Flathead Al Fresco

Take advantage of long days and warm temps at these outdoor dining and drinking spots

When summer finally arrives in the Flathead Valley, there’s a familiar urge to get out into the crisp, clean air and take advantage of the sunny skies, warm temperatures and breathtaking views that residents wait for and tourists plan their summer around.

So when it comes time to meet friends and family out for a craft beer, tasty cocktail or fresh-made meal, the thought of sitting inside a dark, air-conditioned room doesn’t sound quite right. Thankfully, the Flathead Valley has an ever-growing number of patios, rooftops and other outdoor spaces to satisfy the sun-starved among us looking to soak up some rays.

Here are just a few of the many al fresco spaces to check out this summer:

Sacred Waters Brewing Co.
3250 U.S. Highway 2 E., Kalispell
www.sacredwatersbrewing.com

The newest addition to the outdoor lineup, the backyard at Sacred Waters opened just last month and has entertainment options for guests of all ages. The spacious brewery, along with the adjacent Glacier Sun Winery, Rough Cut Cidery and Wilderness Provisions eatery in the Apple Barrel complex, is located just outside of Kalispell on U.S. Highway 2 but is well worth the drive, especially for a group with a range of beverage tastes. The new outdoor area includes live music most weekends, corn hole and ladder ball games for adults, a children’s play area, and four outdoor taps pouring Sacred Waters beer.

Gunsight Saloon
624 Nucleus Ave., Columbia Falls
www.gunsightsaloon.com

The former home of the Bandit is hardly recognizable these days, but that’s not a bad thing for those who are looking for lunch or dinner in the sun in downtown Columbia Falls. Gunsight opened in 2018 and while the large, open indoor area sparkles with modern Western updates, it’s the outdoor patio that really sets this place apart. A large stage that features live music almost every night is the centerpiece, and the custom 32-foot Douglas Fir outdoor bar is the best way to stay hydrated during a show.

The Raven
15321 Highway 35, Bigfork
www.ravenbigfork.com

Toss on a Hawaiian shirt and flip-flops, or just pull your boat up to the dock at this quirky Woods Bay bar and restaurant that can make a hard-to-beat claim to the title of best views in Montana. On clear days, the backdrop of Flathead Lake seems to go on forever from tables on The Raven’s dock, and diners here can enjoy a more sophisticated menu than the venue might suggest and a variety of cocktails featuring spirits from Whistling Andy Distilling.

Piggyback BBQ
102 Wisconsin Ave., Whitefish
www.piggybackbbq.com

Ideal for a stop on the way back from City Beach or before a night on the town, this meat-centric restaurant serves up all the barbecue classics with a refreshing craft beer list. Most of the seating at Piggyback is outside on large picnic tables, and during the summer diners will also be treated to live music on the patio’s stage nearly every night of the week.

SunRift Beer Co.
55 First Ave. WN, Kalispell
www.sunriftbeer.com

SunRift opened for business last summer, just in time to show off its expansive patio adjacent to the soon-to-be abandoned train line — and future walking and biking trail — through downtown Kalispell. The brewery offers a half-dozen or so of its own beers on tap, and a rotation of food trucks are parked in the lot just about every day during the summer. Live music is also a staple here on Monday nights.

Sweet Peaks
343 S. Main St., Kalispell
www.sweetpeaksicecream.com

There are Sweet Peaks ice cream shops in Kalispell and Whitefish, but only the Kalispell location offers a chance to climb onto the roof to enjoy a scoop or two after a grueling day on the trail — or a relaxing one on the water. It is hard to go wrong with any of Sweet Peaks classic flavors, including the locally sourced Huckleberry, and as an added perk you can head across the street from the Sweet Peaks rooftop to the one at Kalispell Brewing Co. for a pre- or post-ice cream beer.

Kalispell Brewing Co.
412 S. Main St., Kalispell
www.kalispellbrewing.com

Kalispell’s oldest craft brewery is celebrating its fifth year in business — there’s an anniversary party scheduled for June 22 — and is expanding its outdoor options beyond the rooftop with a parking lot Biergarten that will be open every Sunday this summer. The rest of the events calendar is plenty crowded, too, with regular visits from food trucks, local musicians, and three remaining Market in the Biergarten Sundays featuring local vendors.

Bonsai Brewing Project
549 Wisconsin Ave., Whitefish
www.facebook.com/bonsaibrew

Venture a little north of downtown to explore the laidback vibe and ever-changing list of beers flowing freely at Bonsai. The giant outdoor garden makes this small brewery spring to life when the sun is shining, and an eclectic food menu is the perfect complement to any of offerings on tap.

andy@flatheadbeacon.com