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Wednesday, February 10, 2016

48 Hours of Fun on a Budget in Kalispell, Montana

In this blog series I show you how easy it is to budget travel anywhere and I also give you a quick overview of a new city each time in a brief 48-hour itinerary.

Kalispell Montana
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Last fall I met with the Montana Visitors Bureau reps and learned about all the cool things there is to do across the state. If all goes well, I'll be headed to Montana in the Spring, so I can bring you first-hand pics of the incredible landscape and show you exactly how dog-friendly they are there. Today, I want to talk about the smaller city Kalispell and it's historic buildings and other ways to spend your two days. Your best bet for visiting will be in the late spring or September, as that will give you the best weather (if you aren't there for skiing) and help you avoid the crowds.
Day 1
We'll pretend you got in early this morning or last night. Perhaps you'll have stayed in the Kalispell Grand Hotel, which is over 100 years old, downtown, dog-friendly and can be booked for under $100/night. Today is the day to soak up the culture in town. Grab a delicious breakfast at Sykes Diner. The draw is 10-cent coffee (no, really!) buy they also serve up American and Tex-Mex-inspired dishes. These run for $12 or less, with the average plate costing $10. 

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After fueling up for the morning, head to the Museum at Central School. It's housed in the old Central School building which was built in 1894. The museum uses permanent and temporary exhibits to educate the public about the history of Flathead Valley. It also houses performances and community meetings. Allow for at least an hour to see the exhibits and also the details of the building which has be renovated and has its original hardwood floors, tin-plate ceilings and wainscoting. Admission is just $5.

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See a beautifully preserved pre-1900 mansion, done in the Kirkland Cutter design, when visiting the Conrad Mansion. It features 26 rooms, all appointed with the original family's period furniture, clothing and toys. You can take a guided tour for $15 per person.

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Time for lunch, I think! Want to try some authentic Mexican street food? Check out Ese Tacos on Facebook to find out where they are that day. You won't be disappointed with these eats made from recipes straight out of Guadalajara. If that's not your bag, get something different by popping into Bonelli's Bistro, a Mediterranean eatery. It's no-frills, but the food is good and plentiful, so if you aren't starving, splitting a meal is the way to go. Order from the smallish menu at the counter and then wait for goodness to appear. The lasagna and the paninis are highly popular. Look to spend $10-12 per entree.

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Housed in a former Carnegie library, the Hockaday Museum of Art is a popular attraction. They have a permanent collection of Glacier National Park art and culture, a hands-on gallery for kids that changes when the temporary exhibits do. Learn about the history of the peoples, railroad and Glacier National area through various art mediums. Admission is just $5. 

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Take a nice walk around downtown to take in the beautiful buildings and maybe do a bit of shopping before dinnertime. When you find yourself hankering for some grub, pay a visit to Kalispell's old-school diner: Norm's Soda Fountain. Order from a variety of sandwiches, burgers and dogs, split an order of fries and get yourself a handmade soda, milkshake or float to go with it. Two people can enjoy a meal for around $25. 

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Day 2
If you're lucky enough to visit on a Saturday, hit up the Kalispell Farmers Market whee you can stroll along the stalls that sell local produce and food products. Grab a crepe or something equally delicious for breakfast and some goods to take home with you. 

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Get some provisions to go and then jump in the car to take a trip along the Going-To-The-Sun Road. It's a 50 mile stretch through Glacier National Park the offers amazing views and many points of interest to stop at and take photos. You may also want to get out and walk a bit. There are many fee-free National Park days; however, entrance fees run $20 per vehicle in the winter (Nov 1-Apr 30) and $30 in the summer (May 1-Oct 31). This allows you entrance for 7 days.

If you don't want to drive that far, or you visit without a car, stay in town and take a historical walking tour instead. You can download a map and go at your own pace while reading about the landmarks you'll see along your route. Totally free!

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For dinner, head back to Kalispell and grab a table at Hop's Downtown Grill where you can enjoy a local brew and an usual burger, including wild boar, buffalo and yak. Of course you can get regular food here, too, but that is a draw and worth the splurge at $15/plate.

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If you want to indulge in few more pints, pay a visit to Kalispell Brewing. They brew and serve at least 5 different beers and their tasting room often offers live music to boot.

Head (stumble?) back to your room and get ready for your trip out tomorrow. 

I like that Kalispell has plenty to do for a few days, but it's also really relaxing, because there isn't too much to choose from, unless you're an outdoor enthusiast and want to hike, bike, fish or boat your way around the area. If that's the case, you might want to spend a few more days there to get the most of your trip.

Seasonal things to do in Kalispell: 
February brings Montana pond hockey
May brings the Spartan Race
June, July and August gives visitors free concerts with Picnic in the Park
July hosts Arts in the Park
September brings the Dragonboat Festival and Taste of Kalispell

If you do all the things on the list, a travel couple will spend around $200 for their two-day trip. Don't forget to also check out my 48 hour post about Missoula or my post on haunted Garnet.

What sounds most fun to you in Kalispell?

Disclaimer: I have not been compensated for this post. I just wanted to bring the beauty of Kalispell to you all.

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