Travel | USA | Vintage Tiki at the Sip ‘N’ Dip Lounge, Montana
Have you ever wished you could step through a portal into one of David Lynch’s worlds? That’s the dreamy effect of the Sip ‘N’ Dip Lounge, a vintage tiki bar in Great Falls, Montana.
Retro ’60s Tiki Bar
Despite its landlocked location in the middle of cowboy country, this old-school tiki spot, opened in 1962, conjures up the South Seas through a surrealist filter. All rattan and bamboo, pastel formica tabletops, and patio lanterns, it’s a trip back in time to the ’60s; not much has changed inside since then, and it’s been immaculately maintained. Seated in a special booth near the entrance, Piano Pat provides the soundtrack, just as she has since 1963, belting out popular hits of the preceding decades while accompanying herself on the organ in her signature “jazzy” style. (Scroll to the bottom for a video with sound to get a sense of the ambiance!)
Since the beginning there’s been a window into the indoor pool behind the bar, illuminating the room with its electric blue, but it was only in 1995 that the Sip ‘n’ Dip’s most unique feature was added: mermaids. Costumed women (and on Tuesdays, men) swim playfully in front of the window each night, providing yet another otherworldly dimension to this very special spot.
Although the Sip ‘N’ Dip’s is known as “The #1 Bar Worth Flying For” (GQ, 2003) and has received various other accolades, it was word of mouth that had me basing an entire road trip around this spot. When we arrived on a Wednesday evening, it was standing room only; soon, a spot opened up at the counter around Piano Pat’s enclave and we stationed ourselves there. I ordered a Blue Hawaiian; the cocktail menu here is short and classic, without the complex fanfare of many modern tiki revivalist spots.
Fish Bowls + Mermaids
Locals and tourists alike congregate at this vintage tiki bar; a group of men in cowboy hats and bolo ties let loose across from us, while the girls to our right talked loudly about how far they’d travelled to be here. Most of the patrons had the bar’s signature drink, the Fish Bowl, in front of them. Through the glass behind the bar, the mermaids swam and joked with patrons, posing for photo ops. All the while, the refrain from “Sweet Caroline” pumped through the vintage organ and everyone sang along with Piano Pat, who’s in her eighties and still going strong.
The Motel Next Door
The attached motel, O’Haire Motor Inn, is nondescript, and after a few of these cocktails, its proximity can’t be beat. We even took home souvenirs purchased from the front desk – blue tiki shot glasses emblazoned with the bar’s seahorse logo.
It makes me sad that there’s nothing quite like the Sip ‘N’ Dip where I live, in Vancouver – or most other places, for that matter. I’d be there every weekend, and can’t wait for an excuse to go back. Down to earth yet totally out there, this vintage tiki bar is at the top of the list of my favourite bars in the world.
The Sip ‘N’ Dip Lounge is located at 17 7th St. S. in Great Falls, Montana, USA.