Brit’s Summer Travel Series: Philipsburg, Montana

Brit’s Summer Travel Series: Philipsburg, Montana

As the dog days of summer creep on, there is no better time to squeeze in a trip to the mountains. I recently visited my family in Montana and am so excited to share one of my favorite places with you–Philipsburg, Montana.

This once sleepy shuttered mining town has had a bit of a renaissance in the past 20 years. With a charming Main Street, unique shopping and tons of recreational activities nearby, I do believe this will be the next Telluride or Park City.

Because both of my parents are from Southwestern Montana, I have been visiting Philipsburg since I was a baby. Some of my favorite memories from when I was younger, are the days when my grandma would take me to the Sweet Palace to buy me as much fudge and candy as I wanted, look at gems in the Sapphire Gallery and finish the day off with root beer floats at Doe Brothers.

Another one of my must-dos when I’m in town is to see a performance at the Philipsburg Theatre. I don’t believe any performances are being held this summer, but this theatre is truly a treasure. It has been perfectly preserved and offers wonderful entertainment. The town has changed a lot since I was younger, but in all of the best ways.

Located just an hour from Missoula and two-and-a-half hours from Bozeman, it is easy to get in and out of Philipsburg from anywhere in the country. I think it is an ideal vacation destination because there is just so much to do. Within 10-15 minutes, you can be at Georgetown Lake or Discovery Ski resort in the winter months. In recent years, celebrities, artists and business owners have brought a creative flair to the town that has added to Philipsburg’s charm.

The food in Philipsburg is mostly traditional and gives you all of the comfort feels. When I’m in town, I love having lunch at Doe Brothers–a traditional soda fountain restaurant or Boheme, which is an adorable bohemian coffee shop. The Silver Mill is a fabulous choice for dinner, but they are unfortunately closed due to coronavirus.

I’ve also heard really good things about the Philipsburg Brewing Company from my family, but haven’t gone myself because I’m not a beer drinker.

Unlike mountain towns in Colorado and Utah, Philipsburg hasn’t fully tapped into the luxury market, yet. The one exception to this is the Ranch at Rock Creek, which has been consistently voted as one of the world’s top resorts and is just a 10 minute drive from town. At the ranch, you will find true mountain luxury and have access to farm-to-table dining, wine pairings, horseback riding, fly fishing and so much more. But it will cost you a pretty penny. If you’re not interested in breaking the bank, there are plenty of incredibly affordable hotels in the area.

If you’d like to stay in Philipsburg proper, the Broadway Hotel, Kaiser House and Quigley Cottage will be great options for you. The Forest Edge Inn and Seven Gables–a motel, are about 20 minutes away from Philipsburg, right on Georgetown Lake. Until last week I would have hands down recommended at least stopping here for fried chicken, as it has been one of my favorite things to do for the last 15 years, but I had a really unfortunate visit last week. Seven Gables is under new ownership and we had a terrible experience with the staff. The food has never been out of this world, but it was always fun. I can’t say the same anymore so for the time being, Seven Gables will be off of my list.

If you’re ok with a roughly 45 minute drive, Fairmont Hot Springs resort is a wonderful family-friendly hotel option. It is affordable, clean and has tons of activities for kids.

If you’re ever thinking of visiting Montana, I hope you give this charming little town a try! Leave me a comment and let me know where your favorite mountain destination is!



Summer Reading: All About the Gilded Age

Summer Reading: All About the Gilded Age

This summer I made a few small goals for myself…one of them was to read a new book each month. In June, I started with Empty Mansions: the Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune, and because I’m a sucker for themes, I decided to make my July and August selections about the Gilded Age as well. And with all of the unpleasantness of 2020, I couldn’t think of a better time to take a literary vacation to a time of luxury and opulence.

The Gilded Age–a phrase coined by Mark Twain (renowned writer and outspoken critic of Huguette Clark’s father) in his novel, The Gilded Age: A Tale of Today, was a time of unprecedented economic growth in the United States roughly from 1870-1900. At the time, industries in the U.S. were booming, the transcontinental railroad was being built and as a result, the notorious Fifth Avenue mansions were being built by the Vanderbilts, Astors and Clarks and the stunning palaces built by these families dotted the shores of Newport, Rhode Island. Unimaginable fortunes were being made in oil, copper and gold and the United States was coming into its own as a world power.

Written by Pulitzer Prize winner, Bill Dedman and Clark’s cousin, Paul Clark Newell Jr., Empty Mansions was a fabulous book to start my summer reading with. Huguette Clark–the daughter of copper magnate W.A. Clark, spent the last 20 years of her life living in a hospital room in New York City even though she had three luxury apartments on Fifth Avenue, a mansion in New Canaan, Connecticut, and a palatial compound in Santa Barbara.

This book intrigued me for a few reasons….first and foremost, Huguette’s mother, Anna, was born in Butte, Montana, a small mining town where Huguette’s father made his fortune. Butte is just a short 30-minute drive from Anaconda–an even smaller mining town where all of my family is from. Huguette was also married in Santa Barbara about two minutes from where I was married, at the Four Seasons, so I had all of these parallels with her that were just so interesting to me.

The book itself is incredibly well written and so fascinating. Huguette’s father almost seems like he was a character from a Wild West film–fighting native Americans for land and tricking his way into the senate. His political background was particularly interesting to me because of how it intertwined with my family’s stories. For years, I have heard my grandmother talk about how Anaconda, Montana (the town both of my parents grew up in and where most of my extended family lives) should have been the capital of the state, but that someone (I now assume that someone is W.A.) stashed ballots to make the town lose the vote. After reading Empty Mansions, I now understand the bitter rivalry between W.A. Clark and the “Copper King” Marcus Daly–who was pushing for Anaconda to become the capital.

A far cry from her boisterous father, Huguette lived the majority of her life as a recluse. She spent a large portion of her fortune on her beloved dolls and a stunning collection of impressionist paintings that museums could only dream of having today. In a time when most would be relishing their fine surroundings and hopping between compounds in Manhattan and Santa Barbara, Huguette lived out the last two decades of her life in hospitals, arguably being manipulated by the doctors and nurses around her. If you are looking for a bizarre and intriguing summer read, I would highly recommend Empty Mansions.

This summer, I am taking a deep-dive into the Gilded Age by reading Empty Mansions, A Season of Splendor and To Marry an English Lord.

For the month of July, I am reading A Season of Splendor: the Court of Mrs. Astor in Gilded Age New York by Greg King. Caroline Schermerhorn Astorthe Mrs. Astor, reigned as the queen of New York society for nearly half a century and single-handedly decided who was in and who was out of the upper crust of society through a social register known as “The 400” …a list W.A. Clark could never gain access to.

In August, I plan to read To Marry an English Lord: Tales of Wealth and Marriage, Sex and Snobbery in the Gilded Age by Gail MacColl and Carol McD. Wallace. As fans of Downton Abbey know, during the Gilded Age, it became commonplace for American oil and textile heiresses to raise their social status by marrying English aristocrats who had titles and estates, but no money to run them.

Come back next month for my review of A season of Splendor! I hope you’re all enjoying your summer. Leave me a comment and let me know what you’re reading!