Named for being nestled amid the trees and mountain range surrounding Whitefish Lake, the charming town of Whitefish is a town pulsing with inspiration and craft. Art and style have blended with the rustic element from Whitefish’s logging and railway history, leaving everyone who comes to Whitefish struck by its community and charm.
From the north corner to the south, the ever-glowing mountain range towering atop the ever-green forest and sacred waters of the lake, the timelessness of the Montana beauty is a theme; a theme much appreciated by tourists and dwellers alike. The genuine beauty of this dynamic town is the very essence of inspiration within each characteristic of Whitefish, from its various forms of art, within its distinguished dining, to the outdoorsy ambiance, and even its robust history.
Much can be learned about the foundation of Whitefish, MT teetering upon two decisions at the Stumptown Historical Society Museum. The decisions, first to re-route the Great Northern Railway north to Eureka before taking it west toward Oregon and subsequently to establish the regional headquarters for the railway at the south tip of Whitefish Lake, led to the moment in history when Whitefish would welcome its first settlers. The Museum, known then as the Whitefish Train Depot, welcomed its first passenger train of new settlers in October of 1904. It wasn’t but six months later, in April of 1905, when the first council meeting of the town was conducted; thus began the conception of a town many have been proud to call home.
Whitefish culture and economy was dictated by the ranching, railway, and logging trades and began to wither after nearly four decades until 1947 when the first lift, at what was named Big Mountain Ski Resort, was built. Within a few short years, a nine-hole golf course and accompanying clubhouse were established and grew to a 36-hole course in the 1990’s and was dubbed the largest and best in the state of Montana.
As the true authenticity of the town is discovered, Whitefish has been appreciated by more and more who come for adventure or come to make a home. Those who have made a home in Whitefish possess the luxury of experiencing many outdoor activities within a hop, jump, and a skip from their backyard.
Of course, being home to the Whitefish Mountain Resort – once known as Big Mountain Ski Resort – Whitefish is known for the ‘ski-fever’ that begins to stir in the winter time. With a mountain rich with ski slopes for every degree of experience, and a personality with more character than Betty White, Whitefish was even honored by National Geographic Adventure with a place in its review of the 25 Best Ski Towns in the World for 2012.
What makes this village so inviting, though, isn’t that that slopes are the only place for recreation. On the contrary, even if you aren’t a skier or snowboarder, no sweat! There is still plenty for you to do to revamp your sense of adventure with a Dog Sled Tour in Whitefish’s snow-capped woodland. During the festive holiday season, you will enjoy the magic of a Christmastime sleigh ride pulled by two colossal Draft horses followed by a five-week community celebration in January at the Whitefish Winter Carnival with merrymaking, coronations, and an unusual sport called ski-joring where the southwest meets the slope.
When the snow begins to melt and you begin to shed your winter layers, submerge yourself in the amusement of warm-weather activities. If you are community-oriented, wander through the Whitefish Downtown Farmer’s Market where the freshest products from craftsmen and farmers are displayed and you’ll get to enjoy live music while being served freshly prepared, home-style cookin’. After the farmer’s market, frolic on the Whitefish City Beach with your family, take a coffee roasting tour, or walk in the treetops and overlook the area’s majesty at Base Lodge in the prime summer months.
Need to get your exploration on? Take a Summit Gondola horseback ride or climb, wobble, and swing in the optical course of the forest canopies at Aerial Adventure Park. To add to your options, Whitefish also has three of the Best Mountain Bike Trails in Montana ranked in the top fifteen by Singletracks.com. However, you haven’t lived the full Whitefish experience until you have enjoyed the splendidness of Whitefish Lake.
Whitefish Lake is a greatly-loved companion to magnificent lodges, luxurious condos and homes, and those who come often to play in the crystal clear waters painted with the reflection of the majestic mountain range. Boating, water skiing, swimming, and fishing are but a few of the popular water sports to splash into your life with enriching and unforgettable memories.
Some days, a full day of wilderness play won’t be an option, so whenever you’re feeling groovy and you’re hunting for a creative outlet, the best place to visit is the Stumptown Art Studio. Not only are workshops offered as a way to support the multiple outreach programs, but you will also be showing your support during the spirit of painting your own pottery, fusing glass, or creating mosaics. As a nonprofit community art center, their mission is to be “a place where children and adults may come to express their inherent creative nature; to learn about the world of art and its capacity to make whole the individual; enriching the community and beyond.”
Just a few blocks up from the Stumptown Art Studio is the famed O’Shaughnessy Center of downtown Whitefish. When you get that itch for appreciating theatrical plays, listening to live music, and viewing independent films, the cure, while not far from home, lies within one of the mainstream performing arts centers of the Flathead Valley. Built over 30 years ago and owned by the city, the O’Shaughnessy Center has become well known and has housed performances of premier talent such as The Second City act, which is undoubtedly the seed of Saturday Night Live and the institution known for grooming names like Chris Farley, Stephen Colbert, Tina Fey, and Steve Carell.
With art adorning the frames of old buildings and galleries, craft shops, jewelry stores, and antique shops sprinkled along the streets it becomes apparent that the artistic craft of the town is as blended onto the canvas of the town as the history is into the fabric of it.
Home to many forms of art, Whitefish also possesses many dining locations dedicated to the art of cuisine. The best part? You will still find a mom-and-pop café that still serves grub as good as your grandmother’s and perfectly satisfies the family. Whitefish is known in Flathead Valley as the town with a wide array of dining experience giving the city a hip, urban twist to the traditional Montana dining selection.
Among the top places to dine in Whitefish is the seasonal, Café Kandahar enthroned upon the top of Whitefish Mountain. Café Kandahar is known for delivering “thoughtfully constructed cuisine” by the hands of award-winning Chef Andy Blanton. And in the heart of Whitefish, located downtown, the well-regarded Tupelo Grille serves each guest with cuisine just as thoughtfully constructed. Tupelo Grille has mastered the balance between warm hospitality, an award-winning wine list, and sensational southern cuisine leaving a memory imprinted on your palette and in your heart. Should you develop a hankering for something just as memorable but a little more foreign, such as sushi or Italian, Wasabi sushi bar and Mambo Italiano’s also serve as restaurants with memorable dining experiences.
While Whitefish features fine dining throughout the town, it is not limited to it. Just across the street from Tupelo Grill is the Craggy Range, which features food inspired by the mountain range and a passion for innovation. With an inviting atmosphere and classic food the Craggy Range is one of a kind. Similarly, the Bierstube is a popular bar to wind down at with a cheap bear and a delicious burger or slice of pizza after a long day on the mountain; as classic as it gets. On the other side of things, the Buffalo Café and Loula’s are highly recommended for their Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner, and small-town-dining feel.
The piece that makes every town like Whitefish so youthful is the night-life roar. You’ve had a long week at work and now you’re ready to get your spirits on! A place as hip as Whitefish, Montana certainly has a place to raise your spirits for every kind of person. With the timeless class of Crush Wine Bar, the country twist of the Great Northern Bar and Grill, and the youthful energy of Casey’s club and bar you have yourself a diverse team of locations for wine connoisseurs, cowboys, and city slickers.
Brewed from an inspiring medley of its celebrated dining, artistic vivaciousness, outdoor-oriented style, and robust history, Whitefish certainly has a style it call its own. Some come for a time and some come to stay, but everyone is touched by its character.