Sam and I had the great opportunity of visiting Whitefish, Montana last February and I immediately fell in love with the state they call Big Sky Country. They had powder up to my knees, the skies were sunny, the ski resort was uncrowded and the day that I got home from our February visit, I was already plotting how and when we would go back.
After searching for places where we could stay and bring the whole family, I stumbled on River Meadow Ranch. The idea of staying on a ranch, covered in snow for Christmas was something I'd only dreamt about until now. Located just 10 minutes from downtown Whitefish on the edge of the Stillwater River, this beautiful ranch offers two Montana Style Cabins that were exactly what I was looking for. After getting in contact with the owner, he generously welcomed our family for a week over Christmas and it was one of, if not THE most memorable Christmas to date.
Stay: River Meadow Ranch
River Meadow Ranch has two beautiful ranch style cabins fully furnished with updated and custom appliances on a 7 acre property along the river, across from a local elk farm, with picturesque panoramic and mountain views - just stunning.
- Ranch House #1 is a 5 bedroom, 3 bath completely restored log home, featuring detailed woodwork and a grand central fireplace.
- Ranch House #2 (where we stayed) is a newly constructed 5 bedroom, 4 bathroom home, featuring a full wrap around deck!
River Meadow Ranch hosts people looking for getaways, a place to have family reunions, weddings, honey moons, and more. You can find more information on their website through this link.
I'm really thankful to River Meadow Ranch for the space to enjoy our first ever travel Christmas and first ever White Christmas. It was beyond magical to wake up Christmas morning surrounded by snow, elk, horses, and that they even had a Christmas tree up in the house for our family to enjoy.
We all LOVED the full wrap around deck and took the time to enjoy it every day regardless of the below freezing temperatures. From it you could look onto the river and watch the ducks keep warm by playing tag in the water, you could see the horse in the stables between the two houses, you could overlook the elk farm across the road and take in the mountain views. The wrap around deck was simply incredible.
Another favorite aspect of Ranch House #2 was the downstairs den that had a second living area, a pool table where Sam won against everyone in the house, a wet bar, and a sliding door that opened to a closer view of the river and the area where we gathered around the fire pit - roasting smores and warming up inbetween snowball fights.
If I could visit regularly, I would and I absolutely recommend the stay.
Things to Do around Whitefish
If there is a mountain with snow at any destination that we visit, you will definitely find us on it. We spent three of our days in Montana at the Whitefish Mountain Resort, which I talked more about the resort in this post, and was very excited to share with the family this time around.
The visibility was a bit crazy our first two days on the mountain because they were still getting a bunch of snow, but there was great coverage and by our third day on the mountain most of the runs and lifts were open and the skies were all clear! The view from the top of the mountain on a clear day is stunning. There's a 360 view of mountains, snow covered trees, the lake down below and the town of Whitefish and it's something to behold as you ski down the slopes to the bottom.
The Base Lodge has great food. They offer burgers, pizza, pot pies, macaroni and cheese, stir-fry bowls, chili, toasted sandwiches and more. It's a great place to grab lunch after working up an appetite, and then don't forget to grab one of their special spiked hot chocolates at the bar before heading back to the slopes!
Take a Horse Drawn Sleigh Ride to Dinner & a Campfire
Before we got to Montana my dad had looked up and booked us a horse drawn sleigh ride to a campfire and dinner with Cripple Creek Horse Ranch, owned and operated by Irene and Ora who were very hospitable hosts. They are the only sleigh ride & dinner experience in the area, about an hour away from our house at River Meadow Ranch and around 40 minutes from downtown Whitefish over in Trego, Montana. The drive is worth it!
This was probably my favorite night of the whole trip.
When we arrived to the ranch we were greeted by Gunner, the family's Australian Shepherd who joined us on the sleigh ride shortly after - he was so sweet!
The sleigh ride took us to a beautiful campfire site that was lit up with Christmas lights and had a fun tobogganing hill right beside it that we all took turns sledding down before dinner.
Dinner was served inside of a warm and cozy canvas cabin tent with an old cook stove. Irene and Ora served up: Ribs, Five baked beans, Salad, a Dinner roll and Apple pie along with coffee, hot cider, water, and wine. Everything was delicious and the whole experience was truly unique. Irene and Ora have set up a very memorable and fun thing for families and friends to enjoy together.
We later stumbled across Irene and Ora's book, Plain Faith: "The true story of Ora Jay and Irene Eash and our young family moving to Montana after the tragedy of loosing our two daughters to an accident. Finding faith in God and leaving the Amish life style."
I haven't read their story yet but I'm going to. I never would have known they had gone through such a tragedy and loss...
Go to Glacier National Park
Glacier National Park is a little quieter in the off-season - most of the buildings and facilities are closed but it doesn't mean that the views are any less spectacular.
We mostly explored the views from different vantage points, but besides that guests can also enjoy cross country skiing during winter months. We saw quite a few people out doing this and the trail looked really nice.
During the busier months, people can enjoy activities such as hiking, camping, boating, biking, tours and more.
Where to Eat around Whitefish
Tupelo specializes in southern cuisine and came highly recommended. Located downtown, and around since 1995 they've "earned a reputation of being one of the best restaurants in Northwest Montana – a place to gather with friends and family for any occasion."
Steak Frites: double R ranch top sirloin, parmesan, truffle fries & low country gravy
Baked Mac & Cheese: Prosciutto, quattro formaggio, panko bread crumbs
Casey's is set up on a historic location downtown that has been home to saloons or billiard halls since 1905. The atmosphere is lively and casual and the food is seasonally crafted using farm fresh and locally sourced ingredients. You'll find everything from Burgers, to Thai tacos and Elk Chili.
Whiskey BBQ Ribs: Baby Back Ribs, Cabbage Slaw & House Fries
Black and Blue Burger: Caramelized Onions, House Five Spice & Blue Cheese Crumbles
Sam and I ate at Last Chair during our first trip in February as well, you can see a full post on it through this link. The restaurant is a small family owned business with a warm, welcoming and cozy atmosphere. There is live music from time to time and they have some GREAT Apres Ski bites - you've got to order their Tot-chos!
Oyster Mushroom “Rockefeller”: oyster mushrooms, artichoke leaf, spinach, breadcrumbs, parmesan, cream
“Tot-chos”: tater tots, house queso, black beans, pico de gallo, guacamole, lime - Add pork carnitas or highland beef
A huge thank you to River Meadow Ranch for a magical Christmas. Even after two trips to Montana, I want to go back! Have you been to Big Sky Country - where did you go and what did you do?