Things to Do in Whitefish, Montana

25 Things You Can’t Miss Doing in Whitefish, MT: Ideas for Each Season

Heading to Whitefish, Montana? Lucky you! Even us Montanans love getting away to gorgeous Whitefish as often as we can. It’s one of our favorite places in Montana for outdoor recreation and in-town arts, shopping, and dining.

View of Downtown Whitefish and Whitefish Lake from Whitefish Mountain

This small town packs in an incredible amount of thrilling, artsy, outdoorsy, and relaxing things to do, depending on your mood.

Whitefish is a stunning city. It’s close to Glacier National Park, plus Whitefish has so many things to do; no matter the season you’re visiting, you can find plenty of activities to do and places to see to easily fill your day in Whitefish.

Whitefish is located in Montana’s gorgeous Glacier Country, just roughly 30 minutes from Glacier National Park and 20 minutes north of Kalispell.

The Travel Montana Now team loves Whitefish — Nancy spent summer vacations there in high school and college; Jackie loves all the boating, hiking, and snowshoeing opportunities around Whitefish; and Gina is a fan of the cute downtown area, kid-friendly main beach, and pristine mountain views.

We even recently had a family summer reunion at Whitefish Mountain Resort, which you can read about here. It also has additional tips about visiting in summer.

Whitefish layout tip

Before we get to the best things to do list, here’s a quick layout tip to help you with your trip: Downtown Whitefish is located in a small valley at the base of the Whitefish Mountain Range. The downtown area is just a couple miles from pristine Whitefish Lake, which is a water lover’s playground in the summer and has a fantastic beach area.

Overlooking downtown Whitefish and the lake, and up a steep mountain road, is Whitefish Mountain Resort, one of the premier ski resorts in Montana.

To fully get a taste of all the things to do in Whitefish, you’ll want to spend your time both at the bottom and the top of the mountain.

25 Things to Do in Whitefish

Now let’s get to those things to do, starting with the wonderfully artsy downtown Whitefish.

Walk Around Downtown Whitefish

Whitefish has been called one of the 25 most charming small towns in America. It’s definitely one of the best small towns in Montana. To properly soak in all this charm, you should take an amble around the downtown streets.

Whitefish’s Main Street is officially called Central Avenue. This walkable main street running through downtown is Whitefish is line by rugged architecture with wooden beams and Wild West accents.

Within those buildings you’ll find a number of restaurants, coffee shops, and bars plus gift shops selling local handicrafts and other goods that make for perfect souvenirs. 

If you’re into Western art, don’t miss checking out Dick Idol Signature Gallery. For unique shoes and outdoor clothing, go to the Toggery. Families with young kids won’t want to miss Imagination Station Toys plus Sprouts Children’s Boutique across the street. For western wear, the must-shop place to S M Bradford Co. These are just some of the many shops to check out! Take an amble down Central Avenue to discover more places you’ll love to browse through.

Obviously in winter it has a very different vibe! Expect snow-covered streets and twinkling lights. Also check hours for businesses because some may be seasonal.

Learn About Railway History at Whitefish Depot

Walking around Whitefish Depot is one of the top things to do in Whitefish, Montana.
Historic Whitefish Depot

Whitefish is one of just a dozen Amtrak stops in Montana, and the century old building that the train station is located in is beautiful and worth visiting even if you’re not taking the Amtrak to Whitefish. 

In addition to the old-fashioned architecture, there is a small museum inside the Whitefish Depot that is free to tour. It teaches visitors about the history of Whitefish, the Great Northern Railway, and also has several Native American artifacts on display. 

Tour the Whitefish Museum during a trip to Whitefish, Montana
Whitefish Museum at Whitefish Depot

Go Downhill Skiing and Snowboarding

Whitefish is home to one of the best ski resorts in the United States: Whitefish Mountain Resort.

Whitefish Mountain Resort
Whitefish Winter Wonderland

And snowboarders will also find their slice of heaven in Whitefish thanks to the terrain parks at Whitefish Mountain Resort. 

Read More: Best Places to Ski in Montana

Stay Level with Cross-Country Skiing

When it comes to snow skiing, Whitefish isn’t just for downhill skiing. Whitefish is one of the most popular places to go cross-country skiing (also called nordic skiing) in Montana. That’s because the area is home to several locations that are specifically groomed for nordic skiing. 

Check out Glacier Nordic Center, located just a half-mile from downtown Whitefish and home to over seven miles of trails. Big Mountain Nordic Trail near Whitefish Mountain Resort is also a great place to do some cross-country skiing with daily groomed trails that cover 14 miles, some of which are steep to provide more of a challenge for expert nordic skiers. 

Go Water Skiing and Jet Skiing in Warmer Weather

If you prefer warm weather skiing, head to Whitefish Lake. Rent a boat and strap on some skis behind the boat and take off across the water. Jet skiing is another option for speed without so much of the skill.

For boat and jet ski rentals, check out the marina that’s part of the Lodge at Whitefish Lake. 

Try Stand Up Paddle Boarding and Kayaking on Whitefish Lake

A kayaker ready for the day in downtown Whitefish
A kayaker ready for the day in downtown Whitefish

A leisurely way to explore Whitefish Lake on a warm day is stand up paddle boarding and kayaking. Stay around the edge of the lake and you’ll find mostly calm waters away from the boaters. You can even find SUP yoga classes on offer!

The rental shop at Whitefish City Beach has paddle boards and kayaks. Which brings us to the next thing to do in Whitefish on this list…

Relax and Swim at Whitefish City Beach

This large public beach area is situated on the southern shore of Whitefish Lake. It has a sandy area that graduates into a more gravelly beach in front of an elevated grassy area perfect for sun lounging or picnicking.

The swimming area is well marked. It’s a great place for a refreshing swim with no worries about boats or jet skis zooming around.

My kids loved Whitefish City Beach and how much room there was to run around the sand and splash in the water. I appreciated the gorgeous mountain views surrounding the lake!

A launch dock for boats is also located just down from the beach so it’s a good place to meet friends before or after a boating adventure.

A building with several amenities on offer during the summer is located on the east side of the beach. Whitefish Outfitters & Tours has an outpost here and it’s where you’ll want to go for convenient non-motorized watercraft rentals like kayaks and stand up paddle boards.

The building also has a concession stand that specializes in yummy hot dogs and serving up Sweet Peaks ice cream.

Parking can be challenging so pack your patience on busy days. While there is a parking lot onsite, it’s on the smaller side and fills up quickly on hot summer days. We were there over 4th of July weekend and were still able to find a spot, but had to park a bit farther away in a neighborhood with street parking. Still, it was an easy walk even with kids.

Pet Owner Tip: For those of you traveling to Whitefish with a dog, know that the city itself is quite dog-friendly, but dogs are not allowed at Whitefish City Beach.

Race Around on a Snowmobile

The best way to start out your snowmobile adventure in Whitefish is to visit the Tally Lake Ranger District Office in Whitefish. There, you’ll be able to pick up one of office’s many maps for snowmobiling routes in the area and get more information about rules and regulations for snowmobiling in the area. 

If you want something convenient and easy to understand where you can go — sign up for a snowmobile tour. Swan Mountain Snowmobiling is a well-known company in Glacier County that offers snowmobiling adventures starting at many trailheads near Whitefish.

During the winter season, another memorable thing to do in Whitefish is a horse-drawn sleigh ride.

Watch a Local Troupe at Whitefish Theater Co.

Watching a performance at Whitefish Theatre Company is a top thing to do in Whitefish, MT
Whitefish Theatre Company

Local theater and arts is a big part of the culture of western Montana and catching a live show is one of the best things you can do to soak in the local culture. In Whitefish, you can watch plays, live music, and other artistic shows at the Whitefish Theater Company, located across the street from the Whitefish Depot.

The stage at Whitefish Theater Company has wrap-around seating on three sides with an intimate setting. In additions to performances, art galleries, classes, and cultural events are often held in the building.

See a Show By Alpine Theatre Company at Whitefish Performance Arts Center

Another troupe to check out for live theatrical performances is the Alpine Theatre Project. The Alpine Theatre Project aims to bring broadway theater to the community through both adult and kid performances plus a variety of classes and camps. It was started by Broadway veterans and even count John Lithgow and Olympia Dukakis on their board of advisors.

If visiting during the Christmas holiday season, don’t miss the Yuletide Affair show, which blends holiday song and dance with satire and humor.

Shows conducted by the Alpine Theatre Projects are typically held at the Whitefish Performing Arts Center, a remodeled and revitalized performance space housed in a former auditorium.

The modern stage in the main Atkinson Hall often hosts broadway productions, dance recitals and performances, plays, musical concerts, and more.

Do a Beer Tasting at Bonsai Brewing Project

Bonsai Brewing Project tasting flight in the beer garden
Bonsai Brewing Project tasting flight in the beer garden

This unique brewery started out as a kickstarter to bring a community-focused, sustainable nano brewery to Whitefish. The craft brewery typically has at least ten locally made brews on tap and you can try a tasting platter in the taproom (located in a converted old house) or get a pint of your favorite to enjoy in the beer garden. 

In addition to beer, you’ll find a variety of comfort foods on the menu. Bonsai Brewing Project is open for both lunch and dinner. 

Enjoy a Scoop of Sweet Peaks Ice Cream

Kids playing with magnets on the vintage freezer drawers at Sweet Peaks in Whitefish, Montana
Playing on the vintage freezer drawers at Sweet Peaks in Whitefish

If ice cream is more your thing than beer, head to Sweet Peaks Ice Cream (or…head to both; that’s what we’d do!). This local ice cream shop is run by two Montanans who put an emphasis on local ingredients. The ice cream is created using Montana dairy and the ingredients mixed into the ice cream are locally-sourced where possible and inspired by Montana itself, like the Huckleberry flavor. 

Sweet Peaks Ice Cream has expanded to several locations around Montana and Idaho, but Whitefish was the original shop. 

Hike Whitefish Trail

Whitefish is close to dozens upon dozens of hiking trails, but for a quintessential Whitefish hiking experience, head to the aptly named Whitefish Trail. An initiative headed by the Whitefish Legacy Partners, the Whitefish Trail aims to protect the natural surroundings of Whitefish and make it accessible to the people in a manner that protects the nature that makes such beautiful and relaxing hiking possible. 

The Whitefish Trail has 12 different trailheads that connect to over 42 miles of trails that take you past gorgeous mountain and lake scenery. 

Read More: Activities Guide for Flathead Lake

Try Winter Fat Tire Biking on Whitefish Trail Mountain

Did you know you can go mountain biking in winter? You can thanks to fat tire bicycles. These bicycles have thicker than usual tires that are made for all-weather terrain. In winter, they make it possible to navigate over snowy trails. 

To rent a fat bicycle while in Whitefish, check out the rentals from Whitefish Bike Retreat, Sportsman Ski Haus, and Glacier Cyclery & Nordic.

Go Dirt Biking at Whitefish Mountain Resort

Mountain bikes on the chairlift at Whitefish Mountain Resort
Mountain bikes on the chairlift at Whitefish Mountain Resort

In the summer, rent a mountain bike or bring your own and head up to the mountain to Whitefish Resort. There, you can take the chair lifts to the peak in summer that are equipped to bring up your bike with you.

Then race down the bike trails back to the bottom of the chairlift to do it all again!

Hike the Danny On Trail

Danny On Trailhead at Whitefish Mountain Resort
Danny On Trailhead

If biking isn’t your thing, there are plenty of hiking trail opportunities at Whitefish Resort. We prefer to take the chairlift up and then hike down the mountain, along the iconic Danny On trail. It’s one of the best hikes in Whitefish and starts right by the mountaintop lodge and has incredible views of Whitefish and the surrounding valley on the way down. Expect it to take a few hours to finish.

Mountaintop lodge at Whitefish Mountain Resort
Mountaintop lodge at Whitefish Mountain Resort

For differing lengths and skillsets, there are several other trails for hikers criss-crossing across the mountainside of the resort during the summer months, whether you want to go uphill or downhill.

Have a Zipline Adventure at Whitefish Mountain

Take to the skies while visiting Whitefish Mountain Resort in the summer months and traverse the obstacle courses at Aerial Adventure Park.

So much fun is waiting to be had at this elevated playground. With four different courses of differing difficulties, Aerial Adventure Park is open to those ages seven and up, though you have to be at least 14 years old to do the hardest course.

Each course has a variety of gravity-defying things to do, including ziplining, trapeze swinging, climbing, crossing rope bridges, and more. Participants will get a full-body harness to wear and a safety briefing.

Experience Whitefish’s Alpine Slide

One more adrenaline-inducing thing to do at Whitefish Mountain Resort in the summer is the Alpine Slide. You don’t need snow to be on the ground for this sled adventure. Instead, you’ll sit on a sled with a hand break that will careen you down a curved slide.

Embrace Your Artistic Side at Stumptown Art Studio

Whitefish, MT is known for its artistic side, which comes to play at Whitefish Stumptown Art Studio.
Stumptown Art Studio

The Stumptown Art Studio is a non-profit community art center in Whitefish, and it’s a cool place to get in touch with your artistic side. 

Stumptown Art Studio offers art courses and classes for both kids and adults, but if you’re just visiting, you’ll want to take advantage of their walk-in experiences. You can show up anytime during opening hours to paint your own pottery or fuse your own glass in the studio, and create your own souvenir to bring home with you to remember your time in Whitefish by.

Drawing with chalk outside Stumptown Art Studio in Whitefish, MT

My girls also had fun using the chalk outside their doors to create some artwork right on the sidewalk!

Shop at Stumptown Marketplace in Whitefish

Support local artisans and get some unique souvenirs with a visit to Stumptown Marketplace in Whitefish. In addition to shopping, you can get a farm-to-table bite to eat or a drink like a ginger brew. 

Quick History Fact: If you’re wondering why “stumptown” keeps coming up in  names of businesses in Whitefish, it’s because that was the nickname for the town when it was first cleared of trees to build the train station and town center. Lots of tree cut down meant lots of tree stumps, many of which had to be painstakingly cleared for roads and buildings. 

Browse Local Artisans at Whitefish Arts Festival

If you love artisan works and you’re in Whitefish during the 4th of July weekend, also check out the annual arts and craft fair. The Whitefish Arts Festival is held at Depot Park, a large grassy area across the street from Whitefish Depot. The festival has a variety of stands showcasing local artists and their wares, from painting to pottery to jewelry and more.

I got a beautifully crafted wood vase with local stones in it there that is wonderfully unique and on display on my mantle at home. I’m not the type to usually purchase stuff at these fairs, which goes to show what an amazing variety there is!

Golf By an Alpine Lake

Tee up with views of the lake in the background at Whitefish Lake Golf Course. This golf course is often ranked as one of the best in Montana. It has an enviable location in Flathead Valley with views of the lake, mountains, and forests visible from the holes.

Whitefish Lake Golf Course has two different sections: the North Course and the South Course, both of which have 18 holes. There is also a PGA shop and restaurant.

The golf course is a member-focused club, however each course is open to guests with advanced booking plus an extra fee.

Saddle Up for Horseback Riding Around Whitefish

Whitefish, Montana is a great destination for horseback riding with a guide. There are a number of ranches and guides in the area that offer a variety of trail options for riders of all experience levels.

One of the most popular choices is the Bar W Guest Ranch, which offers scenic trails through the surrounding mountains and forests. Riders will have the opportunity to see wildlife such as deer, elk, and moose, as well as stunning views of the Flathead Valley and the Glacier National Park.

And of course Glacier National Park is a great place to go horseback riding. Swan Mountain Outfitters offer tours that take riders through the park from corrals located by Apgar and Lake McDonald Lodge. If you don’t want to get a park pass to ride, check out their tours from West Glacier, which don’t go inside the borders of the park.

If you’re an experienced rider traveling to Whitefish with your own horses, check out the trails in Stillwater State Forest. This state-run area is open to the public and has trails through forests and along the banks of the Stillwater River. Riders can enjoy the peaceful sounds of nature and may even catch a glimpse of a bald eagle, elk, or other wildlife.

P.S. If you’re doing things in Whitefish, there’s also a good chance you’ll be making your way up to Glacier National Park at some point to drive the Going-to-the-Sun Road over the continental divide, look for grizzly bears and mountain goats, hike to epic vistas, and more.

To help you with your planning, here’s our guide for the top things to do in Glacier National Park.

You also might enjoy reading: Things to Do in Bigfork and our Swan Lake Guide.

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