We started off the vacation landing in Spokane International Airport to a beautiful, sunny day. Previous to the trip, I heard that Spokane was famous for their coffee –naturally, I made it my mission to try it before moving on to the next destination. Being the foodie that I am, I was also ready for something to eat.
Red Robin Gourmet Burgers
Our Uber driver informed us of the correct pronunciation of Spokane (imagine the e is non-existent), along with telling us that Red Robin Gourmet Burgers is the go-to for good, quick burgers and cold beer. After picking up our rental car, we found our way there, ready for burgers and beer. There are Red Robin restaurants in Miami, but they originated in Washington.
For beer, I had something similar to a Guinness – rich and malty. I have no clue what it was called, but it was good. Cheers to family, bonding and memories! Our transformative vacation has officially begun…
A coffee for the road brought to us by Jacob’s Java – Spokane’s 1st drive-thru espresso stand. Apparently, drive-thru expresso stands are extremely popular in this part of the country. I spotted several on our drives. The first time I ever stopped in one was last summer in California; the iced coffee purchased was a crucial element in one of my happiest memories, involving a drive along the Pacific Coast Highway listening to Fleetwood Mac and feeling at home with the mountains.
The coffee was much needed for our 5 hour drive to Whitefish, MT. It is crazy to think that in one day we were in 4 states – Florida, Washington, Idaho, and Montana.
The drive was unreal – the giant ocean-looking lakes, spread out mountains and hills, all the animals, and cute little towns. I now know why they call Montana “Big Sky Country”. We stopped at a rest strop area with a cute gift shop. We purchased Montana tees, because we are already loving the scenic state. I also tried my first huckleberry infused food item, huckleberry licorice – it was actually good. Once we were near Whitefish we stopped to take pictures; it was cloudy, but the views were still gorgeous.
For the night, we are staying at the comfy and adorable Best Western Rocky Mountain Lodge – one of the nicer hotels we will be staying at on our trip. We are taking full of advantage of the Wi-Fi, television, and complimentary breakfast, because soon we will have none of these amenities. I loved the hotel’s cabin-like lobby; I was slightly obsessed with the plaid chairs. Upon our arrival, we were given complimentary warm cookies (chocolate chip and peanut butter). The rooms were spacious and the beds were comfortable.
Unfortunately, the rainy weather was not ideal for exploring. We decided to order in. There were surprisingly a lot of Italian restaurants here. We ordered from one called Second City Pizza, which was recommended to us by the front desk. I opted for the Spaghetti w/ Eggplant Parm – it did the job of satisfying my hunger and it was also tasty. Apparently, the pizza was also good.
We woke up early the next day had our complimentary breakfast (eggs, potatoes, sausage, and toast) and checked out Whitefish. Since it was so early and a Sunday, a lot of the stores were closed. We still walked around, took pictures, and explored the cute, tourist-friendly town. We ended up coming back to Whitefish the next day from Apgar Village in Glacier National Park (only an hour away), because I left the charger for my DJI Osmo at the Best Western. It ended up being a blessing in disguise, because we got to get more of a feel for the town. I’m glad we got to see what Whitefish has to offer, it was only supposed to be a gateway and rest stop to our next destination, Glacier National Park.
We drove from Glacier National Park to Helena, Montana and we were warned that the drive would be INCREDIBLE and it was. The plush green hills looked like a green silk sheet being thrown over a bed full of toys. There was this incredible cloud looming in the sky for a long portion of our drive – appearing like a long froth or a stretched out merengue. The view was without a doubt gorgeous. Pictures could not adequately capture the 360 degree views and the vastness of the land and sky. It appears as if what you see is endless, like there is only Montana and the visible mountain range. The juxtaposition of the greenery and the ice covered Rocky Mountains is unexplainable. It took about 4 hours to get to Helena, about the time it takes to get to Orlando from Miami (but much more scenic).
We stopped at Meraki Coffee (another drive-thru espresso stand) in Choteau, MT to get some iced coffees for the road. The owner told us she wanted to call it The Sugar Shack but the name was taken by a male strip club. The stand was adorable with all these funny signs and sayings. Also, we yet again shocked someone by not wanting flavor in our coffee – sorry, we are boring like that.
Choteau is a small, historic town in the middle of Montana. The area, millions of years ago, was used as a breeding ground by dinosaurs. Egg Mountain (spotted on our drive) is the site that has yielded more information about dinosaur biology during the Cretaceous period than any other paleontology dig in the world.
On our drive we passed by western towns and saw REAL saloons. It was clear when we were getting close to Helena from the apparent civilization. We finally arrived at our hotel, Fairfield Inn & Suites Helena, and the rooms were spacious, clean, and pleasant. We were were luckily on the first floor, so we didn’t have to lug our suitcases far. Since our reception is lacking and we didn’t have Wi-Fi or Television in Glacier we were excited for the Wi-Fi and television in the room. The hotel also offered delicious complimentary breakfast in the morning. I woke up to the smell of bacon in the morning, no complaints here! We took advantage of the washer and dryer in the hotel to prepare for our next destination, Yellowstone National Park.
I really enjoyed Downtown Helena. It was a clean, aesthetically pleasing, family-friendly area to eat and hang out. It was nicer than I thought it would be. Due to the close proximity of Carroll College, it is also hip location and drawing younger crowds, along with families. There were also some really cute, houses in the area that appeared like the house in films and television shows.
La Pa Grill
For dinner we decided to try out La Pa Grill. It was like a chipotle but with Bison. The place was trendy and appeared like it would be popular with college students. I had the Gypsy Bowl and it was really good – a bit spicy, but good.
Big Dipper Ice Cream
After dinner, we were craving something sweet. We happened upon the best ice cream place in Helena, MT – Big Dipper Ice Cream! There was already a line when we got there and it tripled in size by the time we finished. I saw that the huckleberry ice cream was popular, so I had to get it. It was delicious!
Cathedral of St. Helena
Even if it is just a quick drive by, it is a must see. Cathedral of St. Helena is gorgeous and HUGE.
Blog posts on Glacier National Park, Yellowstone National Park, and Grand Teton National Park COMING SOON.