Family Travel BoutiqueFamily Travel Boutique

by Kimberly Milnes

 

        I was lucky to be invited to be a part of the Travel Agent Council for the Family Travel Association and join them at Flathead Lake Lodge in Montana over Memorial Day weekend.  I have to say I did not know what to expect. When they said, Dude Ranch I had a different picture in my head. I knew there would be horses, but not sure what else. Needless to say I was surprised and delighted with all we discovered.

    Depending on where you live getting to Montana can be a bit of an adventure on its own.  We flew out of Laguardia and in to Great Falls Montana.  It was less expensive and I don’t mind a bit of a drive. We got to see some beautiful country along the way and hey with a posted speed limit of 80 and plenty of wide open roads you can get there in no time.

 

If you are heading to Flathead Lake Lodge you will fly in to Kalispell, Montana. The resort picks you up at the airport and then it is about 30 minutes to get to the resort.  Right when you drive on to the ranch you see how beautiful the property is maintained. We checked in and were taken to our wonderful cute little cabin. It was so nice, spacious and clean. It was great to have our own little space to hang out.  There is also a lodge with regular rooms as well as larger cabins with 2 stories to hold larger families.  If you were going to do a family reunion you could have the lodge just for your family.

 

     

            Love the Old School Key                                                     Our Very Own Cabin

   

 Living Room in our Cabin                                                              The Boys Room

My Room

 

From the first day we arrived there was so much to do.  They had lists in the main lodge to sign up for horseback riding lessons, trail rides, hikes and more.  The ranch has 120 horses Flathead Lake Lodge is the only Dude Ranch  that is actually right on a lake.  So you can also sign up for sailing and water ski lessons.  This year they are starting to offer mountain bikingas well. Even better the kids got to choose a bike and we kept it at our cabin for them to get around the resort. The days can be packed with as much or as little as you want to do. During out stay we had kids there from a baby up to 14 years old. I did not see any of the kids or even adults wanting for something to do. They have really thought about providing activities for all ages. Even the 5 year old was on a horse. However, I think kids 7 and up will get the most from this vacation.

 

                

                         Cooper Kayaking                                                         Colin taking horseback riding lessons

Boat ride around the Lake

Flathead Lake Lodge was founded in 1945 and is a family owned business.  So many of the people who work in the lodge have been their for years and they truly love working there.  You feel and see this in the service they provide and how they treat the guests. You are a part of their family for the time you are there.  Along with their main local staff they hire college kids for the Summer from all over the United States.  My boys made friends with the staff and had a great time hanging out and learning from them.   The first day we were there the boys went ahead and into the lodge I came a few minutes later and found Colin eating creme brulee and Cooper eating cake.  They had asked for a snack and the girls certainly set them up well. 🙂

 

Cooper with Winn and Natalie – His new Best Friends 🙂

 

     Cooper with Lars after our trail ride

 

Another thing that took me by surprise was the food.  I really did not know what to expect but I have to say my expectations were not too high.  I thought we would be eating a lot of “camp” food, hot dogs, burgers, etc. But oh boy was I wrong.  The choices and variety were amazing.   Breakfast one day offered the most amazing homemade cinnamon rolls, but you also have fruit and other healthy choices. One afternoon for lunch we had an authentic Chinese meal prepared by one of staff who is Chinese.  There was a couple that are vegetarian and the chef made sure that they had choices for each meal. They did not have to eat salad all the time.  All the meals at the lodge are eaten together with all the other guests, which I actually really liked. You get to know the other guests. After a day, all the boys were sitting together and having a great time.

 

                   

      Pork Loin with Polenta                                                   Vanilla Pound Cake with Raspberries

 

One night during our stay was the Steak Fry for dinner.  This was a real highlight.  The dinner is held on the Elk Preserve that is owned by the lodge. You can choose to ride a horse to the dinner or hop in the back of a vintage fire engine.  The night we were there we actually did get to see an elk. Dinner was delicious, there was of course steak, salad, live music and more.

 

Getting the steaks ready at the Steak Fry

 

              

      Ride to the Steak Fry                                                           Look who we saw at the Steak Fry

 

We also took a few trips off the ranch to see even more of beautiful Montana. The weekend we were there was a white water kayak race in Big Fork which is a cute little town just up the road from the ranch. It was a nice and easy hike to see the racers who were amazing. The youngest racer was only 10.  We got to take a ride to town in the classic ranch limo.  When you are staying at the ranch you can ask to be driven in to town or it is a nice bike ride or hike.  Big Fork has a nice little main street.

     

Cooper and I hike to the White Water Fest                                     Cooper livin’ the Pug Life

 

Riding in Style to Big Fork

 

On another day we headed in to Glacier National Park.  It is about a 45 minute ride from the ranch, but it is certainly worth it. We went to the West side of the park and Lake McDonald. You can make a whole day out of this trip. Sadly, we did not get to go up to the actual glacier. Some of the roads were still not open.  Next time 🙂

Beautiful Lake McDonald

Red Bus Tour Glacier National Park

We also got to do an adult stop on the way back. 🙂   We made a pit stop at the Glacier Distilling Company.  A cool little spot. They make their own whiskey and other hard liquors.   You could try a flight of 4 different liquors for $4.  Yes, only $4.  Now that is a bargain.  You can also purchase bottles to bring back with you. They source a lot of their ingredients from the local Montana area.

     

Glacier Distilling Company

As you can see Flathead Lake Lodge has to much to offer everyone.  You can hang by the pool, jump on a horse, head in to town or a national park.  So many choices.  The resort is open Memorial Day weekend to September. During the summer months they stays are Sunday to Sunday. They like to create a family atmosphere from day 1 with everyone arriving and leaving on the same day. The ranch is truly all inclusive.  All your meals, lodging, activities and lessons are included.

If the kids are getting older and you have already done the Caribbean all inclusive, Disney, etc. and you truly want a place to unplug and reconnect as a family then I think this is a great option. I saw my boys take chances on trying new things, being open to meeting new people. Heck, Colin even set his alarm for 7am to meet the boys at the fort they had built.  I did not hear the constant can I borrow your phone, he won’t share the ipad, etc. I saw them excited about being outside and just being “kids”.  I will forever treasure this vacation and the photo of the fort they built.

 

The Fort – Original Design by the kids

 

Sunset on Flathead Lake Lodge

It is not too late to get away this summer either, there is still availability for the summer and they are offering a discount on certain dates. So please reach out if you are ready to head west this summer or we can start planning next summer

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Flathead Lake Lodge – A Little Slice of Heaven