Note: Started last Thursday, finished today 😉
If you drive along Interstate 90, take flight with an Allegiant Air jet, or hop a kayak along the Clark Fork River, you might discover a place called Missoula, Montana.
Some people come here by accident, however I find myself relaxing in this Western Montana town with a purpose.
I’m seated in a coffee shop called Liquid Planet and attempting to reduce my dependency on black coffee by drinking green tea. With a spiral constellation shaped ceiling light fixture above me, this used to be a regular study destination during my days in college.
Up until 2012 Missoula used to be called “home” and the last time I ordered a cup of tea here was nearly two years ago. The sun is roasting outside and the slightly cool temperature within the cafe is providing a temporary oasis from walking through walls of invisible heat.
The biggest reason for me being here is to see my friend Dave graduate from high school. We used to be matched via Big Brothers Big Sisters in 2010 and have stayed buddies ever since. He is leaving for the Army in one week so this is a necessary time to come up and visit with his family.
Another reason is to see some close friends in Chris, Ryan, Shane, Brian, Charlie, Megan, Lauren, and the crew at the local Doubletree Hotel. These are all people who I either lived with, worked with, or simply chilled with for extensive amounts of time in the past. Through phone calls, texts, or simply “likes” in various forms of social media we luckily are still friends despite a handful of years of not seeing each other. These are all some truly great people and to spend time with them again will be a treat.
Simply being back in town brings back instant flashes of excitement because it not only will be great to see some amazing people, but it will be nothing less than super to explore the various gems that Missoula has to offer.
If you are reading this and haven’t been to Missoula then let me give you a quick rundown of what you should do when you get here:
It is essential to come in summer and partake in Dinner in the Park on Thursday nights. If you decide to go out afterwards then it is a good idea to at least take a gander into The Badlander and possibly dance to fun music with help from the Dead Hipster DJ’s.
First Friday is an art walk through Missoula’s entire downtown and happens one Friday during each month (can you guess which one?). You can check out exhibits from local artists while sipping on a free local beer.
Every Saturday morning in the summer there is a large Farmer’s Market that starts beneath the Higgins Street Bridge and spans a few city blocks. You can buy anything from soap to Elk Meat at an affordably delightful price. Free live music and fun times all around have a high probability.
Missoula is home to some of the best craft beer ever fermented. If it’s a nice day then a trip to Draft Works is essential. They have one of the best outdoor patios in town. However if you want a true local vibe then hop on a bike to the Southside Kettlehouse and sip on a brew with strangers.
Near Kettlehouse are three places I love: Le Petit Outre, Bernice’s Bakery, and Bridge Pizza. If you stop by all three then you might be having some of the best bread, pastries, and pizza by the slice you’ve had in a great while. Le Petit is my personal favorite for drinking an Americano while Bernice’s is great for reading a newspaper and eating the world’s best macaroon.
After pizza and beer there are only two things missing: ice cream and live music. Missoula’s longtime frozen dessert favorite has been Big Dipper. The lines in summer are long but you can’t leave Missoula without trying a scoop from their walkup counter. A silent dark horse is Sweat Peaks and their waffles are pretty stellar. Top Hat and The Wilma are two venues in town that consistently host heeps of talented musicians.
If you want to buy a souvenir then look no further than Rockin’ Rudy’s, Betty’s Divine, or The Greenlight.
These are by no means the only great options for things to do in town. They are simply activities that I really like and think that any random wanderer would find fun.
The green tea in front of me is becoming smaller with each careful sip like a reducing tide. It’s time to continue with the rest of the afternoon.
Before stepping outside into the June oven I feel blessed to be here. Missoula is a town where people keeping coming and going. It doesn’t really matter if you are living here or moving away from here, it somehow grabs a hold of you and never lets go.
A motto for many people says that the state of Montana is “The Last Best Place.”
It’s hard to say whether this statement is true. There exists a large number of places in the world that I haven’t been to yet, but stepping into the sunshine it really isn’t worth debating.
This is my best place.