If you’ve got a set of wheels and a day to kill, why not take a mini-vacation and explore one of these great Montana towns? The driving time to each one is two hours or less, which means you should be able to get there and back on less than a tank of gas. What are you waiting for? Get out there and explore your own backyard!

  • 1

    Hamilton


    This quaint Montana town sits in the heart of the Bitterroot Valley, surrounded by mountains, ranches, orchards and small farms. If you’re interested in the history of the area, consider taking a tour of one of Hamilton’s most famous landmarks — the Daly Mansion, which was built in the late 1800s by Marcus Daly, one of Montana’s famous “copper kings.” After the tour, stop by Naps Grill and sink your teeth into one of their big, juicy, award-winning burgers.

    Photo courtesy of virtualreality/Flickr
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    Philipsburg


    It began as a mining town in the late 1800s, but now its historic downtown buildings are filled with unique restaurants, saloons and shops — including the Sweet Palace, where bins full of old-fashioned candy create an atmosphere of fun and nostalgia. One of the most popular attractions you can enjoy in this town is mining for your own sapphires at the Sapphire Gallery, Opal Mountain Gems or Gem Mountain.

    Photo courtesy of zetrules/Flickr
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    Polson


    Located on the south shore of Flathead Lake, the Polson area offers spectacular views, a great public beach, water craft rentals and one of my favorite Northwest Montana attractions: the Miracle of America Museum, which contains more than 12,000 artifacts reflecting America’s history since its founding. With displays ranging from WWII military equipment to UFO memorabilia, you’re sure to find something that will amuse everyone in your travel group.

    Photo courtesy of felitecoach/Flickr
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    Bigfork


    At the other end of Flathead Lake, Bigfork is located at the outlet of the Swan River, on the northeast edge of the lake. In addition to water attractions such as boat tours and rentals, Bigfork offers visitors a rich artistic experience, with art shops and galleries lining Electric Avenue — the town’s main street. If you’re craving an adrenaline rush, head down to Wayfarers State Park, where you can jump into the lake from huge rock cliffs. When you need a break from all the action, drop in to the Swan River Inn or the Pocketstone Café for lunch, or satisfy your sweet-tooth with a scoop of homemade ice cream from Sweet Peaks or a giant snickerdoodle from Brookies Cookies, which boasts a great view of the river.

    Photo courtesy of Katie@!/Flickr