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5 Best Montana Activities for Families on a Budget

Summer vacations create lasting memories. Some of my best memories are my parents loading us into the car before the sun was up and heading west for adventures in Montana, Yellowstone, and other exciting destinations. But, planning a vacation for the whole family can put a real hole in the bank account. You want to give kids that summertime experience, but how do you do that without breaking the bank? Take them to Montana! A budget-friendly family vacation is totally doable. Our list of budget-friendly activities below can help!


Free Concerts

Music in the Mountains at Big Sky, Montana

Image Courtesy of Visit Yellowstone Country

While people might not think of Montana as a musical hub, we are extremely fortunate in this state to have a lot of people who support live music. Because of that, local bands can really thrive. During the summer, many Montana communities host community concerts where the entertainment is completely free! On Thursday nights, Bozeman has Music on Main which closes down a section of Main Street so that people can wander the streets and jam to a live band. In recent years, they’ve added the Kid Zone which features bouncy houses and hula hooping! Big Sky has Music on the Mountains on Thursday nights, which is another free, fun family experience. Butte, Helena, Missoula, and Great Falls all have something similar. It really seems that summertime is the perfect time for outdoor concerts.


Farmer’s Markets

Belgrade Community Market in Belgrade, Montana

Image Courtesy of Belgrade Community Market

Famer’s markets in Montana have become an event all their own. Of course the focus is delicious produce and locally made goods, but now they are something more than just shopping. Bring the whole family! Sometimes featuring live music, kids’ activities, food trucks, and other fun events, it’s easy to spend a couple of fun-filled hours at a farmer’s market! The Tuesday night Bogert Farmer’s Market at Lindley Park in Bozeman has music and a climbing wall for kids! Recently, Belgrade has worked hard to reinvigorate their Thursday night market with unique vendors, food trucks, and kid’s activities like a magician and a junior carpenter workshop. The Livingston Farmer’s Market has fun themes each week for families like Wildlife Preparedness, Fitness Day, and Eat Local Day! As you can see, it’s a fun event for the whole family and it’s free to attend!


Hiking

Bridger Foothills in Bozeman, Montana

Image Courtesy of AllTrails

Factoring in gas money and any supplies you want to bring, hiking is honestly pretty easy on the budget for a family activity. Luckily, many Montana communities are close to lots of awesome outdoor experiences, so distance isn’t a major issue. Within 45 minutes, you and the kids can be hiking to a waterfall in Hyalite Canyon or venturing up to Fairy Lake in the Bridger Mountains. Missoula is also a great centralized location if you want to try out the Rattlesnake Wilderness Area or the Lee Metcalf Wildlife Refuge. Whitefish is so close to Glacier National Park, which is a fantastic place to hike and explore. Really, if you look up state parks, wildlife refuges, or lakes on a Montana map, you’ll find a town/city within driving distance to make home base.  And the experience your family will have spending a day on the hiking trails is definitely one they won’t forget.


Camping

Camping at Hyalite Canyon near Bozeman, Montana

Image Courtesy of Bozeman.net

Now, if you want to take that hiking experience to the next level, make it an overnight camping trip! Yes, sometimes the camping gear can get a bit expensive, but there are places you can rent gear from if you don't want to buy it all. Or, get a little crafty and do some car camping. Pillows, blankets, and even a thick mattress pad in the back of a car can be just as fun as tent camping! Another look at a Montana map can show you all of the camping opportunities. Again, Yellowstone and Glacier are extremely popular destinations, but there are so many other Montana areas out there that make for a fun camping experience. The Lewis & Clark National Forest near White Sulphur Springs, the Fort Peck Lake area, and Custer Gallatin National Forest all offer something a little different for a camping experience. The kids will love spending the night in the outdoors and the adults will enjoy a budget-friendly “unplugged” adventure like this.

 

Local Parks

East Gallatin Recreation Area at Bozeman, Montana

Okay, let’s say camping and hiking are just out of the realm of possibility. If you’ve never done those activities before, they might seem a little daunting. So, why not try a day trip to a local park? One of the fantastic things about living in a outdoor-oriented community is that people want community members to have access to the outdoors, even if it has to happen within city limits. Montanans care a lot about local parks, which can be a great way to spend some time outdoors without breaking the bank. Pack a picnic lunch and go explore wherever you are staying. Bozeman has so many unique local parks! The newest addition, Story Mill Park, features an adventure park, restored wetlands, and tons of trails for the kids to explore on 60 acres of land just on the edge of Bozeman. When we’re talking about families, we shouldn’t just think about the kids! The dogs count, too! Montana loves dogs so there are plenty of dog parks out there to explore. Jacob’s Island in Missoula is 6 acres in the middle of the Clark Fork River where your pup and swim and play the day away. Every community in Montana has fun local park opportunities that can be a great way to spend the day! 


A trip to Montana doesn’t have to blow the budget. We hope this list has been helpful in giving your family the chance to experience Montana without spending a ton of money!

Written by: Cassi Miller

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