Montana’s nickname—Big Sky Country—is definitely warranted. Its vast blue expanse appears to rise higher and wider than any I’ve seen before. It’s the same sky, yet somehow it’s different. Puffy white clouds dance across and as you drive through the state, there isn’t much to see that isn’t all natural.
Every once in a while, you come across a big town. As a Californian, the towns aren’t what I’m used to. Instead, the quaint downtown areas have a small-town feel. Bozeman is no different except that it has a definite artsy feel and plenty of activities for everyone.
If you’re planning a longer trip to check out the great state of Montana, read our guide for a road trip that starts in Billings and goes through Bozeman!
Getting to Bozeman
Known for hiking, gorgeous views and impressive wildlife, Bozeman is on a lot of outdoorsy travellers to-visit lists. However, not everyone knows exactly where the city is and how to get there. Bozeman is located in southwest Montana’s Gallatin County, and sits in the middle of two entrances to Yellowstone National Park. The Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport is the best airport to fly into for your Bozeman trip, just 8 miles northwest of the city. If you can snag a cheaper flight to Billings Airport, it’s only about a 2 hour drive from the city.
Visit the Shops Downtown
Colorful banners adorn the glass lampposts, decorated with little pink flowers. Most of the storefronts feature massive window displays set in the lower half of the brick-and-stone buildings. Certain windows, like that of the Great Rocky Mountain Toy Company, are especially eye-popping and will be sure to bring out the little kid in you.
Lovers of home goods and decor will want to check out Heyday, a lifestyle boutique filled with a bunch of fun items. Grab new dishes or kitchen utensils, unique jewelry, colorful scarves, packets of flower seeds, patterned aprons and more. If you’re looking for gifts for friends and family back home, you will no doubt find them here.
While downtown, make sure you pay a visit to Country Bookshelf, the largest independent bookstore in Montana. Peruse the many fiction and non-fiction titles and enjoy the homey feel of the space. This is also a great destination for gifts – they offer complimentary gift wrapping as well as gift certificates.
Grab a Bite (And a Drink)
When you get hungry, try the Mackenzie River Pizza Company. Their selection of soups, salads, pastas and flatbreads will give you plenty of options to choose from. You can also try one of their specialty pizzas like the Bear Tooth Sausage pizza or the Rancher pizza.
Downtown Bozeman also has a number of brewery companies in their historic district. With no shortage of bars and pubs, the area is certainly worth exploring. Bozeman Spirits Distillery is a must-visit, with and offers a variety of retail items to take home with you after a visit to their tasting room.
In the mood for something sweet? Check out Stuffed Crepes & Waffles for your sugar fix and to get the energy you need for your downtown stroll.
Focus on Art
Bozeman is an artistic town, which is clear just by a walk down the sidewalks. All along Main Street, traffic control boxes have become works of art. As part of the A.R.T. Project, local artists painted wraps for the boxes that provide the city with beautiful artwork and discourage vandalism. Since each box has a different painter associated with it, each has a different style, subject and colors. Most feature different animals while others feature old images from the town’s past, vintage cars, people or flowers.
Music is also a big part of the town’s fun. Held on the front lawn of the public library, the summer concert series Music on the Green draws a large crowd to listen to local performers during twilight. From Americana and blues to rock and jazz, there is something for everyone throughout the summer.
The Story Mansion
Just a few blocks from Main Street is the Story Mansion, one of only three city-block mansions in the state. The historic landmark was built in 1910 but has since been converted into a public space featuring a community center. While the mansion can be rented out for events like carnivals, it also hosts its own events like the Story Under the Stars movie viewing party and Witches’ Night at the Mansion held each Halloween.
At the End of the Day
Once the day has ended and you’re ready to relax, head to the Gallatin River Lodge for the night. It’s about fifteen minutes outside of the downtown area, but its secluded atmosphere is the perfect place to wind down after running around the city. The lodge also has its own restaurant so if you’re looking for a place that’s got it all, this is your best bet.
The Gallatin River Lodge lies near the Gallatin River. Famous for its fantastic flyfishing lessons, there is much adventure to be had. Amongst the tall grasses outside the wooden lodge, there is a tranquil pond. Nature surrounds the property on every side and wildlife roams freely in the area. Sit out on your patio with your pals and watch the fences in the distance for a glimpse of wandering whitetail deer. You can also toss horseshoes or beanbags out back. After all, enjoying your time spent together is the best way to end any day.
Haven’t got your fill of outdoor exploration yet? After your Bozeman trip, here are some other ideas for road trips and hiking expeditions, from Canada to Maine: