It’s been a while since I’ve visited a new state. I was particularly excited about driving through Montana because one of my finance professors in business school was constantly talking about this bar with 50,000 silver dollars. It was his perennial example of “excess cash.” A bunch of money sitting in a plexiglass case wasn’t invested in anything productive and didn’t make the underlying business of selling beer and burgers any more valuable (setting aside its appeal as a tourist attraction).
I’d heard enough about this bar that I absolutely had to stop when the billboards appeared. It was actually one of the better roadside meals we had on this trip.
Montana is also one of the most beautiful states I’ve visited, on par with Hawaii. There were miles of open highway with nothing to do but look at the green valleys and steep mountains. Eventually we pulled into West Yellowstone. Most of Yellowstone National Park is in Wyoming, but West Yellowstone is a bustling town just on the other side fo the border.
We were able to book a couple of nights at the Holiday Inn West Yellowstone for 40,000 IHG Rewards points per night, much better than listed room rates over $300. In addition, the Platinum status that came with my wife’s IHG Rewards credit card got us a free made-to-order breakfast and a couple of happy hour drinks in the adjacent restaurant.
Our room on the second floor had a view of nothing in particular, which was no different from any other hotel in the city. I liked that we were not on the main drag and so didn’t have to listen to much road noise, yet we were still close enough to walk to any of the restaurants and shops.
The room was fairly spacious with a king bed, television, and a sofa bed. Although the sink was out in the room instead of inside the bathroom, it wasn’t a major issue. At least the bathroom had a walk-in shower rather than a tub. There was also some complimentary coffee and a Keurig machine.
Don’t confuse Holiday Inn with the cheaper Holiday Inn Express. Our hotel had a full restaurant and bar, video game room for the kids, and laundry facilities. It was one of the nicer spots in town and definitely a place I would recommend if you are planning to visit Yellowstone. I was wary of staying outside the park since I know how difficult that can be at Yosemite, where there is still a long, winding road down to Yosemite Valley from the park entrance. But Yellowstone is pretty flat. The traffic was never very bad except when bison were blocking the road.
We didn’t get to see everything in Yellowstone. Our clockwise circuit through the park took us to several other sites before we finally came across Old Faithful or the Grand Prismatic Spring. I was just too tired and will have to make a second trip (boo hoo). We still had an excellent day wandering about the hot springs and stopping to watch the herds of bison. Spending the night at the Holiday Inn West Yellowstone definitely made our visit more relaxing before it was time to get back on the road.