I first visited Missoula, Montana, in 2009. It was the last stop on a road trip from New York City with my family. My husband went to high school there and it was his reunion. Had it not been for that reason, I am not sure I would have visited.
And boy, would I have missed out.
For a city its size, Missoula has a small town vibe with a slow pace and a friendly feel. What I fell in love with is how creative Missoulians are in everything they do. Whether it is in the arts, in food, or even in making the most of their beautiful natural surroundings.
After my return to Missoula, I felt all these same great things and more. I find that it has a little bit of everything a visitor could want, and for me, these are some of the highlights.
Viewfinder Tip: Don’t worry about driving. The Holiday Inn Downtown is within walking distance from shops, restaurants, parks, and bars.
The farmers market
If you are in Missoula late spring through early fall, you absolutely must visit the Missoula Famers Market. This is where I like to grab a coffee to-go and people watch. On Saturdays, they often have a band playing. Get there early and grab breakfast, then sit on the lawn and enjoy the early morning. Missoula has a really great community and the market is a wonderful opportunity to experience it.
Free concerts at the park
Another great place to mingle with locals and enjoy what the city has to offer is at Caras Park. During the warmer months, the city hosts free concerts in the afternoons and under the stars. They always have different events and activities that the entire family can enjoy and its worth keeping an eye out for as something to do during your visit. The theatre performances are also worthy of your time.
Breweries and more
That Missoula is home to some fabulous breweries in the U.S. is no surprise. The state of Montana is home to come of the best craft breweries around, and though I am not a huge beer drinker, it was hard for me to not want to try a lot of it—none of which disappointed. Missoulians love their beer and will happily guide you to the best places to celebrate, socialize, or just relax with a beer in hand. Make sure to check out the cool digs over at Kettlehouse Brewing Company in a historic warehouse in Missoula’s northside railroad district. Its original location, Kettlehouse South, is equally great and a local favorite.
What is also really great is the coffee in Missoula—I say this as a coffee-loving-New-York-Latina. It isn’t easy to find good coffee in the states. I mean, this is a country that will serve you black coffee with a side of cold creamer—or milk, if you—and not even realize why that is so wrong.
Missoula has a good coffee game and it is one of the reasons I looked forward to waking up early in the morning for. One of my favorite spots: Break Espresso. Locals rave about their baked goods too, but I found church in my coffee drinks there. Another local favorite is Loose Caboose.
But if you are more of a wine person, then you have to stop into Plonk. This gorgeous space not only has great food, but also a really nice selection of wines and cocktails. It’s a perfect way to end your day.
Hike The M
You can see Mount Sentinel from pretty much every point of Missoula. The 11 switchbacks are what make the 620-feet hike a bit challenging, though I’ve done it a few times and have loved it every time. Get to the M early in the morning and quietly enjoy the valley view in serenity.
It’s also a good plan if you want to walk off all the good food and drinks that you are surely going to find in town.
Mount Sentinel isn’t the only activity for outdoor lovers. You will find outfitters to help set up up for biking, camping, hiking, bird watch, fly fishing, golfing, and horseback riding, just to name a few.
Bozeman, another great city, as well as Yellowstone National Park and Glacier National Park, are all an easy drive away.
What are your favorite American cities to vacation in?