Bozeman, MT is keeping it real with a small town feel. Bozeman still fits into the mold for many travelers as a small town, and it certainly is a beautiful one! If you’re a resident of Montana, you may not view Bozeman as a small town, but population wise, compared to what’s considered a small town in other States, Bozeman still fits as a fun, interesting, beautiful, and historical small town.
A Little Background
Bozeman started off as a frontier town that served as hub for gold prospectors looking to strike it rich in the Bannack area and Alder Gulch. The town is named after John M. Bozeman who established the Bozeman Trail, and helped establish farms and ranches in the Gallatin Valley. Click Here for a great history recap from town founders and indigenous people of Bozeman, courtesy of Gallatin County Pioneer Museum and AM 1450 KMMS. While it’s been dubbed “Boz Angeles” by many Montanans, once you’re able to experience Bozeman, you will find that it definitely has a lot of small town culture surrounding each of its businesses and activities. This coupled with cultural amenities you may not find in smaller Western towns.
The beauty surrounding Bozeman is unsurpassed in many ways. At least from my perspective, I can see why this description is very true: “Bozeman is called “the most livable place” for good reason. Enjoy world-renowned fly fishing, dramatic mountains for hiking, mountain biking, rock climbing, skiing, hunting, and backcountry exploring, Yellowstone National Park, and impressive wildlife. When you are ready for a more city experience, dive into Bozeman’s thriving arts and culture communities, ranging from main street festivals, farmers markets, cultural centers and museums to symphonies, theaters, and art galleries”(visitmt.com).
Inns and Institutions
It seems like every small town has unique old buildings that capture your attention and your imagination. It is wonderful when you’re able to visit a town that has invested resources in these institutions, and brings them back to life or they have been lovingly maintained. In Bozeman you will find these investments at The Lark and The Museum of the Rockies .
The Lark Bozeman
What’s your favorite downtown hotel? For My Town, The Lark in downtown Bozeman is ranking pretty high! The Lark’s current location has been a hotel since the 60’s (used to be The Imperial), and has undergone an incredible restoration that started in 2015 to create this beautiful boutique hotel. The restoration conducted by a group local businessmen and women went so well that they added an addition known as the “west wing” in 2018. The Lark is located right in the heart of downtown Bozeman, and is known for being “The Base Camp to Bozeman,” and “Where You Are Provided Everything You Need, and Nothing You Don’t.” It’s known for sleek contemporary style, with hand-crafted local Info-graphic Stamp artwork in every room, created by a local artisan who teaches at the nearby College.
The local staff are ready to help you explore all that the recreational mecca of Bozeman has to offer, and where else can you check in and receive a complimentary field guide, to kick start your outdoor exploring? But My Town’s favorite part of the stay was the bathroom. The Beautifully tiled large shower with spa-quality products made my morning, and this comes standard in every room! In addition, they have a very unique entrance with an outdoor seating and fireplace area, that’s great for winding down. The Lark also supports local businesses with coffee and ice cream shops on site, a win-win for everyone! Making your stay that much more special when visiting Bozeman.
Museum of the Rockies
Founded in 1957, The Museum of the Rockies is “a college-level division of Montana State University, a Smithsonian Affiliate, and a repository for state and federal fossils. MOR is recognized as one of the world’s finest research and history museums. It is renowned for displaying an extensive collection of dinosaur fossils, including the mounted Montana’s T. rex skeleton!” (museumoftherockies.org). With all these accolades you can bet you will find nothing but delight during your visit, especially if you love dinosaurs! Did you know that Montana is a treasure trove of dinosaur artifacts? So much in fact, there is a state wide Dinosaur Trail!
But dinosaur artifacts (In the Seibel Dinosaur Complex) are not all you will find at MOR. While My Town visited, they were showing: DARK, understanding Dark Matter in their planetarium. We also explored the history of Bozeman, and surrounding areas including Yellowstone National Park, and the live exhibit-Reptiles: the Beautiful And The Deadly. The live exhibit was really fun for everyone, and something you would not expect from what I would classify as a “traditional museum”(make sure to check out our Insta or Tik Tok for fun videos).
In addition, we arrived on the first day of re-opening their Living History Farm. The original 1867 Homesteader house known as the The Tinsley House, was moved from it’s original location built on a plot of land acquired through the Homestead Act, in 1989. The inside of the Tinsley house is completely furnished with items from the period, and has a working farm to walk through. We loved it, and you will too!
The Delicious and Delectable of Bozeman
There are wonderful choices in Bozeman when it comes to great food. From formal dining to casual downtown staples, Here a few My Town Picks:
There is absolutely no question of the top eatery/bar to visit in town if you ask the locals, and that’s the history speaking for itself for Rocking R Bar. Still in it’s original location since 1947, Rocking R Bar has been the local hot spot for its casual atmosphere and great food for over half a century.
When visiting you may think the building looks pretty new for such an established bar and eatery. That’s because in 2008 the entire bar was lost in a devastating explosion the took out nearly a city block! But this bar endured, and it’s loyal customers supported them through the rebuild and beyond. It is 100% one of the coolest bars you will visit in Bozeman, and you will love the experience from the history, to the food, and of course the drinks!
Can’t Go Wrong With Locally Made
Pictured- My Town CEO, Kristy Burns enjoying a Montana Made assortment liquor flight (pictured right) at Rocking R Bar. Not only was this flight made in Montana, but at the Rocking R Bar they have their own brand of Vodka, Rum, and Whiskey Made from several Montana Distilleries. Rocking R Bar’s Vodka and Huckleberry Vodka is made by Trailhead Spirits. Trailhead Spirits start with wheat from their family farm and waters that come from the snowcapped peaks of the Beartooth Mountains, making your hand crafted spirit spectacular! My Town’s Favorite- In Montana and Wyoming Huckleberry is definitely a seasonal favorite put into just about everything! And I’m happy to report that along with Rocking R Bar’s Signature Rye Whiskey and Rum, that the Huckelberry Vodka is also delicious, especially in a Signature Montana Lemonade Cocktail.
The food is currently being served by Hail Mary’s (a spin on the sports crowd, and taking a chance on a new business!), and is doing a wonderful job of crowd pleasing! My Town had the Madonna, (grilled chicken, melted brie, bacon, apple, arugula, and house jalapeno jelly)! Try one of their signature sandwiches, and Rocking R’s delicious drinks when you visit the iconic Rocking R Bar.
My Town was searching for great places for family dining to spend some quality time. The answer was the local favorite Burger Bobs! Featured on Food Network, Burger Bob’s beef is locally sourced and served on delicious Wheat Montana buns (fyi Wheat Montana bread is also a great addition to your grocery list if you’re staying a while in Bozeman). The hotdogs are also great, and their Customer Promise- hilarious! Make sure to scroll through gallery pics.
If you’re looking for great bison dishes in Bozeman, you have to make Ted’s Montana Grill one of your stops. Owned by Ted Turner- yes THE Ted Turner who does stop in from time to time-and George W. McKerrow, Ted’s Montana grill specializes in authentic American dishes. While My Town usually does not frequent restaurants that are part of a chain, I had to share, because the food was outstanding! I had the bison meatloaf sandwich with pepperjack and grilled onions on ciabatta. But the Bison Meatloaf and Burgers- also great! You also have to start with their homemade chips, because the ranch-onion dip is amazing. (see pictures in gallery)
I was given a tip while exploring Bozeman that El Camino had the best Mojitos in town. I thought…El Camino- maybe Mexican food? Sounds great! To my delight and surprise the name El Camino has nothing to do with food, and everything to do with VIBE (think cars, and 70’s-80’s decor)!! Seriously, as a child of the 80’s this place was a blast. Hearing all the best music my parents listened to in the 70’s, my kids getting to play the original Super Mario Brothers on the big screen, and an overall retro decor! This is also a great place for a delicious fried chicken sandwiches and appetizers which is their specialty. Highly recommend stopping in to check this out, and hang out like you’re at a friends house!
It’s been a while, especially with the hault in travel, since the My Town Family has had a breakfast of this caliber. My first impression- We were asked if we wanted home-made cinnamon rolls brought to the table as a starter, umm happy dance! Followed by menu options with an entire section dedicated to Eggs Benedict (my favorite), and lots of options with Western flair. The top contenders for our table were The Jim Bridger Scramble (bison sausage on buttermilk biscuits with sausage gravy, cheddar cheese, tomatoes & scallions served with hash browns), and the Huevos Rancheros with Bison Sausage (Two eggs any style, on flour tortillas filled with black beans & green chiles topped with cheddar cheese, salsa, chiles, sour cream & rancheros sauce served with hash browns). If you love breakfast, bring your appetite, you will leave with a very happy belly!
Unique, Interesting, Yours of Bozeman
What is it about a town that makes it special? A local attraction, a family-owned business that has been there forever? A piece of history you can’t find anywhere else, or a bookstore with just the right vibe? Here are a few of the Unique, Interesting, Yours of Bozeman.
Madison River Tubing
Absolutely amazing way to be introduced to Bozeman-floating down the Madison River! Madison River Tubing runs a great operation that is a blast for the whole family! We had ages ranging from 10 to 69, and each one of us was able to relax, and have some super intentional family time. When you just let the river do it’s thing, it’s amazing how rejuvenated you will feel.
This type of activity was one of the highlights from our time in Bozeman. This activity really forced everyone at once to just focus on the float and each other. There are not a lot of activities out there that can accomplish that, and that everyone can physically do. The slow paced float lasted about 2 1/2 hours. But make sure to account for time to get back to your vehicle afterward. I used to do this activity frequently as a kid, but for many in our group this was a first. They loved it! We also had a cooler with drinks and snacks tied in the middle of all our tubes. This was definitely the right decision for my snacky kids!
This is a short 1.1 mile heavily trafficked out and back trail located near Bozeman, that features a waterfall, and is good for all skill levels. The trail is primarily used for hiking, walking, and nature trips and is best used from May until October. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on leash. This was a great stop, not too strenuous and absolutely beautiful.
Fairy Lake is a gorgeous alpine lake located just outside Bozeman. This was by far one of the most memorable highlights of our trip. But you do need four wheel drive to get there. The road is pretty bumpy in places, but also a ton of fun! Check out all the details from this great write up from Outside Bozeman. “Fairy Lake in a forested bowl at the base of Sacagawea Peak outside Bozeman. Starting at the upper trailhead, the trail loops around the perimeter of the lake for an easy 1-mile hike. If your car can’t make it past the lower trailhead, you can still hike the lake; just add about 4 miles round-trip. This is a great place to have a picnic, fish, and swim. Make sure to have a go on the rope swing mid-way across the lake.”(outsidebozeman.com)
The world’s largest Hard Drive, Robots, Cyborgs, and the first video games, are just a few of the super cool, interesting, and thought-provoking exhibits at the unique American Computer and Robotics Museum. My kids LOVED this museum, in fact my 13 year old was the reason we went, because he asked!
Growing up in the 80’s it’s really fun to see what technology was actually used in the early days of computers. But the history goes back much further! “The exhibits span 4,000 years of human history, from original cuneiform tablets to the first personal computers, and include topics such as Artificial Intelligence, Quantum Computing, the Space Race, Cracking the Enigma Code, and more” (acrmuseum.org).Such a unique, and fascinating place for the entire family. And an Added Bonus, it’s inexpensive!
Small Town Story Highlight
My Town is completely obsessed with visiting places like The Rialto when visiting a town- Why? Because historic performance venues add to the charm, nostalgia, history, curiosity and wonder of a town. Once it’s own film venue, The Rialto is now The Lark Hotel’s historic events venue counterpart. In Bozeman, there is a very special group of businessmen and women, and Bozeman enthusiasts that wanted to bring the Lark and The Rialto to life. They wanted this for their love of Bozeman history preservation, and a place that local’s could utilize for event experiences. I had the pleasure of talking with one of these businessmen Matthew Beehler, who clearly made his investments in the Rialto and the Lark for his love of Bozeman. “It’s not about being successful, it’s rewarding.” (Matthew Beehler, General Manager-The Lark).
The Rialto Then and Now
I loved the write ups of who they are on their website so much I didn’t want to put my spin on it. So here it is: “The soul of the Rialto doesn’t waver far from its origins. Our iconic building, originally erected in 1908 as a storefront and U.S. Post Office, and before that a peanut stand on Main Street, became the Rialto Theater in 1924. Flourishing in the Roaring 20s, the theater was renowned for silent film screenings, as its Art Deco marquee brought a bit of glitz to downtown Bozeman. Finding its personality, as well as its niche, the Rialto eventually shifted toward feature more independent films.The aura of the Rialto is a seamless merging of historical elements, a modern aesthetic, and a sense of reinvention. Designed to reflect a spirit of curiosity, the Rialto presents boundary-pushing music, and provocative film and spoken-word events.”(rialtobozeman.com)
The Rialto also provides Bozeman with one of kind gatherings large and small. They do this with three spaces: The Burn Box (gather with friends for signature cocktails), The Black Box (theater, holds 400), and The Light Box Beautiful conference space with tons of natural light, and catering). And you can get tickets to an event when visiting Bozeman. Just check website for current regulations, showtimes and tickets
MTT Antique and Market Finds
Great Antique Shops and Farmers Markets are familiar sights in small towns. This includes Thrift Shops, Local Eats, and the like! In Bozeman there are great Antique and Market finds everywhere you look. Below are some of My Town‘s Favorite Finds.
My Town Today has started a referral section of each article. It’s based on visiting a town, and finding out what town the majority of its residents recommend My Town should visit next.
The referral for this entry is: Livingston, MT. Stay tuned for My Town to pop up there soon.
We hope you enjoyed this article on Bozeman, MT! My Town visits are based on exploring and discovery as a first time visitor, and we certainly never want to leave anyone out of our articles. Missed seeing your business, service, or experience offered in your town? Contact My Town to see how we can promote your unique offerings on Social, in Newsletters, and on our Website.
Want to talk small towns? Head over to our Facebook page and ask to join our Private Group- The My Town Experience Community. Join the National Conversation for Small Towns, and easily share Small Town resources, stories, and strategies! Add your topic, and make great new friends with like-minded small town enthusiasts.
In addition, we offer great opportunities to Join as a Promotional Member of My Town Today for less than $5 a month! Yep, that’s all it takes to promote your small town community, experience, or business and have access to our Ticketed and Virtual Events software, the Small Town Directory, and More!. Click here to learn more and Join! And don’t forget you can always post your Small Town Events for Free! firstname.lastname@example.org
Click Here For My Town’s Bozeman Photo Gallery: