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Quaint and classic, Whitefish ranks high on the list of places to see in Montana. The quintessential western tourist town is backdropped by magnificent Montana mountains and allures visitors with its inviting vibe. There is a long list of things to do in Whitefish, Montana – and we are highlighting the absolute best Whitefish activities!
How To Visit Whitefish in One Day – or Longer!
Many travelers – like us – make their way to Whitefish when visiting Montana. Whitefish is a beautiful and charming Montana town boasting an incredible number of activities and attractions in and around the historic center. While the resort town makes a great base for exploring the region, we opted to stay closer to Glacier National Park.
Therefore, even though many Whitefish activities appealed to us, we only had one day to explore the area. With limited time, we had to pare down our list of what to do in Whitefish to the essentials – and we are sharing our tips with you, our fellow Montana travelers!
That said, people taking longer vacations in Whitefish can still use our list to help plan their trip. In addition to our highlighted things to do in Whitefish, MT in one day, we also provide tips for more activities and nearby sightseeing.
What To Do in Whitefish, Montana FAQs
Before we get to our list of the best things to do in Whitefish, we want to answer a few of the most frequently asked questions. In addition to answering these FAQs, we also provide need-to-know travel tips – like how to get there, where to stay and what to pack.
Where is Whitefish, Montana?
Whitefish is located in northwestern Montana – about 40 miles south of the Canadian border. Old Town Whitefish is situated on the south end of Whitefish Lake and is overlooked by Big Mountain, which sits to the north. The Whitefish River flows south through the town from Whitefish Lake toward Kalispell and Flathead Lake.
We have included a Whitefish, Montana map at the end of this article that you can use to locate our recommend activities.
What is Whitefish, Montana Known For?
Whitefish, MT is known for its small town atmosphere, Big Mountain and abundant nature. In the winter, skiing is a top Whitefish activity, while summertime visitors hit the hiking trails and lake. The Whitefish Old Town is a modern take on a classic Western scene where quaint streets are lined with art galleries, shops and eateries – and draws visitors year-round.
Are There Free Things To Do in Whitefish?
Yes! In fact, many of the best outdoor things to do in Whitefish are completely free of charge! Additionally, there are a few free Whitefish attractions in the heart of the town – and we highlight them in our list.
Are There Things To Do in Whitefish with Kids?
Definitely! Whitefish, MT is a very family-friendly town. While our list of Things To Do Whitefish is not specifically geared toward kids, families traveling to Whitefish can certainly use our list of activities to plan their trip.
Are There Romantic Things To Do in Whitefish?
Sure! There are heaps of things to do in Whitefish for couples – from watching spectacular sunsets across the lake to taking in a theater performance to snuggling up at a cozy Whitefish lodge.
Is Whitefish, Montana Worth Visiting?
Absolutely! Whitefish is a fantastic destination that appeals to a wide range of visitors. Whether visiting Whitefish, Montana for a day or staying for a week, it’s a must visit on your Montana trip.
What is the History of Whitefish, Montana?
Prior to traveling to the resort town, it helps to understand a little bit about the city of Whitefish, MT. The area’s history directly correlates to the best Whitefish things to do today.
The origins of Whitefish date to the late 1800s when it was first settled during the logging boom. By 1904, the Whitefish train station opened – making it more accessible. At that time, the rapidly developing region was called Stumptown, because of the numerous tree stumps left when they cleared the land for train tracks.
In addition to the timber and railroad industries, Whitefish flourished as a farming and ranching community – but it wasn’t long before nearby residents recognized the region for its recreational purposes. In the 1930s, skiing and golfing became top Whitefish attractions – and tourism became a driving force.
Today, the population of Whitefish, MT is around 8,000 people – and it is regularly rated as one of the best places to live in the US. After visiting Whitefish, we certainly understand why! On our trip, however, we were interested in seeking out the best things to do in Whitefish, Montana in One Day.
Save, Pin or Bookmark our Things To Do: Whitefish list so that you can access it while planning – and during – your trip to Montana.
5 Best Things To Do in Whitefish, Montana
Now that we have covered the basics, it’s time to jump into our list of Things To Do: Whitefish, Montana. Our list includes the highlights of the city that can be seen in one day – plus a list of activities that could easily fill an entire week long vacation in Whitefish.
In addition to our recommendations for Whitefish, Montana attractions, we include a Whitefish Map and other pertinent information about visiting Whitefish at the end of the article.
#1 Discover Downtown Whitefish, Montana
If you are looking for the must-see things to do in Whitefish, MT, start by discovering idyllic downtown Whitefish! The picture-perfect scene exudes an old western town atmosphere – with plenty of options for shopping and some of the best restaurants in Whitefish, MT. Central Avenue marks the main thoroughfare…and is the perfect place to start!
Downtown Whitefish, MT is easy to navigate on foot – in fact, it’s the best way to explore the city. Nestled between the Whitefish, MT train station and the river, the city is laid out in a grid. Visitors can wander aimlessly or plan a route using this map.
Shopping: Whitefish, MT
Shopping in Whitefish, MT includes antique stores, boutique shops, artist galleries and jewelers – many of which specialize in Montana-made products.
Central Avenue stretches three blocks through the heart of Whitefish downtown – and is home to some of the best locally-owned stores in Whitefish, MT. We highly recommend popping into any place that grabs your interest – but we have a few recommendations of our favorite local shops in Whitefish, Montana.
Sage and Cedar is a beauty and cosmetic shop featuring natural bath and body products – many of which are made in Montana.
Dick Idol Signature Gallery is another one of the must-visit downtown Whitefish shops. It is a family-owned gallery – and both father and son are artists, but the shop features other local artists, as well. (Note: The Sunti World Art Gallery was another amazing gallery in Old Town Whitefish, but it has permanently closed.)
Voyageur Booksellers is a treasure-trove of books…coupled with a local chocolatier, Copperleaf Chocolate Company.
Pro Tip: When shopping in Whitefish, it is best to wander with no agenda…and see what you find along the way. Admittedly, we are not big shoppers – but were enthralled by the array of shops in Whitefish!
#2 Indulge in a Whitefish Sweet Treat
One of the top Whitefish, Montana things to do is to get an ice cream cone at Sweet Peaks Ice Cream. Considered to be one of the best ice cream shops in all of Montana, Sweet Peaks is an artisan ice cream shop that produces flavors using products from the region.
The carefully crafted ice cream is made with Montana dairy, seasonal produce and mountain ingredients. The Whitefish ice cream shop is the company’s original location, which opened in 2010.
Classic flavors include Huckleberry (which is made from real huckleberries and is absolutely divine!), Mountain Mint and Wustner Bro’s Honey Cinnamon. The lineup of summer seasonal flavors during our visit was inventive and fun – like Going To The Sun Road (toffee and sweet caramel), Bear Scat (dark chocolate with blueberries) and Campfire S’mores (marshmallow ice cream with chocolate and graham crackers).
Top Tip: We talk more about places to eat in Whitefish, MT in a minute, but go ahead and eat dessert first!
#3 Visit the Amtrak Whitefish Train Station
Visiting the Whitefish Depot should be on every visitor’s Whitefish To Do list. The Whitefish Amtrak Station is a lot more than an arrival or departure point – it’s also a historic building and houses a museum.
The Amtrak station in Whitefish was built in 1928 as part of the Great Northern Railway, connecting St. Paul, Minnesota to Seattle, Washington. The half-timbered building was designed in the Tudor Revival style reminiscent of many of the area’s mountain chalets. In 2002, Whitefish Depot was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Pro Tip: Visiting the Stumptown Historical Museum inside the station is one of the fun things to do in Whitefish, Montana. The small museum, established in 1982, details the history of Whitefish and Flathead Valley…and it is free to visit!
#4 Go to the Top of Big Mountain Whitefish Resort
The elevation of Whitefish, MT is 3,028 feet…and standing just 4 miles north of the town is the dominating Big Mountain that reaches 6,817 feet. Going to the Big Mountain summit is one of the top things to do in Whitefish, Montana!
Naturally, downhill skiing is the most popular activity at the Whitefish, Montana ski resort – but summertime guests have a few reasons to visit Big Mountain, too.
Whitefish, Montana Summer Activities
If you are taking a winter vacation, the Whitefish Mountain Resort (formerly The Big Mountain) is the place to go skiing at Whitefish – but in the summertime, warm-weather activities are plentiful. Visitors can hike, bike, slide and ride on the mountainside…just a few of the fun things to do in Whitefish, Montana in summer!
Whitefish Ski Resort Summertime Gondola Ride
Riding the gondola is the easiest way to get to the Big Mountain summit – and how we opted to get to the top. The open-air ski chairs offer supreme views of the Flathead region and surrounding Montana mountains – and, at the top, the Summit House Restaurant is the perfect spot for a meal (or drink) with a view!
Whitefish Resort: Hiking Trails in Summer
We, however, had other plans. Rather than riding the gondola back down, we trekked downhill via the 3.8-mile Danny On Trail – and were mesmerized by the views at every turn. We highly recommend this hike for your summertime visit to Whitefish! (And stay tuned, because we feature more Whitefish hiking trails later in the article.)
Summer Alpine Slide at Whitefish, Montana Ski Resort
The Alpine Slide Whitefish is another one of the fun Whitefish summer activities on Big Mountain, which we could have easily added to our Whitefish Itinerary…but we were anxious to get to our last stop!
Pro Tip: The SNOW Bus Whitefish Shuttle is a convenient and free way to get between downtown and the Whitefish Mountain Resort.
#5 Sip Local Montana Craft Beer
Tasting the local craft beer is one of the best things to do in Whitefish, Montana. There are heaps of bars in downtown Whitefish serving regionally produced brews, but we think it is best to drink from the source…and, in Whitefish, that means heading to Bonsai Brewing.
Bonsai Brewing Project may be a small craft brewery, but they create a diverse range of beers. The cozy interior is an inviting place to sample the current brews on tap – but the spacious beer garden is a perfect way to enjoy the great outdoors under the big skies of Montana…with a fresh beer in hand, of course!
Insider Info: The Great Northern Brewing Company was long a fixture in Whitefish, but they sadly permanently closed their doors in early 2020. No worries though – there are plenty of other places to sip a beer – and we feature a few more in the next section!
Map of Whitefish, MT
Planning what to do is much easier when you know where things are, which is why we created this useful Whitefish, Montana map. Use this link to Google Maps for our interactive Map of Whitefish, Montana Things To Do!
More Things To Do: Whitefish, MT
We outlined some of the best things to do in Whitefish – especially if you only have one day. That said, there are many more things to see in Whitefish, Montana for visitors enjoying a longer stay. We are highlighting a few of the top picks from fellow travelers!
Eat at Restaurants in Whitefish, Montana
As a popular tourist destination, there are tons of places to eat in Whitefish. Fare ranges from quick bites to international restaurants to lakeside dining in Whitefish, MT.
Places to Eat in Whitefish, MT for Breakfast
If you want to start your day with a good meal, there are several options for breakfast in Whitefish, MT. Loula’s Cafe consistently gets high ratings for filling breakfasts at fair prices – but they are also known for their selection of pies. In fact, some claim that they make the best Huckleberry Pie in the region!
Amazing Crepes is another highly rated Whitefish restaurant for breakfast (or lunch), offering a selection of sweet and savory crepes.
However, for coffee and pastries, Montana Coffee Traders is the go-to spot!
Best Restaurants in Whitefish, MT for Dinner
For fine dining, Whitefish Lake Restaurant ranks as one of the best restaurants in Whitefish, MT. Located at the Whitefish Lake Golf Course, the restaurant menu features seafood, steak and an extensive wine list.
Another option for upscale cuisine is Tupelo Grille Whitefish Downtown, which features southern-style food with Montana hospitality.
Drink Local in Whitefish, MT
We already mentioned The Bonsai Project as the best craft brewery in Whitefish, Montana – but we have a few more suggestions for drinking locally.
Craft beer aficionados might want to join a Big Sky Brews Cruise tour that includes visiting multiple breweries in Flathead Valley.
Spotted Bear Spirits, located in the Old Town, is a local Whitefish distillery that creates exceptional handcrafted cocktails using their own unique line up of spirits. Featuring local ingredients, they product superb products, like Huckleberry Vodka, Mountain Mint Schnapps, and a well balanced house gin. Visitors can also order distillery flights.
Shop at the Whitefish Farmers Market
The Whitefish Farmer’s Market is a fun place to get farm-fresh produce and locally crafted wares. The weekly event is highlighted by prepared food, local music and jovial atmosphere. The Farmers’ Market in Whitefish kicks off every Tuesday evening during the summer.
Spend the Day at Whitefish Lake
Whitefish Lake is a freshwater lake located on the northwest side of the city – and it is the perfect place to go for fun water activities in Whitefish. Visitors can go fishing, kayaking and swimming – or just soak in the rays at the Whitefish City Beach, a sandy stretch along the southern end of lake.
Additionally, there are two lakeside parks to enjoy: Whitefish Lake State Park (on the west side) and Les Mason State Park (on the east side).
Hike the Best Whitefish Trails
We already mentioned hiking as one of the fun things to do in Whitefish, Montana. We opted to hike the Danny On Trail – using the gondola to ride to the top of Big Mountain and then hiking down. However, there are many hiking trails that visitors can trek during Whitefish vacations.
Some of the best hikes are around Whitefish Lake. Use the Whitefish Trail Map (you can find it here!) for trail details.
Attend a Theater Performance
Visitors looking for things to do in Whitefish at night can take in a local performance.
The Whitefish Theatre Company hosts performances at the O’Shaughnessy Cultural Arts Center and brings a variety of entertainment to Whitefish – from musical performances to theatre productions.
The Alpine Theatre Project is another Whitefish performing arts center that features shows and entertainment for locals and visitors alike.
Things To Do Near Whitefish, Montana
We have featured some of the top activities in the city, but there are several things to do around Whitefish, Montana, too! Whether you are staying in town (we have recommendations for where to stay in Whitefish, Montana below) or staying elsewhere in the region (like Missoula or Kalispell), you will want to check out these fun things to do in Northwest Montana!
Glacier National Park
Glacier National Park is one of the most beautiful national parks in the United States – and it ranks as one of the top things to do around Whitefish, Montana. Located just 26 miles from Whitefish, the West Glacier entrance to GNP is easily accessible – and a must-do in Montana!
There are numerous ways to experience the park – however Hiking In Glacier NP is our top choice!
Pro Tip: Looking for more than hiking at Glacier? Be certain to read our detailed guide of Top Tips For Visiting Glacier NP!
Flathead National Forest and Flathead Lake
Even closer than GNP, Flathead National Forest and Flathead Lake are two of the best things to do near Whitefish, MT.
The sublime nature of Flathead Valley stretches south from Whitefish, MT to the southern tip of Flathead Lake, while the Flathead National Forest sits on the east side of the lake.
Flathead Lake – the largest natural freshwater lake in the US west of the Mississippi – features an incredible number of water activities. Additionally, lakeside hikes and attractions abound in the region.
Flathead National Forest is a massive 2.4-million acre park that boasts multiple rugged trails, abundant wildlife and wonderful nature.
Whitefish Road Trips
Western Montana is characterized by spectacular nature – soaring mountains, deep valleys and crystal-clear lakes. Taking a road trip to see the epic landscapes is one of the best things to do when you visit Whitefish, Montana.
There are several scenic roadways that wind through the landscapes – allowing visitors to get a better view of the natural beauty. One of the best road trips from Whitefish is Route 93 to 37; highlights include Eureka, Lake Koocanusa, the Libby Dam and Kootenai Falls (don’t miss the Suspension Bridge!).
Pro Tip: For more info (including Flathead Lake tips), read our detailed article for the Best Montana Road Trip!
How To Plan a Trip to Whitefish, Montana
We know that there is a lot more to planning a trip to Whitefish, MT than figuring out what to see, do and eat. Visitors also need to consider how to get there, where to stay and what to pack. We have just the travel tips that will help!
Many travelers visiting Whitefish, MT also plan on seeing other parts of the state. We offer several travel guides for Montana so that you can plan your perfect trip.
- The Best Glacier National Park Itinerary
- Top Easy Hikes in GNP
- What To See in Kalispell, MT
- Visiting Missoula, Montana
- The Ultimate Montana Road Trip
Whitefish, MT Trip Planning Organization
As you make your reservations and research what to do in Whitefish and the region, you will need to keep track of the details of your trip. We recommend using a travel organizer – like our Printable Travel Planner – so that nothing slips through the cracks!
How To Get To Whitefish MT
Whitefish can be reached by plane, train or car. As you decide how to get to Whitefish, Montana, consider time, effort and money.
Getting to Whitefish, Montana by Plane
We think the best way to get to Whitefish, Montana is by flying.
Flights to Whitefish, MT land at the Glacier Park International Airport (FCA) – it’s the closest Whitefish, Montana airport – just about 15 minutes away. You can rent a car at the airport for a quick and convenient way to get to Whitefish from the airport.
However, when we departed Montana, our next stop was Spokane, Washington. – which is a great scenic drive from Northwest Montana through Idaho. Using our tricks for finding the best rental car rates, we found an off-airport car rental for our one-way trip at an exceptional price.
Take the Train to Whitefish, Montana
Depending on where you are traveling from, it may be possible to take a train to Whitefish. The Whitefish, Montana train station is conveniently located in the heart of town.
Best Places To Stay in Whitefish, Montana
We made our trip to Montana with the purpose of visiting Glacier National Park. Therefore, we chose to stay in accommodations that were closer to the west entrance of Glacier NP.
However, in our research, we found ample places to stay in Whitefish, MT – from guest houses to hotels to resorts.
The Best Whitefish, Montana Hotels
Based on location and reviews, we found a few Whitefish, Montana places to stay that we think would be ideal for our next visit.
Firebrand Hotel Whitefish
A boutique hotel that manages to be chic and rustic at the same time, Firebrand Hotel is a top pick for its Downtown Whitefish location and rooftop hot tub. Check rates and availability for your stay!
Kandahar Lodge at the Whitefish, Montana Resort
Cozy yet elegant, the Kandahar Lodge is a top pick for places to stay in Whitefish, MT for couples. Top features are the rustic charm and the fireplace lounge. Check rates for your stay!
The Pine Lodge on Whitefish River
An exceptional Whitefish retreat – complete with indoor and outdoor swimming pools – The Pine Lodge is located slightly out of town, but provides shuttle service into town and to/from the airport, as well. Check availability!
Grouse Mountain Lodge
The Grouse Mountain Montana hotel provides comfortable rooms – plus a pool, spa, outdoor firepits and bike rentals. Although not in the center of town, it is walkable and they do run shuttles, too. Check prices!
Pro Tip: Keep in mind that many places are fully booked throughout the summer months and often during the winter ski season. If you are unable to find accommodations in the center of town, expand your search to places to stay near Whitefish, Montana – like Kalispell or Columbia Falls.
Airbnb: Whitefish, MT
Airbnb has long been our go-to resource for accommodations worldwide…and there are several Whitefish Airbnbs to choose from. Before you book an Airbnb in Whitefish, however, we highly suggest reading our Top Tips for Airbnb Guests!
Weather in Whitefish, MT
The weather in Whitefish, Montana is seasonal – with short, warm and humid summers and long, cold and snowy winters. Spring and Autumn can be anything in between!
What to do in Whitefish, Montana will depend on the season. For example, in the summer and early autumn, Whitefish, Montana weather is perfect for hiking and hanging out lakeside. On the flipside, winters in Whitefish are great for downhill skiing, snowboarding and snow shoeing.
Check current weather for Whitefish, MT before your trip!
What You Will Need For Your Trip To Whitefish, MT
Walking Shoes for Montana
Whitefish is a small town that is flat and walkable – but if you plan to go to Big Mountain, you will want to wear appropriate footwear. For the trek down the Danny On Trail, I wore my favorite trainers and Kris wore his go-to Merrell shoes. Read more about our favorite Travel Shoes!
Travel Camera for Montana Photography
The top things to see in Whitefish, Montana are simply gorgeous! To capture the beauty, we recommend using a real camera with a zoom lens. For our travels, we use a Canon Rebel with everyday 18-135mm lens. This budget camera is easy to use and the lens is versatile enough to be the only one we carry.
Montana Weather Gear
When visiting Whitefish in summer, make sure you bring your sunglasses, a wide-brimmed travel hat and sunscreen. In the spring and autumn, it’s a good idea to have a travel umbrella or lightweight rain jacket, too! A fleece jacket may also be a good idea for the top of the mountain, where it can be cooler and breezy.
Day Pack for Montana Adventures
Whether you travel with a backpack or a suitcase for your trip to Whitefish, we recommend using a day bag – like a small backpack or fanny pack – to easily carry everything you will need! Read all about our top choices for the Best Day Packs!
We Want To Know: What would you add to our list of Things To Do in Whitefish, Montana? Give us your best recommendations in the comments below!
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