Once all the holiday lights and decorations are boxed up and stored away until next year, time seems to slow down a bit until our prized Montana spring and summer return. This is why January is a great time to book a little getaway, but a drained vacation budget after the holidays may limit your options. This January, consider planning a STAY-cation right where you live. Here are a few ideas to inspire you…
Image via Mariane Maynard Photography
You’ll never go wrong in a bed and breakfast or a VRBO in Western or Northwestern Montana. The only issue can be getting a last-minute reservation (pro-tip: book your 2024 stay-cation NOW if you want to stay in a B-N-B or a VRBO next year).
The Hamilton and Darby area is the perfect destination for a stay-cation. Consider staying at the River’s Edge Resort (and campground), located on the Bitterroot River north of Hamilton. If you have an RV with a polar package, this can be a cost-effective way to stay for several days. This destination has a great sports bar/restaurant and a full liquor store. The Angler’s Roost, south of Hamilton, is a bit more rustic but is also on the river and features an RV campground as well as tent and hostel camping. The Angler’s Roost is advantageous because you are close to Hamilton and all it has to offer, but you are a bit closer to all the recreation to be had south of Hamilton: Darby, Lake Como, Painted Rocks, and Lost Trail Ski Area.
Hamilton is bursting with unique and charming treasures that are easy to overlook when you live in the area and are too busy with daily life to explore. Check out this comprehensive list we put together for one of our agent’s neighborhood listings.
If you live in or around the Bitterroot or Missoula, seriously consider a stay-cation in Stevensville, the first permanent settlement of non-indigenous peoples in the state of Montana. Consider staying at the stately and historic Stevensville Hotel, also known as The Thorton, which started as a hospital in 1910. Once settled in your cozy room, meander out on foot and enjoy all the surprisingly delightful food, shopping, and spirits that Stevensville is dying to impress its stay-cationers with! Before you embark on your Stevensville adventure, make a reservation for dinner at Mission Bistro. With its nightly fish special and impressive wine list, Mission Bistro offers some of the best dining in the state! A stroll up and down Main Street will greet you with boutique, gift, home decor, and art gallery shops. When you start to get chilly, stop into Montana Distillery for a hot toddy to warm you up. You’ll also encounter plenty of local flare at the High Country, Tin Can, and Lonesome Dove bars.
Image via Mariane Maynard Photography
The most difficult thing about a stay-cation in Missoula is deciding what kind of experience you want, and then having enough time to cram in all your desired activities. Downtown Missoula is a great place to stay and play – something is ALWAYS going on. You can find live music just about anywhere — The Union, the Wilma, the Top Hat, and the KettleHouse Amphitheatre are always hosting shows, events, and artists. When it comes to shopping, don’t leave town without thoroughly scouring Rockin’ Rudy’s, Betty’s Divine, Jeannette Rankin Peace Center, Mood Boutique, and Cloth & Crown.
If micro-brews are your passion, you could spend a couple of days just touring all of Missoula’s breweries. The Ten Spoon Vineyard and Winery is a delightful Missoula novelty up the Rattlesnake canyon. Speaking of the Rattlesnake, that is the perfect place to break out your cross-country skis!
When trying to decide where to eat in Missoula, you will have more choices than you have time. To sample Missoula’s finest dining, we recommend Scotty’s Table, Pangea, Florabella, 1889 Steakhouse, or Second Set Bistro. If it is dive bar/food you’re interested in, check out Charlie B’s (and Dino Cafe), The Oxford, and Missoula Club (or Mo Club to locals).
Image via Glacier Country Montana
Where do we even begin? Once you enter the Flathead Valley, your options for a memorable stay-cation are limitless. Whether you stay in Bigfork, Kalispell, or Whitefish, we recommend finding accommodations downtown so you can be by all the unique, local, must-see shops and bars.
In Bigfork, you’ll want to set out on foot in order to take in all the galleries and artisan wares properly. You’ll encounter everything from Old Town Center – an old-time drug store and sandwich shop – to the Electric Buffalo Gallery, featuring handmade gifts, jewelry, and unique art. You’ll also have no shortage of options for amazing food – be sure to add ShowThyme (historic atmosphere with fabulous food and presentation), Schafer’s Restaurant (ask for the Macadamia encrusted Halibut), and Saketome (incredibly fresh and delectable sushi). Drive just a few miles down the road to Montana Bonfire in Wood’s Bay, where western and Asian fare meld together for an unforgettable experience.
Staying in downtown Kalispell will afford the wonderful sights, sounds, and aromas of local shopping and exquisite dining experiences. Don’t miss Paint, Metal, and Mud Gallery and Gifts, managed entirely by the artists featured in the shop. If you’re stay-cation will not be complete without original Montana art, add Montana Modern Fine Art to your Kalispell to-do list. Why not while away an afternoon antiquing in Sassafras and Swapper’s Antique Market? Make time for the Mercantile Steak restaurant, where the charm of a historic building and excellent food culminate in an experience you’ll be eager to repeat. If your downtown adventures work up an appetite for barbeque, visit the legendary Desoto Grill.
Whitefish is the consummate stay-cation destination with its quaint downtown, fine art galleries, and outdoor adventures. Once you find a downtown nest to call home for a few days (I recently stayed at the Firebrand Hotel, and it was a lovely experience), map out your downtown must-sees. First, walk into Glacier Sotheby’s International Realty to enjoy the works of resident artist, Nancy Cawdrey. From there, you can visit Nancy’s gallery in person – the Cawdrey Gallery is the ideal place to soak up the fine art scene in Whitefish. Take your time fawning over the treasures at Whitefish Gift and Gear and then gear up for the slopes with the helpful staff at Sportsman and Ski Haus.
Whitefish has everything you need for a memorable stay-cation: a day at Whitefish Mountain Resort on the slopes, a tour into Glacier National Park, or a food and pub crawl through all of Whitefish’s breweries and eateries. If you are looking for a more all-inclusive experience, check out The Lodge at Whitefish Lake. Here you will find relaxing accommodations, a full spa, and The Boat Club Dining Room, The Boat Club Bar (both with tranquil views of Whitefish Lake), or the Tiki Bar and Grill.
Don’t let winter interfere with all the magic Western and Northwestern Montana has to offer. Plan a stay-cation right in your own backyard, and truly relax knowing you’ll have an exquisite experience without having to fly home afterward!
Kat Hobza has lived in Montana since she was nine and was raised in the mountains west of Victor, Montana. There, she learned to hunt, fish, shoot competitively, chop and stack firewood, and drive on icy and muddy roads. Kat has over two decades of experience in professional writing, content, and digital marketing and is a marketing consultant for Glacier Sotheby’s International Realty. When she’s not working, she’s either hanging with her hilarious adult kids or soaking up the sun somewhere – a riverbank, a golf course, or her deck. You can contact Kat through her business website, Way Easy Marketing.
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