I spent a lazy Sunday in Bozeman, Montana, last Spring passing through on my way to Yellowstone National Park. Once I began to scratch below the surface of this lovely little town, I quickly found myself wishing I had allotted it more time on my itinerary.
The city of Bozeman is a happening, yet modest retreat in the southwestern part of Montana. It sits in the wide Gallatin Valley surrounded by six towering mountain ranges. The vast natural landscape attracts visitors and locals for outdoor fun from fly fishing, rock climbing, and horseback riding, to hiking and mountain biking. And the heart of town is just over an hour from the North entrance of Yellowstone National Park.
But it was the town itself that really got my attention—specifically the walkable Main Street, lined with fun shops, theaters, restaurants, and bars. Here are just a few highlights.
Eat and drink
There are a number of coffee shops and daytime restaurants around Bozeman. A local favorite is the Cateye Cafe, just off Main Street on North Tracy Avenue, known for its kitschy, kitty décor, sassy waitstaff, and phenomenal, hearty eats. Don’t miss the delectable banana bread French toast. Or if you fancy a chicken fried steak or breakfast egg sandwich, they have those down pat too. Just come early or during off-peak hours because this place can have a line out the door.
In Montana, one of the most unique and popular ingredients used in food is the huckleberry. This delicious fruit is tart, like a tamarind-infused blueberry. Traveling through the state you’ll encounter it in every kind of food from ice cream to vodka. And you can get the latter at the Bozeman Spirits Distillery right in town. Just next to their stylish bar and tasting room, whiskey, gin, rum, and vodka are proudly distilled with pure, Rocky Mountain spring water. Just be sure to try the Huckleberry Vodka which delivers a sweet and sour thrill.
A star in town is the Victory Taco truck. Lines are often down the street for delicious fusion-cuisine tacos (I devoured two with grilled Mahi) served out of a vintage camper. And when you have finished those tacos, head to the other end of the vehicle where you can order from Genuine Ice Cream. Although they have many tasty flavors, here’s where you might want to try that huckleberry ice cream.
Finally, for a sophisticated dinner, pairing locally-sourced ingredients prepared with French and Italian flare make a beeline for Plonk. Along with the exceptional fare, the refined wine and cocktail lists and the lively yet comfortable environment make for a consummate evening out on the town.
Sprinkled throughout Bozeman are stores with apparel, local artisans’ works, interior design items and edibles.
Viewfinder Tip: Staying in a hotel right in Bozeman is ideal for enjoying dinner and nightlife only a stroll away from your bed.
Hey Day is a store that caught my eye. They call themselves a “lifestyle boutique” and stock clothing, purses, table décor items, stationary, bath and body products, games and toys, and more. While that sounds like quite a mix, the store is well organized with an inviting, stylish and bright interior. It is the ultimate stop for souvenirs and to capture a piece of the local Montana aesthetic.
The Chocolate Moose, a vintage candy and soda shop has a mixture of old-time classics as well as locally made specialties. The large jars of brightly colored hard candies and taffies, the barrels of Tootsie Rolls, shelves of chocolate truffles, fudge, and caramel-covered apples make me think of childhood—of my own and of those that came before me.
Just off Main Street on West Babcock Street is an interior design store called the The Architect’s wife. They focus on furniture, lighting, stylish bedding, locally-crafted wall art and Montana-inspired accents for the home. Whether you purchase anything or not, this store is fun to peruse, soaking in the eclectic style.
If you choose to spend the night (or three) in Bozeman, the newly refurbished Lark Hotel is a gem right in the middle of the city on Main Street. The rooms open onto outdoor corridors. Each guest room has a clean and modern décor with graphic wall art designed by local artists. And the hotel staff includes local guides who can be of great assistance, providing tips for exploring the surrounding rural and urban areas.
What small towns near you deserve a shout out?