Missoula Vacation Guide for First-Time Explorers

Missoula is in western Montana and known for scenic beauty. While visiting, guests have access to Missoula Valley, Bitterroot Valley, Seeley Swan and surrounding areas – all full of outdoor adventures and photo ops. This Missoula vacation guide will help travelers enjoy the best of this college mountain town and provide a quick overview of what to expect. Scroll to read more.

Missoula Vacation Guide: Start a New Adventure Today

missoula outdoor scene seasons

This destination has a four-season outdoor scene. Missoula sits at the confluence of three rivers in the Northern Rocky Mountains. To get here, visitors can book a flight into Missoula International Airport, or drive from metro areas such as Seattle, Washington; Portland, Oregon; and Salt Lake City, Utah.

Missoula’s Outdoor Scene

Upon arrival, guests find opportunities for mountain biking, hiking, birding, horseback riding and playing golf. Surrounding rivers and lakes provide the perfect place to kayak, ride rafts, try river surfing, stand-up paddleboarding and fly fish. For a more relaxing day, float down the river while soaking up some sun.

During wintertime, travelers have access to a snow-filled wonderland. Snowbowl ski area is just 30 minutes from downtown Missoula and has 900 acres. In addition, there are four other ski spots nearby, including Discovery Ski Area, Lost Trail Powder Mountain, Blacktail Mountain and Lookout Mountain.

Not a skier or snowboarder? No problem. Other winter activities in Missoula include ice fishing, ice skating, cross-country skiing, sleigh rides, snowmobiling and snow shoeing.

Family-friendly Attractions

When not exploring the great outdoors, visitors will find family-friendly attractions, art and culture. Families with children love A Carousel for Missoula, Splash Montana water park, Dragon Hollow Play Area, Children’s Museum of Missoula and SpectrUM science center.

Those interested in learning about art and local history should visit Missoula Art Museum, Historical Museum at Fort Missoula, Montana Natural History Center, Aerial Fire Depot and Smokejumper Center, and Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation. There are also art galleries, community theater groups and nearby ghost towns.

Entertainment and Nightlife in Missoula

Guests also enjoy the area’s lively entertainment options. Beverage enthusiasts can sample local flavor at breweries, distilleries, wineries and cideries. Bars and music venues host small and big-name concerts throughout the year. To test lady luck, visitors will find casinos such as Gray Wolf Peak Casino and Kwataqnuk Casino.

For a memorable local experience, attend an annual festival in Missoula. Examples include film festivals, marathons, rugby events, beer and food festivals, and holiday celebrations. A few popular festivals in Missoula are River City Roots Fest, Garden City Brew Fest, Kyi-Yo Pow Wow, Fourth of July Celebration, Kids Fest, Western Montana Fair and Rodeo, and Parade of Lights. Sports fans enjoy University of Montana Griz games and the PaddleHeads pioneer league baseball games.

where to shop montana

Photo by Mick Haupt on Unsplash

Where to Shop

Shopping is another popular activity in Missoula. Those spending time downtown should support small businesses selling fashion, jewelry, homemade goods and souvenirs.

Southgate Mall has more than 100 stores and serves as the largest mall in western Montana. Shoppers can also browse big-box names at North Reserve Street and off Brooks Street. In addition, there are locally sourced markets such as Missoula Farmers Market, Clark Fork River Market and Missoula People’s Market.

Where to Eat in Missoula

When it is time to break from the fun, dig into the local food scene. The area has a mix of everything – food trucks, farm-to-table, waterfront restaurants, casual and fine dining, and international favorites. Some restaurants serve barbecue, steak, pizza, seafood, burgers and vegetarian dishes. However, there are spots for breakfast, wraps and desserts. too.

For a custom dining adventure, book a food tour with a brewery or winery. Read about some great Missoula local restaurants.