We don’t really meet a lot of people who say, “Hey, I’d like to go to Missoula!” That’s a shame, because this town of nearly 70,000 unbelievably friendly residents, stuck between several national forests in the middles of the mountains, is a great place to hang out. And even better when there’s a Red Lion around.
The lovely people at Red Lion Hotels are a supporter of our “Fabric of America” tour. They covered our stay, and we’re writing about it in return. This journey would not be possible without them (and you). Read about their support right here.
In case you haven’t read about our tour: You can read about it here, read about sponsorships here, and support our project yourself right here.
The scenic routes leading to, through, and out of Missoula are completely bananas. We, ourselves, came from the south, starting in Idaho Falls and working our way through the mountains and up into Montana. But not before we got stopped by a herd of cattle!
After a cracked windshield – “Welcome to the West!” said one gent at a mountain pass stopover – we made it to Missoula in the late afternoon.
Checking in, it was nice to see a hotel setup that most people would describe as a “throwback,” what with its outdoor-entry rooms and all. We actually love this, as most hotels don’t have balconies and these types of entrances give us direct access to the outdoors.
Note: We had a conversation one day with someone who told us some “city folks” didn’t want to stay at his hotel because the rooms had outdoor access. Do you really think having your hotel room door inside a corridor makes it that much safer? Come on, people.
If you don’t live in the West, or don’t travel there much, you might not even be aware of Red Lion. It’s a mid-scale, full-service hotel chain that serves most of the western United States through both corporate-owned and franchised properties.
After staying at a lot of Red Lion hotels, it’s safe to say that they’re known for consistency, a huge bang for the buck when it comes to amenities and overall experience, and friendliness.
This hotel is no exception, as we were greeted by Paul, who was happy to banter with us for longer than his job requires, listening to our jokes and giving us suggestions for Missoula. I can’t help but tell you he reminded us of Paul Rudd, but if his name was Bob or Joe, it might have not even registered.
The first thing we actually ran into here was a huge meeting in the lobby. We had no idea what was going on, figuring it was some sort of travel group going over their extra-long itineraries. We asked Paul about it, and he informed us that all of them were displaced victims from a recent, devastating apartment fire in Missoula.
The owners of this particular Red Lion outpost had graciously given shelter for these folks after they lost their homes. They were actually staying there for weeks, until they found new places to live. This resonated with us immediately, as such generous business owners are unfortunately a rare site these days.
After that heart-wrenching episode, we made our way up to our fresh king room on the second floor. Entering the room, the first thing we noticed were two places to work. Score! As I’ve noted in previous reviews, this is amazingly rare. The two of us work every day, so it was very exciting to find a very large desk with a proper office chair.
And the second spot: A lounge chair with an ottoman and a side table. Woo-hoo! I usually have to work on the bed or something.
That thrill lasted longer than it would for most people, but we finally made it past that realization and to the big, king-size bed. What’s up, zillion pillows?! Love a multitude of pillows. Pillows for days, y’all.
Other things that made us more ecstatic than the average person were the two side tables. We stay in a lot of hotels, and most of them only have a nightstand on one side. Do you have any idea how aggravating that is? Two people have two alarm clocks, two glasses of water, etc. We don’t know what you put on your end table – or if you ever even need one – but we want two. And we got ’em. Happy-face time.
Since we stay for days, we also like to have a refrigerator. Red Lion doesn’t skimp on this either, with a large fridge and microwave wrapped up in a cabinet as well as a TV and storage for your clothes, or whatever else you put in hotel-room drawers.
Another great idea, which we don’t often see in hotels and is now probably going to spoil us, is to have two vanities in a hotel room. It sounds like something you might never want. In face, I was a bit perplexed when we saw this and wondered why anyone would ever want it.
Then we used it for a few days. It’s quite lovely to have a sink inside the bathroom as well as outside, for a variety of reasons you can probably imagine if you travel regularly with another person.
Eco-friendly toiletries? Naturally.
I’m sure you’re probably thinking that I’m overdoing it in this review. But you know what? It’s the little things. It’s the things you don’t think you need, which end up being crucial to your enjoyment. It’s the outdoor-entry, the larger fridge, the ottoman that most hotels forget about, the two vanities, whatever. None of these things are essential to your daily life. But when you have them, it makes things so much easier. And that’s nice. And nice matters.
You know what else is nice? This view from the hotel.
Where nice matters most, though, is when it comes to people. So, we went back to the front desk to ask Kanesha (sp?) for a good place to eat. Preferably a brewpub, because beer and food. She’s actually too young to drink, so she asked Paul. And Paul sent us to Tamarack Brewing Company.
Paul knows what’s up.
After a nice check-in, some good food and some damn fine beer, we made our way back to the hotel to do some laundry. As you may have seen me say before, we love the coin-laundry option now that it’s something we actively need.
We were also able to get some work done, thanks to the fast hotel wi-fi. And we slept. A lot. Bed’s fault!
We had to do a bit of work the next morning, which gave us time to eat the free breakfast at the hotel. Love that. And love it more since it’s actually a proper, hot breakfast. With free coffee. Breakfast unfortunately doesn’t last all day, but the free coffee does. Yee-haw!
We finally got out of the door at lunchtime to go to a brewery. (Shocking, right?) We had a meeting with the fine gents of Bayern Brewery. Stimmt!
More on those guys in a later story. Promise.
Since it was one-hundred-million degrees outside, we stopped by the pool. Nice, blue, cooling glory for temps that were at a steady 100F+ the entire day.
We also didn’t want to miss out on Missoula itself, so we braved the unseasonably warm weather and took a long walk along the river. This is right outside of the hotel…
Missoula is quite a sexy town, and it’s easy to see why people from the general region come here to go to school, hang out in their younger years, and use it as a base for winter sports and summer activities alike. Surfing on the river? Why not?!
Our last night in Missoula, Chinese food was sounding about right, and Paul had told us the place across the parking lot from the hotel was good. We were instantly skeptical, as the signs were barely visible, the place always looked empty, and somewhat shady-looking restaurants like this usually need a co-sign.
We did it anyway. And we met a wonderful server who had six handfuls of good ideas about how the restaurant should ameliorate its image. She was right, and we were right. And Paul was right, because it was freakin’ delicious. So, don’t be scared if you’re staying at the Red Lion in Missoula and eyeing the Chinese restaurant across the way. Just do it.
And then go back to your plush room at the Red Lion in Missoula, and contemplate how you scored big in this Montana town.
We greatly enjoyed our stay in Missoula, and appreciate that the generous people of Red Lion were willing to host our stay. We’d have stayed an extra day to explore the area and enjoy the hotel even more, but it was booked solid. D’oh!
- Location: Just outside downtown, but easily walkable in less than 10 minutes.
- Clientele: Great for families and business travelers alike.
- Technology: Fast wi-fi, free for an unlimited number of devices.
- Beds: Excellent and plush. Lots of pillows. No problems sleeping for us!
- Rooms: Spacious and clean. Outdoor entry and views of the river and surrounding mountains.
- Amenities: Cable TV, wi-fi, telephone, desk with a proper office chair, lounge chair with ottoman, end tables, refrigerator, microwave, coin laundry in building, outdoor pool.
- Bathroom: Plenty of soaps and lotions, good step-in shower with plenty of hot water.
- Dining: Free breakfast and all-day coffee. Chinese restaurant across the parking lot, with many more in walking distance. Also a quarter-block from a Safeway grocery store.
- Staff: Wonderful. Very helpful with recommendations and putting up with our banter.
- Cleanliness: Rooms are very clean. Property kept clean 24/7, inside and out.
- Distractions: Outdoor pool.
- Attractions: Downtown Missoula, mountains, several national forests, plenty of fly-fishing opportunities, outdoor activities on local rivers, breweries.
- Snacks & Such: Small convenience store in the lobby. A quarter-block from Safeway grocery store, which also has a café inside.
- Value: Extremely good for a mid-scale hotel. Probably the best bang for the buck you’ll get in the area.
The Red Lion Inn & Suites in Missoula, Montana, is located here:
700 W. Broadway St.
Missoula, MT 59802
Tel: +1 (406) 728-3300
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Have you ever been to Missoula, or stayed at this Red Lion? Any thoughts about Red Lion overall? We’d love to hear from you in the comments!