This is a sponsored post by Yellowstone Country in Montana. All opinions are my own.
If visiting Montana isn’t on your bucket list, it needs to be. I’m biased, but I think the time to see this beautiful state is during the winter months. I’m going to take you through our trip and you’ll quickly understand why you must go. There’s beauty at every turn and it’s perfect for everyone. We had a family vacation of a lifetime! From dog sledding, spectacular views, skiing, delicious restaurants, snow coach tours through Yellowstone National Park, ice skating, and more, there truly is something for everyone.
Be sure to check out my Instagram “Montana” story highlight to get a peek into each day. We documented every detail! Want to know more about Yellowstone Country? There are a ton of great resources here.
Southwest Airlines recently started flying to Bozeman, Montana from Nashville, Tennessee. So, that made it easy for planning. We spent six days exploring the state. We packed our itinerary so we didn’t miss out on anything. We visited three cities – Bozeman, Big Sky, and West Yellowstone. All of which were unique and didn’t disappoint. I’m so thankful we got to drive some because it’s breathtaking in every direction you look. We made several pit stops along each drive for pictures and even saw Elk in a few different spots.
I’m going to bring y’all along for each city! I’ll be sharing the best restaurants, places to see, things to do, and more! So, keep reading.
First up, Bozeman! Let me just start out by saying this. When we arrived at the airport, we immediately felt welcomed by the atmosphere. Rustic fireplaces were lit as you walked towards baggage claim and you could catch a glimpse of the snowy mountains through the windows.
Here’s a couple of tips when booking a trip here. One – if you’re renting a vehicle, make sure to do it well in advance as they book up quickly. Two – make sure you get a four-wheel drive. This is a must! Especially if you’ll be venturing into Big Sky or West Yellowstone.
Something you’ll quickly learn about Bozeman is that you’ll eat well! The restaurants are delicious and very kid-friendly. We loved walking along Main Street. Aside from the food, there are lots of boutiques and other little shops. We also found the cutest toy shop, but let’s stick to the food for now.
Best Restaurants in Bozeman:
- JAM ON MAIN – This was the best breakfast spot. We loved it so much that we went twice.
- CO-OP DOWNTOWN – Perfect for lunch. They had a hot food bar and a salad bar with lots of healthy, organic options to eat there or on the go.
- MOUNTAINS WALKING BREWERY – This place is great for lunch or dinner and the food is so yummy. Grab a flight of beer while you’re at it!
- COPPER WHISKEY BAR & GRILL – We loved the vibe of this one and the food was incredible.
Things to do in Bozeman:
We stopped here on our first day in Bozeman. The moment you walk up you’re greeted by a massive T-Rex, which the boys loved. They had the largest dinosaur exhibit we’d ever been to and it was unbelievable. We watched an employee gently dig out a fossil, sat through the planetarium show, and made our way around the rest of the museum’s exhibitions. If you’ve got kids, this place is a must-see.
This place was a pleasant surprise and a great way to warm up. They have 12 pools ranging from 57-106°, all of which are naturally heated containing six different minerals. We spent some time inside and then moved outside to the hot pools. It was so beautiful and peaceful. There was snow everywhere and with the steam, it really just sets the atmosphere. You can pay for the day or have the option to join monthly if you’re local.
Here are a couple of other activities worth mentioning that are located in Bozeman:
BIG BOY SPORTS- You can rent a snow tube and go sledding. We were told these were the best places to find hills that are kid-friendly: Peet’s Hill, Burke Park, Gallatin County Regional Park.
BOZEMAN SCIENCE CENTER- We didn’t have time to stop here but it’s a great option for families.
Where to Stay:
HOMEWOOD SUITES BY HILTON – This was our hotel during our stay in Bozeman and it was very comfortable. We had a two-bedroom suite with two bathrooms and a small living area. They also have a continental breakfast every morning. It was perfect for our family.
RSVP HOTEL – We passed this boutique hotel on our drive and it was so hip and fun.
KIMPTON ARMORY HOTEL – This urban-chic hotel is pet-friendly and very luxurious. With its roof-top pool and bar, it’s sure to give you a grand experience during your stay in Bozeman.
Next up is Big Sky! We had two fun-filled days planned in Big Sky and they were some of our favorites on the trip. The drive from Bozeman is only about an hour or so. On our way to the ski resort, we stopped at the Big Sky Town Center for a little shopping at Grizzly Outfitters and then rented some ice skates at East Slope Outdoors. There are several great restaurants options like Copper, ACRE, Pinky G’s Pizzeria, Alberto’s, and more. Once we finished here, we headed up the mountain to check in to the lodge.
Things to do in Big Sky:
If you ever have the opportunity to go dog sledding, DO IT! We can’t say enough good things about the owner, Jason, and his crew. We had the best day with them and their sweet dogs. We had a two-and-a-half-hour tour and ended up staying close to four hours because we were having such a great time.
Jason gave us a brief intro and then we got right into the sledding. We rode through some trails with the guide and got to experience everything that dog sledding has to offer. Then we headed back to camp where they had tents with hot chocolate and cookies. There’s also have a large bonfire outside for guests to warm up. Once we finished, it was our turn to take the reigns and lead the dogs for a ride. This was amazing! The dogs have so much energy and were so excited to run. Our boys couldn’t get enough of them. We were able to pet and love on them once we got back, which was awesome. They are some of the prettiest and temper-mannered dogs we’ve ever been around. This was such an amazing family experience.
Tips for dog sledding:
You can’t have enough layers. It’s better to have too many and be able to shed some than to not have enough and be cold. The temperature during our ride was probably closer to 30 degrees, but the sun was out so it wasn’t too chilly. The morning ride had temps in the single digits. My advice is to book an afternoon time. Dress warmly and only bring a 4WD vehicle.
Big Sky is stunning and we had the most beautiful day. We rented gear in advance from Big Sky Sports Rentals and they got us all setup. This was the boys’ first time skiing, so we started it with private lessons and they learned so quickly. We spent the morning on bunny slopes until they got more comfortable. Daniel ventured out to an easy green run with Harper and Rohen while Finn and I grabbed lunch for everyone. The whole second floor of one of the buildings is restaurants and a food court area. There’s also an outdoor patio with a lot of tables where you can eat lunch or have drinks.
Big Sky Resort also just recently added the Swift Current 6, which is America’s fastest 6 person chairlift. When we’ve skied in the past at other places, it’s usually been very busy. That wasn’t the case here. You can tell it’s a popular spot but it never felt congested. With the lift moving people up the mountain so quickly, you didn’t really have to wait long to hit the slopes. Skiing is a sport that our family is eager to take up again. We were sad to only get one day on the slopes but so excited we got to experience this with our boys on the trip.
Best Restaurants in Big Sky Mountain Village:
- CABIN BAR & GRILL: Fine dining at its best and one of our best meals in Big Sky. You’ll get great service and a true Montana ambiance. Make sure you make a reservation at this one.
- SCISSORBILLS SALOON– This place looked fun. It wasn’t kid-friendly, so we just saw it in passing. It seems to get pretty lively at night and sometimes has live music. Had it just been my husband and me, we definitely would’ve grabbed dinner and drinks here after a day of skiing.
- BIG SKY RESORT DINING OPTIONS: Here’s a great selection of places to grab coffee and breakfast, burgers, pizza, sushi, and more.
Where to Stay:
THE LODGE AT BIG SKY – We really enjoyed our stay here. Our room was spacious and we loved the main room on the first floor of the lodge. It had large windows with mountains views where you could watch the skiers. My favorite was the large fireplace and sitting area. The boys loved the indoor pool and the hot tubs outside. Other amenities include the complimentary breakfast, sleds for afternoon fun, and a shuttle that drives you just a few minutes to the slopes.
SUMMIT HOTEL– This hotel is perfectly posh. They have rooms, condos, and penthouse options depending on your needs. It offers free rental delivery from Big Sky Sports Rentals and you’re just steps away from the base of Lone Mountain.
MONTAGE BIG SKY– Named one of CNN Travel’s “best new hotels to book in 2022”, this one is picture perfect. This luxury resort offers a private 18-hole golf course, a 10,000 square-foot spa, and several on-site restaurants (one of which has a bowling alley).
Big Sky was my favorite city that we visited and for good reason. It offered easy access to the Lone Mountain for skiing, great food, has a small city vibe yet the vast landscape around it is absolutely breathtaking.
Last but certainly not least, West Yellowstone. First, let me just say that the drive from Big Sky to West Yellowstone was beautiful and it only took us about an hour. There are many scenic spots to pull over and take pictures, including this Yellowstone National Park sign below. We spotted several Elk while we were admiring the views. Driving through Montana is pretty easy because you typically stick to the same highways if you’re traveling to and from Bozeman. We also realized the importance of the 4WD the further south we drove.
A few fun facts about this quaint, little town:
- The population is just over 1,000 people.
- 60% of the transportation in the winter is snow mobiles.
- Half of the town shuts down in the winter.
- January through March is when the most buffalo and wolves are seen.
- It’s very quiet, peaceful, and charming.
Things to do in West Yellowstone:
If you’re coming to West Yellowstone, a snowcoach tour through Yellowstone National Park is an absolute must, especially during the winter months. It’s absolutely magical! It’s a full day from about 8:00 in the morning until 4:00, but you’re basically driving through the park the entire time. Our bus picked us up from our hotel with packed lunches for all five of us and then we were on our way.
The entrance to the park wasn’t far from West Yellowstone. You get to see two states in one day as you cross over into Wyoming. The entire drive is just spectacular. Your driver will tell you all about the park as he leads you through. He’ll make sure you know where to look once the animals are spotted. We saw so many bison. At one point there were over a hundred in the distance. We also had several encounters where they were close to the bus, which allowed for great photo ops. Let me also add, we never felt threatened. They’d look at us and go about their business. We also saw swans, a bald eagle and its nest, and a couple of wolf packs.
On our drive to Old Faithful, we stopped a couple of times to watch animals from a safe distance and take pictures. Madison Junction was our first official stop. It had a small building with bathrooms, snacks, coffee, and hot chocolate. The next stop was at the location of Old Faithful, which is also the turnaround point for the tour. We stayed here for about an hour which gave us time to eat lunch and watch the geyser erupt. Seeing Old Faithful is definitely a bucket list item for us and we were so excited to check it off.
This tour takes you along the world’s most concentrated geothermal area. We stopped to explore the Mammoth Hot Springs Terraces. This was one of the longer stops because we were able to walk around for a bit. There were so many steam vents (aka fumaroles), bubbling hot springs, mud pots, and other small geysers on display as we made our way around. We got to take part in some world-class sightseeing and it was awesome!
We had the best day on our tour! This is the only way to see Yellowstone National Park during the winter because there is so much snow. Honestly, it’s the best way to do it so you can avoid the summer crowds. If you have kids that are a bit older like mine, I’d definitely recommend it for your family. Our boys loved seeing all of the animals. Yellowstone is worth seeing at least once in your lifetime.
Tips for the snowcoach tour:
- Pack a bag with water bottles and snacks, especially if you’ve got kids.
- Bring binoculars. We used ours throughout the whole day.
- If you have a nice camera, definitely bring it along because there are photo opportunities everywhere and you’ll likely see a lot of wildlife like us.
- Definitely wear snow boots and warm clothes. There were several stops along the way where we stayed outside for up to 30 minutes.
- Parents, there isn’t a bathroom on the bus but there are several stops along the way that have them (all of which were enclosed and heated). The first place is about an hour or so into the drive. This stop is the one with snacks and drinks for purchase. The next stop was at the Old Faithful Visitor Center about an hour and a half further. This is the turnaround point, so the bathrooms will be the same distance going back.
* Looking for other things to do? Here are 10 things to do in West Yellowstone during the winter.*
Best Restaurants in West Yellowstone:
- RUNNING BEAR PANCAKE HOUSE
- THREE BEAR RESTAURANT
- WILD WEST PIZZERIA & SALOON
- SLIPPERY OTTER PUB & EATERY
Where to Stay:
GRAY WOLF INN & SUITES – This was our hotel during our stay. They offered breakfast each morning, heated underground parking, and were a pickup location for the Yellowstone Vacation Snowcoach Tours. We loved the firepit in front of the hotel every night.
here’s our overall take on Montana…
We fell in love with this beautiful state! Quite literally. We want to go back every year and bring all of our friends and family. In a perfect world, we’d buy a cabin in Big Sky and bring everyone with us. Even though we had a jam-packed six days, I wouldn’t have had it any other way because we were able to experience so many amazing things. Pictures and videos just don’t do it justice.
I really hope you have the opportunity to visit. You’ll be blown away just like us. There’s just something about being immersed in the type of beauty and peace that Montana has to offer. You’ll walk away with memories that will last a lifetime. We sure did.
See ya, Montana! Until next time.
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