Nicknamed Big Sky Country, the state of Montana boasts plenty of fresh air and vast open spaces to explore the beauty of nature. Montana isn’t entirely composed of wilderness, though. The cities of Bozeman and Missoula feature a bustling atmosphere with a trendy food scene, as well as renowned museums home to stunning artwork and exhibits about the natural world. Stay at one of many Montana vacation rentals to be situated near a national park or minutes from the best shopping centers in the state. Check out the eight best weekend getaway locations in Montana.

1. Great Falls

the roe river at great falls montana
Source: Flickr/Tim Evanson

Located on the banks of the Missouri River, Great Falls is the spot to immerse your family in natural beauty. From your vacation rental, you might catch sight of the snow-capped mountains, towering buttes, and five waterfalls that circle the town. Catch a glimpse of what great American explorers saw as they moved westward at the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail Interpretive Center that overlooks the Missouri River. In the winter months, spend a day at the Showdown Ski Area with its trail for all skill levels, equipment rentals, and lessons. For dinner, grab a pie from MacKenzie River Pizza Co. or take the group to The Montana Club Restaurant for a sit-down meal.

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2. West Yellowstone

fenced at the yellowstone under canvas campsite
Source: Flickr/cloudzilla

Just outside of the west gates of Yellowstone National Park sits the small town of West Yellowstone, where you can enjoy a weekend of wonder and natural beauty. Take the kids to the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center, where they can see bears, wolves, and other predators in a natural habitat setting, or opt for an afternoon at Montana’s first IMAX theater. IMAX shows a first-run movie several times a day throughout the year. If you visit in the winter months, explore the snow-filled world with Two Top Snowmobile Rental and Yellowstone Winter Tours, where you spend the day gliding along the snow and seeing the best sights.

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3. Missoula

clark fork
Source: Flickr/Chris Phan

As home to the University of Montana, Missoula has a young and hip vibe for your weekend getaway. Choose a vacation rental close to campus to make the most of the locally-owned restaurants or select something a little more remote. The Missoula Art Museum offers the contemporary works of local and regional Montana artists and has frequent temporary exhibits. Take the history lovers in your family to Fort Missoula that dates back to the 1800s for a tour, or stop by the Missoula Butterfly House and Insectarium to let little ones feel the joy of a butterfly landing on their finger. For great eats, try Plonk Missoula, Five on Black, or Blue Canyon Kitchen and Tavern.

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4. Butte

mule deer in butte montana
Source: Flickr/Matt Lavin

Butte is often overlooked since its deterioration that coincided with the end of mining operations. However, this small town has spent a lot of time revitalizing old buildings, homes, and mines to make it a great place for a weekend getaway. Start your visit with a stop at the World Museum of Mining to learn more about the industry that originally helped the area thrive. Built in the 1880s, the W. A. Clark Mansion now serves as a bed and breakfast, but offers tours so you can see inside the luxurious rooms and gawk at the stunning antiques. Make sure to schedule a tour with Old Butte Historical Adventures to learn more about the area and see some incredible sights.

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5. Bigfork

flathead lake
Source: Flickr/Always Shooting

In the mountains, you can find a cabin overlooking the meeting point of the Swan River and Flathead Lake to enjoy a weekend in Bigfork. This town definitely supports local artists of all kinds, and the hottest ticket in town is for the Bigfork Summer Playhouse festival with multiple productions, vendors, and food from locally-owned restaurants. Book a tee time at the Eagle Bend Golf Club. This golf course offers 27 holes and amazing scenery as you play through. Catch your own supper with Able Fishing Charters and Tours. Take the family out on Flat Lake on a small fishing boat to the best fishing holes. In the winter months, they can help you tackle ice fishing.

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6. St. Ignatius

st ignatius mission church
Source: Flickr/rreihm

At the base of the Mission Mountains sits the small town of St. Ignatius. Your weekend in this small town is geared toward outdoor activities. Bring your climbing gear because this area is known for its rock and ice climbing depending on the time of year. During your visit, take an hour to tour the St. Ignatius Mission. This small mission features the murals of Brother Joseph Carignano. The Four Winds Indian Trading Post has all the supplies you need for cooking at your vacation rental and some souvenirs of your time in the area.

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7. Bozeman

bizon grazing at the flying d ranch
Source: Flickr/USDA NRCS

With 300 sunny days per year, Bozeman is the perfect spot for a weekend away. Take the kids to the Museum of the Rockies to see the biggest collection of dino bones and learn more about these fascinating creatures. If they didn’t already have dinosaurs on the brain, they will after you leave. Take older family members for a day on the Montana Brewers Trail, where you can sample brews from local craft breweries in the area. The town features a variety of festivals including the Music on the Main in the warmer months. Hit the slopes at Bridger Bowl Ski Area for a day of skiing before returning to your vacation rental for hot chocolate in front of a roaring fire.

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8. Big Sky

big sky and fir trees
Source: Flickr/Andy Eick

Hit the ski slopes at some of the best runs in the country with a stay in Big Sky. The downtown area offers a quaint, small-town feel with shops, such as Big Sky Sugarbuzz and Lone Mountain Sports. However, the real star is Big Sky Ski Resort. Find a variety of slopes to suit almost any ski level. The resort also offers equipment rental and lessons to get up on skis for the first time or help you build confidence in your existing skills. Grab a quick bite at Olive B’s Big Sky Bistro.

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