Last month, Radisson Rewards gave me 1 million points and told me to book a dream vacation. I was told I could go anywhere in the USA, but I had to visit at least two different places during my trip. One of the National Parks that has been on my bucket list for quite awhile is Glacier National Park, so when they told me a brand new Country Inn & Suites had just opened up in Kalispell, Montana back in June, I knew that was where I wanted to base my trip around.
I first decided to invite my friend Jackie of Get Lost With Jackie along for the journey with me as my road trip buddy. Together, we mapped out what we wanted to accomplish on our trip to Montana, and I used my Radisson Rewards points to book us 5 nights at the brand new Country Inn & Suites Glacier Lodge in Kalispell for only 220,000 points. Then, I transferred some of my leftover points to airline miles (which you can do at a rate of 10:1) in order to book the flights for the trip. I already have TSA Precheck, but if I didn’t I also would have redeemed the 65,000 points for 5 years of membership!
During our time in Montana, we used Kalispell as our base of operations to explore Glacier National Park, the nearby town of Whitefish, and the Flathead Valley area. The Country Inn & Suites is conveniently located right next to the airport, so upon arrival in Kalispell we were able to check right in and go to bed early to get a head start the next morning.
We spent day one of our trip exploring Whitefish Lake State Park and driving around Flathead Lake. Unfortunately there were major wildfires burning in Montana during our trip, so Flathead Lake was a nice getaway from the smoke that was in the air. The wind on the south side of the lake was enough to blow away the smoke and leave blue skies behind - I could finally see why Montana is called Big Sky Country!
For day two, we decided to finally drive up and explore Glacier National Park. The Howe Ridge Fire kept us from driving along the Going-to-the-Sun Road, but we were still able to see plenty during our time in the park. There was something truly serene about Lake McDonald covered in smoke. We couldn’t see the mountains at all because the fire was so nearby, but the lake was perfectly calm that day, allowing us to see the famous colorful rocks the lake is known for. One other good thing about the fires was that it kept the crowds away. Normally, August is high season and the park is packed with people, but instead it felt like we had it all to ourselves!
Since we couldn’t take the Going-to-the-Sun Road up, we instead took the highway east of the park to the Two Medicine entrance. Two Medicine Lake was a little too smoky to see the mountains properly, so we decided to hunt waterfalls. Running Eagle Falls was just a short walk from the parking lot, but it was a great payoff! We ended up spending quite a lot of time relaxing near that waterfall until it was time to go back to our hotel for the night.
On day three we decided to get up early and do the big drive the Saint Mary entrance. While most of the Going-to-the-Sun Road was closed, we were able to drive a bit west from Saint Mary to the Logan Pass Visitor Center. It had rained the night before and for most of that day, leaving the smoke a lot clearer than before, so we decided to try a hike out to the Hidden Lake Overlook. Well folks, the lake sure was well named! We hiked a mile and a half out, getting pelted by hail and rain and wind, and when we got there, the rain clouds were too low to see much of anything. You win some, you lose some. It was still a fun adventure!
Our last day in Glacier was perhaps my favorite. Starting at Apgar and Lake McDonald, we took the road west up to Polebridge. It’s a bit of a rougher journey on gravel roads to get there, but it was well worth it! If you go to Polebridge, you have to stop at the Polebridge Mercantile for their huckleberry bearclaws. They bake them fresh in house, and they’re amazing! There are several lakes you can drive to from Polebridge, though it’s a bit of a bumpy drive. In the time we had, we made it to both Bowman Lake and Kintla Lake. The high winds meant we didn’t get any of the beautiful lake reflections you sometimes see on postcards from there, but it was still beautiful and smoke-free thankfully. Then, we drove all the way back to Lake McDonald for one last beautiful sunset in Glacier National Park, and it sure didn’t disappoint.
The next morning, we grabbed our free breakfast at the Country Inn & Suites and relaxed until it was time for our flight to Minneapolis. There are not a lot of non-stop options in and out of Kalispell, but luckily Minneapolis is one of them - one of the reasons I chose the city for the second part of our trip. I also thought it was be fun to go from the countryside to the city for some variety. We had spent several days hiking and exploring, and now it was time for a different kind of adventure.
I used my Radisson Rewards points to book us three nights at the Radisson RED Minneapolis Downtown for only 150,000 points total (meaning the whole trip only cost me 370,000 points for hotel stays). One of my only regrets is that I didn’t have enough time to also book us a night or two at the Radisson Blu at the Mall of America! We only had two full days to explore Minneapolis, so day one we decided to shop until we dropped at the Mall. I have to say, the Mall of America has always been on my bucket list, so it was so fun to finally go! For those who don’t just want to shop, the Mall of America has plenty of others activities to do, like the Nickelodeon theme park that takes up the entire middle section of the mall, or the giant video game area on the top floor. There’s even go karting! I don’t even want to talk about how much money I spent there.
For our second day in the city, we decided to lay off the shopping and to walk the city instead. The Radisson RED is in a convenient location downtown, so we were able to explore quite a lot by foot. We went mural hunting to search for some of the famous street art of the city, like the Bob Dylan mural and the stars that cover the outside of First Avenue and 7th Street Entry music clubs. Then, since we were lucky enough that the Minnesota State Fair was in town, we caught a rideshare over to there to spend our night eating and riding carnival rides. I think the most memorable thing we did at the Fair was get a bucket of cookies from Sweet Martha’s Cookie Jar. For $17, the bucket comes with 4 dozen fresh baked chocolate chip cookies that literally spill out of the bucket as you try to walk anywhere (hence, smashed cookies all over the ground at the Fair). The cookies are quite famous at the Fair, and everyone had their own bucket of them. The more you know!
Overall, I had an amazing week exploring two very different destinations thanks to Radisson Rewards, and it was fantastic. I got only a teaser of both places and I’ll definitely have to go back sometime. Glacier National Park was everything I was hoping it would be! And as someone who loves to save up points to redeem for free stays, I loved learning all about the Radisson Rewards program and redeeming for some awesome properties. If you had a million Radisson Rewards points, where would you go? Sound off in the comments!
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Disclaimer: This post was sponsored by Radisson Rewards. As always, all opinions are my own.