5 Best Family Vacation Destinations in Southwest Montana
Montana offers a wealth of places to visit and experience. From Old West heritage to music festivals to the great outdoors, there’s a lot to see and do. That can make vacation planning overwhelming. When you only have a limited amount of time to enjoy the splendors of Montana, how in the world do you choose? While the state as a whole as so many fun things to see and do, we’ve put together a list of our top five favorite destinations in southwest Montana. Enjoy!
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Okay, okay, we’re super biased about this one. Our stores are located in Bozeman. This is our home base and we absolutely love it here. But, we use the word home base on purpose because it is central to so many fun vacation opportunities. There’s nothing quite like summer in Bozeman. Farmer’s Markets, music, plays, lunches on the lawn, hiking, paddle boarding, shopping, eating, drinking, the opportunities are endless. Once you’ve done everything there is to do in Bozeman, venture out. Take a day trip to Livingston or Butte. Head for Yellowstone. Spend the day at the Hyalite Reservoir. I’m not exaggerating when I say the possibilities are endless. We recommend hitting up Museum of the Rockies, the Children’s Museum, or the Computer Museum (which is FREE!). And of course, stop in and see us for all your Montana gifts and Montana souvenirs!
Lewis & Clark Caverns State Park
Speaking of day trips, if you do make Bozeman home base, we would also recommend an adventure to Lewis & Clark Caverns State Park. Again, we’re very biased here because we absolutely love having a shop and the deli at the top of the mountain, but that doesn’t obscure the fact that this is really one of the best state parks in Montana. Of course, if you go, you have to do a cave tour. Beginning with a ¼ mile hike up the mountain, you step into the cave entrance and get to talk about bats! The kids will love that! From the gorgeous rock features to the interactive Beaver Slide, this is a vacation stop that’s both educational and fun. But, the cave tour isn’t the only cool thing there. Take a nature walk. Mountain bike some of the awesome trails. Rent a camping cabin and stay at the base of the mountain. Plus, throughout the summer season, the staff puts on lots of fun interactive demonstrations and events like Bat Week and Geological History. Check out their list of happenings here. This is definitely not to be missed if you’re vacationing in southwest Montana!
While Big Sky gets a lot of action during the wintertime for some of the best and biggest skiing in the country, we shouldn’t forget about all the summertime opportunities there, too. A quick and beautiful 45-minute drive from Bozeman, it’s a fun place to stay for a few days. You can hike, mountain bike, and ride the tram to the top of Lone Mountain all in a single day. Big Sky also has a slew of summer events to attend. Their Wednesday night farmer’s market offers an array of local craftworks and delicious produce. Their Music in the Mountains shows on Thursday nights are free and great for the family to throw a blanket out on their greenspace and hear some great music! And, with bigger events like Moonlight Music Festival gaining traction, this is an excellent extended weekend getaway!
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Continue your drive down Highway 191 and through Gallatin Canyon to West Yellowstone. West is definitely a favorite Yellowstone entrance town. Yes, you could spend days inside of Yellowstone and not see everything you want to see. But, exploring the town you’re in can also be a real treat, especially if that town is West Yellowstone. This place is designed as a fun-filled family experience. The shopping and dining experience in and of itself is fun. But, what can the kids do? How about the Yellowstone Zipline Adventure Park? With over 1,000 feet of zipline, rope bridges, climbing features, and the Yellowstone Mining Company where you can pan for gold and fossils, the kids will be exhausted after a day here. End the night with a show at the Playmill Theater. From pre-show entertainment to root beer floats at intermission, this is an experience the whole family can enjoy!
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This is definitely a gem of a day trip if you’re looking for something fun for the whole family to do. Taking a trip to Virginia City is like taking a step back in time. What was once a booming mining town in the 1860s and 70s quickly became a ghost town once the gold panned out. It’s now one of the most active “ghost towns” in Montana. Take the whole family and spend a day exploring the old buildings and heritage. Simply walking around town and reading the historical registry information, you can have a fun-filled day. If you want a little more activity, ride the Virginia City Shortline Railroad into Nevada City, another unique slice of American frontier life. Take a tour of Virginia City via stagecoach or antique fire truck! The kids will love that. Get hand-churned ice or stop by Cousin’s Candy Shop for an old-fashioned candy experience. You must try their handmade huckleberry bark or truffles! With lots of special events throughout the summer, Virginia City should be on your list of places to visit!
Written by: Cassi Miller