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Today my friend Rachel Quan shares one of her favorite destinations… and it could become a favorite of mine, too! I’ve only heard wonderful things as to Montana’s beauty! And it sounds like the perfect mix of excitement and relaxation…
City or town name:
Paradise Valley, Montana – which is not a city, but an AREA that is a major river valley of the Yellowstone River in southwestern Montana. It is located just north of Yellowstone National Park and flanked by the Absaroka Mountain Range on the east and the Gallatin Mountain Range on the West. Bozeman, Livingston, Gardiner and Dillon are the cities/towns that are most notable in the Paradise Valley.
Is there an airport there? If not, what is the nearest airport and how far away is it?
The closest large airport to this area of Montana is in Bozeman. Sometimes we fly into Salt Lake City and drive from there to our destination – about 5 hours – it’s a beautiful drive. Most years, we pack up our Suburban and drive everyone and everything up with us for 2-3 weeks – including the dogs. It’s a 3-day drive and we love to go up through the Texas panhandle, Colorado and Wyoming for the most scenic route.
Is this a place you have visited more than once? If so, what keeps you coming back?
We have vacationed in Montana – specifically this area – many times, almost every summer for the past 8 years. There is nothing like the “Big Sky Country” and its beautiful mountains, valleys and rivers. We love the outdoors. A few members of our family love fly-fishing and the weather in the summers can’t be beat. Believe it or not, we’ve only gone into Yellowstone National Park once in all the years we’ve been going back. We don’t like crowds or traffic jams, which is what the norm is in the summers there. You have to visit it once just to say you’ve seen Old Faithful and some pretty spectacular waterfalls, but we like to go where there aren’t a ton of people and the scenery is just as spectacular. We’ve rented RVs and stayed along the Gallatin, Madison and Yellowstone Rivers on different trips. We’ve enjoyed the small town feeling and great food in Bozeman, and we’ve rented a house as well. My parents used to live in Dillon, Montana – so we have stayed with them at times and taken their RV on many an expedition as well.
What makes this place great for families to visit?
If you love the outdoors, it’s the perfect family vacation. You can fish, you can swim, you can hike, you can go into town and enjoy a good meal, you can find places that have horseback riding… or you can venture into Yellowstone National Park if you feel like you have to see the standard fare. We love it because you can’t beat the beauty and we aren’t distracted by all of the hustle and bustle of a busy city. Because we live in a very urban setting year-round, it’s where we can really relax, unplug and enjoy being together. Although we have friends that go into Colorado or stay in Jackson Hole, Wyoming (beautiful places), there’s something special about Montana – it just doesn’t seem as touristy or crowded in the summers.
How long should a family plan to stay to hit the highlights?
No less than 10 days – there’s so much to see and enjoy.
What are some of the fun things to do? What were your favorites? Why? What ages would these spots appeal to?
Our family (specifically Rachel’s dad and sister) loves to fly fish, and Montana is famous for its fly fishing. You can find professional guides to take you on guided tours or “floats” on the various rivers, or you can enjoy standing knee-deep in the glacier-fed rivers by yourself and fishing.
We do a lot of swimming, hiking and just sitting along the river – as well as sitting around the campfire in the evenings! We’ve been taking our son to Montana since he was 2-years old, but as he’s gotten older he’s enjoyed it even more. All ages can enjoy this type of trip, depending on your lodging situation. This summer, we’ll rent a house because so much of our family is meeting there for vacation – and we would recommend renting a house if you have really small children.
What family-friendly places to eat would you recommend? Anything special about them?
Family-friendly eating on a vacation like this is about “camp food” if you’re camping out or in an RV. When we stay in a house, we make big trips to the grocery store and I (aka “Mom”) cook up a storm – all the things we can’t have during the year.
However, if you’re looking for a few fun places in various towns, we have some recommendations.
-DILLON, MONTANA: you have to go to the Sweetwater Café on Bannack Street for wifi (to check in with the world for a moment) and great coffee, salads and bakery items. This is a really small town and the Sweetwater Café is great food and a great atmosphere. Plus, it’s right down the street from the Patagonia Outlet, where we always find great deals on our favorite outdoor gear.
-BOZEMAN, MONTANA: there are lots of great places, many that serve locally grown fare, etc… but our favorite place to visit is a place called The Naked Noodle on South Willson – where you get to create your own noodle dish. Sounds odd, but our son loves it and it tastes good. Our other eatery in town is located in the historic Baxter Hotel – where there’s a great wine bar and lots of yummy dishes.
-LIVINGSTON, MONTANA: you can’t beat going to The Northern Pacific Beanery (on West Park Street) for a GREAT breakfast — great omelettes, pancakes and even chicken fried steak (for breakfast)! Plus, it’s located in a historic building – the old Northern Pacific Railroad Depot.
What hotels or other places to stay can you recommend?
There are hotels and motels galore in the various small towns in the Paradise Valley. However, the BEST way to experience this part of Montana is by renting an RV or renting a home that is out in the middle of it all.
For RV Rentals: We’ve rented from both Big Boy Toys and C&T RV Rentals, both located in Bozeman, Montana. One year we rented a trailer we hooked to the back of our Suburban and camped along Madison River and one year we rented a full-blown RV that we drove up to the Gallatin River and made that our home base for a couple of weeks.
For Home Rentals we still use (and have always had success with ) VBRO – Vacation Rental By Owner. Set your budget, figure out where you want to be close to (the water? In the mountains? Near a town?) and inquire about the properties that meet your criteria. This year, we’ll be staying in a great house that has incredible views of both mountain ranges, is 5 minutes from the Yellowstone River and one hour from Bozeman. The kitchen will lend itself to some great cooking (my therapy) and the 1500 Square Foot deck with two barbeques where we will spend most of our time when we’re there.
If adults can fit in a date night without the kids while there, what would you suggest?
Hmmm… this might not lend itself to that unless you have family on the trip (like we do). I guess you’d want to put the kids to bed and snuggle with your spouse next to the campfire.Filed under Destination Snaphots, Montana | Comments Off