I remember the first time hearing about Missoula from a friend. She shared fond memories of time well spent in this happening town, set along the Clark Fork River. Memories of live music, a bustling nightlife, and an appreciation for the wilderness that's at the fingertips of downtown — needless to say I was excited to see it for myself.
Winter doesn't seem to stop the heartbeat of Missoula, Montana. In fact, the dreamy snow-topped brick buildings add to the charm of the downtown. The restaurants feel that much cozier, the distilleries and breweries are filled with life, and bundled-goers move through the city as if nothing has changed.
I was pleasantly surprised — the city felt like the best of a historic Western town coupled with a lively spirit. Even better, you could be cross-country skiing or snowshoeing in the mountains in a matter of a quick drive. It was the best of both worlds. After traversing through a downtown that captured my heart in a matter of minutes, my thirst for more time to experience the culture of Missoula deepened. Arriving to winter in Missoula was magical, and getting an inside experience to this hub even more exciting.
Checkout how to spend a winter visit in this Missoula, Montana city guide!
The Winter City Guide to Missoula
Good to Know:
- Direct flights into Missoula International Airport are available from major hubs like Denver, Salt Lake City and more.
- The downtown is walkable and there is plenty of parking. A car is suggested to get the most of the city, as well as the opportunity to go outdoors.
- Bring layers, a good pair of shoes with grip are needed, and a proper winter jacket will be your best friend.
Where to Stay in Missoula:
- Holiday Inn Missoula Downtown: Set in the heart of downtown, the Holiday Inn has the best location for access to the heart of the city. As the hotel is going through a renovation, be sure to book on the fourth floor in the newly finished rooms. The design is modern with clean lines and the room outfitted perfectly.
Where to Eat/Drink in Missoula:
- The Catalyst Cafe & Espresso Bar: A cozy spot for a great brunch, lunch, or even just breakfast. Seats by the large front window offer a great view into downtown. Their food is delicious and homey.
- The Pearl Cafe: Inside a historic brick building, this French-inspired restaurant offers an elevated dining experience. The menu changes, highlighting local ingredients.
- Red Bird Wine Bar: Inside an art-deco space, pull up a chair at the bar for a great selection of wines and extensive menu.
- Caffe Dolce: An Italian restaurant serving food all day inside a vaulted ceiling room that have the most beautiful paintings. It's the spot for a romantic meal.
- Plonk Missoula: A wine bar in the heart of downtown paired with incredible charcuterie plates.
- Zootown Brew: This is the kind of coffee shop every town should have — a great pour, exposed brick walls, and plenty of seating to choose from.
- Montgomery Distillery: The interior of this place is dialed, with design that is perfected. Using locally-sourced grain, the distillery produces it's own alcohol on location, then serves it in their fantastic cocktail menu.
- Kettlehouse Brewery: You're going to wish you could get this beer back at home after your first taste. With two locations, stop in for a tasting and be sure to try their iconic Cold Smoke.
- Butterfly Herbs: A local tea house that serves a fresh pot of tea and sells an array of goods.
What to Do in Missoula
- Shop downtown: Take a peak at the many stores in downtown, like Cloth & Crown, One Eleven, Noteworthy, and Green Light.
- Catch a show at The Wilma Theater: The lovely historic theatre offers an array of shows, from films to top-performing musicians. Be sure to keep your eyes peeled for who's in town.
- Explore Art: The Missoula Art Museum offers an array of rotating exhibits. An easy spot to spend the afternoon in.
- Cross-country ski in the great outdoors: Both Pattee Canyon and Rattlesnake National Recreation Area offer many trails to explore.
- Go for a soak and/or stay overnight: A short drive away, Quinn's Hot Springs is favorited by guests. You can go for the day and soak in their hot springs with a brew in hand or stay overnight in their adorable riverside cabins.
- See the local wildlife: Along the drive to Quinn's Hot Springs, is the National Bison Range. Here, you can self-drive through a park that hosts many bison, elk, deer, and antelope.
- Explore Hip Strip: Named accordingly, as this block of locally owned restaurants and shops boast an array of things to do and see.
- See the beauty of Seeley Lake: A photogenic lake that includes a drive worth it alone — perfect to get outdoors.
*Bon Traveler was welcomed as a guest of Glacier Country Tourism. As always, all opinions are own.