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Destinations,  Montana,  Mountains US,  RV Travel

Can’t Miss Bozeman: Big City Benefits with a Small Town Vibe

Originally posted September 2020; Revised and migrated April 2021
Travel date July 2020

Bozeman is home to Montana’s largest university, Montana State University. It is a great stop on a Yellowstone road trip. The city surprised us with it’s craft beers, specialty shops and laid back small town vibe. We’ve rounded up the can’t miss attractions in Bozeman including a few of our personal favorites.

What is Bozeman Montana known for?

Bozeman has been voted among the top most livable places. Surrounded by mountains the area offers year-round outdoor recreation including skiing, hunting, fly fishing, hiking, biking, and rock climbing. The city has all of the benefits of a bigger city but with the laid-back feeling of a small town.

fly fishing

Why is Bozeman so expensive?

We recently heard a podcast about Bozeman real estate trends. The appeal of the area attracts many wealthy to build second homes here. Sadly, the popularity of Bozeman has made real estate so expensive that it is unaffordable for locals. Many locals are being forced to leave Bozeman for an opportunity at homeownership.

How far is Yellowstone from Bozeman?

Bozeman is 80 miles from Gardiner Montana and the North Yellowstone entrance. It is the largest town near Yellowstone and is a great location for shopping before or after visiting Yellowstone. If going to Yellowstone, check out our Ultimate 5 Day Itinerary.

Shopping in Bozeman

We planned our trip to Bozeman for boring stuff like specialty bike parts, grocery shopping, and Amazon shipments. Everyday errands can be challenging because we travel full-time in our motorhome, Pippi. Check out this blog for tips and tricks to get mail while traveling.

Bozeman was a nice change from rural Montana. It is a fairly small college town with an abundance of breweries. We really enjoyed our time in Bozeman. The town was big enough to have a Walmart and lots of national chains (REI) that we had not seen in over a month. We took full advantage to restock in preparation for northern Yellowstone and Grand Tetons.

A surprise stop in Bozeman was Olivelle, a Bozeman-born specialty food shop. They specialize in seasoning blends, infused oils, and vinegar. We loved many of their products but limited ourselves to the roasted garlic olive oil, lime and jalapeno vinegar, and a tzatziki seasoning blend. We haven’t found another shop with the quality, creativity, and variety since. If you enjoy cooking, you can’t miss a stop at Olivelle.

Camping in Bozeman

We spent our first and last night in Bozeman at the Walmart which allows overnight camping. For the rest of our stay we found cheap in town camping at the Gallatin County Fairgrounds. The fairgrounds didn’t have any full hookup sites available so we paid $20 per night for a dry camping site. It was a dirt lot and nothing special. We decided to stay for a few days to enjoy the close proximity to local breweries and downtown.

Eating and Drinking in Bozeman

After spending a week in Island Park, Idaho visiting Yellowstone National Park, we were excited by the variety of breweries and restaurants in Bozeman.

Roost Fried Chicken

We only had a few days in Bozeman but managed to try Roost Fried Chicken. The founders are from Tennessee and they serve Southern style fried chicken and fixins. We enjoyed their Nashville Hot and Sweet Heat fried chicken with fried okra, collard greens, mac & cheese and cheesy grits. Every table on their large patio was full with a line of people waiting. If everything on the menu is as tasty as our meals, Roost Fried Chicken is a can’t miss spot in Bozeman.

roost fried chicken
Courtesy of Roost Fried Chicken

Bozeman Breweries

Bozeman has eight breweries and we couldn’t visit them all in our short visit. We chose a few based on proximity to other errands.

We found Bunkhouse Brewery across the street from a laundromat while doing laundry. Kevin was super excited to find a $6 growler fill special on his birthday at Bunkhouse Brewery near the Montana State University campus.

The Lockhorn Cider House was my favorite brewery in Bozeman. We both left Bozeman with local beverages in the fridge for future enjoyment.

You can’t leave Bozeman without visiting a brewery or you’ll miss some great local beer.

cider flight at lockhorn cider

Can’t Miss Things to do in Bozeman

Bozeman is full of great things to do including world class outdoor activities, dining, beers, and museums. Here is a round up of things you can’t miss in Bozeman:

Downtown Bozeman

Downtown Bozeman is cute. They have free street parking and plenty of shops for browsing. While living in England for three years, I developed a love for hard cider. So I was very excited to find Lockhorn Cider House while walking around downtown.

We recently watched all three seasons of ‘Yellowstone’ starring Kevin Costner. It was really cool to see some of the landmarks from the show, such as the rotating horse statue at Bangtail Bikes in downtown Bozeman. The owner of Bangtail Bikes was also super friendly and patient with our questions about vintage mountain bike parts.

bangtail bikes in downtown bozeman
Courtesy of Bangtail Bikes

Museum of the Rockies

The Museum of the Rockies is the #1 attraction in Bozeman. It is a nice museum focusing on the history of the Yellowstone area.

dinosaur at Museum of Rockies in Bozeman

We utilized our ASTC reciprocal membership to visit the Museum of the Rockies for free. If traveling with children or adults who enjoy museums and zoos, a membership at an AZA and ASTC organization is a great budget-saving option. We donate less than $60 annually to the Western North Carolina Nature Center and get free and discounted admission to facilities all over the United States.

The Museum of the Rockies had large exhibits dedicated to the local native tribes and the history of Yellowstone National Park. Before visiting, I didn’t realize Montana was home to so many famous archeological finds. I was impressed with the variety of dinosaur fossils that have been found in the area.

dinosaur fossils at museum of rockies in bozeman

The Planetarium was open with social distancing and we enjoyed a show about how the Earth was formed. They do a variety of shows in the Planetarium throughout the day and it’s worth seeing at least one show.

Sentinel Ranch Alpaca Farm

We took a day trip to Sentinel Ranch Alpaca Farm. If you like animals, this is a can’t miss attraction in Bozeman. They are Harvest Hosts members but their farm was not along our route. Instead we decided not to camp there and just visited for a farm tour. The farmer walked us into the babies and new mom field.

mom and baby alpaca at sentinel alpaca farm in bozeman

The moms were very accustomed to guests and were happy to eat out of our hands while we petted them. The babies were very curious about us and some let us pet them and others stayed close to their moms. After previous experiences with spitting llamas, I was not sure what to expect from these llama-looking creatures.

alpaca

The farmer told us the new moms were much better tempered than the expecting moms in the nearby field. Alpaca are primarily raised for their fur which is as warm as sheep’s wool but much softer and finer. Sheep wool has air pockets in it but alpaca wool is completely hollow which allows it to retain more warmth.

alpacas at sentinel alpaca farm in bozeman

They had a really nice gift shop and since we didn’t need any new socks or warm weather clothes we purchased some alpaca pepper sticks (like jerky) and ground alpaca meat. The meat is very low fat and tastes similar to lamb.

Bozeman Swim Center

The City operates the Bozeman Swim Center, a large indoor swimming pool and fitness center. It is located behind Walmart and is within walking distance. We enjoyed swimming laps for more than one day. I also joined my first group HIIT class with COVID protocols. Hours vary and admission is $5 for non-residents and $4 for residents.

Big Sky

Big Sky, a cute ski town, offers year-round shopping, hiking, and outdoor activities. Located only 45 miles from Bozeman, Big Sky is a great day trip. Check out this blog to see how we spent a summer day in Big Sky.

Bozeman Can’t Miss Continued: Saving for Next Time

We only spent a few days in Bozeman and missed a few of the top attractions.

College M Trail

After hiking many miles in Yellowstone and Big Sky, we weren’t interested in hiking Bozeman. However we did consider hiking the #1 trail, the College M. The trail has two route options, the easy option or the steep option, leading up a hillside overlooking town. It is named for the large white ‘M’ monogrammed in the hillside. In 1915, Montana State College students added the ‘M’ in pride of their school. It is common to see similar white monogrammed letters on many hillsides throughout the American West.

American Computer and Robotics Museum

American Computer and Robotics Museum in Bozeman showcases the history of computers and robotics. Admission is $7.50 and hours are limited to 12 pm until 4 pm Tuesday to Sunday. We had limited time and didn’t visit.

Montana Grizzly Encounter

The Montana Grizzly Encounter is home to rescued grizzly bears. A week prior we had visited the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center in West Yellowstone and had seen wild grizzlies in West Yellowstone Park. We decided to skip the Montana Grizzly Encounter on this trip to Bozeman. Hours vary by season and admission is $9.

Bozeman Hot Springs

Bozeman Hot Springs is a natural hot spring with 12 pools, a fitness center, and a campground. Weekday pool admission is $17 but sadly they didn’t have availability during our visit.

Enjoy the Outdoors in Gallatin

Surrounded by mountains, Bozeman is an outdoor playground. The Custer Gallatin National Forest contains miles of hiking and mountain biking trails. A popular hike is Palisade Falls. It is a 1.2-mile easy trail to an 80-foot waterfall. Gallatin River offers world-class outdoor activities including white water rafting and fly fishing.

Kevin’s Birthday in Bozeman

On our last night in Bozeman, we celebrated Kevin’s birthday with a local growler of beer, take-away chicken wings, and cake. Earlier in the day, Kevin was able to swim at the nearby Bozeman Swim Center while I sneakily walked to Cupcake Mountain Cupcakery for birthday cupcakes.

His niece and I surprised him with a video call with some of his family. He was super happy to see their faces and catch up with “the kids” and his mom. His nieces and nephew have children of their own but we still consider them “the kids”.

Bozeman Summary

We really enjoyed our few days in Bozeman and would definitely visit again. The college town had a few of our favorite things: craft beers, good food, outdoor recreation, and big-city shopping. Bozeman is a can’t miss stop on your next Montana road trip.


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