Western Montana's former mill town is full of art, great eats, and winter warmth.
Don’t let the Clark Fork River’s icy waters fool you: Missoula glows with warmth in winter. Originally named Missoula Mills for its flour and lumber mills, this riverside city has an updated 1890s brick center that is churning out homegrown artists—and attracting visitors. Area code is 406.
- At the 2011 Big Sky Documentary Film Festival, February 11 through 20 at the Wilma Theatre, view up to 130 edgy films on everything from kayaking to the war in Afghanistan (541-3456, bigskyfilmfest.org ). For postshow libations, head downstairs to the elegant Scotty’s Table. 131 S. Higgins Ave., 549-2790, scottystable.net .
- Where can you get elk osso buco and a wild variation on German chocolate cake? Try the Pearl Café, where owner Pearl Cash runs what she describes as “a comfortable and inviting place that encourages chatting.” 231 E. Front St., 541-0231, pearlcafe.us .
- Drop in on a class in tap, couples’ tango, or Zumba at the Downtown Dance Collective, or see performances in styles from Middle Eastern to modern dance. Classes from $12. 121 W. Main St., 541-7240, ddcmontana.com .
- Readings abound at Fact & Fiction, which highlights great books by regional writers. 220 N. Higgins Ave., 721-2881, factandfictionbooks.com .
- Sip cabernet and nibble duck pâté in the wine bar at the Red Bird. Or step into its companion restaurant to dine on ancho chile–rubbed bison in butternut squash coulis. 111 N. Higgins Ave., 549-2906, redbirdrestaurant.com .
- On the First Friday Gallery Night—from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. on January 7, February 4, and March 4—visit venues from intimate Monte Dolack Gallery to the spacious Missoula Art Museum. 532-4640, missoulacultural.org .
- Sleep above the fray at the Holiday Inn Downtown at the Park, with its tall atrium and pool, set on the Clark Fork River Trail. 200 S. Pattee St., 721-8550, himissoula.com .
Photography by Chuck Haney 
This article was first published in January 2011. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.