We loved writing this blog. Home town proud! The hardest part was what to leave out. Let’s start with the basics. You’re in Montana. If you want to hike, mountain bike or simply take in the scenery, we got that. There are so many trails near Missoula you couldn’t walk them all in a month. Many shops in town rent mountain bikes daily or by the week. And we’re only going to say this once, but it applies throughout. If you have any questions, email ([email protected]) or call (406-728-7766) the shop and we will be happy to help with any details or recommendations.
The Bitterroot River, Clark Fork River and the Blackfoot River are all close by, and offer many opportunities other than fishing. You can go on a whitewater adventure, or rent kayaks and zip up and down the river. If you’re looking for a little less strenuous activity on the water, rent an inner tube and join the other friends floating down the lower Blackfoot River into town. Remember, no glass on the river. So buy your local brews or wine in cans, and ease on down the river, enjoying a lazy day looking at clouds and soaking up sunshine. Don’t worry if you run a bit short on the river, the floating raft bar will be able to top you off if supplies get low. The bus will take you to the put in, and a taxi or Uber can get you home! Unless you’re staying in town, and then you just drop the inner tube off and walk.
And speaking of breweries, Missoula has a few good ones! From the classic Slow Elk to Draughtworks and Kettlehouses excellent fare, if you want to go on a taste test to find your favorite, we can only say this. It’s going to take some time and effort to cover all those bases, and we have Uber! The same can be said for the distilleries located in Missoula as well. Craft gin, vodka and whiskey can be found within an easy walk in downtown, and again, finding that favorite is always an enjoyable pastime!
When you find yourself downtown, take a look around. Missoula is a marvelous combination of old architecture and modern purposing. It combines quaint with modern in a unique way, and has a feel all it’s own. Art galleries, boutiques and second hand shops are all on the same block, peppered with locally owned restaurants and. You can still get a burger and a beer for a buck in Missoula, MT, and find 200 different types of bourbon on the wall if you know where to look! But in our minds, the best part of downtown is it’s all locally owned. 95% of the businesses in the 14 block downtown area are unique and local. Sure, we have Best Buy if you need the Geek Squad, or Costco for mega-groceries, but downtown is a walkable cornucopia of local flavor and one-of-a-kind experiences. On a hot summer night, it’s a tiny bit like Mardi Gras, as revelers go from one place to next, taking some of the party with them to go find another!
There are 5 local golf courses in town , including a par 3. If you want to find out just how big Montana is, head to Anaconda (1.75 hours east) and play the Jack Nicklaus design Old Works, with its black sand and 611 yard uphill par 5. Or head 3.5 hours north to Eureka and play the only Montana course in Golf Digest’s top 100 in the country, The Wilderness Club. If you decide to head to Eureka, Glacier Park is close by, but that’s not a day trip. There’s an amazing Folf Course in Lincoln that runs through a giant sculpture garden, and numerous Folf courses closer to home.
If the kids are bored, take them down to Caras Park to ride the Merry-Go-Round, with its locally painted horses, lions and other designs to delight any rider. It’s down by the Clark Fork River at Brennan’s Wave, where the local river surfers and trick kayakers go to ride. Rent a board or a kayak and you can to. If floating the river is something for the family, there are numerous SUP and raft companies in town that can get you floating in no time flat. There are multiple museums in town, many kid oriented, as well as the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and the Boone and Crockett Club. The Bison Range is an hour out of town to the northwest, where you can drive through and see the regal Bison in its natural habitat. Yellowstone is a bit of a poke from Missoula, but if you’re on your way to somewhere else from here, well, it’s not the grandest park in the USA for nothing!
You can eat like a king in Missoula, if you want to, or like anywhere else, you can make do with fast food and C-Store roller dogs after a long day on the water. Hey, it’s your vacation- we don’t judge! Missoula restaurants have some pretty lenient hours, because as a town, we play hard late into the day and then need sustenance. The pizza in this town is so good- we can’t even name all the amazing pie spots in a 5 mile radius! (special shout out to the Pie Hole- open till 3:00 AM!) Lots of different ethnic foods as well, with some amazing Mexican and Vietnamese options. We’re going to say this. You don’t go to Boston and order a steak- don’t come to Montana and order the cod! You’re in cattle country, take advantage. A word of warning- if you order the king cut, be ready to spend a little time at the table, because we take king size seriously in these here parts!
On a logistical side, we have lots of local and chain grocery stores, with wine and beer available there for purchase. If you’re looking for something with a bit more pop, state stores and casinos can provide the higher caliber ammo. Gambling is legal in Montana, but most of it is machine gaming. There are a few live poker tables throughout town, if you’re looking to test your skill set at 7 card stud. We might not be Vegas, but you can certainly try your luck in Missoula.
There are 3 different large concert venues, and multiple bars where you can find a wide selection of live music. Missoula is big enough to have hosted the Rolling Stones, Sir Paul McCartney and Elton John. (Editors note- the blog writer is old. We do get new music!) The local music scene is vibrant and exciting, so make sure to check and see if there’s some music in town of interest while you’re visiting. Note: in 2020, with the pandemic, this is much less of an option, but it won’t be this way forever, and soon the live music will be back and bigger than ever.
What did we leave out? We have a decent mall, if you want to shop a lot and drive less. You can hike the M, though truthfully, you can read it from the bottom of the hill. Stop at the Jeannette Rankin Peace Center, and find out about the United States first female congressperson, who was the only dissenting vote as we entered WWI and WWII. You can go see the First Presbyterian Church where Norman McClean’s father preached so eloquently. Take a zipline trip at Snowbowl, and see the sights as you zoom down the mountain. Drive down 93 along the Bitterroot range, arguably the most beautiful mountains in Montana. Or head north on 93 to the Mission Mountains, and see if we’re accurate about the Bitterroots. Both have their supporters! Check out the Smoke Jumpers Museum at the airport, or run up Rte 200 to Garnet, the local ghost town. And last but not least, the best chocolate in Montana is found in Philipsburg at the Sweet Shop. Penny candy and fudge to die for, all in a quaint mining town at the top of Rock Creek.
Or, do what a lot of travelers do and just go fishing one more day!