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Missoula River Adventures with Alli and Bobby

Alli here.

Floating down a river has always been a dream of mine. It’s that quintessential American summer activity that’s always sounded (and looked) so incredibly appealing to me. Just a tube, some beers, the warm summer sun, and a cool, rolling river… What could be better than that?! Imagine my joy when I found out that my dream was about to become a reality. I literally couldn’t sleep the night before!

Missoula’s Clark Fork River is gorgeous. It’s exactly the kind of river I’d imagined floating on, with a slow (yet steady) current, and even a few quicker spots (they’re calm enough that you won’t even spill your beer) - but are fun nonetheless! From start to finish, our floating adventure was about 3 hours long, and it was the most tranquil, relaxing, and enjoyable three hours I’ve had in a long time. We sipped our local Missoula beers, made friends with fellow rafters, and admired the incredible scenery we passed through. And the combination of the warm summer sun and the crisp river water made the afternoon absolutely heavenly. Just one look at our faces, and it’s easy to see that we’re on top of the world!

We ended the float at the Missoula Doubletree, where we enjoyed cold drinks and woodfired pizza at their riverfront restaurant, Finn. Talk about a perfect way to end a perfect day! I’ll never forget my first float down the Clark Fork River - and you better believe it won’t be my last! 

*Visitors can purchase rafts at Ace Hardware, Walmart, Gas Stations, or any sporting goods store. They also have plenty of options on Amazon, we used this double float (with a cooler!!) - and it’s under $40!

Bobby here. 

I’ve always been a thrill seeker. 

From surfing exotic reefs to pole vaulting through college, I love a good adrenaline pump. Having river rafted 3 or 4 times, I have just enough inexperience that it always feels brand new and exhilarating. And our trip to Missoula definitely allowed me to take it up a notch when I went on river rafting adventure - in a tandem kayak

We were planning on doing a half day rafting adventure with Adventure Missoula in the famed Alberton Gorge. When the other couple on the reservation canceled at the last minute, and Alli wasn’t feeling great, I was left with the decision of canceling, rafting the river in the raft by myself (with a guide), or tandem kayaking with a guide. The river was calling my name, so of course I signed up for the kayak adventure.

My guide was Steve, and we hit it off instantly. I was thankful that he likes to chat, since it would just be the two of us floating down the river. We started off by practicing paddling and getting in sync for when we hit some real rapids. Note - the Clark Fork River is considered world class for white water rafting, but also is very safe for families. So while you can totally get a rush, you won’t be putting yourself or your family in danger (not too much at least, hehe). 

Over the course of the trip we hit multiple class III rapids, with my favorites being Triple Bridges, Tumbleweed, and Fang. On Triple Bridges I was engulfed by a massive wall of water. Tumbleweed nearly launched me out. And Fang had our Kayak headed sideways until we somehow straightened out. SO. FUN. 

Along the way there were ospreys and eagles soaring overhead, we had the chance for some small cliff jumps, and we even stopped at a beach to stretch our legs. If you do a full day trip, you stop at the beach for lunch. 

I can’t really say much more other than it was an amazing trip. I did it solo, but I can’t wait to do it again with Alli. Or someday with our family. You feel such a sense of accomplishment as you conquer each rapid, and you will surely form a bond with your guide and fellow rafters. 

Can you see the bald eagle?

In conclusion, we both had the time of our lives on the Clark Fork River. Floating the river is relaxing, serene, and allows you to get your tan on. Rafting the river is adrenaline-pumping, scenic, and you’ll most likely get drenched by walls of water. 

Our two take-aways: both adventures are very unique and different from one another, and both need to be on your list of to-do’s when you visit Missoula. While we’re building your to-do list, we should mention that the Clark Fork River is only one of the three rivers that run through Missoula. There are SO many adventures to be had!

Let us know when you go  - we just might tag along! ;)

Where to Eat and Drink in Missoula Right Now

Buckle up, this is a long one. 

We had no idea Missoula, Montana is such a foodie city. In the four short days that we were there, we ate, and ate, and ate, and ate. Oh, and we drank a lot too. Here’s our favorite spots - and there’s a lot of them, because we simply couldn’t narrow it down. And believe it or not, there’s still so many places we’ve yet to try! (Guess we have to go back!)

COFFEE

Black Coffee Roasting :: From the moment we walked into Black Coffee Roasting we were hooked. The warehouse-chic ambiance, the friendly baristas, the bold, smooth coffee and the creative and extensive toast menu, it has everything we’d want in a coffee shop and more. We went back every day!

Clyde Coffee :: We oftentimes judge a coffee shop by their drip coffee, and Clyde Coffee passed our test with flying colors. Beyond their strong drip coffee, the menu is extensive, the breakfast menu is delicious, and the modern ambiance is welcoming and delightfully understated.

Drum Coffee :: This became part of our daily routine, as it was a two minute walk from our hotel. Not only do they have great coffee, but you can tell they have a loyal local following. The owner of Drum is actually the drummer (hence the name) for the band Fitz and the Tantrums. Rock on!

Loved getting our buzz on at Clyde Coffee

Sally loved morning walks to Drum Coffee!

FOOD

Catalyst Cafe and Espresso :: Breakfast lovers, take note. Catalyst Cafe and Espresso is THE place for breakfast in Missoula! Fresh, hearty, made-from-scratch, and affordable, it’s the kind of place where you can’t go wrong. Be sure to try their Traditional Cheddar Potato Casserole for some cheesy, breakfast-y goodness!

Caffe Dolce :: Tucked away in a residential neighborhood just off of Downtown Missoula, Caffe Dolce is a true hidden gem. The building is strikingly gorgeous, with tall ceilings, big windows, and intricate Italian embellishments. But beyond the building, the food, drinks, and baked goods are fantastic. They serve breakfast, brunch, lunch, and dinner with an Italian flair - so come for one, or stay for all! 

Scotty’s Table :: Set in the lower level of the Historic Wilma Theatre in downtown Missoula, Scotty’s Table uses local ingredients to create their creative and upscale Mediterranean fare. It’s our go-to spot for brunch, with a picturesque outdoor patio and a fresh and healthy menu filled with delicious options. Try the Granola Extraordinaire!

Green Source Missoula :: Call us basic, but we LOVE a good smoothie and/or green juice. We were ecstatic when we stumbled upon Green Source Missoula, a one stop shop for smoothies, cold pressed juices, energy bowls, and more. Cheers to your health!

The Top Hat :: There’s nothing average about The Top Hat, a music venue meets bar and restaurant that’s just as fun as it sounds! Their locally sourced house-made dishes are fantastic, and their dinner menu is just as extensive and diverse as their musical guests! Some of our favorite dishes are the Fish Tacos and the Spicy Jerk Chicken Wrap - but you truly can’t go wrong with anything on the menu!

Iza Restaurant :: Pan-Asian cuisine at its best, Iza Restaurant has everything from curries to dumplings to zesty bento boxes - all in a casual and cozy environment. Grab a seat in one of their elevated booths, order some boba tea and edamame, and your lunch (or dinner) will be off to an epic start!

Biga Pizza :: Having won countless awards for their made-from-scratch, handcrafted pizzas, Biga Pizza is a MUST when visiting Missoula. Heck, we’ll go as far as saying that it’s a must when you’re visiting Montana! IT’S THAT GOOD. We’d drive back just for a Pompeii pizza and a Chopped Mediterranean Salad. They don’t take reservations, and the wait can be long, but it’s so very worth it. 

Plonk Missoula :: With a name like Plonk, we weren’t sure what to expect. It’s a foodie’s paradise, with an innovative dinner menu, experimental cocktail menu, and a surprisingly extensive wine list… and the ambiance is sophisticated and romantic! It’s the perfect spot for a date night, and if the cashew ‘raclette’ is on the menu, make sure you order one to share!

Alli went for a PB&J while Bobby opted for a healthy salad.

We had a yummy first meal at Scotty’s Table

Delicious lunch at the Top Hat

Go to Iza for the bento boxes!

Brick oven goodness from Big

Date night at Plonk

DRINKS

Montgomery Distillery :: This family-run distillery has developed quite the loyal fanbase, and for good reason! Montgomery Distillery’s small-batch spirits are dangerously tasty, and their specialty cocktails are spirit-forward and beautifully presented. Highly recommend their Old Fashioned and Go Gingerly!

Western Cider :: We’re not the types to typically order a cider, but had heard this place was cool… and good golly, it’s really something special! Located a little outside of town, Western Cider is a laid-back, rustic tap room with many unique and traditional ciders on tap. We were pleasantly surprised with how refreshing and crisp their ciders are, and I guess you could say we’re “cider people” now! When you go, make sure you taste the Whiskey Peach and Sour Cherry!

Amazing cocktails at Montgomery Distillery

Give us all the cider!

DESSERT/SWEETS

Veera Donuts :: We can hands down say that Veera Donuts are the best vegan donuts we’ve ever had. They’re so fresh, fluffy, and decadent, we forgot they were vegan! They make everything in-house using local, organic, fair trade, and non GMO ingredients when possible… as if we couldn’t love this place more!

Big Dipper Ice Cream :: You’ll know this ice cream shop is something special just by driving by and seeing the line wrapped around the parking lot. And there is ALWAYS a line. But don’t be dismayed, it moves quick, and Big Dipper Ice Cream is absolutely worth the wait. Their mouthwateringly creamy ice cream has been featured on Good Morning America, USA Today, Yahoo News, and several other media outlets, and we now get the hype. Try the White Mint Oreo and the Vanilla Reeses! 

There’s always a long line at Big Dipper, but it’s fast and worth it!

We can’t wait to come back for more food, drinks, and river floating!

Have a favorite Missoula spot that we missed? Leave a comment and let us know!

Dog Friendly Guide to Missoula, Montana

Rolling hills, a glistening lake, plenty of shaded patios and friendly folk… Missoula, Montana is just as much of a dream for pups as it is for humans! Our Bernedoodle Sally swam, hiked, dined, and played with us all over this picturesque mountain town, and it’s safe to say that she loved every minute of it! 

If you’re planning a trip to Missoula and are contemplating bringing your dog - DO IT! This blog is for you!

WHERE TO STAY

Comfort Inn Missoula :: Set along the Clark Fork River, the Comfort Inn Missoula is cozy, affordable, and incredibly dog friendly. There’s a big grassy field right outside the hotel that’s perfect for playful pups, and it’s walking distance to the best dog park in town (more on that later). They also have a free hot breakfast, free bike rentals, and a picturesque fire pit overlooking the Clark Fork River… it’s fun for the whole family!

Incredible sunset views of the Clark Fork River from the Comfort Inn

WHAT TO DO

Jacobs Island Bark Park :: We’ve been to a lot of dog parks during our road trips, and this one is definitely in our top 5. Jacobs Island Bark Park has over 6 acres of land for pups to explore unleashed, but the best part is - it’s right on the Clark Fork River! Our Bernedoodle Sally had the time of her life swimming in the river and chasing balls and other furry friends. She had so much fun, she was wiped out for the next two days!

Waterworks Hill :: Located on the north side of Missoula, Waterworks Hill is a 3.5 mile trail that not only has stunning views of Missoula - but is puppy approved too! We suggest hiking with your dog in the early morning or late afternoon, as there is little to no shade. And don’t forget to bring your camera!

“M” Trail :: The ‘M’ on Mount Sentinel has been a Missoula landmark since 1908, and the “M” Trail hike is now a favorite outing for people (and dogs) of all ages! It may only be less than a mile long, it’s a strenuous and steep climb to the top, so be forewarned. Make sure you bring plenty of water (For you AND your pup!), and again, we suggest going in the early morning or late afternoon. You won’t believe the views from the top!

Riverfront Trail :: Take your leashed pup on an early evening stroll along the scenic Riverfront Trail, where the Clark Fork River and Downtown Missoula come together. It’s a great place for you and your dog to catch the sunset AND get some exercise. Make sure you stop for a picture on one of the pedestrian bridges (and if you’re feeling hungry, grab a slice of pizza to-go from Bridge Pizza)!

Hard to get Sally out of the water…

She could do this all day…

Sally’s wishing she was by the water…

Sally a little tired after a hike on Waterworks Hill

Sally made it to the “M”

Hiking down from the “M”

Sally ready for some time on the Riverfront trail

DOG FRIENDLY PATIOS

Market on Front :: This restaurant/grocery store/coffee shop/deli has everything one would want (and more), including a dog-friendly patio! Whether you’re in the mood for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or just a cup of coffee, Market on Front has you covered. Their food is locally sourced and made to order, and their breakfast burritos may be the best in town. Need we say more?

Biga Pizza :: We’ve talked about Biga Pizza before (see our Missoula foodie guide here), and we’ll happily talk about it again. Beyond their mouth-watering wood fired pizzas, Biga has friendly service, a cozy, homey ambiance, and a quaint dog-friendly patio! If you’re anything like us, you’ll be tempted to sneak a piece of their homemade sourdough crust to your pup, and we won’t judge you if you do. ;)

Plonk Missoula :: Our food was so good at Plonk Missoula, we almost shed a tear (if they have Cashew Raclette on the menu, ORDER IT). And then, as we were leaving, we found out that their front entrance patio is indeed, dog friendly... We almost shed a tear again! Next time we’re in Missoula, we’ll be heading straight to Plonk - with Sally in tow!

Market on Front has a dog-friendly perfect patio!

We LOVED the pizza at Big, and next time we’ll bring Sally!

We left Sally in favor of a date night this time, but she’ll definitely come with us to Plonk next time we’re in Missoula!

We left Sally in favor of a date night this time, but she’ll definitely come with us to Plonk next time we’re in Missoula!

When it comes to dog friendly activities in Missoula, this blog is just the tip of the iceberg. We can’t wait to come back with Sally and explore more of this beautiful town. If we’re missing any of your favorite puppy-approved spots, leave a comment and let us know!

Sally loved Missoula!

Why Fort Wayne Needs to be on Your List

Friends, we’re excited to report that Fort Wayne, Indiana is growing and revitalizing in really exciting ways - and you’ve officially heard it hear first. 

Fort Wayne is the second-largest city in Indiana and the largest county east of the Mississippi River. It’s approximately 150 miles from Cincinnati, Columbus, Chicago, and Grand Rapids. It’s been coined the “hub of Northeast Indiana”, and there’s no doubt that this flourishing city is on the rise. We recently spent a weekend in Fort Wayne, learning the history, exploring the attractions, and witnessing new milestones in the city… Here’s some of our favorite things about Fort Wayne and why this thriving city needs to be on your list.

A BRAND NEW RIVERFRONT DESTINATION

The weekend we visited Fort Wayne luckily enough was the weekend they opened up the brand new Promenade Park. And it’s ANYTHING but your average park. There’s a tree-lined canopy trail, riverboat cruises, a children's playground, dining gardens, fountains, family gardens, a riverfront amphitheater, a cafe and tap room, and so much more! We were blown away by how beautifully landscaped and thoughtfully designed the park is, and by the looks on everyone’s faces, it’s bound to be the Midwest’s newest destination!

A BASEBALL STADIUM UNLIKE ANY OTHER

No trip to Fort Wayne is complete without a visit to Parkview Field, home of the Fort Wayne TinCaps. This stunning, retro-looking ballpark was built with sandstone and red brick, and it’s more than just a baseball stadium - it’s the centerpiece of Fort Wayne’s downtown! While we unfortunately missed a TinCaps game by one night, we were able to explore an empty and pristine Parkview Field, and we can only imagine how spectacular it is during a home game. It’s top of our “Must Do” list when we return!

A CHILDREN'S ZOO EVEN ADULTS WILL LOVE

We were a little skeptical that the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo would even interest us… After all, it’s called a “Children’s Zoo”, and we don’t have any children. Yet. Boy, were we wrong! Located on over 40 acres with over 1,000 animals, it’s consistently ranked as one of the top zoos in the U.S., and for good reason! It’s beautifully maintained, easy to navigate, the exhibits are thoughtful and spacious, and their dedication to conservation and education is incredibly inspiring. It’s WELL worth the cost of admission ($15/adults, $10/kids 2-8, $12/seniors & 1 and under are free) and a great way to spend a morning or afternoon. 

A JAW-DROPPING CONSERVATORY

Located in the heart of Fort Wayne’s downtown is a lush, natural oasis known as the Foellinger-Freimann Botanical Conservatory. No matter the season, you can surround yourself with breathtaking displays of nature, from tropical gardens to desert landscapes, and adult admission is only $5! (Children ages 3-17 are $3, and ages 2 and under are free.) Their three indoor gardens span over 25,000 square feet and feature over 1,200 plants and 72 types of cacti. It’s quite a sight to see!

A CULINARY SCENE THAT WILL SURPRISE AND IMPRESS

From bars, pubs, breweries, wineries, artisan chocolate shops, international dining, and more, Fort Wayne’s culinary scene is as extensive and remarkable as their downtown. Being the foodies that we are, we were equally overwhelmed and inspired by the vast array of options. Here’s just a few of our favorites:

Junk Ditch Brewing Co:: Located in an old paper warehouse with the name Junk Ditch, our expectations were low… but we left absolutely blown away. Craft beer, creative food, a refined yet casual environment, and an “everything from scratch” philosophy, Junk Ditch is one of a kind. Go for brunch if you can, and be sure to try their cinnamon roll. 

Shigs In Pit :: Mention a good BBQ place, and we’ll come running. The folks at Shigs In Pit not only know how to do BBQ, but they know how to do sauce and sides too! They’re known for their ribs (which are delish), but our favorite was their burnt ends sandwich!

Hop River Brewing Company :: You can’t not have a good time at this family-friendly brewery, with its spacious outdoor patio, original food menu, plethora of board games, pinball machines, and tasty craft brews! We suggest sampling one of Hop River Brewing Company’s 10 local house beers and pairing it with one of their famous sloppy joes… it’s a match made in heaven!

Better than it looks :)

Amazing sandwich at Junk Ditch!

We’d come back to Fort Wayne for this sandwich!

Have we convinced you to visit Fort Wayne yet? If not for the parks, attractions, and the food, come for the people. Everywhere we went we were amazed by how warm and friendly Fort Wayne locals are. One night we even shared our dessert with a few strangers sitting next to us at a local bar! 

Fort Wayne is COOL. And it’s only getting cooler… and don’t forget, you heard it here first.

A Couples Guide to 24 Hours in Helena, Montana

I (Alli) learned my state capitals by singing a catchy little tune that I learned in elementary school (anyone else?) - and it still comes in handy to this day! (Name the capital of Alabama… Montgomery! Boom!!) 

When I heard we were stopping in Helena, Montana, that song immediately came to mind. And I of course, began singing it to Bobby. ;) But beyond the fact that Helena is indeed Montana’s state capital, my knowledge about this city was limited! Thankfully that changed on our roadtrip, as we spent some time exploring this booming, history and outdoorsy city. And it only took 24 hours for us to know we want to go back. We have a feeling you’ll feel the same way, too.

MORNING

Hike the 1906 Trail :: We love a good early morning hike, and this 2.9 mile loop is not only very easy (and dog friendly), but it takes you to the top of Mt. Helena, where you’ll find stunning views of the capitol city. Bring water, the hike is gradual, but it IS uphill!

Light Breakfast at HUB Coffee :: Grab a cappuccino and a breakfast sandwich at HUB Coffee, a bright, airy, and welcoming coffee shop right in the heart of Helena’s Downtown Walking Mall. If you feel like a sweet treat, try one of their delectable baked goods. Hey, you’re on vacation!

Explore the Downtown Walking Mall :: There are plenty of fun shops, boutiques, restaurants, and bars throughout the Walking Mall or “Last Chance Gulch” for one to discover. Be sure to stop in The Parrot Confectionery - a quaint old fashioned candy store!

Top of the 1906 Trail!

Sally loved the 1906 trail :)

Outdoor walking mall views!

AFTERNOON

Lunch at Windbag Saloon :: You’ll probably be surprised to find out that this modern and lively pub sits in what was Helena’s last bordello! Now, the Windbag Saloon serves some of the best bar food and drinks in town. Don’t leave without trying their mac n’ cheese!

Cathedral of St. Helena :: Modeled after the Votivkirche in Vienna, Austria, this jaw-dropping cathedral rivals European Cathedrals, with its stunning stained glass windows and intricate architecture. If you’re lucky, you may even hear the organ play!

Mac n’ cheese at Windbag!

EVENING

Burgers at The Friendly York Bar :: Just a short (and scenic) 20 minute drive from downtown Helena is this rustic, hole-in-the-wall, remote bar. While their drinks are good (and cheap), the star of the show here is their burger. Grab a seat at the bar, order a famous York burger and a cold one, and make friends with the locals!

Wine at The Hawthorne :: End the night with a crisp glass of wine - and maybe a cheese board if you’re still hungry - at this chic bottle shop and tasting room. It’s intimate and romantic, and their selection of wine is really impressive. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, the servers are incredibly knowledgeable and helpful!

24 hours in Helena, Montana isn’t enough. But if you stick to this itinerary, you’ll get a great taste for all that this entrancing city has to offer. And you’ll definitely leave anxious to plan your next trip back!