7. Missoula, MT
The annual Easter Eggstravaganza is among the many ways that the University of Montana enriches the lives of Missoula, MT, residents. Each spring, children search a central campus spot known as the Oval for treat-filled eggs students place throughout the area. Student athletes and other volunteers assist the thousands of youngsters who come clutching baskets while parents, many of whom are alumni, snap photos and point out eggs.
Community events engage students and residents, giving Missoula a small-town feel. Lush forests and fresh waterways surround the city, but Missoula's cultural attractions and entertainment options are surprisingly urban for a place founded by miners, timber companies and farmers. Live theater and music venues, museums, eclectic shops, restaurants, and bars create a lively scene. Breweries in Missoula attract beer lovers across the Northwest. Missoula hosts several festivals that help residents and students connect with the culture, such as Garden City Brewfest, River City Roots Fest and a series of free concerts overlooking the Clark Fork River, where kayakers test their skills. Nearby mountains, rivers and lakes also offer outdoor activities.
Many events and programs on the UM campus are open to the public. These include athletic games, music recitals, concerts, art gallery receptions, public lectures and film screenings. The Grizzly Pool, an indoor, Olympic-sized pool on campus, and the UM Golf Course are open to Missoula residents for a fee. The university holds a series of youth summer camps on campus.
Students at UM participate in many forms of community outreach, ranging from wildlife restoration projects and toy drives to health screenings and reporting for state newspapers and radio stations. During the past three years nearly 2,000 students donated 366,000 hours of service. The University is also home to the spectrUM Discovery Area, an interactive science museum with exhibits, activities and demonstrations for kids.
Student population: 15,000
Don't Miss: biga pizza, where chef Bob Marshall uses almost all local products, including Montana flour, to create Sicilian pies that locals and visitors claim is the best pizza in the country