Sure, people relocate to this stunning Montana city for the spectacular outdoors and job opportunities, but they stay for the wonderful neighbors and deep connections.
It’s not every day that a stranger who you strike up a conversation with at a public park invites you to her home for a meal. Unless, of course, you are living in Great Falls, MT, where the word “friendly” is not just an adjective, but a way of life.
Shumaila Abbasi remembers the reservations she had moving from New York City to Great Falls in 2016 with her three young children and husband, Raheel Khalid, after he accepted a position as a hospitalist at Benefis Hospital.
“The only thing I knew about Montana was the entertainer, Hannah Montana,” Abbasi says. “Our friends told us we were crazy. We are Muslims, and I wondered if we would be accepted.”
Enter Becky Monroe. She noticed Abbasi and her children playing in the park and their New York license plate. After saying hello, Monroe soon invited Abbasi and her family over for lunch.
“It took me a while to adjust – I missed my food and culture.
Now, I can’t see myself living anywhere else. The community
here is accepting and welcoming.”
“I remember asking my husband if he thought she could be a serial killer,” Abbasi says with a laugh. “She wasn’t. Becky had researched what a Muslim family would enjoy eating. It was a lovely introduction to how gracious and hospitable the people are in Great Falls.”
While it took Abbasi a little time to transition to her new life in Great Falls, she and her family are now active members of their new hometown.
“I quickly became part of the Rotary Club and met many wonderful people,” she says. “I am a member of the international committee, and we are working on raising money to construct a school for girls in a remote area of Pakistan who otherwise have no option to attend school.”
Outdoor Wonderland Draws People to Great Falls
People aren’t the only ones making connections in Great Falls. The region offers residents 57 parks, and some include connecting walkways to the renowned River’s Edge Trail, a 55-mile expanse that follows in the steps of the Lewis and Clark Expedition.
With amenities like these, it’s easy to see why outdoor enthusiasts like Stephen and Lori Louks relocate to Great Falls. The Loukses, in particular, moved from Arkansas to the Big Sky Country. He is a quality manager at ADF International, and she works at Peak Health and Wellness.
“We really like walking, running and hiking,” Stephen Louks says. “The immediate access to trails is a major plus of living here. Many of them provide panoramic views of the mountains in any direction, or the Missouri River or the Great Falls.”
“There are many opportunities for people of all interests
to become connected with our community.”
While the gorgeous views and outdoor fun rank high on their list of favorites, the Loukses are also fans of shopping and eating at “homegrown” places downtown. “The volume of restaurants and retail stores is expanding, and entertainment venues are becoming a large presence here,” he adds.
The pair have plugged into being involved with the farmers market and NeighborWorks, an organization that helps provide Montana families with safe, affordable housing. Other popular social groups are Mothers of Preschoolers, or MOPS, and Connect Great Falls, an organization for young professionals, where they can grow personally and professionally.
Finding the Perfect Balance in Great Falls
Gwen Fleming grew up in Gallatin Valley near Bozeman. She bounced around from Portland, Oregon, to New York City to Los Angeles, always returning to her home state. Five years ago, she moved to Great Falls. She is a content creator at The Wendt Agency, an advertising agency in the region, and discovering cost-of-living expenses below the national average is attractive to her budget.
“The great job opportunities balanced with a reasonable cost of living is why I have continued to stay,” Fleming says. “Great Falls has spectacular open spaces, hidden treasures and good neighbors.”
Get to Know Great Falls
Want to learn more about living in this friendly region? Check out
the latest edition of Livability Great Falls, Montana.