Family Vacations in Montana


Montana, with its numerous mountain ranges and famous big sky, is a region of rich history and unparalleled natural beauty. The diversity of the landscape provides a varied backdrop for exciting family vacations.

Hyalite Reservoir near Bozeman, Montana
Courtesy of Stan Evans/Bozeman CVB
Montana's Hyalite Reservoir, near Bozeman, is just one of the region's
beautiful landscapes.

In the following pages, you’ll find profiles of some of the state’s attractions, from historic sites to recreations of the old frontier. To help with your trip planning, you’ll also find contact information, as well as photographs of each destination. Here’s a preview:

The Lewis & Clark National Historic Trail Interpretive Center
This Interpretive Center, situated in Great Falls, is the largest museum dedicated to the Lewis and Clark expedition and offers a wealth of information and exhibits about their famous journey.

Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument
The tranquil landscape of this monument, with its wide-open prairie and rolling hills, memorializes those who died in the military disaster of 1876 known as Custer's Last Stand.

Virginia City
At its peak, Virginia City was populated by vigilantes, villains, and desperados. Visitors today can walk the same wooden boardwalks these colorful characters strolled in the town's heyday.

Museum of the Rockies
Museum of the Rockies is home to the largest collection of American dinosaur bones in the world, nearly all of which were discovered in Montana. Under the umbrella of Montana State University, the museum gives insight into a world-class dinosaur research center.

Begin by reading about Lewis & Clark's journey through Montana.

To learn more about family vacation destinations, see:

  • Family Vacations: Learn about hundreds of family vacations in destinations all over North America.
  • Montana State Guide: Learn about Mobil Travel Guide-rated hotels and restaurants in Montana, as well as other recreational activities.
  • Scenic Drives: For those who think that getting there is half the fun, we have compiled more than 100 of the most scenic drives throughout the country.

Family Vacations in Montana: The Lewis & Clark National Historic Trail Interpretive Center

Meriwether Lewis and William Clark looped through Montana several times on their cross-continental journey, traveling across mountains and prairies and navigating huge sections of the Missouri River. Appropriately, the Interpretive Center is situated in Great Falls on the bluffs overlooking the very river they so often canoed and portaged. The center is the largest museum dedicated to the Lewis and Clark expedition and provides a wealth of information and exhibits about their famous journey.

Before beginning the tour of the museum, visitors can watch a reenactment of the meeting between President Thomas Jefferson and the two explorers. Then they follow the route the adventurers took all the way to the coast of Oregon. Along the way, children can crawl inside a miniature Native American lodge, where they listen to the sound of drums, inspect items made by Native Americans, and pull a rope as if they're portaging the falls.

In the summer, a day camp is offered along the river, where kids learn how to decorate clothing with beads, set up a wedge tent, and prepare the kind of campfire meal the explorers might have eaten.

Lewis & Clark National Historic Trail Interpretive Center Information

Address: 4201 Giant Springs Rd., Great Falls, MT
Telephone: 406/727-8733
Admission: $5 adults; kids free
Hours of Operation:

  • Memorial Weekend - Late Sept. - 9 a.m. - 6 p.m., daily.
  • Early Oct. - Memorial Weekend - 9 a.m. - 5 p.m., Tues. - Sat., and 12 p.m. - 5 p.m., Sun.

To learn more about family vacation destinations, see:

  • Family Vacations: Learn about hundreds of family vacations in destinations all over North America.
  • Montana State Guide: Learn about Mobil Travel Guide-rated hotels and restaurants in Montana, as well as other recreational activities.
  • Scenic Drives: For those who think that getting there is half the fun, we have compiled more than 100 of the most scenic drives throughout the country.

Family Vacations in Montana: Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument

Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument
Courtesy of the National Park Service
The Little Bighorn Monument is filled
with tombstones to memorialize those
who gave their lives in this historic
battle.

The wide-open prairie and rolling hills are quiet now, and the green and golden hues of the landscape give it an air of tranquility. However, the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument commemorates the military disaster of 1876 known as Custer's Last Stand. It was here that U.S. Army Colonel George Armstrong Custer and his 7th Cavalry battled bands of Lakota Sioux, Cheyenne, and Arapaho. The monument memorializes those who died. It also acknowledges the battle as one of the last efforts of the Northern Plains Indians to preserve their ancestral way of life.

Park rangers are on duty year-round to explain the history of the site. During the summer, they relate the legend of the famous colonel, his adversaries Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse, and the battle that took the lives of Custer, several hundred soldiers, and a number of Native American warriors. A museum features exhibits of the battle, a biography of Custer, the weapons used by both sides, and some background information on the events leading up to the battle. Interpretive markers guide visitors to Custer Hill, a common grave marked by a monument bearing the names of all the soldiers who died in the battle, and the American Indian Memorial that recognizes and honors the Native Americans who were killed at Little Bighorn.

Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument Information

Address: Exit 510 Off I-90 Highway 212, Crow Agency, MT
Telephone: 406/638-3204
Hours of Operation:

  • Late May - Late July, 8 a.m. - 9 p.m., daily
  • Early Aug. - Sept., 8 a.m. - 8 p.m., daily
  • Sept. - Oct., 8 a.m. - 6 p.m., daily
  • Nov. - Mar., 8 a.m. - 4:30 p.m., daily
  • Apr. - May 8 a.m. - 6 p.m., daily

To learn more about family vacation destinations, see:

  • Family Vacations: Learn about hundreds of family vacations in destinations all over North America.
  • Montana State Guide: Learn about Mobil Travel Guide-rated hotels and restaurants in Montana, as well as other recreational activities.
  • Scenic Drives: For those who think that getting there is half the fun, we have compiled more than 100 of the most scenic drives throughout the country.

Family Vacations in Montana: Virginia City

Virginia City, Montana
Virginia City, Montana, invites visitors to relive the historic
Gold Rush of the nineteenth century.

Virginia City is a Gold Rush boomtown that is remarkably well preserved. It was built and settled in the rough-and-ready days of the Old West when about $30 million in gold was panned from the area's rivers and streams in three years. The town grew quickly as prospectors flooded the area seeking their fortunes. When gold fever died down, Virginia City fell into decline. The residents who stayed could not afford to remodel or rebuild. The town attracted the early interest of the preservation-minded Bovey family in the early 1940s. After decades of restoration, Virginia City was named a National Historic Landmark.

At its peak, Virginia City was populated by vigilantes, villains, and desperados. Visitors today can walk the same wooden boardwalks these colorful characters strolled in the town's heyday. More than 100 historic buildings replete with artifacts and furnishings are open to the public. Visitors can poke into 1860s barbershops and saloons or take a stagecoach ride around town. They can also see a gunfight reenactment or an old-fashioned melodrama. Children can even try their hand at panning gold, just as the prospectors once did.

Virginia City Information

Address: Downtown Virginia City at MT-287 and Wallace St., Virginia City, MT
Telephone: 406/843-5300

To learn more about family vacation destinations, see:

  • Family Vacations: Learn about hundreds of family vacations in destinations all over North America.
  • Montana State Guide: Learn about Mobil Travel Guide-rated hotels and restaurants in Montana, as well as other recreational activities.
  • Scenic Drives: For those who think that getting there is half the fun, we have compiled more than 100 of the most scenic drives throughout the country.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Laura Sutherland is a widely acknowledged authority on family travel and has published several books on the topic, including Best Family Ski Vacations In North America and Tropical Family Vacations.

     

Family Vacations in Montana: Museum of the Rockies

Long before grizzlies and bighorn sheep roamed the Rockies, Montana's claim to fame was wildlife of a different kind -- dinosaurs. About 60 million years ago, the region was tropical. Local dinosaurs included the Tyrannosaurus rex, Apatosaur, and Triceratops, all of which thrived until a shift in climate wiped them out. This rich prehistory is told at Bozeman's Museum of the Rockies, home to the largest collection of American dinosaur bones in the world, nearly all of which were discovered in Montana. Under the umbrella of Montana State University, the museum gives insight into a world-class dinosaur research center.

Museum of the Rockies, Montana.
©2006 Paul Jones. All Rights Reserved.
The world-class dinosaur exhibits at the Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman,
Montana, include the skull of a T. rex -- and its jagged smile. Outside the
museum, a living-history farm offers a peek back in time into the lives of the
Gallatin Valley's pioneers.

The museum is in large part the brainchild of Dr. Jack Horner, a celebrated paleontologist and consultant to the Jurassic Park films. Visitors begin with a crash course on the history of the Rockies, starting with the Big Bang theory. Then they explore the dinosaur exhibits. Some displays showcase casts, and others hold real fossils, including the largest dinosaur skull in the world (a nine-foot Torosaurus noggin) and a T. rex femur that amazingly revealed soft tissues that had been preserved inside for 68 million years.

The Museum of the Rockies provides comprehensive displays that go well beyond the typical dusty collection of giant skeletons. The exhibits dig into dinosaur biology and behavior, as well as the science and research that goes into fossil recovery and paleontology.

Museum of the Rockies Information

Address: 600 W. Kagy Blvd
Bozeman, MT
Telephone: 406/994-DINO
Hours of Operation:

  • Sept - May: 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. Mon. - Sat. and 12:30 p.m. - 5 p.m., Sun.
  • May - Sept: 8 a.m. - 8 p.m., daily

Admission: $9.50 adults; $6.50 kids

To learn more about family vacation destinations, see:

  • Family Vacations: Learn about hundreds of family vacations in destinations all over North America.
  • Montana State Guide: Learn about Mobil Travel Guide-rated hotels and restaurants in Montana, as well as other recreational activities.
  • Scenic Drives: For those who think that getting there is half the fun, we have compiled more than 100 of the most scenic drives throughout the country.

Related Articles