From the western Rocky Mountains to the Eastern Plains, the state of Montana boasts an abundance of picturesque sights. Book a stay at one of many Montana vacation rentals to easily visit these breathtaking landscapes situated around every corner. Spending Thanksgiving in this extraordinary state means you can enjoy seeing rushing rivers and changing leaves. Moreover, if you’re lucky, you could also experience an early snowfall. As you plan your holiday vacation, consider these Thanksgiving events in Montana.
1. West Yellowstone
For cross-country ski enthusiasts, West Yellowstone is one of Montana’s most thrilling Thanksgiving vacation destinations. During Thanksgiving week and the following weekend, the entire town comes out for the annual Yellowstone Ski Festival. When you’re not watching freestyle races, check out the festival’s full lineup of events, including ski clinics, grizzly bear feeding demonstrations, and ski bonfires. On the afternoon of Thanksgiving Day, get a workout at the Turkey Trot. Organizers encourage racers to wear costumes, and the relaxed atmosphere is fun for serious runners and casual walkers.
Enjoy a festive Thanksgiving weekend within an easy drive of Glacier National Park in Kalispell. On Thanksgiving morning, make the short drive to the beautiful ski town of Whitefish for the annual Turkey Trot. If you’re in the mood to shop, find great Black Friday sales at the Kalispell Center Mall, or head downtown to support local establishments such as Western Outdoor and Kalispell Brewing Company on Small Business Saturday. Thanksgiving weekend also features the popular Artists and Craftsmen of the Flathead Christmas Show and the Christmas at the Mansion event at Conrad Mansion. Enjoy the stunning decorations as you tour the mansion, and stay for a traditional tea and a stroll around the lighted grounds.
Missoula gets Thanksgiving off to an early start with the University of Montana’s Brawl of the Wild football game, which the city hosts on alternating years. This annual rivalry match with Montana State University, which has been happening annually for more than 100 years, packs the streets with excited fans. On Thanksgiving Day, local runners gather at the Run Wild Missoula Turkey Day 8K, 3K, and Family Fun Run. On the weekend, the city heads to Sentinel High School for the annual Craft Show, where local artisans offer their handmade holiday goods.
Thanksgiving in Bozeman includes a special treat: panoramic views of the snow-covered Rocky Mountains. Start the holiday at the Huffing for Stuffing race, which draws more than 4,000 participants and raises money for the Gallatin Valley Food Bank. With 5K, 10K, and Kids’ Run courses, there’s something for everyone in the family. Thanksgiving weekend brings the much-anticipated Small Business Saturday to downtown Bozeman; stop into more than 300 local businesses, including Bozeman Spirits Distillery and Montana Gift Corral, for discounts, raffles, and live entertainment.
As Montana’s largest city, Billings offers a wide range of Thanksgiving activities. The holiday starts with the Run Turkey Run event; stick around afterward to try locally made craft brews from Montana breweries before heading to The Montana Club for a turkey or prime rib dinner. The next day, break out your best Christmas costume for Santa’s Dash for Cash; every participant receives an envelope filled with prizes ranging from actual cash to gift certificates to local businesses. After the race, the Billings Holiday Parade runs through downtown. On Thanksgiving weekend, participate in a favorite local tradition: the annual performance of the Nutcracker ballet with the Billings Symphony.
6. Big Timber
Feel like you’ve stepped back in time to the Wild West this Thanksgiving in Big Timber, a tiny hamlet with a mountain-lined horizon. Enjoy an afternoon turkey dinner in a beautiful turn-of-the-century dining room at the Grand Hotel’s annual Thanksgiving buffet. On Thanksgiving weekend, drive 20 miles north to Melville for the Cow Country Stampede. As you run or walk the 4-mile course, which starts at the picturesque Melville Lutheran Church, it’s easy to see why Montana is called “Big Sky Country”. After the race, stick around for the kids’ obstacle race.
If you’re a history buff, it’s hard to beat a Butte Thanksgiving. Check out artifacts and buildings that remain from the 1800s-era copper boom while you run the annual Turkey Trot. On Thanksgiving weekend, marvel at the historic downtown architecture and find special sales during Small Business Saturday; be sure to stop by the Chamber of Commerce to see the Butte Trolley.
Natural beauty abounds during a Thanksgiving in Polson, a tiny town situated on the spectacular Flathead Lake. Enjoy panoramic views of the lake during Polson Running’s annual Turkey Trot, a 5K that benefits the Polson Food Pantry. Bring your most outlandish running outfits; racers in costume receive a head start. Vacation rentals near downtown make it easy to walk to the start. If you don’t want to cook, pick up a Thanksgiving turkey or ham dinner from Good Food store in nearby Missoula.
9. Great Falls
Follow in the footsteps of Lewis and Clark during Thanksgiving in Great Falls. Active locals prepare for the turkey feast at the annual Burn the Bird run, which offers both 5K and 10K options. For a delicious holiday dinner without the cooking or cleanup, check out the Thanksgiving specials at Good Time Charlie’s or Cody Bill’s Steakhouse. In the evening, bundle up and head to the Missouri River near the 10th Street Bridge for the annual Bridge Lights.
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