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7 Best Things to Do in Missoula, MT

The Garden City is best known for its outdoor recreation opportunities, but don’t miss out on the culture

By Jason Zasky on July 3, 2015

Missoula / Taylar Robbins/Destination Missoula

The first thing that comes to mind when one thinks of Missoula, Mont., is the great outdoors, hardly a surprise because the city is located along the confluence of the Clark Fork, Bitterroot and Blackfoot rivers, and surrounded by awe-inspiring mountains and wilderness areas. But scenic beauty and outdoor recreation opportunities are just a few of the reasons why Missoula is regarded as one of the 10 best places to live in the U.S. It also features the University of Montana and a thriving artistic community, which explains its reputation as one of the best college towns in America.

Following is a small sampling of cool things to do in a city that has been described as the “perfect mix of town and country.”

Go Fishing

Thanks to the 1992 movie A River Runs Through It, starring Robert Redford and Brad Pitt, Missoula is known around the world for its blue-ribbon fly fishing. But the lake fishing is spectacular too, with Flathead Lake, Placid Lake State Park and Salmon Lake State Park among the top destinations for anglers.

Go Skiing, Snowboarding  

When Missoulians go skiing or snowboarding, they make the 20-minute drive to Snowbowl, where the trails are steep (2,600 vertical feet from top to bottom), crowds are rare and the prices modest. Even if you’re not a skier, the mountain’s Last Run Inn is worth a special trip – known statewide for its wood-fired oven pizza. 

Go Skating

Missoula / Taylar Robbins/Destination Missoula

Photo: Taylar Robbins/Destination Missoula

Meanwhile, skateboarders consider Mobash Skate Park to be one of the finest skate parks in the country, renowned for its bowls, and it provides a variety of features – like ramps, rails and benches – for every level of skater.

Go Shopping

If you get excited about one-of-a-kind shops, look no further than Missoula’s Hip Strip, which includes a dozen locally owned and operated businesses. Betty’s Divine, for one, sells “vintage-inspired, yet newly made fashions for men and women, offering you the street cred of thrift store shopping without the mothball smell of the real deal.”

Go to the Movies

Missoula / Taylar Robbins/Destination Missoula

Photo: Taylar Robbins/Destination Missoula

Missoula is home to a pair of unique annual film festivals: the International Wildlife Film Festival (est. 1977), the first and longest-running wildlife-themed film festival, which is held each spring at the historic Roxy Theater; and the Big Sky Documentary Film Festival, which showcases approximately 125 nonfiction films each February, many at the historic Wilma Theater, which like the Roxy, is located downtown on S. Higgins Ave.

Visit a Museum

Missoula is home to more than its share of interesting museums, including: the Montana Museum of Art & Culture, which features a permanent collection of almost 11,000 objects, featuring everything from Rembrandt to Warhol; and the Missoula Art Museum, which is free every day and showcases “contemporary art relevant to the community, state and region.”

Learn About Aerial Firefighting

Take a tour of the Smokejumper Visitor Center, the country’s largest base for smokejumpers – the highly trained firefighters who parachute into remote wilderness areas to fight raging wildfires. Guests have the opportunity to see the parachute loft and training facilities and watch videos on fire suppression. Worth a stop if you’re traveling to or from the airport, as its right next door to Missoula International Airport. 

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