The nearest thing to an urban center in northwestern Montana, Kalispell (pop. 22,052) spreads across the northern Flathead Valley at the junction of the Stillwater, Whitefish, and Flathead Rivers. Cut by two main thoroughfares—east-west US-2 and north-south US-93—it ain’t quaint by any stretch of the imagination. At first glance it looks like yet another lumber mill and mining town, but the historic downtown area is full of interesting spots, such as the engaging Hockaday Museum of Art (302 2nd Ave. E., Tues.-Sat., $5), housed in the old Carnegie Library, two blocks east of Main Street (US-93). Another few blocks east stands the impressive, perfectly preserved Conrad Mansion (406/755-2166, tours Tues.-Sun. high season, Wed.-Sun. other seasons, $15), built by pioneer trader and Kalispell founder Charles Conrad in 1895 and now open for guided tours.

Breakfasts don’t get much better than those served at Norm’s News (34 Main St., 406/756-5466), a 1930s soda fountain luncheonette where you can also get killer milk shakes, a wide variety of newspapers and magazines, and more than 800 kinds of candy. Upstairs is the old Kalispell Opera House. Kalispell also has an above-average range of taverns, including the venerable Moose’s Saloon (173 N. Main St., 406/755-2337), near the junction of US-2 and US-93, famous for pizza and beer. For good old-fashioned roadside fast food, try the popular local mini chain Frugals (1815 S. US-93, 406/257-6710).

There are the usual national motels, but the place to stay in Kalispell is the Kalispell Grand Hotel (100 Main St., 406/755-8100 or 800/858-7422, $140 and up), a conveniently located historic downtown hotel with nice clean rooms.