This is the third post about our family's 2021 travels to Idaho and Montana. I recommend reading the first and second posts about this trip first. Because I blog about educational travel, I received complimentary admission tickets, discounts, media rates, and similar benefits for some of the locations we visited throughout the trip. Other attractions are free to everyone, and I paid full price for the rest. This has no bearing on my reviews, as everything that I share is something that I fully recommend.
Idaho Falls to Helena
Idaho Falls on Monday morning was a completely different place than it had been the day before. That is to say, everything was open. Hurray!
We started our morning with a walk along the east side of the Snake River so that we could find more examples of Art You Can Sit On. One of my favorites was this bench, whose supports are in the shape of the state of Idaho.
When you look closer, you see that the sides are embedded with the rocks and minerals found in Idaho. So cool!
Here are a few more of the benches and animal topiaries we particularly liked.
While I would have loved to have visited them all, we had other goals for Idaho Falls. The first was to complete a scavenger hunt I found on the website of the Museum of Idaho. It sounded simple: print out ten photos of historic Downtown Idaho Falls and locate the present-day sites.
It was NOT easy. In fact, all three of us agreed it was the most difficult scavenger hunt we'd ever done. That said, it was also a lot of fun. We found five of the ten buildings and considered ourselves to have done well!
Our not-quite-completed scavenger hunt in hand, we arrived at the Museum of Idaho right at opening.
We spent a little over two hours enjoying the many exhibits.
I particularly enjoyed the section of the museum with replicas of the storefronts of early Idaho Falls. Each shop has a touchscreen to explain who worked there and what they did, along with details about the items on exhibit. It was very well done and very interesting.
We really enjoyed our time at the Museum of Idaho. Definitely go!
This was our next stop of the day, right across the street from the museum. Can you tell what it is?
If you said, "Unassuming cheese factory that makes the best grilled cheese sandwiches Cindy has ever tasted".... you're right! I never would have even noticed the Manwaring Cheese Shop if the staff at the Museum of Idaho hadn't recommended it to me. To be fair, this is the side entrance, a fact I didn't realize until we were leaving.
Inside, we peeked through the windows to see the cheesemaking equipment, then sampled the wide variety of flavor options.
We liked every single flavor and struggled to pick one for our grilled cheese sandwiches (served on homemade sourdough - YUM).
We eventually settled on the green onion cheese for one sandwich and bacon ranch cheese for the second. We added a tasty cup of soup and had plenty of room left for their superb gelato.
Feeling well-fueled, we got in the car for the 4-hour drive to Helena. Most of the drive was fine, but parts were very smoky. We put on the N95 masks when we stopped for gas in Butte. We were very glad to see that Helena was much clearer. As soon as we arrived, we checked into our home for the next three days, the Helena Great Northern Hotel.
We'd never stayed in a Best Western Premier; in fact, the first time Steve or I stayed in any sort of Best Western since our childhoods was two days earlier in Twin Falls. I'm always a little nervous choosing hotels, particularly for multiple nights, as they can make or break a trip. The Helena Great Northern was outstanding in all respects. We were very comfortable and happy throughout our stay.
We unloaded the car, took a mirror selfie...
.... and headed out to explore the area around the hotel. It's really nice.
The hotel is part of the Great Northern Town Center, which also houses restaurants, a carousel, a movie theater, and a science museum. All of these make the Helena Great Northern Hotel a fantastic place to stay.
But more on those later. Now I want to tell you about the Lewis and Clark Interpretative Experience. Throughout the Great Northern Town Center is a series of paths with interpretative signs guiding visitors through 19 sites along Montana's Lewis and Clark Trail. Grey lines labeled with rivers' names wind amongst beautiful landscaping and sculptures representing some of what Lewis and Clark found along their journey through Montana.
Just beyond the end of the trail is the Brewhouse, our choice for our first dinner in Helena. I still don't totally understand why, but the Brewhouse Upstairs and the Brewhouse Downstairs are two different restaurants in one. They have separate entrances and different menus and decor, but are open to one another once you're inside.
The food and service were both excellent, and there were a lot of local beers on the menu (a big plus for Steve the Homebrewer). The three of us shared one entree, one soup, and one salad so that we'd have room to try their desserts. We couldn't decide between the huckleberry cheesecake and the salted caramel cake, so we had both. It was an excellent decision. The next time we're in Helena, we'll be getting both again.
We'd only been in Helena for a few hours and we already loved it. The best part was that we still had two more full days to explore this interesting city. I'll tell you about that tomorrow.