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Family Vacation Destinations in Montana

Ideas for family-friendly getaways in Montana

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With attractions and activities that appeal to kids of all ages, Montana is a great place for a family vacation. Dinosaur fossils, Old West towns, and boating and swimming are among the things that children adore and that adults enjoy as well, creating opportunities for experiences where the whole multi-generational gang can have fun together.

Here are my recommendations for family vacation destinations in Montana:

Whitefish & Glacier National Park

City Park Beach in Whitefish MT (Angela M. Brown)
City Park Beach in Whitefish MT
Outdoor activities are the focus in Whitefish, a mountain resort town located near the west entrance to Glacier National Park. The town's major attraction is Whitefish Mountain Resort at Big Mountain, where you'll enjoy hiking, biking, and horseback riding in the summer and skiing and snowboarding in the winter. Whitefish Lake is a lovely place for boating, kayaking, water skiing, and swimming. Whitefish is home to great restaurants, fun shops, and several golf courses. Rafting, fly fishing, and the full range of outdoor activities are available in nearby national forest lands. A day trip (or more!) into Glacier National Park is a must - leave the driving and parking on the Going-to-the-Sun Road to the pros and take a shuttle bus.

Follow the Lewis & Clark Trail

Lewis & Clark National Historic Trail Interpretive Center © Angela M. Brown
Lewis & Clark National Historic Trail Interpretive Center in Great Falls, Montana © Angela M. Brown
On both their westward and return journeys, Lewis and Clark and the Corps of Discovery found their way to many points in Montana. Paddling or walking the same route is a thrilling way to experience and appreciate their historic accomplishment. There are several Montana road trips you can take themed around Lewis and Clark attractions and activities. The Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail Interpretive Center is located in Great Falls, with a nice selection of significant sites nearby.

Yellowstone National Park

While the bulk of Yellowstone National Park lies in Wyoming, portions are in Montana and Idaho. The Montana towns of West Yellowstone and Gardiner, each located at a major park entrance, are often the base for a Yellowstone vacation. From there you'll have access not only to Yellowstone National Park, but to the services of expert recreation guides and outfitters and outdoor recreation in adjacent national forests.

Butte, Montana

Park in Historic Uptown Butte Montana
Park in Historic Uptown Butte Montana
Butte, a world-famous copper boomtown, is rich in relics from the past that retain considerable fascination today. Young engineers will enjoy the World Museum of Mining, where you can see massive earth-moving equipment, wander through a reconstructed old mining town, and take an underground tour of an actual mine. Berkeley Pit is a water-filled open-pit mine and massive Superfund site that has to be seen to be believed. Butte's colorful past can be experienced on a historic train, at a magnificently-preserved mansion, or on a walking tour that includes a speakeasy and old jail cells. Nearby, Fairmont Hot Springs and Nevada City are other family-friendly attractions.

Montana Dinosaur Trail

Duck-billed Dinosaurs at the Rudyard Depot Museum © Angela M. Brown (2006)
Duck-billed Dinosaurs at the Rudyard Depot Museum
The state of Montana is rich in significant dinosaur fossils, which are featured at museums, visitor centers, and field sites all around the state. You can visit a majority of the paleontology sites by taking a road trip through North Central Montana. Base a trip in Great Falls or Fort Peck and you'll have access to a fine selection of sites on the trail. Or visit Bozeman in the south, where you can check out the Museum of the Rockies, home to the world's largest T rex skull as well as to one of the largest collections of dinosaur fossils in the world.

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