Arts & Culture
In Missoula, quality of life takes the spotlight — and it shows.
Something for Everyone
Where else can you kayak a wave, visit an art museum, hike a trail with sweeping vistas, visit two different farmer’s markets, sip a local beer, and see a world-class performance — all within a short walk from the heart of downtown?
Whether you’re excited about film, music, art, spending time in nature, a phenomenal meal with friends, or the rush of finding a perfectly maintained teak dining table at an antique mall, you’ll find ample opportunities for inspiration here. Missoula’s culture is accessible and friendly, with easy access to green space, trails, dog parks, playgrounds, and a pristine river running through the heart of downtown.
If you’re looking for access to a diverse array of outdoor activities minutes from your home or office, Missoula is second to none. The Clark Fork River runs right through the heart of downtown, and it’s common to see people paddleboarding or surfing Brennan’s Wave on their lunch breaks. Winter recreation enthusiasts enjoy access to a downhill ski area located less than a half hour from downtown and numerous groomed and ungroomed trails just minutes away for nordic skiing and snowshoeing. Extensive trail systems for hiking, trail running, horseriding, and mountain biking offer endless options for traversing public lands and wilderness areas without venturing more than a few miles from home. For road cyclists, the Bitteroot Trail offers a 50 mile paved path from Missoula to Hamilton via a scenic route at the base of the Bitteroot Mountains. Camping and backpacking opportunities abound— from car camping at Corrick’s Bend on the Blackfoot River, to a 2.7 mile hike to the Rattlesnake wilderness boundary, to multi-day long distance treks, there’s no need to spend hours in a car to find your best-fit adventure.
Food & Drink
Whether you’re hankering for an exquisitely prepared and presented meal with wine pairings, a no-frills burger with a cheap beer to wash it down, green papaya salad and pad thai, locally roasted coffee accompanied by a pastry right out of the oven, an experimental microbrew, or a double scoop in a homemade waffle cone, Missoula’s food and drink scene has plenty to offer. From microbreweries to dive bars, fine dining restaurants to food trucks, this small city offers metropolitan variety.
In 2019’s “Arts Vibrancy Index Report: Hotbeds of America’s Arts and Culture,” Missoula ranked number 4 for medium-sized cities and in the top 40 of all US cities for arts and culture, the only city in Montana to make the list. This designation comes as no surprise to Missoula’s community, who enjoy the wide range of activities, events, cultural institutions, and entertainment venues on a regular basis.
Missoula is home to the International Wildlife Film Festival, the Big Sky Documentary Film Festival, and the Montana Book Festival, as well as the Missoula Art Museum, and the Montana Museum of Arts and Culture. The Zootown Arts Community Center provides accessible art and music programs for all ages as well as walk-in arts activities, performance spaces, and artist studios. Performance venues include the Kettlehouse Amphitheater, located on the banks of the Blackfoot River and rated in the top 50 music venues in the world, as well as the renowned Missoula Children’s Theater and the Big Sky Brewing Company Amphitheater.
Retail & Shopping
The streets of downtown Missoula are lined with a variety of shops, galleries, and markets, almost all of which are independent and locally owned. Missoula’s Hip Strip, just a short stroll from downtown over the Higgins Street Bridge, hosts even more local retail offerings. Head south down Brooks Street and you’ll find Southgate Mall. With over 100 stores and a dine-in movie theater, Southgate is the largest mall in western Montana. If you’re looking for convenience and one-stop-shopping, North Reserve Street is home to a number of national retailers and big-box stores.