10 of Montana’s Friendliest Places Where Locals Gather and Why
I think Montanans are pretty friendly.
I went to a "party" once in Billings where I only knew one person. I put "party" in quotes because I'm not very rock and roll. It was a garden party. Before long, I had four new friends and within an hour or two, me and my new posse were caravaning all over town. We exchanged Instagram handles and their life updates still pop up in my feed from time to time. I may have only spent one day with them, but it was a really good day.
Montana may have earned a reputation for being a bit unfriendly to tourists, but locals are another story. If you're local, you know these are the kinds of places where Montanans gather, and that some unique bonds are formed, even if they're short-lived.
Bars, Breweries, and Distilleries
There's no shortage of watering holes in Montana, and there's little doubt that Montanans like to drink. You may think that Montana bars in small towns are intimidating, but more often than not, the small ones are where all the best stories are told.
Why Locals Love It: You don't have to make your own drinks, and the bartender may be a close family friend. The stories.
We may not have a lot of them, but Montana has some very cool festivals. Case in point: Red Ants Pants Music Festival in White Sulphur Springs, Montana, which helps fund community grants. Then there's the Folk Festival in Butte, which draws people from all over the state and welcomes music acts representing cultures from all over the world.
Why Locals Love It: The chance meetings--you run into friends you haven't seen in years.
Lakes and Rivers
Everyone is your friend when you're in an intertube floating on a river. That goes for boats, and river rafts, too. And while fishing is often a solitary activity, there's nothing like having a friend to take a picture when you land the big one.
Why Locals Love it: You're in the outdoors and there's probably an adult beverage or two.
With the new law that was passed to allow for more camping opportunities for local residents, you can bet that Montanans will be flocking to the forests and mountains next summer.
Why Locals Love it: Same reason locals love lakes and rivers: outdoors, adult beverages.
Nothing starts friendships faster than standing next to a fellow Griz or Cat fan at a game. The matching outfits, the cheering, the high-faves--all of it creates a sense of belonging. If you're a season ticket holder, sitting next to the same fans for every game will make you feel almost like family by the time Brawl of the Wild rolls around.
Why Locals Love it: When Montana doesn't have a major league team, being a Griz or Cat fan is the next best thing.
Sharing a chairlift with a stranger can lead to tips about when runs are the best. When you come back down the mountain, you might find yourself having a cup of hot cocoa with people in the lodge that you just met, but you'll look for after the next snowstorm.
Why Locals Love it: It's actually, "find friends on a powder day."
You know you're hiking with Montanans when every person you pass gives you a quick hello and asks how you're doing. Trails are also a place where Montanans take care of each other--if there's a downed tree or a bear on the trail ahead, someone will certainly give you a heads up.
Why Locals Love it: Appreciating epic views and giving pets to trail dogs.
Even in the smallest towns in Montana, there's a bar, a post office, and a church. Churches are a great place to connect deeper with your community and a lot of times, there are events and gatherings throughout the whole week, not just on Sundays or whichever days the particular religion may gather.
Why Locals Love it: Nourishment for the soul and the belly thanks to potlucks and spaghetti feeds.
A little bit like going to church, one of the best ways to learn about the community is to visit the county fair. You'll meet your local ranchers, farmers, gardeners, artists, and musicians. With the live music, fairs feel a little bit like festivals, and Montanans love those.
Why Locals Love it: The fair food, the music, the blue ribbons.
One of the best Google reviews I ever saw was someone who was at the Jerry Johnson Hot Springs and a naked guy told them to eat at the Oxford in Missoula. Naked or not, sitting around in hot water encourages a bit of friendliness.
Why Locals Love it: Relaxing in magical waters with characters.
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Gallery Credit: Jesse James