The Missoula To-Do List: 61 ways to while away your summer 

If you’re reading this, chances are good that no one’s going to ask you to write an essay on the topic “How I Spent My Summer”—never mind grade you on it. So consider this merely recommended, i.e., optional reading as you begin to schedule your summer plans. If those plans are likely to take you into the great outdoors, don’t neglect to check out our Explorer special section tucked into this issue. But even if your taste for seasonal adventure keeps you (mostly) closer to home, you should find plenty to pencil into your planner in these 61 tips—each recommended by at least one seasoned Indy staffer. Enjoy. We’ll see you out there.

Before you do anything else, adopt a dog at the Humane Society of Western Montana. (Yes, a dog. There's a reason summer has dog days. You can go back and get a cat, if you must, come winter.) It might be hard to believe, but some of those poor pups are whiling away their summer days in a cage, under lock and key, and they didn't even assault any reporters! That injustice should not be allowed to stand. Plus, you'll have a better summer all around with a dog to share it with.

Eat a breakfast burrito at Market on Front (201 E. Front St.). Have you had one of those things? Five bucks gets you a stretchy frill-marked tortilla bulging with scrambled eggs, diced potatoes, bacon, something mildly spicy (green chile?) and some sort of cheddar sauce infused (we're guessing) with liquid crack. Quite likely the best breakfast-on-the-go in the history of Missoula. Chow down on one of these babies at the start of your day and you won't need lunch until dinnertime.

Listen to your neighbors share funny and heartfelt stories at Tell Us Something. There are two events slated for the Wilma this summer: "On the Road" on June 20 and "Up the Blackfoot" on Sept. 10. A third night of storytelling, complete with food, games and s'mores, is scheduled for July 18 at Fort Missoula Regional Park with the theme "I Didn't See That Coming!"

Three words: Drink. Wine. Outside. Pack it for a picnic or, better yet, take the picnic to Ten Spoon Vineyard & Winery's gorgeous backyard at 4175 Rattlesnake Dr. For a different vista, Blodgett Canyon Cellars in downtown Hamilton offers a rooftop deck with great views of the Bitterroot.

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The world may be going to hell, but that doesn't mean you can't find inner peace at the Garden of One Thousand Buddhas in Arlee. Who knows what havoc Trump may have wrought by the time August rolls around, so get ahead of the game and sign up for the Ewam Buddhist Institute's summer Buddhist studies program. It's taught on-site from June 30 through July 28, six days a week. Get the details at ewamshedra.org.

Take a zipline tour at Snowbowl. The tour includes four lines ranging from 200 to 1,000 feet, and takes just shy of two hours to complete. Call 549-9777 ext. 3 for reservations. Tours begin June 23.

Visit Garnet Ghost Town, about 40 miles from Missoula. The state's best-preserved mining town ruins make for a great day trip—or take a mountain bike and a tent to make a weekend of it. Pick up a map of the 30 miles of mountain bike trails and find a patch of public land to pitch a tent at the Bureau of Land Management's Missoula Field Office. More information at garnetghosttown.org.

Remember, the smoky days of fire season are coming. And when they do, you'll need to take your summer adventure indoors. Good news: Missoula is home to a new virtual reality arcade, Bifrost VR, that has four room-size stations for up to four-player games (1633 South Ave., crossthebifrost.com). And if you haven't tried out Missoula's escape rooms yet, look up Big Sky Breakout (bigskybreakout.com) and Break Out Missoula (breakoutmissoulamt.com). These live-action puzzle games are sure to make you forget that the hills are on fire.

Catch some of the best acting in Montana at the Bigfork Summer Playhouse. Bigfork is a drive, sure, but the Summer Playhouse is worth it, and any excuse is a good excuse for a day trip to the Flathead. There's a show virtually every day from June 9 until September, with Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Mamma Mia, The Drowsy Chaperone and more on this season's bill. Tickets at bigforksummerplayhouse.com.

There's no need to hit the road to see a big act this summer. Missoula now has (well, soon will have) two outdoor amphitheaters attached to microbreweries. Crazy, huh? The new KettleHouse amphitheater opens this summer with shows by Slayer, Primus and Lyle Lovett and his Large Band. (Venue inaugurator Ween is long sold out. Sorry, dudes.) Meanwhile, Big Sky Brewing has revamped its own amphitheater to enhance its longstanding summer concert series—and hosts the first Travelers' Rest Festival, curated and headlined by the Decemberists, Aug. 12–13.

So, you like walking through the woods and throwing things? Do we have the activity for you. Folf all 18 holes at Blue Mountain—extra points if you don't lose a single disc in the trees. Caveat: If your dog likes to chase flying objects, maybe don't take your dog.

Venture into yourself—or something—at Redsun Labyrinth. The 11-circuit labyrinth is said to be one of the largest in America at 108 feet in diameter, and was created using 25 tons of fieldstones. Find this "blueprint for the sacred meeting of the psyche and soul" at 1802 Pleasant View Drive outside Victor. Details at redsunlabyrinth.com

Compete in the fourth annual Montana Open Pickleball Tournament. You remember pickleball, right? It's like tennis with wooden paddles, and you weren't so bad at it in high school gym class. August 4–6 at Playfair Park. Brush up beforehand with free outdoor play sessions at Fort Missoula Regional Park. Google Zoo Town Pickleball to find the schedule.

Eat a hotdog and yell "Charge!" at an Osprey game. (Actual baseball-watching is optional.) The home season starts June 23 against Great Falls.

Go monster hunting. Since the 1800s there have been more than a hundred sightings of a giant eel-like creature that supposedly resides in Flathead Lake. Good luck spotting it—the lake is 30 miles long and more than 370 feet deep at points—but then again, no one else has found it, so it might as well be you.

Do... avoid the M Trail at all costs, because we love you and want you to be happy. Instead, take a stroll up the shadier side of Mt. Sentinel via Crazy Canyon, which trailheads off Pattee Canyon Road. Try not to get run down by bikes while you're enjoying the (relative) quietude.

Gaze into the cosmos and chat about celestial objects with the experts at the Blue Mountain Observatory during its public observing nights, held on specific Fridays from late June through September. Sign up fast (243-4299 for info) because availability is limited, and don't forget a jacket.

click to enlarge PHOTO BY CHAD HARDER
  • photo by Chad Harder

Or... watch a movie under the stars at Missoula Outdoor Cinema. The cinema's 15th season lineup starts Sat., July 8, with Stand By Me and continues through Sept. 9. Some other favorites on the schedule include Beetlejuice, Little Miss Sunshine, Up, The Big Lebowski, The Princess Bride, Young Frankenstein, ET and A River Runs Through It. Movies screen at sunset Saturdays and most Fridays on the side of the Head Start building, 1001 Worden Ave. No alcohol or dogs, but bring your friends and family. The sponsoring North Missoula Community Development Corporation is trying to raise money to buy a new screen, so a $5 donation is suggested. See nmdc.org for more info.

Worn out after a hike in the Bitterroot? Avoid the inevitable blood-sugar crash on the drive home by indulging in a burger the size of your face from Nap's Grill in Hamilton.

Remind yourself, in case you're forgetting, that Missoula is still in Montana, and Montana is still in love with cowboys, at the Missoula Stampede Rodeo, Aug. 10–12. Because nothing says the frontier spirit is alive and kicking like watching men get thrown off animals.

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