Nothing announces the end of summer in Missoula like the crush of students that arrive the last weekend of August.
Yes, it’s true – the fall semester has arrived, and while the official fall season is still a few weeks out we all know that Missoula’s summertime fun has pretty much come to a close.
But that doesn’t mean there’s not a heck of a lot to be done over the coming weeks and months.
Whether you’re a returning UM student or brand new to town, we’ve compiled a short list of “Missoula hacks” to help you make the best of your time here:
• Yes, Missoulians love our cars – Subarus, especially – but we love any and every opportunity to ditch our cars as well. We’re especially proud of our cool new-ish bike lanes downtown (they’re green and impossible to miss), as well as our zero-fare Mountain Line bus service, which will get you just about anywhere you need to go for free!
• That said, downtown bike parking can be just as hard to find as car parking. And whatever you do, don’t think that Missoula’s love affair with biking means you don’t need to lock yours up …
• Jam band freaks have a cozy corner of their own, and it’s called The Top Hat. Check out “Grateful Dead Hour” every Monday from 5-7 pm, and the Phish-themed “Sharin’ in the Groove” happy hour MOST Wednesdays at 4:30.
• You haven’t had a breakfast burrito until you’ve had one from Market on Front. Make sure you check it out before the snow starts falling – they have an amazing patio for people-watching in and soaking in some Vitamin D.
• You can’t go wrong with either of our local ice cream parlors. If you couldn’t tell by the line, Big Dipper Ice Cream is a Missoula institution with dozens of great flavors – and lots of opportunities to meet happy fellow locals and visitors. And though it has less options, fans of Whitefish-based Sweets Peaks are dedicated to their unique flavors, locally sourced milk and cream, and much smaller line.
• Scout out all of the local coffee shops, pick the one you like best and plan to spend the next four years there. That’s where we do our studying, our socializing, our relaxing – and sometimes our napping. And whatever you do, don’t forget to tip your barista.
• You’re not truly a local until you flaunt your local-ness. What do we mean? Whether it’s a T-shirt, a hat or a bumper sticker, Missoula-, Montana- or 406-themed gear is required for all residents. That includes both while you are hanging out in town as well as traveling. It’s also first on your list of gift ideas for anyone who doesn’t live here.
• Speaking of local-themed clothing and accessories, The Green Light downtown has a big sale the last weekend of every month. Those 406 shirts you see all your attractive friends wearing? That’s where they got them.
• There’s a two-way tie for best hangover cure. Pretty much anything on the weekend brunch menu at Burns Street Bistro is to die for; but don’t miss an opportunity to try the appropriately-named “Hangover Stew” at Doc’s Gourmet Sandwich Shop downtown.
• Same with happy hour: Some swear by the bar seating at the Mustard Seed, but do note you will NOT find a seat if you don’t get there early! Others will point you to Bridge Pizza on the Hip Strip, where you’ll get a free 10 ounce beer with one slice of pizza and a free pint with two slices every day from 3-5 pm.
• There’s only a handful of all-night eating joints, and only one that’s truly locals. It’s called The Oxford Saloon, but locals call it the “Ox.” If you were wondering, yes – it’s inside matches its outside; but no, they no longer serve brains and eggs. We like to call it “historical” – but no matter, it’s the best place to catch a late-night, post-bar snack and it’s pretty much always full of fascinating people.
• There’s free stuff everywhere if you know where to look for it. We won’t name names, but with a little tenacity you can enjoy free slices of locally baked bread, free chunks of amaaaazing donuts and cookies, free jams, jellies, fudge – even wine. Here’s a hint: Start with the Farmer’s Market on Saturday mornings, and plan to be downtown the first Friday evening of every month.
• Finally, speaking of free stuff – you’ve found Missoula’s No. 1 spot for giveaways. We’re talking tickets to all the best concerts and events, gift certificates to your favorite stores and restaurants, free auto inspections and details – even lotto tickets! All you gotta do is follow Jack on Facebook, stay on top of Jack’s website blog or just keep your dial tuned in to 105.9, and you’re pretty much guaranteed to walk away a winner at some point in the near future.
There’s lots of other great corners and coves in town, but this is a good place to get started. If you’ve got a favorite “Missoula hack,” we’d love to hear it! Send us a message on Facebook or drop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
However long it is, we hope you enjoy your time in Missoula!