Sitting along the Clark Fork River, surrounded by vistas of the Northern Rockies, Missoula is a city that enjoys the famous natural beauty of Montana. The town itself has a lot to offer, with museums, parks, and micro-breweries a fantastic addition to the popular trailheads.
We will break down Missoula’s best neighborhoods so that you can make the most of your trip exploring this wonderful city.
The best areas to stay in Missoula:
- Best neighborhood for things to do: Downtown is where you’ll find most of Missoula’s museums, art galleries, and nightlife. It’s the busiest part of the city, so it has the most activities to try. Lewis and Clark is another great choice. With its huge sports fields and Splash waterpark, it’s particularly good for sporty families!
- Best base for an overnight pit stop: North Reserve St & Westview Park are just off Interstate 90, close to Missoula County International Airport, and the furthest north you can get in Missoula. This makes them ideal for people needing a break from the road and traveling towards Glacier National Park. There are plenty of hotel options, and a few Airbnbs as well.
- Staying in Missoula on a budget: Missoula isn’t particularly expensive, but the Southgate Triangle has the highest number of budget hotels and Airbnbs. You will find some very reasonably priced places in other areas as well – there’s somewhere for every budget in Missoula.
- Best area for families: There are so many great areas for families in Missoula! Lower Rattlesnake is lovely and relaxed, but Lewis and Clark is absolutely perfect. It has a very laid-back community feel – like Lower Rattlesnake – but has sports fields and a waterpark to keep the kids occupied.
Downtown Missoula is exciting, bustling, and fun. It’s the heart of Missoula and has a little piece of everything that makes the city special. The unique shops and creative studios, the community-led projects, the friendly atmosphere, and, of course, the Clark Fork River itself.
Downtown has so much to offer people of all ages. You will find breweries and bars, museums and theaters, carousels, and children’s playgrounds – whatever your age or interests, you are sure to find something to enjoy. The iconic Wilma theatre building has been at the heart and soul of Missoula since it was built by William “Billy” Simons and dedicated to his wife, Edna Wilma in 1921. You can get tickets for a live performance if you’re lucky, or experience watching a film in a building almost as old as the cinema itself.
Young families will love the impressive Dragon Hollow playground – the huge play area will keep the kids entertained for hours. You will find ‘A Carousel for Missoula’ nearby. The carousel was built by the community, hand-carved by a group of volunteers. Community is at the heart of everything in Missoula, and you can feel the warm, welcoming atmosphere all over the city. You will notice it especially downtown, where you sit side by side with locals in its many bars and breweries.
The ‘hip strip’ is a section of road on Higgins Ave, between Rose Park and the University District, heading into downtown. It’s where you’ll find most of Missoula’s unique shops and restaurants. Montanan creatives gather on this street in art studios and music shops, cool restaurants, and locally-owned boutiques. From vintage clothing to local breweries; the hip strip is a real eclectic mix!
Best Hotels in Downtown:
($$$) • Residence Inn by Marriott Missoula Downtown • Located in the heart of downtown
($$) • Comfort Inn University • 6.3 miles from Missoula County International Airport
($) • Days Inn and Suites by Wyndham Downtown Missoula-University • An 8-minute walk from the University of Montana
Best Airbnbs in Downtown:
($$$) • Unique Fully Remodeled Historical Experience • Breweries, bakeries, and shops within easy walking distance
($$) • Hip Strip Historic Apartment • One block from the hip strip
($) • Hip Strip Studio in the heart of Missoula! Apt 15 • 8-minute walk to University of Montana
2. University District
Home of the grizzlies, the University of Montana is one of the most popular educational institutions in Montana. The red-brick building is an iconic sight in Missoula; with a fitting backdrop of lush green trees and mountain ridges. The Montana Museum of Art & Culture is located on the campus, and as the state’s largest publicly-owned collection of art, is worth a visit.
The University District is possibly the most ideally located in the whole city. It’s close to downtown, Rose Park and the ‘hip strip’, overlooks the Clark Fork River, and has a number of popular trailheads – some of which lead up to Mt. Sentinel, with its incredible views over Missoula. There are so many cute bakeries, cozy cafes, and hip new restaurants in this area. The student population helps keep the neighborhood young and creative, so there’s always a buzz around the district.
Despite the young university students running around, most of the University District feels relatively quiet and peaceful. This is especially true in the southern end of the neighborhood, where the bars and shops give way to leafy residential streets and historic housing. There are a few parks – Bonner Park is only small, but has a children’s play area, while Campbell Park is larger. The Dornblaser-Lewis-Clark Stadium in Campbell Park is where the elite track and field athletes from the university come to train.
Best Airbnbs in the University District:
($$$) • Cozy home in a quiet University area. • 1.9 miles from downtown
($$) • The Green House Guest Suite • Close to the Washington-Grizzly Stadium
($) • Family & Pet-Friendly Retreat Near UM, Downtown • Eight blocks from the University of Montana
3. Lewis and Clark
Lewis and Clark is a fantastic place to stay for families. It has an old-school community feel that is incredibly friendly and welcoming – it’s probably the most kid-friendly neighborhood in all of Missoula.
On top of the laid-back family atmosphere, Lewis and Clark also have a number of family-friendly activities to try. Put on your boots and prepare for the mud: the soccer fields of Playfair Park are always busy, and the perfect spot for a game. The park has tennis courts, baseball fields, and a volleyball court in addition to the soccer fields – it’s an amazing space for sports. Splash Montana shares this space, occupying a swathe of land in the corner of the park. The waterpark is a summer favorite, with kid-friendly water slides and a lazy river.
In the winter, swap the grass for ice: the Glacier Ice Rink is within easy walking distance of most of the Lewis and Clark neighborhoods.
There isn’t much in the way of restaurants and shops in Lewis and Clark – it’s mostly residential. But the cafes, boutiques, and breweries of downtown and the ‘hip strip’ are only minutes away by car, and the bus service is free if needed. The neighborhood is centrally located, making it a great base away from the busiest districts.
Best Airbnbs in Lewis and Clark:
($$$) • Spacious Missoula House with Big Yard • Short drive to University of Montana
($$) • Close to UM, 1300 sq ft w/ gym, laundry & patio. • 1 mile from Splash MT
($) • Cozy Private Studio Apartment: Convenient Location • 5-minute drive to downtown
4. Rose Park
Just above Lewis and Clark, Rose Park is a district that blends the quieter residential areas with trendy streets full of boutiques and restaurants. The neighborhood is famous for its ‘slant streets’, as the roads all angle off at around 45 degrees from due north.
It’s one of the more picturesque areas of the city – the historic houses in Rose Park are some of the prettiest in Missoula. Its idyllic leafy streets make way only for beautiful parks, where roses are grown in wide flower beds, and trees are dotted around the fields. The tranquil Rose Memorial Park, a Korean War Memorial, is at the heart of the neighborhood, and the loveliest park in the city.
Rose Park is very central, with the University District across the ‘hip strip’ of Higgins Avenue, and Lewis and Clark and downtown the other neighboring districts. Everything is within walking distance, or a few minutes’ drive away. You can enjoy all the best parts of Missoula from Rose Park while being based in a calm, charming neighborhood.
Best Airbnbs in Rose Park:
($$$) • Charming Bungalow in Beautiful Missoula • Cafes, restaurants, and shops are close by
($$) • Art Moderne Bungalow in Slant Streets & own yard. • Within easy walking distance of the University of Montana
($) • Beautiful Private Suite Loaded With Amenities • 1.5 miles from downtown
5. Lower Rattlesnake
Luckily, despite the name, you’re more likely to come across deer and bears than rattlesnakes in this lovely Missoula neighborhood. Sitting in the shadow of Mt. Jumbo, Lower Rattlesnake is a trailhead paradise and is an interesting mix of rural and suburban.
It’s proximity to downtown seems at odds with the natural beauty that surrounds it, but Lower Rattlesnake appears to get the best of both worlds. You will find the Rattlesnake National Recreation Area here and dozens of great trails to follow. It’s the perfect place for people who want to be in the city without ever really feeling like it!
Greenough Park is on the west side of Lower Rattlesnake and is another typically scenic space that locals and visitors alike can enjoy. Unlike the other parks of Missoula, Greenough isn’t just flower beds and fields. You get to explore pretty woodland, going on meandering walks that are incredibly picturesque – crossing the wooden bridge over a trickling creek is a particular highlight, and is even more stunning in the fall.
The houses of Lower Rattlesnake are also lovely. The quaint cottages of Lower Rattlesnake were once the homes of mill workers – much of the neighborhood is on the National Historic Register. It’s a cute neighborhood, and is well-suited to travelers with a love of being outdoors!
Best Airbnbs in Lower Rattlesnake:
($$$) • View of M! Immaculate and convenient location • A few minutes from downtown
($$) • Relax and get cozy at The Rattlesnake Rest • A 15-minute drive from Historic Fort Missoula
($) • Sunny Mountain Digs: Near Trails + Creek • 2 miles from the University of Montana
6. North Reserve St & Westview Park
The convenience of staying on North Reserve St and in Westview Park can’t be overlooked. The airport is incredibly close and only takes a few minutes to reach by car, while Interstate 90 is located to the north of the area; North Reserve St merges onto the motorway.
For people looking for an overnight stay en route to the Glacier National Park, this is the area of Missoula you will probably want to stay. There’s a good variety of restaurants – fast-food or otherwise – in the area, and though the road is busy, it’s a quiet, safe area. The buildings are spaced generously apart on the tree-lined street, and the flat landscape leaves you with spectacular views of the Northern Rockies.
Best Hotels in Westview Park & on North Reserve St:
($$$) • Staybridge Suites Missoula, an IHG Hotel • 2.5 miles from Missoula County International Airport
($$) • La Quinta Inn by Wyndham Missoula • 4.3 miles from the University of Montana
($) • Quality Inn & Suites Missoula • Very close to Interstate 90
Best Airbnbs in Westview Park & on North Reserve St:
($$$) • Comfort and Relaxation / Single Family Home • 3.5 miles from the University of Montana
($$) • ⭐Couple’s Getaway⭐ Pets | Chill Vibe #WE❤MISSOULA • A 10-minute drive from downtown
($) • Funky, Vintage, Aristocrat Camper • 5 minutes from Missoula County International Airport
7. Southgate Triangle
The Southgate Triangle borders the neighborhoods of Rose Park and Lewis and Clark, as well as the bustling Brooks St. You can access all of Missoula fairly easily from this district, and it’s home to some of the town’s most reasonably priced hotels and Airbnbs, making it ideal for those on a budget.
It’s also great for people who love to shop. The Southgate Mall is the largest in Western Montana, with dozens of shops, restaurants, and movie theater. Whether you’re looking for the big brands or smaller boutiques, you’re sure to find something in the Southgate area. There’s plenty of restaurants and big-chain fast food joints in the neighborhood, most of which are located along Brooks St. The Larchmont-Fort Missoula Golf Club’s golf course is on the west side of the Southgate Triangle and kept in pristine condition. There’s nothing quite like a game of golf surrounded by views of the Northern Rockies!
As the Southgate Triangle borders Lewis and Clark – and the Playfair Park is on the west side of that neighborhood – you can reach the sports center and Splash waterpark easily on foot, or in a few minutes by car. For people wanting to venture a little further out to explore the great outdoors, the Bitterroot River is close by. Try your hand at the fly-fishing Missoula is so famous for!
Best Hotels in the Southgate Triangle:
Best Airbnbs in the Southgate Triangle:
($$$) • Cozy and Convenient in Missoula • Less than a 10-minute walk from Southgate Mall
($$) • The Coolest Basement Apartment in Missoula • A short drive from the center of town
($) • Centrally Located, Colorful, Cozy Townhome • A 6-minute drive from downtown
A quick roundup of the best hotels and Airbnbs in Missoula:
- Best Budget Hotel in Missoula – Brooks St. Motor Inn
- Best Luxury Hotel in Missoula – Residence Inn by Marriott Missoula Downtown
- Best Family Airbnb in Missoula – Family & Pet-Friendly Retreat Near UM, Downtown
- Best Airbnb for large groups in Missoula – Cozy home in a quiet University area.