many of the neighbors have become very familiar with my daily uniform of  the Southerner’s boxers and heatheny bra-less t-shirts.  If I’d had my bathrobe this wouldn’t have happened. 

If you’re moving to Kalispell or just coming here on vacation here are some helpful tips for getting around (the Southerner is going to do a separate post specifically for fly-fishing):

Books we brought with us:

1. Glacier National Park (great guide book to the park and the surrounding towns)

2. A Guide to Historic Kalispell (not essential but helped to satisfy my pre-move craving for more information)

3.  Bear Attacks of the Century (Scare the ever living crap out of yourself before you come.)

4.  Fly Fishing Montana

5.  Every book Larry McMurtry has ever written.  Ok, I’m exaggerating but it was close.

Shopping for clothes: Don’t bother.  There is a TJ Max, Marshalls, Target, and Wal-Mart but their clothes haven’t been updated since 1983 and there is a big focus on Hunting and Fishing paraphernalia.

Visit for Scenery: East Glacier, Going-to-the-Sun Road, Many Glacier, the North Fork, Big Mountain, and countless others.

Cell Service: We both have T-mobile and, for the most part, it’s worked just fine until we get into remote areas or off a major highway.  The locals all seem to use Verizon because it tends to work almost anywhere, even on a river in the middle of nowhere.

Where to Eat:

1.  Pescado Blanco in Whitefish.  The chicken tortilla soup and the cheese enchilada are our personal favorites. 

2.  Capers in Kalispell.  If you leave here without trying their rattlesnake pizza you’ve made a serious mistake.

3.  Three Forks Grille in Columbia Falls.  Elk meatballs and turkey panini were a magical discovery made during our first month.

4.  Great Northern Brewing Company in Whitefish.  Delicious beer and games of shuffle-board were a weekly tradition. 

5.  MacKenzie’s River Pizza Company.  The only decent pizza in the surrounding area. 

6. Tupelo Grille in Whitefish.  Prosciutto Mac and Cheese.  Prosciutto Mac and Cheese. I’m drooling just thinking about it.

 One more note about the food: leave your sushi fetish behind.  I’ve tried to find decent sushi here and it’s a waste of time and money.  Don’t say I didn’t warn you.  We kept getting recommendations from the Southerner’s co-workers and I would rather eat a fake sushi magnet than some of the raw fish that was being passed off as food at these places.

What to wear: You can pretty much wear whatever you like.  No one seems to get dressed up even at the nicer restaurants.  If you’re here in the summer and going to engage in outdoor activities you’ll need a good hat, sunscreen, moisturizer for the ladies (a newborn baby could end up looking like an 80-year-old grandma due to the dry weather), bug spray, a roll of toilet paper ( I can’t stress this enough, ladies), camera, sturdy hiking boots, lightweight pants, rain coat, and a small backpack.  I’m also slightly obsessed with peanut-butter crackers and it’s important to keep snacks and water on you at all times. 

As far as bear spray goes, tourists tend to get a little hyper-crazy about this issue.  We bought some, forgot to bring it with us on most of our outdoor activities and just made sure that we stayed close together in more isolated-looking areas or called out for one another if we felt like being a little independent.  I’m not saying don’t buy it.  Just don’t go overboard thinking there’s a bear behind every tree waiting to eat your face off. 

Huckleberries: If you want to pick huckleberries go to Big Mountain in Whitefish.  Veer off the outlined trail slightly and the higher you go the better.  Bring ziplocks or an empty milk container, depending on how many you plan on picking.  Beware that there is another berry that looks very similar to a huckleberry but tastes terrible.  The fake huckleberry is slightly redder in color and usually has stems growing out of the dimple of the bottom (or as the Southerner put it: out of its asshole).  You’ll get it when you see it. 

Don’t leave without trying huckleberry ice-cream somewhere and Indian fry-bread.  They’re local favorites and severely tasty.

Finally, if you’re ever given the opportunity to live here, please do.  I’ve fallen even more in love with the outdoors, my partner, and life in general because of our time here.  Kisses Montana.  You’ve been an experience I’ll never forget, even when I’m 90 years old and can’t remember my own name anymore.

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