One may not think to visit Montana in the dead of February, but when the opportunity to extend a business trip presents itself, you take advantage of it. I do have family in Montana (no, not the Bozeman side but yes, there is a relation!) but had never spent much time in Missoula. As it turns out, it’s an awesome town to spend a weekend with a lot more culture and beauty than I ever imagined.
We flew in and I would easily opt for the quick and inexpensive flight over the 7 hour drive across I-90 from Seattle. Alaska Airlines recently announced new low rates for Mileage Plan members on flights under 700 miles – which applies to flights to Missoula from both Seattle and Portland. If you book early, you should be able to find a round trip weekend ticket for just 10k miles! I also recommend booking a rental car – but it is a fairly walkable city and recently Uber started operating there, so it’s really a personal preference.
One of the must-do activities, and the first thing we did in town, was hiking up to the “M” at the University of Montana campus. Now everyone casually does this little hike while in Missoula, but do not mistake it for a walk in the park! It was also an uncharacteristically warm February afternoon which made it all the more difficult. The trip up the hill was definitely worth the hype and the workout and presented gorgeous views of the valley and surrounding hills. We even hiked up a bit further past the M and spotted some fawns on our way up. There are tons of hiking trails in the nearby mountains to explore further as well.
We stayed at the DoubleTree by Hilton Edgewater which is in a nice location between the University and the heart of town and was right on the river. The rooms are large and most have balconies, but during the winter they disable their air conditioning and it got incredibly stuffy! We did get free cookies at check in so you win some you lose some.
Now we all know that vacations are filled with yummy meals… but seriously guys I still think about this awesome lunch spot regularly. Five on Black is a small fast casual restaurant which I like to think of as a Brazilian version of Chipotle. The flavors in these rice bowls are incredible! You build your bowl with rice or greens and top it with rotisserie chicken or beef, tilapia, veggies, sweet potatoes, feijoada, and lots of spices and dressing options. Next time you’re in Missoula, Bozeman, Denver or Boulder please stop in and indulge for me. I’ll be patiently awaiting it’s arrival in the Seattle area!
Luckily there are plenty of spots in town to walk that lunch off, like the Riverfront Trail which follows the Clark Fork river along downtown Missoula. If you’re lucky you might see some kayakers riding Brennan’s Wave – an engineered whitewater rapid right in front of Caras Park. We even saw one on a chilly, cloudy February day! Just around the corner is Montgomery Distillery which is a beautiful place to grab a craft cocktail. If beer is more your style, there are plenty of craft breweries in the area as well. Tamarack Brewery has tons of beer on tap and a large food menu, and Big Sky Brewing Co. is a must-stop on your way in or out of town for a free tasting of Moose Drool.
This was just one of my two trips to Montana in 2016 so stay tuned for more stories and recommendations from other parts of the state! Each visit to “Big Sky Country” leaves me feeling rejuvenated and so appreciative of the beauty this world has to offer. I truly think it’s an underrated vacation spot for Pacific Northwesterners. Next Montana destination on my list? Glacier National Park! One day… but for now I reminisce on good food, yummy drinks and breathtaking views.