Montana has several excellent nicknames that capture how this fourth-largest state in America is most aptly described. "The Land of Mountains" is one. "Big Sky Country" is another. These titles captivate a wide-open arena of fresh air, breathtaking scenery, and mind-blowing landscapes. Yet, people might find themselves more oriented toward a less-expensive vacation, especially toward the end of the summer, while not wanting to sacrifice any of the adventure or excitement. Here are some affordable summer vacation spots in the great state of Montana that will be gentle on the wallet while not forcing you to compromise on having the time of your life.
Home to Makoshika State Park, the Glendive Dinosaur & Fossil Museum, Frontier Gateway Museum, and the Glendive Historic Bell Street Bridge, the city of Glendive offers great excitement without targeting the wallet too much. Several hotels in town offer inexpensive rooms with free amenities. There are also two campgrounds and two RV Parks available nearby. Both campgrounds offer spots for pitching tents as well as spots for parking RVs. Reasonably priced entertainment and dining can also be found in Glendive. If you find yourselves hungry after taking a romantic stroll through Makoshika State Park, Penny’s Diner is on North Merrill Avenue, offering tasty American delicacies for a low price.
The town of Anaconda, in Deer Lodge County, is a great place to plan a vacation for the family, especially if you wish to keep the prices down this summer. Georgetown Lake is a favorite local hotspot, offering boating, fishing, camping, swimming, and windsurfing opportunities to visitors and residents alike. A plethora of other exciting things to do are available in Anaconda. Two state parks are nearby, offering grilling, hiking, swimming, and camping options. If sleeping out of the elements is more to your liking, Anaconda offers relatively inexpensive lodging, like at the Forge Hotel, and great dining choices, like taking the kids out for pizza at Gallicano’s Pizzeria.
The quaint, peaceful town of Livingston, located in Park County, just north of the Wyoming border, is home to several scenic parks. Situated along the banks of the Yellowstone River, just north of the Gallatin National Forest, Livingston has Sacajawea Park to the south of town, Mayor’s Landing to the east, and Pine Creek Trail off Luccock Road. The Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail is also a great choice for family and friends, as it travels through Livingston on its way to the Pacific Ocean from Pennsylvania. There are also several moderately priced activities nearby. Elbow Lake, located south of Livingston, offers camping, fishing, swimming, kayaking, and hiking.
Not just another word for bliss, the town of Paradise, in Sanders County on the western side of the state, is most famous for Quinn’s Hot Springs Resort. Along with the resort being reasonably priced, as far as resorts are concerned, with members of the resort being able to utilize the hot springs for only ten dollars a day, the town of Paradise is a diamond in the rough as well. Visitors to Paradise can hike up to Hidden Lake, check out Flathead Lake, or attempt to catch trout in Swan River. There is also the famous Going-to-the-Sun Road, an excellent drive during the day or even into the evening.
For those looking for a fun, affordable summer vacation while in the heart of a city, head to Billings, Montana, in Yellowstone County. Along with a plethora of reasonably priced lodging options at less than a hundred dollars a night, there are several camping options, like Yellowstone River Campground, which only charges $60 a night for tents and around $100 for RV sites. Plus, while in downtown Billings, there are opportunities for visiting the DanWalt Gardens, Yellowstone Art Museum, and the Moss Mansion or even taking scenic pictures while exploring Pictograph Cave State Park, Lake Elmo State Park, Pioneer Park, or Riverfront Park.
Nicknamed "the Birthplace of Montana," Fort Benton is the oldest continuously occupied settlement in the state. As such, it is a treasure when it comes to vacationing alone or with the family, especially during the summer months. Along with great places to grab something to eat without paying a lot, like the Public House and Union Grille, there are several activities that families can do together. There is hiking along the Riverfront Trail, biking the Levee Walk, taking a walk through the nearby Bear Paw Mountains, and even fishing along the Missouri River. If being inside is more to your liking, Fort Benton also has the Museum of the Northern Great Plains and Fort Benton Museums and Heritage Complex.
Not a name for a corporate logging company but rather a small town located in Sweet Grass County, Big Timber received its name from Big Timber Creek, which flows nearby. The town of Big Timber, like the river that joins with the Yellowstone River, has several activities that are heavy in fun and adventure while being light on the wallet. Along with several free and inexpensive parks, like Natural Bridge Falls and Greycliff Prairie Dog Town, both of which have no entrance fee. The town of Big Timber also offers several affordable camping options, like Spring Creek Campground and Trout Ranch, with the choice between RVs and tents.
Hidden in the northwestern corner of "the Treasure State," the town of Kalispell seems to be often overlooked, as visitors veer more toward Billings, Missoula, or Bozeman. Yet, Kalispell, as the gateway to Glacier National Park, is an undiscovered gem in the heart of Flathead County, offering a plethora of things for friends and family to do without taxing the wallet too much. Wild Horse Island State Park and Flathead Lake State Park both offer excellent communing with nature while, in downtown Kalispell, there are several restaurants offering food at varying prices, from Dickey’s Barbeque Pit to Qdoba Mexican Grill. There are also other inexpensive activities near Kalispell, like taking in the sights of Jewel Basin, or fly fishing on Flathead Lake.
The town of Wolf Point, located in Roosevelt County as far to the northeast of the state as Kalispell is to the northwest, is a great place to take the family for an affordable summer vacation. The Wolf Point Area Museum is a key attraction, and several places just south of town, like the Missouri River and Fort Peck Lake, offer great fishing. Homestead RV and Downstream Campground are both within an easy drive. If you find yourself looking for excitement, check out the Wild Horse Stampede (the "granddaddy" of Montana rodeo) in July and the Wadopana Celebration in August.
The beautiful city of Helena, located in Lewis and Clark County, is not only a Montana Gold Rush town and the capital city of the state, but it also offers several cultural activities for the whole family to enjoy, like visiting the Holter Museum of Art. There are also some natural activities in Helena that are reasonable on the wallet. Mount Helena and the Gates of the Mountains are two great ways to get back to nature. There is also the Last Chance Ranch, which offers a horse-drawn bus ride, a ribeye dinner, and an evening of music at the campfire for only $200 a person. If you would rather eat inside, Helena has several affordable places, including the Windbag Saloon and Grill and Benny’s Bistro.
One of the most common places in the great state of Montana is the town of Bozeman, located north of Yellowstone Park in Gallatin County. Several activities in Bozeman, however, are quite reasonably priced, including a visit to the Museum of the Rockies, checking out Grizzlies at the Montana Grizzly Encounter, and stopping by the Gallatin History Museum. If you want to save even more money, take the family hiking through Gallatin Canyon, catch fish along the banks of the Gallatin River, or grab photographs for friends and family of Palisade Falls.
The charming town of Whitefish, located in northwestern Montana, is loaded with great opportunities to save money while on vacation for the summer. Flathead National Forest, Tally Lake, the Whitefish Trail, and Great Northern Mountain Trail are all readily available to visitors. In town, check out Whitefish Pottery, Dick Idol Signature Gallery, and Whitefish Depot. There are also several fine dining establishments in town, including Casey’s Whitefish, Buffalo Café, and Abruzzo Italian Kitchen. If you happen to be looking for something to entertain the kids for a while without spending too much money, The town of Whitefish has the Alpine Theatre Project, a performing arts center located downtown.
Located in Cascade County, this third-largest city in Montana offers several exciting activities, dining choices, and lodging options that will keep the family talking for a while but will not weaken the wallet too much. Giant Springs State Park, Rivers Edge Trail, and Gibson Park are three of many escape-into-the-wilderness adventures that won’t cost too much, while Roadhouse Diner and Taco Treat are both worth a visit. As for lodging, there are several camping options in the area, like the Great Falls RV Park and Kings Hill Campground, and many inexpensive hotels in town, like the Motel 6 and Grizzly Inn, both offering rooms for under $100 a night.
The picturesque town of Gardiner, right on the border with Wyoming, is a diamond in the rough, best known for being the home of the Yellowstone Hot Springs. This mountain town has several other amenities for you to commune with nature while not costing you a lot of dough. The Cedar Creek Trail, as well as Bunsen Peak and Upper Falls across the border in Wyoming, are all close to downtown Gardiner. Gardiner also offers ample opportunities for taking the family white-water rafting along the Yellowstone River, picking one of several horseback riding tours, or shopping the streets of downtown for that perfect gift for the family. There are also several restaurants in and around Gardiner, like The CORRAL, Yellowstone Mine, and Follow Yer Nose Barbeque Smokewagon, which are reasonably priced.
Whether you are looking for a taste of culinary excellence, a touch of culture, a place to get away from the hustle and bustle of the big city, or a location for the family to disconnect from the electronics and reconnect with social graces, Montana may be the ticket for you. With over a dozen choices of affordable summer vacation spots available, all that is left to do is to pick one and enjoy the open beauty of Big Sky Country.