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Missoula is often considered Montana’s most hip and vibrant destination. Although steeped in history and surrounded by nature, Missoula exudes a youthful and energetic atmosphere. Known for its trendy eateries, funky shops, cool street art and exciting music scene, visitors will find plenty of things to do in Missoula, Montana.
What To Do: Missoula, Montana
For our trip plan, we sought out the best places to go in Missoula. We were somewhat limited in that we only had one day in Missoula – but we were determined to make the most of it! We created a list of the top things to do in Missoula, MT and are sharing our tips with our fellow travelers in this Missoula travel guide.
Best Things To Do in Missoula, Montana
Our list of Things To Do: Missoula, MT is perfect for visitors short on time who want to see the highlights. In addition to featuring the top tourist attractions in Missoula, Montana that can be seen in one day, we also share some recommendations we received for longer stays.
Other pertinent information for a planning a vacation in Missoula, like how to get there and where to stay, is included at the end of the article.
Save, Pin or Bookmark this Missoula To-Do List so that you can access it while planning your Montana Trip!
#1 Discover Downtown Missoula
The best place to start your discovery of the City of Missoula, MT is at the heart of it in the downtown district.
Higgins Avenue is the main thoroughfare through historic downtown Missoula – and walking the length of it is one of the top Missoula things to do. The street is lined with some of the best Missoula tourist attractions, modern eateries, boutique shops and art galleries.
Top Downtown Missoula Attractions
On your discovery of the Missoula downtown area, we highly recommend wandering and letting your senses lead the way. That said, we are highlighting a few of the top Missoula, MT attractions that visitors don’t want to miss.
The Wilma Theater
The historic Wilma Theater – or just The Wilma – was built in 1921. It was the first steel-framed high-rise building in Missoula. Today, attending an event at The Wilma is one of the fun things to do in Missoula at night.
The theater is used for a wide range of entertainment – from theatrical plays to independent films to stand up comedy.
A riverside park near the center of downtown Missoula, Caras Park is an inviting grassy green space that is ideal for walks, picnics and lounging. During the warm summer months, Caras Park hosts numerous community events.
The playground and the famous carousal are top family fun things to do in Missoula.
Missoula County Courthouse
Taking up an entire city block, the Missoula County Courthouse is an architectural gem. Built in the early 1900s, the classical courthouse features ornate columns and a dominating bell tower.
Stepping inside to see the murals depicting the history of Montana is one of the interesting Missoula things to do.
Missoula Public Library
While some travelers might wonder why they should visit a public library on their trip, the Missoula City Library is extraordinary – and well worth a peek! Named the ‘World’s Best Public Library ‘ in 2022 (the first library in the United States to receive the award), the innovative building features a unique design that reflects the region. Additionally, the top floor features an outdoor terrace that provides stunning Montana mountain views!
Pro Tip: Visitors interested in understanding a little bit more about the history of Missoula can set off on this Self-Guided Walking Tour.
More Things To Do in Downtown Missoula, MT
Although we prefer to discover new destinations by walking and observing, Missoula sightseeing is not just limited to city strolling. Fellow travelers might want to check out the following downtown Missoula, Montana things to do.
Downtown Missoula Museums
Visitors interested in touring museums in Missoula have a few to choose from in the downtown area.
Missoula Art Museum
The Missoula Art Museum features a collection of contemporary artworks by Montana artists, plus a rotation of traveling exhibits. There is no charge to enter the museum – it is one of the Free Things To Do Missoula, MT!
Boone and Crockett Club
The Boone and Crockett Club Missoula Museum is a small one-room museum focused on local wildlife. In addition to viewing trophy animals, visitors learn about the story of the Boone and Crocket Club, how they were founded (including how Teddy Roosevelt helped) and their mission in preservation.
As a bonus, the museum in housed in the historic Old Missoula Train Station. Visiting the B&C Museum – even to just see the building – is one of the unique things to do in Missoula, MT USA.
The Montana Natural History Center
With exhibits that pertain to the flora and fauna of Montana and an outdoor adventure garden, visiting the Natural History Museum is an excellent activity when visiting Missoula.
Downtown Missoula Art Galleries
In addition to museums, there are also several art galleries in Missoula, MT – many of which are located near the intersection of Higgins and Main Street.
Dana Gallery, 4 Ravens Gallery, Relic Gallery and Radius Gallery are consistently top recommendations by locals and visitors alike.
Riverfront Walking Trail
The Clark Fork River runs through the center of Missoula – and both the north and south banks are lined with inviting walking paths. One of the fun things to do in Missoula is to stroll along the river on the Clark Fork Riverfront Trail and take in the views from the Brennan’s Wave Overlook.
Another one of the fun downtown Missoula activities is shopping at the different markets on various days of the week. The Missoula Farmer’s Market is open on Saturday mornings and Tuesday evenings and has been selling in-season produce and fresh-baked goods since 1972. Now, along with popular food trucks, live music is often featured in the summer. The Missoula People’s Market and the Clark Folk Market, both open only on Saturdays, are also great to explore and shop local Montana goods!
#2 Eat Ice Cream at Big Dipper Missoula
I will be honest: This is not one of the secret things to do in Missoula. Big Dipper Ice Cream Missoula is legendary – and getting an ice cream cone from Big Dipper is one of the fun activities in Missoula. There will likely be a line of people waiting to order at the walk-up window. No worries, though; the line moves fast and it’s worth the wait!
Established in 1995, the shop has won heaps of foodie awards for their huge scoops of handmade ice cream. We didn’t believe they would be as big as advertised, so we each ordered a one-scoop cone…and could barely finish them both. We selected two of Big Dipper’s most popular flavors – Huckleberry and Mint Oreo – both of which were fabulously creamy and deliciously good!
#3 Do Some Shopping in Missoula at Rockin Rudy’s
We were on the hunt for weird things to do in Missoula when we came across Rockin Rudy’s. Perhaps not so much strange as fascinating, the shop claims to be the Original Hipster Department Store. For us, it was an absolute feast for the senses and one of the fun things to do in Missoula, MT.
The eclectic record shop opened in Missoula in 1982 – and has grown to include an astounding array of local goods, gag gifts and sweet treats. Rockin Rudy’s has become one of the top Missoula, Montana attractions – and we can see why! Our top priority was checking out the vinyl, but we were easily lured into other sections of Rockin Rudy’s to ogle the myriad of fun and funky products.
#4 Visit The University of Montana Campus
The University of Montana – the second-largest university in the state with more than 10,000 students – is a top contributor to the youthful vibe of the city. Spending time walking through campus is one of the fun and free things to do in Missoula, MT.
The campus is rather large – so, if you are short on time, head directly for The Oval. Marking the heart of campus, The Oval is one of the top things to see in Missoula. At the center of the spacious lawn is The Great Griz, a bronze sculpture of the university’s Grizzly Bear mascot. Beyond the bear is the iconic University Hall backdropped by Mount Sentinel.
In fact, one of the popular activities in Missoula, MT is hiking up Mount Sentinel to the giant M. Because we were resting our legs from the day’s previous hike in Glacier National Park, we skipped the steep climb of switchbacks, which zigzag for three-quarter’s of a mile up to the M – but we saw plenty of people making their way up the trail for the best view of Missoula.
#5 Drink Montana Craft Beer at Breweries in Missoula
After a long day of sightseeing, one of the best things to do in Missoula is to sit down, relax and sip a locally produced Montana craft beer. There are nearly a dozen craft breweries in Missoula where thirsty patrons can get fresh microbrews.
Bayern Brewing Company, which ranks as the oldest craft brewer in Montana (founded in 1987), and Big Sky Brewing, which is the state’s largest craft brewery (and maker of Moose Drool), are both located in Missoula. However, Draught Works is our favorite Missoula microbrewery (try the Scepter IPA!).
While we love visiting brewery taprooms, there are also several Missoula bars that serve up selections from several local brewers. A dive bar, The Rhino, offers 50 beers on tap making it one of the best bars in Missoula, MT for beer drinkers.
Downtown Missoula Map
Use this map to help you find the things to see in Missoula, MT that we listed above! Use this link to Google Maps for the same Missoula street map with locations online.
More Things To Do in Missoula
Above, we outlined what to do in Missoula, MT with one day – however, there is more fun stuff to do in Missoula! Fellow travelers can use these tips for Missoula attractions to expand their trip itinerary.
Missoula Street Art (The Hip Strip)
South of the Clark Fork River along S Higgins Ave is the area of Missoula sometimes referred to as the Hip Strip. Street art features prominently in the district, along with vintage stores and several specialty shops, cafes and restaurants.
Concerts in Missoula
Missoula is known for its music scene – and attending a concert is one of the fun things to do in Missoula, Montana. From jazz to rock, Missoula concerts take place in venues across the city – from cool outdoor amphitheaters to elegant recital halls. Rockin Rudy’s is a great place to pick up concert tickets – they sell tickets to nearly every venue in town!
In addition to concerts, there are several music festivals in the city throughout the year – like Symphony in the Park, Bonner Park Band Concerts and Out To Lunch.
Music festivals are not the only events in Missoula – so be sure to check the event calendar for things taking place during your trip. Missoula has a full line up of festive annual events featuring community, art, food, wine and beer.
A few of Missoula’s largest events are the February Big Sky Documentary Film Festival held at The Wilma, the Garden City Brewfest at Caras Park and the Western Montana Fair and Rodeo at the Missoula County Fairgrounds.
More Missoula Museums
Wondering what to do in Missoula, Montana on a cold or rainy day? Put one of these fun and educations museums on your Things To Do Missoula, Montana list!
The Smokejumper Visitor Center
Battling wildfires is serious business in the western United States – and Smoke Jumpers are often called on to do the job. At the Smoke Jumper Visitor center, guests can learn about what these select firefighters do – and how they do it.
Incredibly informational and quite interesting, taking a tour is one of the unique Missoula, Montana activities for visitors.
The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation
The Elk Country Visitor Center is an interactive museum dedicated to…you may have guessed, elk. Visitors can learn about the magnificent animals through displays, quizzes and films.
The Historical Museum at Fort Missoula
A preserved historical park sharing the rich history of the region, Ft. Missoula is a fascinating place to visit to learn about the past.
The grounds are always open and free – and there is only a small fee for visitors to enter the museum and buildings – which makes it one of the best cheap things to do in Missoula, MT.
Missoula Butterfly House and Insectarium
A small museum displaying live critters from around the globe, visitors can get up close and personal with the bugs – and even hold some!
The National Museum of Forest Service History
Located near the Missoula, MT airport, the US Forest Service museum boasts an astounding number of historical artifacts. Visitors are also able to walk an interpretive trail – as well as see a fire lookout and timber pavilion. The Conservation Legacy Center is set to open in 2024.
Outdoor Things To Do in Missoula, MT
Missoula is part of the Glacier Country region in Montana – so it’s no wonder that nature is one of the top Missoula, MT attractions. Hiking and biking are fantastic ways to immerse yourself in the natural surroundings of Montana and there are many excellent parks near Missoula to do so.
Biking in Missoula
Missoula is a bike-friendly city – and there are numerous bike trails in Missoula that lead to amazing nature. If you don’t have a bicycle, you can rent one at one of the many bike shops in Missoula.
Hiking in Missoula
We already mentioned that the M Trail is one of the best hikes near Missoula – but there are other hikes around Missoula, too! The L Trail, on adjacent Mount Jumbo, is not as difficult as the hike to the M. From the L, there is another hike, The Backbone Trail, that connects to other Jumbo hikes, too.
Best Outdoor Recreation Parks near Missoula
While hiking and biking are two of the top Things To Do Missoula, MT, there are ample recreational areas just outside of the city for more fun in nature.
Rattlesnake National Recreation Area
For some of the best hiking near Missoula, check out Rattlesnake Wilderness Area. Just a few miles north of the city, visitors can plan a full day of hiking, biking and horseback riding adventures at the Rattlesnake National Recreation Area and Wilderness.
Montana Snowbowl is the premier place in Missoula for skiing and snowboarding during the winter months. However, in the summertime, visitors can still enjoy chairlift rides, ziplining, mountain biking and hiking at Snowbowl.
Blue Mountain Recreation Area and the Lolo National Forest
Although close to Missoula, hikers and bikers feel a world away when hitting the 41 miles of trails in Lolo National Forest. Just two miles southwest of the city, the area features a range of trails – from novice to experienced.
Don’t want to hike at all? Visitors can simply drive to the top of Blue Mountain for exceptional views – it’s one of the best Missoula, MT things to do!
Pattee Canyon Recreation Area
An excellent park for a variety of activities, visitors can go hiking, biking, snowshoeing and geocaching at Pattee Canyon Recreation Area. In the summer and autumn, it’s also a great place for picking wild berries. Just be bear aware!
Food in Missoula
On our trip, we were more interested in the things to see than finding the best places to eat in Missoula (well, except for Big Dipper!). That said, we did get some tips of the best food in Missoula for fellow travelers who want to get a taste of the local fare.
Best Restaurants in Missoula
Our list of the best places to eat in Missoula, MT is inspired by fellow travelers and locals, too! We include options for dining in Missoula for every meal.
Best Coffee Shops in Missoula: Liquid Planet, Black Coffee Roasting Company and Break Espresso
Best Breakfast in Missoula: The Catalyst Café, Market on Front and Bernice’s Bakery
Best Lunch in Missoula: El Cazador, Five on Black and Basal
Best Burger in Missoula: The Missoula Club and Wally & Buck
Best Dinner in Missoula: The Notorious PIG BBQ, Plonk and The Oxford Café
Day Trips from Missoula
While there is plenty to do in the city, there are many things to do near Missoula, MT, too! In fact, our visit to Missoula was a day trip from Glacier National Park. We are highlighting a few top picks for what to do in Missoula, MT for a day trip.
Garnet Ghost Town
Once a thriving gold mining town, Garnet is now an abandoned ghost town. The log cabins – which date to the 1890s – are well preserved and decorated with artifacts from the town’s mining days. Garnet Ghost Town is about a 1 hour drive from Missoula.
The largest freshwater lake west of the Mississippi, Flathead Lake features stunning views and summertime water activities. The shoreline is dotted with small towns that are also interesting to explore. The south shore of Flathead Lake is about 75 minutes from Missoula.
More Top Things To Do Near Missoula
Montana is an enormous state – so destinations are spread far and wide. That said, visitors could plan a road trip or overnight stay at these places near Missoula.
As we already mentioned, Glacier National Park is not far from Missoula – just a 2.5-hour drive. However, we don’t think that leaves enough time to really visit the park and enjoy GNP hikes.
Longer than a day trip, but well-worth the drive, is Yellowstone National Park. The park is about a 4.5-hour drive from Missoula, so we recommend staying at least one night at the park to explore.
We provide more tips on top-rated things to do near Missoula in our complete driving guide to the state, Ultimate Montana Road Trip!
Travel Tips for Planning a Missoula Trip
Now that you know the top attractions in Missoula, MT, we have a few essential tips for planning your trip!
Missoula Trip Planning Organization
Whether you are planning to visit Missoula in one day or are staying for a week, you will want to make sure that you keep track of the details of your trip. We recommend using a travel planner – like our Trip Planning Printables! for your trip to Montana.
Missoula experiences all four seasons. In the summertime, the weather in Missoula can be hot and dry – with temperatures in July and August reaching the 90s. Meanwhile, the long Montana winters bring cold and snowy weather.
In our opinion, the best time to go to Missoula for ideal weather is in the autumn when the weather is most pleasant for outdoor sightseeing and activities in nature. Although, we hear that the spring in Missoula is pretty, too – as flowers are in bloom and the skies are deep blue!
How To Get to Missoula
We visited Missoula as part of our western Montana adventure – driving for the day from Glacier NP. Highway 93 or the scenic Highway 83 are the two most direct routes to Missoula from northwestern Montana. Missoula is well-connected via highway to other underrated destinations, like Helena, Butte, Bozeman and Spokane.
For visitors who want to fly, there is an airport in Missoula, MT – the Missoula International Airport (MSO) – which is served by major US carriers (like Delta, United and American Airlines) as well as regional airlines. Year-round direct flights to Missoula are available from many major US hub airports such as Phoenix, Portland, San Francisco, Seattle and Denver. For the best prices, search for flights to Missoula on Skyscanner.
Use our guide to Finding the Best Flights at the Best Prices!
Where To Stay in Missoula
Our trip to Missoula was a day trip adventure, but we had heavily considered staying in Missoula and did a lot of research regarding accommodations.
Airbnb Missoula, Montana
Airbnb is our go-to resource for finding accommodations worldwide – and there are many listings in Missoula, too. We love staying in Airbnb apartments because we usually find they are more spacious than hotel rooms, most have a kitchen and the local host can be a valuable resource.
That said, for quick trips to Missoula, Airbnb can be more of hassle (and actually cost more due to the ever-increasing fees) than staying in a hotel. Be sure read our Tips for Airbnb Guests before booking your Missoula accommodations.
Hotels in Downtown Missoula, MT
Guests who would rather stay in a hotel have plenty of choices that range from budget to luxury. For hotel stays, we recommend staying in the heart of town, where the top things to do in Missoula are within walking distance. The Residence Inn by Marriott is ideally located near Higgins Avenue and gets rave reviews from fellow travelers.
What To Pack for your Missoula Trip
Once you make your Missoula To-Do List, you will need to decide what to pack in your backpack or suitcase. We have a few tips to help get your started – and offer more tips in our Packing Hacks and Ultimate Packing List articles. Need a packing checklist? Get your FREE printable checklist here!
Walking Shoes for City Sidewalks and Trails
One of the fun (and cheap) things to do in Missoula, MT is to explore on foot. The city is incredibly walkable – but you will want to make sure you pack a pair of comfortable walking shoes for travel.
Missoula, MT Map for Getting Around
We shared our Map of Missoula sights above, but travelers who plan on hitting the trails and exploring more of the region will benefit from having a paper map on hand. The National Geographic Map covers Missoula as well as the Mission Mountains.
Travel Camera for Montana Photography
We’ve highlighted the top things to see in Missoula, Montana – and we can verify that the sights are beautiful! To capture that beauty, make sure you pack a good travel camera for your trip.
Day Pack for Montana
No matter how you pack for your trip, when exploring Montana it is best to carry a day bag that will conveniently hold all of your everyday travel items – like your camera, phone, keys, travel umbrella and other necessities!
We Want To Know: What would you add to our list of Things To Do: Missoula, Montana? Give us your best tips and advice for Missoula, Montana activities in the comments below!
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