Not only is Missoula an outdoor enthusiast dream, it is a vibrant town teeming with cultural experiences and sights. From our distinct neighborhood districts to our eclectic downtown, you really cannot go wrong. But there are few places and event that we would consider "must-dos" and "must-sees" while visiting. Take a look for yourself and be sure to incorporate some or all of these iconic Missoula attractions into your next trip!
A Carousel for Missoula is one of the first fully hand-carved carousels to be built in the United States since the Great Depression. From little more than dreams, hard work and love, a carousel was created by hundreds of volunteers. The Carousel has 38 horses and two chariots. The chariots allow easy access for wheelchairs; people with disabilities are always welcome to ride free on the Carousel.
Love locks have spread across the world, adorning bridges, fences, poles—really anything they can be attached to—symbolizing sweethearts’ love and commitment to one another. Love locks caught on in Missoula nearly a decade ago, and they are still going strong today. Missoula's love lock bridge, officially called the Van Buren Footbridge, crosses the Clark Fork River and connects the Missoula's Eastgate to the University district.
The heartbeat of Missoula, Caras Park is located in downtown Missoula along the banks of the Clark Fork River. Caras Park is home to many of Missoula's events, including Symphony in the Park, Out To Lunch, The Clark Fork River Market, brewfests, gatherings, and so much more.
The University of Montana almost needs its own post when it comes to attractions! Founded in 1893, the university is home to historic and modern architectural buildings, gorgeous landscaping, and art and statues. But perhaps the most iconic UM landmark is the grizzly statue located on the oval. Backdropped by University Hall and the towering Mount Sentinel (the location of the iconic M trail) this is a must-see for all visitors, whether you are a Griz fan or not.
Located in downtown Missoula, the Missoula Art Museum—known as MAM— is Missoula’s free contemporary art museum. MAM is housed in the former Carnegie Library in downtown Missoula, which was renovated in 2006 and now contains eight galleries. The permanent collection at MAM contains more than 2,300 objects and includes the Contemporary American Indian Art Collection. The Missoula Art Park is an outdoor sculpture park located adjacent to the museum galleries and features seasonal installations.
Located at the north end of Higgins Ave in Circle Square, the "Crossing's" sculpture, known around town as the XXXXs, has been in Missoula since 1986. It is Missoula's most iconic work of public art, and definitely the most noticeable! The bright red XXXXs stand at 10 feet tall and are meant to depict the railroad trestles that provided safe passage across the rugid mountains and canyons of Montana.
Surfing is not an activity that comes to mind when one things of Montana, but Missoulians are nothing if not creative and where there is a will, there is a wave. Brennan's Wave is a manmade rave on the Clark Fork River right in the heart of downtown Missoula. Spectators of the wave will find river surfers and kayakers when river conditions allow, and the wave is also a favorite of summer river tubers. There is an observation deck where you can check out the wave safely.
Photo courtesy of The Journal of Lost Time
A local favorite, the short scramble up Mount Sentinel takes you, courtesy of 11 switchbacks, 620 feet above the valley floor in less than half a mile, giving you a bird's-eye view of the entire Missoula valley and surrounding mountains. Originally constructed in 1908 out of whitewashed rocks and later concreted in place, the M is a landmark worth the trek.