A Californian’s Guide to Living in Montana

By Alexandra Kuchinski

If someone had come from the future four years ago and told me that I would be living in Montana in my early twenties I wouldn’t have believed them.  

As someone who grew up in the heart of a major metropolitan area less than 20 minutes walking from the beach I’m the last person that anyone would have expected to move to Missoula.  

However, with the incentive of a good scholarship, snowboarding and fly fishing I found myself drawn to this little mountain town.  

Although moving to Missoula hasn’t been without its challenges, through trial and error over the last 3 years, I’ve managed to learn a few things about the place that I now call home.

If you’re from any other state than Montana you will get poked fun at. 

Especially if you’re a Californian.

It is completely possible experience all the seasons in a 24 hour period—learn how to dress accordingly or you will get sick.

Where I grew up the most layers I ever needed were a winter and summer hoodie.  Most of the time they were the same hoodie. 

Winter weather is not bad until it there’s wind or the temperature is in the single digits.

Learn and embrace that 40 degrees is t-shirt weather.

Ice is real and you will fall on it in the wintertime no matter how much you penguin walk.

It builds character. 

Everyone knows each other.  Get over it. 

Despite it’s significant geographic size, it’s a small state.  While there are a fair amount of out of state students there are a ton more locals and most of the time they already know each other.  It’s a pretty small town and even smaller school.  Tread carefully.

The food will take getting used to

Salt and pepper will be the most spice that you see.  And although the number of places where you can get a bomb burger or pizza is uncountable the best Mexican food here is still Taco Bell.

The most you will ever dress up will be a nice t-shirt and cowboy boots

Welcome to the wild west

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21 Things to do in Missoula this Summer

Farmer’s Market

Missoula Farmer's Market

It just wouldn’t be a Summer in Missoula, MT without the Farmer’s Market.  Drive, bike, or take the bus downtown and walk around Caras Park to get fresh vegetables, hand-squeezed lemonade, delicious food, and so much more!  While you are enjoying the Farmer’s Market make sure to walk over to Brennan’s Wave to watch the kayakers and surfers do their thing.

For information on days and times you can visit their website:

Missoula Farmer’s Market

 

Raft the Gorge

 Raft the Gorge

Although not technically in Missoula, rafting the Alberton Gorge is definitely a must on the to do list this summer.  Take a few friends, or a small group, find your favorite raft guide and hit the water!

 

Float the Clark Fork

Float the Clark Fork

Of course floating the Clark Fork made the list!  Grab a paddle board, tube, kayak, or raft and get in the water!

 

River City Roots Festival

 River City Roots Festival

End your summer right by attending River City Roots Festival on August 28 and 29 in downtown Missoula.  River City Roots Festival is two days of great food and drinks, live music, activities for the family, and even a 4-mile fun run!

For more information on the River City Roots Festival you can visit their website:

River City Roots Festival

 

Big Sky Brewing Company’s 21st Anniversary

 Big Sky Brewing Company

That’s right! Big Sky Brewing Company has been a fixture in the Missoula community for 21 years!  To celebrate, Big Sky Brewing Company will be hosting their Anniversary party in downtown Missoula at Caras Park on Friday, June 17th from 4pm – 6pm.  There will be 21 world class beers to choose from along with live music, street performers, food, and fun!  The event is free but they will be charging for beer.  What’s better?  100% of the money made from the sale of beer will help a Missoula non-profit group connect the public trail systems around the city.  How could this not be on your Missoula Summer to-do list?

 

Love Boat

 Love Boat

Whether you are a professional kayaker or you are just starting out Love Boat is something that everyone needs to experience.  Every Tuesday night a group of kayakers (from beginners to professionals) go paddling.  It is a great time to connect with others, learn new skills, and just enjoy the Missoula summer.  Never kayaked before? Not a problem.  Stop in at LB Snow and get yourself set up with some gear!

 

Go on a run!

 Missoula Dirty Dash

Typically, I would not suggest running as a fun thing that you have to do this summer.  But, with all of the fun runs in Missoula?  Go on a run!  This summer you can pick from runs like the Insane Inflatable 5k, Missoula Ultimate Wine Run, The Peak Triathlon, The Dirty Dash, and so many more.

To see a full list of runs in Missoula this summer visit:

Running in the USA – Missoula

 

Take a Bike Trolley Tour

 Thirst Gear Bike Trolley Tour

We have all seen Thirst Gear’s Bike Trolley Tour going around downtown Missoula.  This is summertime in Missoula, MT so why wouldn’t you want to go on a 3-hour pub crawl on a bike trolley with a group of people?

To get more information or book your bike trolley tour visit:

Thirst Gear

 

First Friday

 First Friday

Enjoy Missoula’s downtown on the first Friday of each month for the First Friday Art & Food walk.

 

Garden of One Thousand Buddhas

 Garden of One Thousand Buddhas

Serene, beautiful, and located less than an hour outside of Missoula.  The Garden of One Thousand Buddhas is open from dawn til dusk every day and anyone that has visited will tell you it belongs on the list of things to do this summer.

For more information you can visit:

Ewam Buddha Garden

 

Find a favorite hiking spot

 Go on a hike

I know, I know.  It is Missoula so everyone pretty much has their favorite hiking spot already, right?  Well, get out of your comfort zone and find a new one!

 

Explore Rattlesnake Recreation Area

 Rattlesnake Recreation Area

It is all in the title.  Go explore the Rattlesnake Recreation Area and enjoy the beautiful views that Western Montana has to offer.  It is located in Lolo National Forest and is less than an hour drive from Missoula.

 

Mountain bike at SnowBowl

 Mountain Bike at Snowbowl

Mix it up and go mountain biking at SnowBowl!  This mountain is not just for skiing and in the summertime it offers amazing views.  It is definitely a must on the to-do list.

  

Catch an Osprey Game

 Osprey Mascot

Who doesn’t like to grab a hot dog and a beer and catch a baseball game in the summer?  Go support your local Ospreys this summer!

For the schedule you can visit:

Missoula Osprey Schedule 

 

Garden City BrewFest

Garden City Brewfest 

Garden City Brewfest is another item that earned its spot on the list.  End the Missoula Craft Beer Week (April 29 – May 6) right by going to Garden City Brewfest on Saturday, May 7.

For more information on times and pricing you can visit:

Garden City Brewfest – Missoula Downtown

 

Big Sky Brewing Company’s Summer Concert Series

 Concert Series

Big Sky Brewing Company made the list a second time!  Bring a blanket and enjoy the nice weather as you see the amazing artists perform.  Shows are also all ages so how do you beat that?

For more information on featured artists and tickets visit:

Big Sky Brewing Company’s Concert Series

  

Swim at Nimrod Warm Springs

 Nimrod Warm Springs

Did you know there is an underwater cave near Missoula?  This item on the to-do list is, perhaps, the furthest from Missoula but it is an underwater cave!  You can actually swim under the cave and pop out at the other side so of course it is a must.

  

Folf at Blue Mountain, Pattee Canyon, or SnowBowl

Folf Missoula 

Instead of folfing at a typical park this summer change it up and folf at Blue Mountain, Pattee Canyon, or SnowBowl.  Enjoy the amazing views and the great Summer weather.  Even better?  Blue Mountain and Pattee Canyon are dog-friendly.

 

Drink some wine and paint with friends

 Painting with a Twist

This new trend is catching on everywhere and Missoula is no exception.  Grab some friends and paint a picture the right way (holding a glass of wine).

To see upcoming events or schedule a time visit:

Painting With A Twist – Missoula

 

Take a cooking class

 Taste Buds Kitchen

For those of you who do not like spending your entire Summer outdoors take a cooking class at Taste Buds Kitchen.  Although Taste Buds does cater to kids during the day, by night it turns into an adult BYOB kitchen.

For more information you can visit:

Taste Buds Kitchen – Missoula

 

Paddle Board at Seeley Lake

 Seeley Lake

If you want a relaxing day in the outdoors there is nothing more relaxing than paddle boarding.  What better place to paddle board than the beautiful Seeley Lake?

 

 

9 reasons why Portland and Missoula are the same city

kpw

Portland, OR and Missoula, MT have many similarities. From the craft breweries, bike craze, Birkenstocks, outdoors-men, organic foods, diverse restaurants.. Portland Oregon and Missoula Montana have a lot in common. Here are ten reasons, and counting, why these two cities are so similar, and what makes them such great places to live.

Craft Breweries:

brewery

Portland and Missoula are listed in the top ten cities for beer drinkers. Portland beats out Missoula at 3rd place to Missoula’s 8th, but that recognition alone shows how much both cities love beer. There are nearly ten breweries in Missoula alone and Portland has 58 within the city limits.

Biking & Pedestrians:

bikes pdx

Bikers always win in Portland. There are these green bike boxes downtown that allow bikes to wait in-front of cars while at a stop light. If you work downtown, chances are you bike to work and are well familiar with the many bikers all over the roads. In Missoula, there are many bikers as well thanks to the large selection of bike paths in the city, and downtown you can find elevated sidewalks only for biker use.

Organic Foods:

good food store

The Good Food Store, Missoula Fresh Market, Natural Grocers.. Missoula has many options for organic and natural foods and like Portland boasts farmers markets throughout the summer and fall seasons.

City/state pride:

 

MT roots

Montana roots gear is extremely popular in Montana, and in Missoula. Locals sport this clothing to show how much they love this state. Much like Portlander’s and Oregonians wearing the ironic “put a bird on it” shirts and their willingness to show their love for their hometown.

Hiking, Biking, Skiing:

hiking missoula

Missoula is home to great hiking, biking, and skiing trails. You don’t have to go far to see the incredible places this city has to show you. There isn’t a time when there arent people exploring and hiking the “M trail” about the UM campus. Portlanders need to travel a bit further for hiking or skiing, but they are still favored weekend activities. There are also parks within the city, like Forest Park, where you can spend a whole day exploring and enjoying nature.

Spectacular food:

 

pok pok

In Portland, you could eat your way through the city with any kind of food you are looking for. There are incredible and unique restaurants all over the city, not to forget the food carts around downtown that have their own unique food scenes. Missoula has great choices for food as well. Being a college town, you can find great burgers, pizza, and brunch.

A river runs through it:

rowers river

Portland has the Willamette river. Missoula has the Clark Fork. Both rivers run through the middle of the city and are used for recreation. Dragon boats, kayaks, and rowers can be seen on the Willamette, especially during the summer months. A favorite summer time activity of Missoula is floating down the Clark Fork on inter-tubes. The Clark Fork is smaller than the Willamette and makes it easier for fishing and walking along it.

The weather:

snow-Missoula

It snows in Missoula, and it rains in Portland. Both cities are often covered by gloomy gray clouds and have very temperamental and changing weather. While Missoula is well equipped for snow, Portland tends to shut down for less than two inches of snow. Even in April, the mountains around Missoula are covered with a light dusting of snow.

Sports teams:

griz game

Griz games are huge in Missoula. Timbers soccer games are huge in Portland. Portland and Missoula both have huge support for their sports teams and if thousands of screaming fans doesn’t show this I don’t know what does.

PORTLAND, OR - MAY 2: The Timbers Army wave flags at the start of the second half at JELD-WEN Field on May 2, 2013. (Craig Mitchelldyer/Portland Timbers)

 

Portland and Missoula are both incredible cities. Living in Missoula reminds me so much of Portland, which is home for me, has been incredible. These are two cities that are great to live and work in.

Written by; Kelsey McCauley – native Portlander

8 More Foods That You Must Try in Missoula, MT

It’s that time again. Time to dive into 8 more mouthwatering foods that you MUST try in Missoula, Montana. As if the first 10 weren’t delicious and satisfying enough, here’s a list of 8 more dishes to add to your tasty Missoula food repertoire. Trust me, you’ll enjoy them.

Missoula (Mo) Club: Mo Burger

Mo Burger

The Mo Club is popular all hours of the day. Whether you’re lookin’ to get some lunch with your family, grab a beer and shoot some pool with your buddies, or get your midnight drunkin’ snack fix, the Mo Club can hook you up. They have a rather small menu, featuring burgers and shakes, but it’s truly all you need. A Mo Burger begins with ground beef that gets mixed with a generous dose of chopped onions before heading to the flattop grill, enhancing the juiciness and flavor. Now this is where the real magic happens. The grill remains greasy and always crowded with juicy burgers, so you know that your sizzling meat patty will always come out tender and delicious. Choose your cheese, add some bacon, and maybe even make it a double. It comes served on a grilled bun along with pickles and sliced onion. Honestly one of the best, if not the best, burger you will ever have.

Iron Horse Bar & Grill: Tender 501

Iron Horse

The Iron Horse is a cool joint located on Higgins in the heart of downtown Missoula. The dynamic building offers four outdoor seating areas, a huge bar downstairs with plenty of TVs, as well as an upscale bar upstairs known as the 501 Lounge. The menu hosts a variety of dishes, with massive salads, pastas, sandwiches, and much more. The one thing on the menu that you have to try would be the Tender 501. This sandwich starts with perfectly seared tenderloin slices cooked to your personal taste bud preferences. Atop the savory tenderloin sits sweet caramelized onions, and a slathering of slightly spicy sriracha aioli for the perfect balance of flavor. Finish it all off with a cheesy Romano hoagie, and you have one heck of a delicious sandwich. Stop in for Martini Monday or two-for-one well drinks on Thursday for the perfectly satisfying evening at the IHo.

The Depot: Shrimp Won Tons

The Depot Wine Room

This Western steakhouse is best known for its quality steaks, prime rib, seafood and wine selection, as well as its Larry Pirnie artwork. Now, if you’re looking for some delicious upscale dining, this is definitely the place to go, but make sure you begin your meal with this special appetizer. Shrimp Won Tons. These perfectly fried pillows of heaven are filled with chunks of buttery shrimp, velvety cream cheese and oniony chives. They come pilled high and piping hot to your table, alongside a choice of hot mustard and sweet and sour sauces. Pair it with a nice glass of wine or a local brew and you have one perfect Western Montana meal.

Double Front Café: Chicken

Double Front Chicken

The building has been around since 1909 and the chicken has been served since 1935. If you want a little taste of history with your chicken, this is the spot to go. Their motto says “The Best Takes a Little Longer,” meaning that their fresh, never frozen chicken takes about 30 minutes to make. But it is absolutely worth the wait. Choose from light meat or dark meat, or both if you want. This hand-battered and fried chicken is good no matter what part of the bird you choose. Get a side of golden fries and some sweet corn nuggets, and don’t forget the side of pickles! It’s the perfect greasy, salty, cheat-day meal.

Ciao Mambo: Pasta Ravenna

Pasta Ravenna

This beautiful Italian restaurant has figured out how to create the perfect romantic atmosphere. Soothing music, low lighting, and delicious wine will get you in the mood…for some pasta. The dish you have to try is the Pasta Ravenna. Gorgeous, vibrant color comes from the sun dried tomatoes, intertwined in a luscious, creamy roasted garlic cream sauce. Juicy grilled chicken, artichoke hearts, and mushrooms all combine with perfectly cooked bowtie pasta noodles. While you wait for your heaping plate of luxurious carbs, feel free to pick up a crayon or two and create a masterpiece on the white, paper tablecloth. Stop in for the perfect romantic evening for two, or bring the family for a nice night out to decorate the table with the kids. Either way, you will be flawlessly satisfied.

Sweet Peaks: Ice Cream

Sweet Peaks Ice Cream

Sweet Peaks first opened its doors in Whitefish, Montana, but has now expanded to other nearby locations, including a relatively new location in Missoula. Made from cream and milk from local Hutterite dairy farms, as well as other fresh, local Montana ingredients, this ice cream is something special. From pistachio dark chocolate to Lafaza Madagascar Vanilla, there is definitely something for everyone. With a rotating list of flavor offerings, it’s difficult to say which ones to try, so I would suggest sampling them all! Cupcake is my favorite flavor, with rainbow sprinkles of course. The waffle cones are also made fresh daily, and are slightly cakey with a hint of cinnamon. So stop in to get a split waffle cone so that you can try two flavors at a time, and while you’re at it, there’s even doggy ice cream to serve to your best puppy pal. You won’t be disappointed!

Bagels on Broadway: Bagels and Cream Cheese 

Bagels on Broadway

If you are a bagel enthusiast like myself, then you will thoroughly enjoy Bagels on Broadway. This bagel shop opened over 20 years ago on Broadway in Missoula. They offer over 20 different flavors of bagels with a variety of cream cheeses to shmear all over, not to mention a delicious assortment of bagel sandwiches. The chewy bagels are made fresh, in-house, daily and include anything from Cinnamon Raisin to Rosemary Focaccia. Choose from an array of cream cheese spreads such as Bacon Scallion or Honey Walnut. I can’t tell you which combination to try, because there are so many incredible creations to be made! I will tell you, however, that my favorite is the Cornmeal Bagel with Lox cream cheese. Get it toasted and smeared high with yummy cream cheese and you have the perfect jump-start to any morning.

Missoula Brewing Company: Strawberry Wolf Point Wheat

Highlander Brewery

The Missoula Brewing Co. is located off of North Reserve Street in Missoula. They boast a 2,000 square foot taproom with a retractable garage-style door for those warm spring and summer months. Glass windows separates the brewery from the taproom on one side while the Grant Creek flows on the other, all nestled in Cottonwood trees. Sound like a dream? You haven’t even heard about the beer yet. Missoula Brewing Co. offers four flagship Highlander beers that are offered year-round in their taproom: a Northwest IPA, Red Ale, Montana Lager, and an American Bock. One taproom offering that you have to try, however, is called the Strawberry Wolf Point Wheat. A strong strawberry aroma will draw you in, followed by a subtle fruity taste and soft finish. Don’t be skeptical about trying this berry inspired brew, it is truly incredible. Did I mention they have incredible pizza too? I mean beer and pizza? It doesn’t really get better than that. So stop on in and grab a beer and a slice. It makes for the perfect end to a week of amazing Missoula eats.

If you missed the first list of “The 10 Foods That You Must Try in Missoula, MT” you can find it here!