With a youthful spirit and at-your-doorstep outdoor accessibility, a trip to Missoula is worth the extra miles. 

Eat

Missoula, Montana’s second largest metropolis feels more like a small town with big city perks. With charming pockets of culinary exploration sprinkled throughout the city, visitors quickly realize that there simply isn’t enough time to try everything. Instead, do this: For quick breakfast treats, head to Bernice’s Bakery where muffins, croissants and other treats line their pastry cases. Enjoy Missoula’s “best brunch” (we agree) at Burn St. Bistro on the westside of town. For picnic supplies, pick up a baguette at Le Petit Outre, a French bakery where—surprise, surprise—fresh bread reigns. Or check out The Good Food Store, Missoula’s local version of Whole Foods, perfect for grab-and-go lunch or dinner. For a sit-down sup, check out Biga Pizza on Main St. And for a more civilized dining experience, reserve a seat at Scotty’s Table downtown or enjoy a little slice of Italy at Cafe Dolce where traditional Italian dishes meet a romantic yet casual environment.  

Sleep 

Missoula’s downtown is undergoing a massive revitalization and with that comes face lifts right and left. Old names are becoming new again like Missoula’s Holiday Inn. While mogul hotels aren’t typically on the top of our list, this one is located on the riverside, is smack downtown, and the riverfront trail starts outside its backdoor. There is also a massive park between the river and the hotel, which makes chucking a frisbee or taking a nap in the shade a daily occurrence. And for families, kids eat free during their stay—a money saving perk that can only be offered by a big name brand. For those looking for a comfy, low-maintenance stay, The Shady Spruce Hostel is a well organized, charming, laid-back option. They offer two dormitories, single and triple private rooms, and a private full service suite and are also located downtown. 

Play

Whether you are looking for mountains, rivers, lakes, or canyons, Missoula has you covered. Raft the Clark Fork of the Columbia River with Montana River Guides. The south end of the Rattlesnake National Recreation and Wilderness Area is just north of town and is the perfect playground for hiking, mountain biking, rock climbing and horseback riding. For a large town, Missoula is surprisingly bike-able. Leave your car parked and set off. The River Trail network lets you pull off to play in the river, check out an outdoor concert at Bonner park, or tap into your inner child and stop for a ride on the town’s vintage Carousel. 

—Jordan Martindell