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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 mountains and allures visitors with its quiet charm. There is a long list of things to do in Whitefish, Montana, but we only had one day to explore the city. 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 travelers!
What To Do in Whitefish, Montana
Before we created our list of what to do in Whitefish, we wanted to understand a little bit about the history of the city of Whitefish, MT.
The origins of Whitefish date to the late 1800s when the area was first settled during the logging boom. By 1904, the train station opened – making the city more easily accessible. At that time, the rapidly developing city 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, the city 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 of the city.
Today, the population of Whitefish, MT is around 8,000 people – and it is regularly rated as one of the best places to live. We, however, were interested in seeking out the best things to do in Whitefish, Montana in One Day.
Essential Things To Do in Whitefish, Montana
Our list of Things To Do: Whitefish, Montana includes the highlights of the city that can be seen in one day. 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 post.
Save, Pin or Bookmark our Things To Do: Whitefish list so that you can easily access it while planning – and during! – your trip to Montana.
#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 downtown 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!
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. A few of our favorite local shops in Whitefish are Sage and Cedar (featuring natural bath and body products), Dick Idol Signature Gallery (a family-owned gallery featuring local artists) and Voyageur Booksellers (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! We are, admittedly, not big shoppers – but were enthralled by the array of shops in Whitefish!
#2 Indulge in a Local 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 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).
Tip: We talk more about places to eat in Whitefish, MT in a minute!
#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, it 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 the city and Flathead Valley…and it is free to visit!
#4 Go to the Top of Big Mountain
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!
In the winter, the Whitefish Mountain Resort (formerly The Big Mountain) is the place to go skiing at Whitefish – but in the summertime, warm-weather activities abound on the mountain. Visitors can hike, bike, slide and ride on the mountainside…just a few of the fun things to do in Whitefish, Montana in summer!
Riding the gondola is the easiest way to get to the summit – and how we opted to get to the top. The open-air ski chairs offer supreme views of the Flathead region and surrounding mountains – and, at the top, the Summit House Restaurant is the perfect spot for a meal (or drink!) with a view.
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!
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 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 public house is an inviting place to sample the current brews on tap – but the spacious beer garden is a perfect way to enjoy the outdoors under the Montana Sky…with a beer in hand.
Insider Info: The Great Northern Brewing Company was long a fixture in the city, but they sadly permanently closed their doors in early 2020.
Map of Whitefish, MT
Use this link to Google Maps for our Map of Whitefish online.
More Things To Do: Whitefish, MT
We outlined some of the best things to do in Whitefish – especially if you only have one day in the city. 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.
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 (and lunch!), offering a selection of sweet and savory crepes. However, for coffee and pastries, Montana Coffee Traders is the go-to spot!
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.
Shop at the Whitefish Farmers’ Market
The Whitefish 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. 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.
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 the city (we have recommendations for where to stay in Whitefish, Montana below!) or staying elsewhere in the region (like Kalispell), you will want to check out these fun things to do!
Glacier National Park is one of the most beautiful national parks in the United States – and it is just 26 miles from Whitefish. There are numerous ways to experience the park – driving, hiking, biking and camping – to name a few!
Pro Tip: Be certain to read our detailed guide of Top Tips For Visiting Glacier NP – coming soon!
Whitefish Road Trips
Western Montana is characterized by spectacular nature – soaring mountains, deep valleys and crystal-clear lakes. 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.
Pro Tip: Read our detailed article for the Best Montana Road Trip – coming soon!
How To Get To Whitefish
Whitefish can be reached by plane, train or car. Flights to Whitefish, MT land at the Glacier Park International Airport (code FCA), which is just 15 minutes from Whitefish. We had been staying in Vancouver WA, so decided to fly from nearby Portland, OR to FCA and we always check Skyscanner for the best flight deals!
We think it is best to rent a car from the airport – check for the best car rental rates for your trip!
Amtrak trains to Whitefish run on the Empire Builder Train route – extending from the state of Washington east to Chicago. Find rates and details on Amtrak.
Places to Stay in Whitefish, Montana
We chose to stay in accommodations that were closer to the west entrance of Glacier NP, but there are ample places to stay in Whitefish, MT – from guest houses to hotels to resorts. You can start your search for hotels in Whitefish on Booking.com.
Airbnb: Whitefish, MT
Airbnb has long been our go-to resource for accommodations worldwide…and there are several Whitefish Airbnb accommodations available, too. If you are new to Airbnb, use this link to create your account (and save money on your first stay!) – and read our Top Tips for Airbnb Guests!
Weather in Whitefish, MT
The weather in Whitefish, Montana is seasonal – with hot and humid summers and cold and snowy winters. Spring and Autumn can be anything in between! Check current weather for Whitefish, MT before your trip!
What You Will Need For Your Trip to Whitefish, MT
We have a few tips for what you will want to pack for your Whitefish day trip!
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 – Coming Soon!
The city and region 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. The camera is easy to use and the lens is versatile enough to be the only one we carry.
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.
For your trip to Whitefish, we recommend using a day pack – like a backpack or fanny pack – to more easily carry everything you will need! Read more about the Best Day Packs – Coming Soon!
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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