Escape to the Hockaday

We are many miles from the nearest big city. Most of the time I love it that way; That’s part of why we moved here after all, to be away somewhere more wild and peaceful. But sometimes I miss the bustle and all that comes with it. Our lifestyle for almost the last decade consisted of  long walks along tree-lined sidewalks rather than day hikes into an alpine meadow and touring museums rather than strapping on snowshoes and touring Glacier Park. So the opportunity to fall back into something a little more familiar feels good.

Kalispell is overlooked by many but it shouldn’t be. It is lovely to wander, especially its East Side. There are beautiful estates dotting the neighborhoods and most homes were built anywhere from the late-1800s to the mid-1930s. The avenues are lined with ornamental trees, making for a burst of color in the fall months that is unique in these parts. Wandering aside, Kalispell is home to my favorite outdoors store and my favorite library and my favorite diner (home to 10-cent coffee and gluten-free fare, may I add). And now I can add a little art museum to my list of favorites.

Last weekend I finally made it to the Hockaday Museum. We needed a day to recuperate a bit, so we headed to Kalispell in search of a little indoor respite. We found it.

The Hockaday Museum is just a block or so from Main Street. We park in their lot–I still find this a novelty after all my years in the city–and make for the entrance, passing two bison on the way. The building itself is impressive, the old Carnegie Library before it became a place for art in the 1960s. On a Saturday afternoon, we’re the only people there.

The greeter asks if we’re interested in a free tour led by a volunteer docent and we figure why not. It was a good choice. She is a joy and takes us from room to room giving us a quick overview of the layout (and the arts in the region in general, I should mention). The special exhibit at the time of our visit is a personal collection from the Bibler Estate. I hadn’t even heard of it at that time, but  I make a mental note to visit this spring. Here, there are massive oriental rugs and intricate wood pieces that graced their home, not to mention many paintings.

Beyond that is the small but mighty permanent exhibit, much of which showcases Glacier, the “Crown of the Continent.” This is particularly special having seen much of the subject matter in person before seeing the artistic representation. I also love doing a little daydreaming about how the incredible adventure of coming out here on the Great Northern in the ‘30s. We move downstairs and enjoy a treasure trove of powerful portraits of American Indian men and women and sketches of different individuals who relocated to Kalispell after the turn of the century.

After a couple of hours, we wrap up our visit and venture out into a very snowy town that transformed in the time we were inside. We drive around the neighborhood a bit and see an open house (rare in Montana, I find) and decide to pop in. The house is from 1890s Demersville, the town preceding Kalispell that is no longer, and was moved to this location. Charming. Old. A fun side trip nevertheless.

The Hockaday, Kalispell in general, really, is a perfect answer to the What to do when it’s raining at Glacier? Question that will likely creep up during most visits. It’s a lovely introduction to local art, small enough to enjoy in a couple of hours, and at $5 per adult, the price is most certainly right.

  • 302 Second Avenue East
    Kalispell, Montana 59901
  • Winter Hours:
    10am – 5pm, Tuesday – Friday, 10am – 4pm Saturday
  • Closed on the following holidays:
    Independence Day
    Thanksgiving Day
    Christmas Eve through New Years Day
  • Admission: Adults $5

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