21 Best Things to Do in Missoula, MT

Missoula, MT
Keegan Connell / shutterstock.com

Montana's popularity does not just revolve around the University of Montana; the city of Missoula's serene and adventurous surroundings add to its everlasting popularity.

Nature has always been a source of immense inspiration, and Missoula has plenty to offer.

It is home to acres of unexplored land, reserved forests, hiking trails, and a plethora of outdoor activities that are capable of healing any weary soul.

It is a slice of heaven on earth, a space of escape with its snowcapped mountains, free-flowing rivers, and more.

Various museums are scattered all around Missoula, which allows people to connect to their roots and ever significant history.

Offering a little bit of everything, this city is an excellent place to visit on your next vacation.

Learn more by checking out this list of the best things to do in Missoula, Montana:

Delve in History at Fort Missoula

Exterior of a building at Fort Missoula
Carol Ann Mossa / Shutterstock.com

The Historical Museum at Fort Missoula provides an opportunity for visitors to experience a slice of the rich cultural history of the west.

Dating back to 1877, this museum was previously a camp that sheltered both Italian as well as Japanese American prisoners.

Wooden fence of Fort Missoula
Carol Ann Mossa / Shutterstock.com

Presently, it is used to display the history of the state, the past conditions of the neighborhood, and the routine maintained by everyday soldiers and the town folks.

Guided tours are offered to the children, while adults can self-explore the property, historic structure, and the items displayed.

The museum hosts a number of significant events, such as the Fourth of July at Fort, which is always exciting.

Exterior of a barn at Fort Missoula
Carol Ann Mossa / Shutterstock.com

Roll around the Snow in Montana Snowbowl

Daytime view of Montana Snowbowl
Connor Sandefur / Shutterstock.com

Located just on the outskirts of Missoula, Montana Snowbowl is the perfect destination to celebrate a white winter, especially for people who do not like to be confined in their homes.

The snowcapped slopes offer affordable lodging facilities and a piece of heaven for the skiers.

Slopes of Montana Snowbowl
Evan Lovely, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

For beginners, there is an on-site skiing school that provides an opportunity to learn something new.

The entire temperament of the place changes along with the different seasons.

In the summer, this spot is often occupied by hikers and mountain bikers who aren't afraid to face the rough yet therapeutic terrains.

Sip Wine and Admire Art at the Montana Museum of Art and Culture

Exhibiting all the intricacies that make west what it is, the Montana Museum of Art and Culture successfully captures the spirit of America at its best.

The Montana Museum of Art and Culture was acclaimed as a state museum in the year 2001.

Part of the University of Montana, it is located between a mountain and a river, which makes the location more unique as nature and art intermingle together.

The museum has more than 10,000 original artifacts and artworks scattered across the University campus.

These works of art are showcased in indoor as well as outdoor areas.

Visitors are provided with a map of the campus to avoid the excessive hassle.

Experience the Wilderness at Lolo National Forest

Waters of Lolo National Forest
Robert Mutch / Shutterstock.com

Be one with nature at Lolo National Forest, which was established in 1906 and is located in north Missoula.

It is situated at a commutable distance from the city.

A trail at Lolo National Forest
davidrh / Shutterstock.com

These two million acres of land experience both maritime as well as continental weather, which makes it different from other forests.

A series of outdoor activities, such as hiking, snowshoeing, horseback riding, camping, biking, and more, are available here.

Lolo National Forest promises to deliver tranquility, joy, and entertainment to its visitors.

Reach for the Skies at the Museum of Mountain Flying

People who dream of competing with birds and cutting through the clouds with the help of their aircraft should delve into the history of mountain aircraft.

Missoula recognizes the importance of connecting with its roots; hence, it has preserved the history of aircraft in the Museum of Mountain Flying.

Montana is known to be the birthplace of mountain flying service.

To honor this, Dick Komberec, Stan Cohen, and Steve Smith built the museum in 1993.

It has preserved aircraft of the Wright brothers, vintage places, documents, newspaper recordings, personal accounts, photographs, tape recordings, and many significant artifacts related to aviation history.

Experience the Great Outdoors at the Rattlesnake National Recreation Area & Wilderness

A calypso orchid at Rattlesnake National Recreation Area
Henry Mulligan, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Covering an area of 61,000 acres, the Rattlesnake National Recreation Area & Wilderness provides visitors with a moment of respite.

The land has numerous small streams, waterfalls, and mountain lakes which make it a prominent area for people who are into hiking, jogging, biking, trekking, and all sorts of outdoor recreational activities.

The land inhabits various animals, such as gray wolves, mules, foxes, spot bighorn sheep, caribou, and various types of wetland birds.

Visitors can even take a tour of the land on horseback.

During the winter, visitors will have an opportunity to snowshoe and follow skiing trails.

Learn about Saving Endangered Species Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation

Welcome sign of Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation
Montanasuffragette, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

With passing time, the danger of certain species becoming extinct increases.

Many new foundations have taken the responsibility to save those species.

One such foundation is the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, whose main aim is to protect all varieties of elk and other animals by modifying the surrounding condition to suit their needs.

Exterior of Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation's visitor center
Montanasuffragette, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

A visit to the place will bring visitors close to the native species, as this is an informative tour that exhibits mountain elk and other wild animals.

The tours are detailed enough to get visitors to understand the gravity of conservation.

This is one of the best spots in Missoula for animal lovers.

Attend One of the Many Events That Take Place at Caras Park

When it comes to festivals, special occasions, and any events, Caras Park is the first place that comes to Missoula locals' minds.

This spot is conveniently located beside the Clark Fork River and provides open-air venues for events, such as music festivals, theater, art shows, barbecues, and more.

The two humongous pavilions have the strength to entertain large crowds without exuding a claustrophobic feel.

Caras Park has walking trails and family-centered entertainment, such as chariots, a carousel, and hand-carved horses.

The famous Wilma Theatre overlooks the park and gives one of the most exceptional views.

Visit the Iconic Wilma Theatre

Exterior of Wilma Theatre
Publichall, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Wilma Theatre has uplifted the glory of downtown Missoula since it was built in 1921.

One of the first skyscrapers of Missoula, it holds more than architectural relevance.

Signage of Wilma Theatre
Montanasuffragettes, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

William "Billy" Simons established the theater in honor of his wife, Edna William, who contributed greatly to the theatrical culture.

The biggest names of the entertainment industry find a spot in this theater, as do the tourists.

Sunset over Wilma Theatre
Timothy B. Gordon / Shutterstock.com

Take a Hike at Mount Sentinel

A trail at Mount Sentinel
Jon Bilous / Shutterstock.com

Mount Sentinel, being 1,958 feet tall, gazes over the entire city of Montana.

Located to the east of the University of Montana, it is a perfect hiking spot for tourists.

Standing tall for ages, this was supposedly a part of a colossal glacial lake.

It is known as one of Missoula's best and most accessible hiking destinations.

Mount Sentinel has both natural trails as well as steeper slopes.

Check Out Missoula's Party Scene at the Hip Strip

Missoula's Hip Strip, which is located downtown, seems like a painted picture, and all credit goes to its aesthetic aura.

The streets are lined with picture-perfect boutiques, shops, delicious eateries, and a lot more.

The Hip Strip is where Friday plans are executed in all their glory, with a zillion parties, art shows, and more taking place here.

This is also one of the best places where tourists can shop for souvenirs.

Admire the Beautiful Interiors of Francis Xavier Church

Interior of St. Francis Xavier Church in Missoula
Nagel Photography / Shutterstock.com

The design of Francis Xavier Church is said to be paradoxical because of the stark contrast between its exterior and interior.

The outside of the church follows the common contemporary style of the United States, while the inside of the church resembles European design.

Exterior of Francis Xavier Church
Joseph Thiebes, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Established at the beginning of the 20th century, the tallest church of Missoula is adorned with stained glass, pipe organs, and a wall painting made by Joseph Carignano, who is famous for his artwork and an enormous church bell.

The spiritual setting of the church draws visitors from across the world.

The altar of Francis Xavier Church
Nagel Photography / Shutterstock.com

Explore the Garnet Ghost Town

Abandoned house in Garnet
MISHELLA / Shutterstock.com

The habit of shifting can be traced back to the Stone Age; Garnet is one such town that was called home only to be abandoned.

It is one of the well-preserved ghost towns that remain intact even after a hundred years.

Located in East Missoula, the town was named after the red-colored gem that was found in abundance in the area.

Aerial view of Garnet Ghost Town
Nagel Photography / Shutterstock.com

The people who occupied the land and the homes were in search of gold.

The glory of the past can be comprehended by the last remains of the school, the pubs, the conditions of the home, and the surrounding area.

Garnet Ghost Town is open throughout the year and has properly marked trails and signs to assist the visitors.

During the winter season, it becomes a popular sight for cross country skiing and snowmobiling.

A wooden house at Garnet Ghost Town
MISHELLA / Shutterstock.com

Learn about the State's Flora and Fauna at the Montana Natural History Center

The Montana Natural History Center gives a brief but detailed account of Montana.

Montana's flora and fauna are described with the help of life-like statues, which provides the kids with a basic understanding of the place they inhabit.

The exploration does not end there; the museum also has a replica of a life-sized Tyrannosaurus rex skull.

The museum's property also comprises a library called the Ralph Lee Allen Environmental Education Library, which has a reading nook for children.

There are various things to learn and relearn in the museum, which will be amusing for both the adults and the kids.

Sip on the Finest Wine at Ten Spoon Vineyard & Winery

Ten Spoon Vineyard & Winery is situated in Rattlesnake Valley and covers an area of 7.5 acres with a beautiful view of the mountain in its background.

The vineyard and winery are managed by the natives who have a strict policy of safeguarding the land from the touch of urbanity.

The vineyards are not exposed to artificial chemicals or manure, and only organic fertilizers are used.

The Rattlesnake River is the vineyard's source of water.

Tasting events are held on weekends throughout the year.

Visitors also get an opportunity to relax and enjoy live music while they enjoy their wine paired with salami or cheese.

Appreciate the Work of Local Artists at the Missoula Art Museum

The Missoula Art Museum was built in the year 1975.

It showcases various artworks by famous artists of the United States, but they bestow special attention on the indigenous people and their work—especially artists who are from Montana.

The museum holds various national and international art exhibits, which are open to all.

They also provide educational art-related workshops to children and adults, along with guided tours if necessary.

The museum's most noteworthy feature is its Contemporary American Indian Art Collection.

Spend a Day Rafting on Missoula's Waters

Rafting in Clark Fork River
travelingdani / Shutterstock.com

The land of Missoula is filled with fun and adventurous activities, and rafting is one such activity that is unique to the place.

Clark Fork River Rafting is a fantastic choice for family-oriented activities.

A section called Alberton Gorge is segregated from the modern chaos of the cities and is surrounded by reddish-colored hills.

People below seven years of age are restricted from the area due to safety measures.

The space has warm and quiet pools where visitors can take a dip.

For beginners, professional guides are available to help with the first rafting experience.

Step into the World of Insects at the Missoula Butterfly House and Insectarium

The Missoula Butterfly House and Insectarium was established in the year 2015.

It features varieties of bugs and insects in its collection, teaching the importance of life and evolution.

Learning through the help of practice and visual aids has always been informative and helpful; this insectarium takes this concept in stride and is exceptional at giving guided and educational tours to children.

There are various educational programs that are age-centric and innovative.

The museum educates the kids, teaching them to be kinder towards nature and to understand the importance of insects.

Swoosh Down Splash Montana's Waterslides

Splash Montana Waterpark is a fantastic location to visit on a hot day.

The park offers life jackets for children, flotation devices for those heading to the lazy river, and giant slides for everybody to enjoy.

There are three separate slides: red represents fast slides, the yellow ones are slower, and the orange slides are for tube use only.

Another of this water park's awesome features is its kiddy wade pool, which is situated next to a shallow pool that the entire family can enjoy.

Splash Montana also features a very big lap pool for the swimmers, which is about eight feet deep.

There are tons of deck chairs and loungers so everyone can lay back and relax while they're at it.

Best of all, there's lots of grass to go around, where one can lay a blanket or towel and hang out.

There are two cabanas for rent, along with shaded areas where you can stay out of the sun.

The tubes here are free, but food and beverages must be purchased at the snack bar.

Located in historic downtown Missoula, Dana Gallery is Montana's largest gallery dedicated exclusively to contemporary photography.

Since opening its doors at a time when most galleries were displaying more traditional works of art, this cutting-edge space has influenced much of the area's art community by providing an important venue for emerging and established artists in the region.

Now that they're all grown up, Dana Gallery also represents many accomplished Western painters as part of their ever-growing unique collection.

Although the subject matter of Dana Gallery's paintings relates to the character of the area, which is undeniably beautiful, what can truly reside within the blossom of the canvas is timeless and universal.

They understand that original art is a deeply personal investment, adding emotional value to any home or work environment.

While some artwork appreciates in value over time, they believe that it's important to consider every piece's words' tangibility, as well as its emotional pull.

Having an artist create an original piece allows one to take part in a process unique only to them.

Enjoy a Game of Bowling at Westside Lanes & Fun Center

Westside Lanes & Fun Center is a family-friendly bowling establishment that offers 36 state-of-the-art lanes where you are welcome to bowl at your leisure.

With blaring music and stylish lighting on the weekends and towards the end of their operating hours, it's a fantastic place to hang out.

The menu has some really spicy food and delightful drinks for both kids and adults.

There's also a bar, casino, and arcade games like claw machines that visitors of all ages can enjoy.

Here, you'll also find a great snack bar that offers incredible cheeseburgers, some of the best wings, French dip sandwiches with tender beef, delicious pizza, and milkshakes, among so many others.

Final Thoughts

Missoula is one of the most scenic towns in Montana, and there is lots of art to be found all across the city.

This city has plenty of things to look at, from a wide range of man-made objects to nature's stunning creations.

Missoula also has a lot to offer when it comes to satisfying your stomach, as many restaurants serve traditional homecooked meals and artisan sandwiches.

You should know that there is a great variety of cool things to experience around Missoula with different avenues, so make sure you create an itinerary that suits your needs!

Spotted a mistake, have some feedback, or just want to chat with our editorial team? Click here to get in touch.
Find out more about Travel Lens and read our editorial guidelines here.