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Thursday, November 20, 2014

Visiting Montana For Less

Last month I was invited to a lunch with the Montana Visitor’s Bureau where I got to hang out with some really cool ladies from Missoula, Glacier National Park, Bozeman and more. I had toyed around with the idea of visiting Montana, but it’s one of those destinations that has just gotten pushed down the list of places to go, even though I live in Portland and the drive is shorter than the one to Reno, Vegas and Los Angeles, all of which I’ve made in the past – some more than once.

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Maybe Montana has not been on your radar as an awesome vacation destination either, but it can be. You don’t have to be into skiing or other winter sports to find something to do there, though they have some really amazing places to ski. One resort has over 100 ski runs, so if you are into that, there’s no shortage of runs for all levels of skiers.

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If you’re looking for a more urban trip, Missoula has a little bit of everything. The downtown area is historic and has more than 120 boutique shops – perfect for those who like to find unique items on their trips either for themselves or as gifts – and is very walkable. I love that, since you don’t have to spend money on cabs or gas if you don’t want to. For a more conventional shopping experience, head to South Gate Mall, the largest mall in Montana, or South Crossing for all your favorite brand name stores.
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Get outside and see what Missoula has to offer. Three rivers converge in the city, where many water activities take place, including paddle boarding and river surfing. On specific days of the week, you can take free paddle board lessons or take paddle board yoga classes with your dog. Now, I don’t even know how well I would do yoga alone, but if I had a water-loving dog, this would definitely be something to try.

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Montana is very dog-friendly, which means you can wander the city with your furry friends and be welcomed most places. Enjoy a meal with them at your side at many restaurants without outdoor seating. Bison burgers are a definite must-try when you’re out sampling the local cuisine. If you like to kick back with a cold one or glass of wine, Montana has a blossoming brewery and winery scene. There are eight breweries and wineries that serve up delicious microbrews and wine that is both made with grapes grown locally and those that are shipped in from other states.

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Caras Park is where you will find a ton of different festivals. The covered pavilion houses one of the country’s coolest carousels. It is one of the fastest and was hand carved by Missoula residents. If you want to get some exercise, the park also offers some lovely walking/running trails. Fall may be the off-season for visiting Montana, but it’s also when you will see the leaves turning and can indulge in some major leaf-peeping, giving you the opportunity for taking some gorgeous photos of the changing season.

Between farmers markets, the emerging food truck community, art galleries and affordable hotels and vacation rentals there is something for everyone in Missoula and other Montana cities. You will find a lot of ways to keep your whole family entertained and keep your wallet from totally emptying out.

{Stay tuned for more in-depth posts on vacationing in Montana.} If you've ever visited Montana, what would you suggest for new visitors?
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