Make Montana your top travel destination: Montana vacation spots (Part 1)

March 2013 (updated 3/7/23)

by rebecca stewart

Whether we’re in the middle of a snowy winter or hot summer days, Montana offers a plethora of options for families to explore, virtually in our own backyards. Whether you’re looking for the “simplicity” of a daytrip or you’re planning a full-out vacation, Montana’s wide open spaces are the perfect prescription for your cabin fever.

In the March issue of Simply Family Magazine we gave you our top five reasons for adding Montana to your list of top-travel destinations, and now we’ll be giving you some actual destinations to consider. From water parks to national parks, we’ve got a list of Montana travel spots that are must-adds for your summer travel plans in this three-part series.

Water Parks

According to Montana’s official travel site, nine cities in Montana feature water parks (who knew?!), while we won’t list them all here, you can check out those not included at: Visit Montana – Water Parks

  • Big Sky Waterpark – Located in Columbia Falls, this particular water park is on my personal visiting wish list. This water park offers slides for your youngest with a wading pool and a mini-slide; larger straight slides for your kiddos in between, and “giant slides with twists and turns” for the older sliders. 
  • Billings Oasis Water Park – The closing of one Billings water park brought another with the 2012 opening of The Oasis water park located at 543 Aronson Avenue. The Oasis has already made available their 2013 Family Paradise Passes. The Oasis’s open season runs from May 30 to August 21.  
  • Though, if you’re looking for year-round indoor water park fun in the Billings area, then The Reef Indoor Water Park is just what the doctor ordered. The Reef boasts the distinction of being the largest indoor water park in Montana that houses two twisty-turny slides, an interactive playhouse, basketball and wave pools, and a hot tub.

Montana History

  • Ghost Towns – With a state so rich in history, Ghost Towns are a frozen snapshot in time for travelers to experience. Arguably the two of the “best kept” Ghost Towns (an oxymoron, I think) on a traveler’s wish list ought to be those of Virginia and Nevada Cities, which can be found along Alder Gulch – “the site of the richest placer gold strike in the Rocky Mountains.” Travel back in time to these old west Victorian towns that boast over 100 buildings complete with artifacts, just waiting to be explored. Don’t worry, we haven’t forgotten Bannack, but we’ll cover that in Part 2 of our Montana traveling series.

For your pick of ghost towns of which to peruse, check out this list courtesy of SouthWestMT.com.

  • The Montana Dinosaur Trail – I’ll be honest, I had no idea that if you were to make your way across Big Sky country, you could follow a trail of “some of the greatest paleontological finds of the last century.” Fourteen stops from west to east and north to south, there are museums and state parks galore for your family to explore. More of a hands on family? You can even partake in some dino digs with the Two Medicine Dinosaur Center.


  • Miles City Bucking Horse Sale – Held the third weekend in May (May 16-19, 2013), this event has been held annually since 1951. Drawing rodeo contractors to buy rough stock during these three days of rodeo action, it also includes a parade, trade show, wild horse races, live music, quick draw art auction, barbecues, and street dances on Friday and Saturday nights. 2013 tickets went on sale in January, click here for ticket information.
  • The Home of Champions Rodeo – One of my dad’s favorites, this rodeo held annually in Red Lodge, MT over the Fourth of July is part of the Professional Rodeo Cowboy Association circuit, and according to Montana’s official travel site, it “brings nearly all of the national champions every year.” In addition to the rodeo, which starts at 6 p.m. on July 2, there is a parade that starts at noon each day that “promises great entertainment for all ages.” The rodeo continues on July 3 at 6 p.m., and begins its final rounds on July 4 at 3 p.m.

 As an added bonus, Red Lodge offers lots of options that you can tack onto your rodeo extravaganza – indoors and out with shopping (Montana Candy Emporium, anyone?) and camping equally at your fingertips.

*For a listing of rodeo events across Montana, click here

It boggles the mind just how many travel opportunities there are in the Big Sky country, so stay tuned for Part 2 of our Montana travel series where we’ll be talking State and National Parks.