Food… Sleep… When you are out of town and busy exploring, what could be more important than finding places you actually want to eat and are worth going to as well as a great place to relax at the end of a long day? We rarely settle for whatever restaurant we come across on a trip but instead try to find local / organic options where we will be able to enjoy something special. On the lodging front, I do a lot of research into what area we would want to stay that is close to our destinations and has a good deal of options for home rentals. In Glacier, both of these necessities align on the West side of the park in either Whitefish or Columbia Falls. Following is our list of best food and lodging tips for the Glacier National Park area.
Best Food and Lodging Tips for Glacier
Best Food in Whitefish
Our best (and only) meal in Whitefish was at the Pig and Olive in the Stumptown Marketplace (it is my understanding that they are moving to a different location in 2017). It was super tasty, fresh, and fun! I had the Banh Mi sandwich and it was delicious! The crunch of the pickled daikon & carrot slaw was super good and the Sriracha balanced out well with the cilantro. “Joy Joy” and “Hank” both enjoyed the grilled pork-n-cheese and we liked that there was some protein in the mix to keep them energized longer than just a plain grilled cheese. Kim got the daily special and it was also great! It was fun to walk around and see the little shops in Stumptown Marketplace as well. We didn’t get out to eat out at restaurants as often as we thought we might as we were tired by the time we returned to our rental. We were grateful we had a kitchen where we could make our own meals and save some money.
No trip is complete without a stop or two for ice cream, and in the Glacier area there is really only one option worth considering! I’m talking about Sweet Peaks. Smooth, creamy, and with Montana dairy and locally sourced ingredients, you can enjoy a special treat at their locations in Whitefish, Big Fork, or Kalispell or even on the way there and home at their locations in Bozeman, Missoula, and Coeur D’Alene. That seems like the only responsible way to help them make sure their quality control is on point, right?!? 🙂
Best Food in Glacier National Park
There are not that many options in the Park itself, but is it worth eating there? When we were in Glacier we ate at Russell’s Fireside Dining Room in Lake McDonald Lodge and Two Dog Flats Grill in Rising Sun. We definitely preferred Russell’s over Two Dog Flats, but they were both decent options if you’re stuck in the park around mealtime with no food of your own. Both have some local and organic options on the menu, but they are fairly pricey and nothing spectacular. We ate at Two Dog flats on our way home from our boat ride at Many Glacier as it was the only option available when we were hungry for supper. Kim had the Farmer’s Market Salad with added trout which she said was good. The kids had their standard grilled cheese, which was thankfully served on organic cracked nine grain bread. I don’t recall what kind of cheese came standard on it, but we always request cheddar if that isn’t what already comes on it (no American “cheese food” for us, please!). The kids had the same thing at Russell’s and there was some overlap between the menus for both places, but Russell’s was a bit more upscale overall. For scenery, Russell’s at Lake McDonald Lodge definitely has a better view and also wins on atmosphere over Two Dog Flats.
Grocery Options near Glacier National Park
When we weren’t eating at a restaurants, our meals were either picnic lunches that we packed and ate after hiking or meals made back at our rental home. This is definitely the easiest and fastest way to eat while ensuring the food you consume is fairly healthy. Thankfully, there are two great options in Kalispell for groceries — Natural Grocers and a well placed Costco. Costco was a great place to stock up on snacks and food for the week and had their typical great prices on organic fruit. If you aren’t a Costco member, however, you will do well at Natural Grocers. They had a great selection and prices were reasonable. Natural Grocers is a chain, but they don’t force you to be a member or sign up for a card to get special prices. That drives me nuts!!
Lodging near Glacier National Park
We chose the West side of the park largely to be closer to the Whitefish area, but also because it is much more developed and traveler friendly than the East side. While there are a number of options for lodging inside the park, I’ve yet to find a concessionary lodge in the park that matches value for pricing. Historic shouldn’t have to mean outdated but in so many cases they go hand in hand. This trip affirmed our approach of renting homes through sites like VRBO, HomeAway, or Airbnb. Each of the sites have their pros and cons (and VRBO and HomeAway are both owned by Expedia) so we typically look at each site to find the place that looks like the best fit for our family. Note that there are some policy differences regarding damage deposits and cleaning charges between the sites, so I usually try to get as close to a final price as I can before making the reservation. We suggest purchasing through the webpage so that they are a party to the rental and your credit card and personal information is hidden from the home owner.
For Glacier, we found a place, well I should say Kim found a place, that was great! It is owned by a super nice family and while you don’t typically see this, the home is the top level of their barn, adjacent to the family’s home. The owners were great about respecting our privacy but we did enjoy getting to know them a bit during our stay whenever our paths crossed as we were heading in or out. Our kids became fast friends with theirs while playing in the sandbox and playground and that was a fun way for the kids to feel some normalcy on the trip. It was a nice, relaxing place to return to after a long day of hiking in the park and was only about 15 min. from the park entrance. The property is appropriately named The Red Barn. Glacier has a lot of home rentals, which means that the right place for your family is available, but we highly suggest staying at The Red Barn if it suits your needs! The *only* complaint we had was that when we got there it was super hot and there is no air conditioner in the rental. At the time we stayed there, there was also only 1 portable fan. That evening we turned on the ceiling fans, opened the windows, and placed the one fan by a window to blow in the cooler night air. Thankfully, a storm went through that night and it cooled down considerably and was pleasant the rest of our stay, but that first night was uncomfortably warm until the storm came through. I’d suggest booking your rental early (4-6 months in advance), since the best places near the park do book up quickly, especially in the summer months.
Side Note: If you are in Columbia Falls on a Thursday evening, the Community Market is a fun place to stop and pick up some local produce and/or gifts all while listening to live music and getting a better feel for the local community. They also had hot food options available and ice cream when we were there, so you could likely plan to eat supper there as well. We picked up a yummy bag of local cherries on our trip there.
Our week in Glacier went so very quickly, but we were glad we had planned another week to spend in the Canadian Rockies after leaving the park! Yoho, Banff, and Jasper National Parks all awaited us less than a days drive away!