When people think of Missoula, they see mountains that inspire, rivers that teem with opportunity to catch big fish and big waves and trails that criss-cross between exploration and discovery. This is all true, and it is one of the many reasons why Missoula is truly a special place to live and visit. However, Missoula is more than gorgeous landscapes and an abundance of outdoor recreational opportunities—and the things you will discover here will surprise you. We have put together a list of our top reasons, and local hot spots explain why they will take you by surprise when you visit Missoula.
Photo credit: Shannon Corsi Photography
We cannot stress this enough—Missoula's food scene is amazing. You might not expect to find a vegan doughnut bakery in the middle of Montana, and we have two. You might not expect to discover a farm-to-table food focus at just about every spot in town, but that is Missoula for you. The owners of Wally and Buck, a food-truck to store-front burger joint in downtown Missoula, explain why they have become a stand out in this foodie hub:
"Wally and Buck is a casual burger joint proudly serving smash burgers from high quality, locally sourced grass-fed beef. Our specialty: a handful of sandwiches with a variety of toppings—notably the Wally burger which features house made bacon jam, cheddar, griddled onion and a special sauce. Also, the Buck Buck, a buttermilk fried chicken sando with house made pickles, smoked honey and Nashville inspired mayonnaise. We also have vegan and vegetarian options, local beer, wine and speedy service."
Missoula inspires—that much is a no brainer. So it can't be too shocking to discover that artists find inspiration in this place that has been named one of the most vibrant arts and culture communities in America. Art is a way of life here: every first Friday, the community gathers all over town to celebrate local artists and artwork. Public art abounds, from electric boxes to sculptures and murals. The town has 11 galleries and art museums, with places like the Montana Museum of Art and Culture and Radius Gallery, to name a few who have worked hard to put Missoula on the map. The Missoula Art Museum (MAM), the free public art museum in town, is the epicenter for the arts movement in Missoula:
"We are a fully accessible, free, public contemporary art museum that features eight exhibition spaces, a library and education center in the heart of Missoula's historic downtown. Education is at the core of our mission, and we provide a variety of public programs for community members of all ages, including tours, art classes, outreach to local schools, and more. We recognize our location on the traditional, ancestral territories of the Séliš (Salish or “Flathead”) and Qlispé (upper Kalispel or “Pend d’Oreille”) and are committed to amplifying Native American communities by exhibiting Indigenous contemporary artists throughout the museum, preserving the largest collection of contemporary American Indian art in the state, and offering trainings, programs and events featuring Indigenous voices."
Photo credit: NEED
In most places, a community theatre is just that: a community theatre. But that is not the case in Missoula. The MCT Center for the Performing Arts, locally known as MCT, consists of both a community and children's theatre. They are also home to the world-wide MCT tour, where the performing arts are brought to small communities around the US and internationally, giving children the chance to perform who otherwise might not have access to theatre opportunities in their area. In addition to MCT, Missoula is also home to the University of Montana's school of performing arts and Montana Repertory Theatre, Montana's only full-season professional theatre. Visitors and locals alike can enjoy the magic of live performances by individuals who call Missoula home:
"MCT is one of Missoula’s busiest and most exciting venues where the arts bring people together. Between September and May, we welcome people of all ages to enjoy lively musicals, endearing dramas and hilarious comedies featuring talented local actors in the Missoula Community Theatre productions. The Missoula Children’s Theatre musicals showcase youth all year long, providing fun for the entire family. When looking for a great place to meet friends or make new ones, we invites you to the light-filled, colorful lobby and comfortable 300-seat theatre for an entertaining experience you won’t forget!"
Missoula boasts 1 craft beer location every 2 square miles, which is a lot for a place with less than 75,000 people. 11 breweries, 1 cidery and 2 growler fill stations can be found throughout our town, where we take the culture of craft seriously. Breweries are a great place to enjoy a pint or a flight and take in the local charm of the town. Long-time staples, such as Highlander Beer and KettleHouse Brewing, join together with newer spots like Gild and Conflux to round out Missoula's craft beer scene. Draught Works, a local favorite, explains what makes breweries more than just a place to get a drink:
"Draught Works offers an eclectic selection of beer on-tap, ranging from IPAs, to sours, to a variety of experimental styles offering a little something to suit almost anyone's palate, and our house-made Faith's Root Beer is widely adored by locals of all ages. Our inviting family-friendly taproom hosts a variety of revolving local food trucks from March through October with food selections ranging from burgers to Thai food. We also host a number of beer pairing events year-round with local partners."
Did you know that Missoula has a professional symphony? It isn't something that immediately comes to mind when you think of Montana, but it is very much part of the cultural fabric that makes Missoula such a special place. The symphony provides rich color to our town and the arts and cultural scene here. Performances span throughout the year and range from holiday favorites like Holiday Pops! to classical masterpieces. No matter which show you attend, you will leave inspired and amazed:
"The mission of the Missoula Symphony Association is to assure cultural enrichment essential to the quality of life in the Missoula area by providing live symphonic and choral music of the highest quality. We strive to provide musical growth and development for our performers and the Missoula community."
Photo credit: Neubauer Media
Missoula has become a music destination not just for Montana, but for the region as a whole. It seems that every bar, brewery and restaurant has live music to enjoy, but Missoula also brings in headliners to our intimate venues and outdoor amphitheaters year-round. Places like the Wilma Theatre, Top Hat Lounge, KettleHouse Amphitheater, Ogren Park and the Adams Center attract big time names like Bon Iver, Vampire Weekend, Pearl Jam, Chris Stapleton and so many more to play in our charming mountain town where we live for live music.
Our friends at the Missoula Downtown Association share what makes Missoula such a great place to visit year-round:
"It’s the people and the place that make Missoula such a special place. In our community, people care about each other, and they care about the environment that contributes so much to our quality of life. Folks look you in the eye, say hello, and will help you with anything. Missoulians take care of their neighbors and friends, and they also take care of strangers. Missoulians take care of the land, water and air that sustain them. Missoula is a great place to visit year-round because there is always something interesting to experience. Visitors can experience all four seasons through immense outdoor recreation opportunities; we have anything you want to experience right here in the five valleys where three rivers converge. What set Missoula apart, however, is the arts and cultural offerings. We have the best theaters, museums, public art, galleries, breweries and distilleries, farm-to-table restaurants, and places to create whatever you want. Downtown is a great starting point for all things Missoula. With a brand-new hotel and 40 new businesses that have opened in the last year, you can find something for everyone. What you will love the most, however, is how people treat you. Missoulians care about people and place."