caras park

The city of Missoula

I don’t typically take part in link parties, but when I read about this one I couldn’t resist.  Kate, from Centsational Girl, writes one of my favorite DIY/home decor blogs and mentioned the idea of writing a post about the favorite things in your town.  She said:

“This is your opportunity to photograph and write about a few of the favorite things you see from day to day that make your world a better place.  Show us that building you love, or wraparound porch on the house around the corner, the best place for java, tastiest spot for lunch, or a store in your town with amazing finds.”  

She’s calling it the “Favorite things in my town link party” and people from all over will be posting links about the favorite things in their little town or city. 

Because let’s face it…every town is unique and wonderful in its own way.  There are things I miss terribly about living in Seattle and other things I don’t miss at all.  The fun part about exploring a new city is finding those unique places and falling in love with something that only it can offer.  Whether it’s Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, 23rd Street in Portland or the Hip Strip in Missoula…there are fun and interesting places to explore everywhere.  The trick is to find them.  So I put together an insider’s scoop into some of my favorite places in Missoula and why I love the Garden City.

You simply can't beat fall in Missoula!

To tackle this task, I took an evening off last week (leaving the chores at home) and went on a stroll around the city with my camera in hand.  It was the perfect way to blow off some steam after a particularly stressful day.   Just me and my pup enjoying where we call home. 

For those of you new here, Missoula, MT is located in Western Montana in an old glacier lakebed (Glacial Lake Missoula).  We’re in close proximity to both Glacier and Yellowstone National Park.  Missoula is typically referred to as a college town, but those of us lucky enough to stay here after college spend most of our time enjoying the incredible recreational activities that the area provides. 

Now, without further ado…here are some of my favorite things about Missoula. 

1.   Fooled you with some photo trickery, didn’t I?  Those aren’t mountains, rather the top of the event tent in Caras Park.  See #7 for the full view.  However, the irony of this shot is that the serene, mountainous pictures are a true reflection of the landscapes in Missoula and western Montana in general.

2.  Break Espresso.   Located downtown in the heart of Missoula it’s hands down my favorite local coffee shop.  The soy latte’s are splendid and the bakery items divine.  May I recommend the ham and cheese quiche, vegan raspberry scone, or their famous shortbread cookies?

3.  This pic represents two things I love in Missoula:  breweries and outside eating.   I can imagine nothing better than sipping a local brew after a long hot day.  And with three breweries already scattered through town (and two opening soon), it’s fair to say we do this frequently.  It’s amazing how so many local breweries can make it here in Missoula.  My theory?  Good beer.

4.  Big Dipper Ice Cream.  The best homemade ice cream I’ve had.  I’d tell you to “go early” but no matter what time of day you stop by the line will be to the sidewalk.  My favorite flavor?  Mocha chip.  And a doggie cone for Summy.

5.  The University of Montana.  I’m certainly not a die-hard Griz fan like most people in this town, but U of M is my alma mater and I acknowledge the life she breathes into this community.   You haven’t seen anything until you’ve watched a Grizzly football game, which I try to do at least once in the fall.   The love people have for the Griz is contagious, if even for the four hours you’re watching the game.    The University is also responsible for our namesake  “M” that lives on Mount Sentinel.  Visible in the first picture posted.

6.  The Clark Fork River runs through Missoula, providing swimming, fishing, tubing and kayaking to all of our two (and sometimes four) legged residents.   It also provides some amazing backdrops and scenery for running, walking or just some photo-taking.

7.  Caras Park is where events of all shapes and sizes happen.  Nestled between the Clark Fork River and downtown Missoula, you can often find a Brewfest, festival, farmers market or some sort of event taking place.  Every Wednesday they do “Out to Lunch” in the park and Thursday’s are “Dinner in the Park” where food vendors setup and sell their creations to locals while a band entertains people from the pavilion. 

8.  Just another beautiful view of the Clark Fork as she passes through town.    If you look closely, about midway through the river you can see Brennan’s Wave…a kayaking/surfing wave that was created in honor of a local kayaker who passed away.  There’s hardly an hour of the day where somebody isn’t surfing it.

9.  This isn’t your grandma’s fabric shop.   Selvedge Studio is my favorite fabric store…hands down.  It’s where I go for inspiration, unique and modern fabrics, or to take a sewing class.   I’ve been guilty of coming out with fabric I have absolutely no use for.  Just because I like it.  Now that’s a good store.

10.   One of the most-loved and recognized icons of downtown Missoula:  the clock.  This picture represents Missoula downtown and the energy it brings to the city.  Unfortunately, a lot of downtown areas in Montana cities have become ghost towns thanks to big-box stores popping up on the fringes of the city.   Not Missoula.  Our downtown is thriving and it’s one of my favorite places to come and walk, shop, eat or drink. 

11.  Missoula Farmers Market.  Once the Hubs is out of the house for hunting season, you can find me every Saturday morning Sept – Oct at the Missoula Farmers Market.   I love supporting the local farmers, artists and vendors.  Not just because it’s good for Missoula, but because their products are amazing as well!  We have some gifted people living here and it’s evident in their goods.  The people-watching is pretty spectacular as well. 

12.  Beer.  Have I mentioned I like beer?  Especially craft beer?  If you do too, then Missoula is your place.  It just so happens that the Iron Horse Brew Pub is one of our favorite places to stop for a drink….with lunch or dinner.  They’ve got great food and several outside seating options, so you can almost count on getting a seat in the sun.    Plus, they carry many of the local brewery beers, so you can sample them all if you like.  Though it’s not recommended!

13.  Just another shot of downtown Missoula.

14.  Missoula is called the Garden City.  That’s because we’re located in a valley between mountain ranges.  Our climate is a bit more protected than many other Montana cities, and for that reason our summers are a little bit cooler and our winters a little bit warmer.  What’s not to like about that?    It also provides a habitat for Norway Maples that line the streets of the University District.  The fall in that area is simply beautiful.

15.  Trail systems.  This is a picture of the River Trail that lines the Clark Fork River.  But this picture represents the trail systems available in and around Missoula.  There are so many options at my finger-tips that sometimes it’s hard to decide where I want to go.  I can drive for 10 minutes in any direction from my house and be on a mountain trial….and probably only see a handful of people. 

So there you have it:   15 reasons I love Missoula.  There are many, many more.  I haven’t even gotten started on food places (like Biga Pizza, the Mustard Seed or the Hob Nob), or running trails (Pattee Canyon, Blue Mountain) or winter activities (like skiing at Snowbowl or snowshoeing up Lolo).    But I’ll save those for another day.

The bottom line is that I couldn’t ask for a better city to live.    But then again, I’m biased.  

Although…when outsiders take note of how wonderful your city is, you kind of have want to believe them, no?  I’ll leave you with a song Jewel wrote for Missoula last fall when she played here.    Enjoy!

Be sure to stop by Kate’s site and read about some of the great towns other people live! Favorite things in my town link party