There is a tiki bar in Montana. And it’s not in Missoula, or Bozeman or even the massively popular and booming Kalispell and it is out of the way. Interstate 15 goes out of it’s way to jut east to service the city of Great Falls before jutting back west to resume it’s northerly course to no where. And Lethbridge Canada.
And there in no where, I mean Great Falls, lies a classic motor lodge with an kooky kitchy upstairs tiki bar. The Sip ‘n Dip Lounge. The 58,000 citizens of Great Falls don’t get gobs of tourists but between those wandering to Glacier National Park and regional conferences there are a few but the Sip ‘n Dip is well patronized by the locals so much so that on a Thursday night the placed was busy. The crowd ranges from ragged old timers to newly minted 21 year-olds. The craft beer movement long ago landed in Montana so you’ll find more beers on tap than Hawaiian shirts and tropical drinks combined. But fear not, the thatch and bamboo rages hard.
Of course the main attraction is the mermaids. Locked safely in a tank, visibly enjoyable behind panes of glass with no simple means of devouring your flesh, they swim and spin and wave to the crowds. They are however, surprisingly difficult to get a good photo of thanks to the glare and reflections.
For more than 50 years, the place has had a resident piano player, Piano Pat. Nearly as famous as the mermaids, she used to play 5 nights a week but due to a recent wrist surgery is down to only two nights. If you want the full classic experience of this place, you better go soon and go on a Friday or Saturday.
And if you do go, I’m sorry to sad, skip the drinks. Go with a beer. The menu features a few cocktails including the classic Mai Tai and a few giant fish bowl drinks. The Mai Tai is tolerable, but the rest tasted more like gasoline than alcohol. Sadly, they do not have their own custom mug but they did have a shot glass with their name printed on it at the front desk.
Still, between the upstairs location in a classic (and preserved) motor lodge, the pool, the decor, Piano Pat and the Mermaids, this place is a classic and worth the trip. Make it a stop on your way to Glacier you’ll have an epic trip.