Traveling with kids can be fun. Keeping them engaged and entertained is simple with a little extra research and preparation. Here in Missoula there are endless possibilities to keep them busy and wanting to do more, more, MORE! Honored in 2009 with a "Playful City USA" Award, Missoula has an activity or play area for the young and the young at heart.
Started with a local cabinet-makers dream and made a reality by thousands of volunteers and countless hours, A Carousel for Missoula is the largest, fully hand-carved carousel built within the last 60 years, and the antique frame was last in operation on Ponderosa Ranch where "Bonanza" was filmed. Kids and adults alike will be thrilled when they mount up and speed round and round on these beautiful stallions!
Right next door to the Carousel is an outdoor, wooden play area. Imaginations will run wild as kids climb into a fantasy-land of castles, dragons and knights!
Learning is fun at the Families First Children's Museum. Located on Front Street near the Carousel and Dragon's Hollow, your children will be amazed at what they find inside. Dig up dinosaur bones, play with bubbles, water tables, and face paint. Design your own city with blocks and trucks, put on a puppet show and let your imagination take over!
Know a little science buff? SpectrUM is an interactive science center on the University Campus dedicated to getting children involved in the field. Draw pictures in the air with light, swab a giant nose and find out why it's running, check out dissected animal parts, and play through many other educational exhibits.
Praised as one of the top 5 parks in the country, MoBash has over 15,000 square feet of skate area. Complete with various bowls, bank walls, terraced inclines and plenty of rails to ride, skate enthusiasts of all ages will love this outdoor facility!
Climb an old fire lookout, play conductor on an historic locomotive and explore various other treasures of Missoula history. Established in 1947, Fort Missoula went through many phases of operation, from being an open-air fort to protect early settlers to an Alien Detention Camp during World War 2.
The Miracle of America Museum has 35 buildings on 4 acres to see and many hands-on exhibits for kids young and old to enjoy. Sit in the cockpit of a jet plane, play in a Korean War jeep and if you're lucky enough to find the engineer you can get a ride in one of the museum's two trains!
Conveniently located in McCormick Park, Silver's Lagoon is the perfect fishing hole for the young angler. The Missoulian Angler has rods and equipment available for children under the age of 14 for $1 per day rental. Or skip the equipment and just spend some time exploring the path around the water, hunting for bugs, minnows and other wonders.
Everyone loves to bowl! Slip into a sweet pair of retro bowling shoes and pick out your favorite colored ball to hurl down the lane. If the kids are tired halfway through the second game, send them off to the video-games and pool tables and when everyone's hungry order a large plate of nachos!
With curious flavors such as Mango Habanero Sorbet, Irish Whiskey, Pumpkin, Black Licorice and Cardamom, Big Dipper is well-known for their adventurous take on ice cream. Finish your afternoon adventure with a stop in to this downtown store.
Whether you fancy football, basketball or baseball, we have it here in Missoula. The University of Montana Grizzlies (www.montanagrizzlies.com) fight for the title in various sports year round and the Missoula Osprey (www.missoulaosprey.com) will have everyone singing, "Take me out to the ballgame." For a little harder hitting action, try the junior hockey team, the Missoula Maulers (www.missoulamaulers.com), or the lovable Missoula Maggots (www.maggots.org), who play a very rowdy game of rugby.
Drop in to the Zoo Town Arts Community Center and spend an afternoon crafting your very own keepsakes. Paint a number of items and have them glazed and fired in the kiln. Not planning on being in town for the typical week-long waiting period? You can make arrangements to have them shipped to your home.
A local favorite, the short scramble up Mount Sentinel takes you, courtesy of 11 switchbacks, 620 feet above the valley floor in less than half a mile, giving you a bird's-eye view of the entire Missoula valley and surrounding mountains. Originally constructed in 1908 out of whitewashed rocks and later concreted in place, the M is a landmark worth the trek.
With over 400 acres of land split into 45 parks, there is an abundance of playing space in Missoula. Grab a frisbee, ball and mit or just a pair of sneakers and get out and get going! Splash decks and plenty of trees and shade will keep everyone cool during the hottest weeks, and many of the parks are filled with swingsets, monkey bars and climbing equipment.
Tour Missoula on a bright blue Trek cruiser bike - for free! Located at the Currents Aquatic Center in McCormick Park, Parks and Recreation will gladly loan you and your family bikes and helmets to get you out, pedaling around town. Take off down the Kim Williams Trail, the old railroad bed that borders the Clark Fork River. Cruise past the Milwaukee Depot, Higgins Street Bridge, University of Montana and various parks as you take in the sights and smells of the valley.
If yours are the kids who love to shop, you need to spend a day on Higgins Street. The "Hip Strip" is home to boutiques overflowing with toys, clothes, gifts and treats made locally, organically, by hand, and just about another other way you'd prefer. The Southgate Mall (www.shopsouthgate.com) is packed with over 100 stores including retail shops; pet, book, and game stores; and your usual delicious bites. And for those who like the big box stores, drive up to North Reserve and check out all the latest fashions and gadgets, and some of the best local eateries tucked into the mix!
Missoula was blessed with two new water parks in the last few years. Currents Aquatic Center, at McCormick Park, is an indoor facility complete with water slides, hot tub and spray features. Splash Montana, in the southeastern corner of town, is an open-air water adventureland open from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Three slides, zero-depth entry pools, a log walk and many other fun features will keep the kids splashing all day!
Not much is cooler than getting a chance to pretend you're a smokejumper! Tour the depot, climb into a 1930's replica lookout tower, check out an opened parachute - all presented by a real smokejumper! Missoula is home to the largest operating base in the nation, and has been an integral part of the invention of jumping out of planes to fight forest fires. Located near the Johnson Bell Airport just a few miles west of town, the area is abuzz with aircraft flying in and out daily.
Missoula boasts 3 farmer's markets during the growing season from May to October. All located within a few blocks of each other, you are sure to have fun browsing through foods and goods crafted and grown right here in Western Montana. The original Missoula Farmer's Market is located at the northernmost end of Higgins Avenue, near the red XXXXs and has produce. The Missoula Saturday Market, located two blocks south, offers local crafts, gifts, trinkets and various food stuffs. The newest addition, the Clark Fork River Market is four blocks further south, under the Higgins Avenue bridge, on the banks of the Clark Fork River. Stocked with meat, produce, dairy, crafts, and flowers all raised in Western Montana.
Located at the fairgrounds, Glacier Ice Rink has both an indoor and outdoor rink. With reasonable rates on rentals and public skating available daily from September through May, the whole family will have fun gliding around the large arena. Another option for ice skating is in the Rattlesnake Area, at Pineview Park. Since 1975 the Rattlesnake Hockey Assocation has been flooding a portion of the park for winter skating. Hours vary due to the weather, and you'll need to bring your own skates.
Most every little kid dreams of riding a pony, and at Parsons' Pony Farm—just twenty minutes south of Missoula in Florence—that dream will become a reality. Hand–led rides through PonyWood Forest and up on Bitterroot Mountain trails will be a highlight of the young cowpoke's MT experience. All riders are helmeted, fitted to stirrups, and then mounted on friendly experienced ponies. The ponies are also available for birthday parties and special events. Email for reservations - firstname.lastname@example.org - or you can phone 273-3363. Happy Trails!
Have you ever heard an elk bugle? Do you know how big elk grow? What their favorite food is, or if they have favorite colors? Learn the answers and tons more at the Elk Country Visitor Center. Loaded with interactive displays that will test your knowledge of elk and other wildlife, the Visitor Center also has a collection of world record sized mounts, a Lewis and Clark display, a theater and a beautiful gift shop.
Every Wednesday in June, July and August Missoulians turns out for lunch in our downtown city park. From 11a.m. to 2p.m. enjoy live music, kids activities, food, espresso, ice cream, shaved ice and a dozen other goodies on the Clark Fork Riverbank. Venture to the deck overlooking the river to watch kayakers and body boarders playing in Brennan's Wave.
If your kid loves to read, you must check out the Missoula Public Library. Offering a children's corner, young adult area, free wi-fi and public computers, books on tape and a plethora of storytimes, everyone will enjoy a nice quiet afternoon in.
From bicycles to pets, beer to peace and beyond, any reason that Missoulians can think of for a festival quickly becomes one. During the summer months Caras Park is a hot-spot of celebration and fun, churning out event after event every week. KidsFest, in August, is a unique event organized by kids, for kids. Join the hoopla and enjoy carnival games, art displays, dance performances, delicious food and much more.