Bozeman is a great winter getaway for families because there is just SO much to do! With over 7 feet of snowfall every year, you can pretty much count on snowy conditions and all the snow sports and activities that come with it. And, if you aren’t from a snowy region, your kids will love just getting to see the snow.
The little town of Bozeman in the middle of the northern Rocky Mountains and is nestled in the beautiful Gallatin Valley, and it’s quite a hidden gem. This small college town is often included on lists of Top Places to Live and Best Ski Town and for good reason. It’s a ski town without snobbery, but with fine dining to please any palate. It’s a relaxed town where jeans and kids are welcome almost anywhere. And it’s a place my family loves to visit especially when it’s transferred into a winter wonderland! Here are a few of our FAVORITE winter activities in Bozeman with kids, in no particular order.
1. Go Sledding!
We recommend the Gallatin County Regional Park (known as Hundred Acre Park by locals). You can pick up sleds from the local Target, or if you don’t mind a drive, rent tubes from Big Boys Toys. The hill is big enough to keep all ages entertained, but with spots to take a shorter or flatter route for those who prefer a gentler ride down. My twins were able to participate and had a BLAST at less than 2 years old, and of course, the older kids, and adults loved it as well. This hill really is perfect for the whole family.
Or, if you are feeling MORE adventurous, head up to Moser Creek in the Hyalite Canyon area. The snow is guaranteed even deeper than right in town, the views are great, and the hills vary from long and sloping to more extreme. It’s a great place to just play in the snow as well- build a snowman, have a little snowball fight. Just enjoy the snow!
2. Go Skiing
Bozeman is home to two great, world-class ski areas, both within about an hour’s drive. The first, Bridger Bowl is a great nonprofit ski area with amazing skiing and a local vibe. This ski area doesn’t actually have any lodging right at the resort, but it’s only a 25-minute drive from Bozeman, so it’s still a great choice. The lift ticket price at Bridger really can’t be beat either- plus kids under 12 get a discount, and kids under 6 are free! And, if you are just starting out can get a ticket to just the bunny hill area for just $10! Check current lift ticket prices here.
It has 2,700 vertical feet of skiing and covers 2000 acres. This ski area has skiing for all levels- greens through double black diamonds plus a skis area for the littlest skiers, a terrain park, and even “The Ridge”, which is among the most challenging terrain within any ski area boundary and requires additional avalanche gear and a partner. Bridger Bowl offers gear rental at reasonable prices with experts that can get you set up quickly, even if you’ve never been on skis or a snowboard before.
If you are a new skiier, or traveling with young children who have never skiied before, never fear. Bridger Bowl also offers a state-of-the-art ski school for all levels (even experts who want a guide on the more dangerous areas). For new skiiers, the lift can be the hardest part. Bridger has you covered there too with magic carpet ride on to take you up to the bunny hill- it’s essentially a covered conveyor belt that allows new skiiers to ride up without fear.
One thing often missing from smaller ski areas, as opposed to the larger resorts, is great food. Bridger is the exception there- this small ski area packs a LOT of great food and drink. My favorite is Jimmy B’s for their pub-style food and a great vibe. However, the cafeteria is better than average for a ski area, and you have the option to pack a lunch to save a few dollars, or to appease a picky child.
Big Sky Resort
The second ski area, Big Sky Resort is pretty different from Bridger Bowl in that it is actually a resort. You’ll find tons of awesome ski-in ski-out condos, hotels, cute cabins, or even luxury vacation rental homes. The village has tons of restaurants, from high end to casual, shopping, and even daycare for those too young to ski! While Bridger is great for a day of skiing, Big Sky really shines for families who want to spend a weekend, or a week up at the mountain. The village has everything you need and more, with a rustic, yet ultra-sleek vibe. Though basically anywhere you go in Montana, jeans are appropriate attire, and people are oh-so-casual, so don’t feel intimidated.
The mountain itself is quite impressive with nearly 6,000 acres of terrain, and 4,350 vertical feet served by 36 lifts. While lift tickets are expensive/on par with other major resorts, you get a lot at Big Sky with two base areas and endless runs, and children under 6 ski for free. There are tons of great options for renting gear, and lessons for kids as young as 2 – adults. Big Sky also offers night skiing, and just tons of other new and interesting experiences.
And if skiing or snowboarding isn’t enough for you, this mountain also has a winter Adventure Zipline, snowshoe tours, dog sledding, cross-country skiing, and sleigh rides. You certainly won’t get bored at Big Sky!
3. Go Out to Breakfast
For a small town, Bozeman has a pretty impressive foodie scene. Fancy dinners with small children aren’t exactly our idea of a great time, so we opt for nicer breakfasts instead. The Cateye Café has a super quirky vibe and great food. They even offer silly cat-eye glasses, and a few little toys at the table while you wait. Try the Cowgirl- banana bread french toast, for breakfast- you won’t regret it. YUM!
Another great option is Wild Crumb. Their bakery items are out-of-this-world delicious, and you can grab-and-go, or sit down and enjoy a coffee and breakfast. Their menu is always changing, but its also ALWAYS delicious.
4. Hit a Brewery
I have no idea how many breweries there are in Bozeman but it feels like about a million. And maybe taking kids to a brewery sounds a little strange to you, but in a town this laid back, it’s totally the norm. Many are set up for kids, with play areas, kids menus, and more. My kids and I really love Map Brewing and Mountains Walking.
Map has a beautiful dining room with tons of space to spread out. If you’re lucky, you’ll be able to take a comfortable seat right in front of their cozy fireplace. But even when we just grab a table, the kids and I are happy and relaxed. The vibe is SO relaxed, everyone will instantly feel at ease. And let’s be honest, the low roar of a restaurant full of happy beer drinkers means no one is noticing, or being bothered by your kids louder-than-you’d-like voices.
Map has award-winning beer, excellent food, and a beautiful yet cozy tasting room. If you are a beer drinker who has jumped on the IPA bandwagon, get the Strange Cattle IPA. If not, try the Soul Charger, or get a flight of some of the seasonal beers, plus the smoked salmon dip or the charcuterie board. YUM! Your kids can choose from the kid’s menu, and everyone will be satisfied.
Mountains Walking is another excellent, kid-friendly brewery. The vibe is modern, yet relaxed (because everything in Bozeman is relaxed), with a bright, airy dining area. They offer games and toy bins to be taken to tables and enjoyed there. My kids do like to play on the floor, but I’ll admit, it’s a nice change of pace, to see brewery toys that are actually clean and well taken care of. My kids love rotating through EVERY toy bin and making sure they find the best possible toys.
Mountain Walking has some amazing beer as well. Plus, non-beer drinkers will love the ‘sweets’, sour-style ales inspired by Wild Crumb’s amazing fruit tarts. They are both sweet and sour, and AHHH-mazing. I love Blood Orange Coconut Sour ale SO much! The food is pretty darn good as well. Don’t miss the pork belly bao buns, the crispy brussels sprouts, and even the french fries are pretty special.
5. Check out the Museum of the Rockies
If you are visiting Bozeman in the winter with kids, its because you want to be in a winter wonderland. But, at some point, you’ll be ready for a bit of indoor time. And at the Museum of the Rockies, you certainly won’t feel like you are missing out. In fact, on our last trip to Bozeman, my kids decided we NEEDED to go to the Museum of the Rockies before we even left the airport (thanks to some dinosaur bones and a flyer at the airport). The Museum of the Rockies is part of the ASTC Travel Passport program, which means they offer free or reduced admission if you are a member of one of the MANY participating museums.
This museum is known for its dinosaur exhibits and they are impressive- kids will love standing under a giant T-Rex skeleton and getting to experience just how large they were. My kids loved checking out all the dinosaur bones and models. Plus, there are several kids areas spread thorough, where kids can do puzzles, play with boys and more. The museum also has tons of other awesome rotation exhibits- Yellowstone National Park, butterflies, even Genghis Khan! Check their website for the latest rotational exhibit.
Upstairs is the real highlight of the museum for my kids. The Explore Yellowstone play area is tons of fun for kids to check out all things Yellowstone in a free play area. There, kids can learn about geysers, pretend to be a bird, do cartwheels through the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, pretend to be a wildlife veterinarian, go ‘camping’, fishing, and more.
6. Take a Sleigh Ride
Taking a sleigh ride is a perfect way for you and your family to just enjoy the snowy mountain scenes you’ll find near Bozeman, Montana.
320 Guest Ranch offers a great family-friendly sleigh ride on winter evenings. It is just the epitome of a winter wonderland. Kids will love watching the team of beautiful, and well cared for horses, pulling the sleigh. You will head down to a picnic area and enjoy a Montana snack, hot cocoa and drinks, then head on back. The sleigh ride is just long enough to be enjoyable without getting cold. Be sure to dress warmly as temperatures will drop after the sun goes down, and book early for sleigh rides around Christmas. One important note: 320 Guest Ranch is about an hour outside of Bozeman and roads can get very icy. Drive carefully, and make sure you are equipped for the conditions.
Love the idea of a sleigh ride, but want to avoid a long drive? Sunrise Pack Station does amazing sleigh rides right in town. They offer half-hour or hour-long sleigh rides, either during the day or at night on their beautiful 160-acre property. If you are traveling with younger children, or when temperatures are particularly low, you’ll appreciate the day time ride. The guide, Shane is excellent and always makes the ride special. The sleigh ride takes you on a beautiful ride through the woods, and makes a stop at a spot right along the river. There you can have a cup of hot cocoa, enjoy the views and the fire, and Shane will even read a great little story.
If you are unlucky, like we were last time, there may not be enough snow for the sleigh. But it’s no problem. The beautiful horses can pull you in a sleigh OR take you on a hayride in a large wagon. The experience was still super wintery-wonderful. Another plus- Sunrise Pack Station is right up the road from Map Brewing. So stop by to warm up on your way home.
7. Go Swimming at Bozeman Hot Springs
Yellowstone National Park gets all the attention for geothermal activity, but you’ll find a few hot springs out of the park as well. Bozeman Hot Springs is just that- a system of pools fed by a nearby hot spring. Anyone sensitive to chlorine will appreciate that no chemicals are needed here because the water is fed through constantly, and drained every night to keep the pools clean. The facility has indoor and outdoor pools, which are kept warm enjoy year-round. This facility has been around, in one form or another, for over 100 years. But in its current state, it’s a clean, modern and very relaxing family-friendly facility.
8. Take a day trip to Yellowstone National Park
Visiting Yellowstone is always a magical experience, but visiting in the winter is even more special. Most of the roads in the park are closed to regular traffic during the winter months. However, you can drive through the north entrance and go as far as Mammoth Hot Springs, then continue on east all the way to the east entrance in The Mammoth area is beautiful, and worth the trip down just to explore that area.
Want to see more of the park? There are tons of options. The park can be explored via snowcoach, snowmobiles, cross country skis, or snowshoes, or a combination of these. The snowcoach is temperature-controlled and appropriate for even young children. Of course, you’ll still need winter gear so that you can get out and explore.
Our recommendation is to go snowshoeing at Specimen Ridge. The trail takes you right along the rim of the breathtaking Yellowstone River. This is a once in a lifetime experience and is highly recommended for nature or animal lovers and photographers. The park is truly transformed into a winter wonderland, with no traffic and MUCH fewer visitors. You’ll likely see LOTS of bison, bighorn sheep, elk, and more! The views and the sights will keep even the whiniest kids interested. Visiting Yellowstone in the winter is a trip you’ll be dreaming to repeat for years to come!
9. Go Ice Skating
Bozeman Parks department builds a great outdoor ice rink at Beall Park every winter. Head over to Chalet Sports to pick up rental skates for the whole family, then get out and express your inner Michelle Kwan.
Or, for indoor skating with controlled temperatures and perfect condition ice, head out to the Haynes Pavilion. Where ever you decide to ice skate, you’ll feel like you are filming the opening scene to a Christmas movie- or at least the bloopers for it!
Chico Hot Springs is another truly Montana experience. The resort is right at the base of the beautiful Absaroka Mountains. The outdoor pool allows you to enjoy the magnificent mountain views, and, hopefully, a few snowflakes falling on your head while staying warm in the chemical-free, hot springs fed pools. The resort has a great poolside grill your kids will love. Or you can enjoy a meal, while watching your kids swim.
Chico also has a wonderful full restaurant with some truly amazing upscale pub food. And you can stick around, and stay the night at Chico. They have a wonderful spa, and lodging of all kinds, from rooms with a shared bathroom to beautiful, fancy cabins. The resort offers tons of other family-friendly activities.
Plus a couple of Bonus Items
I didn’t want to include this in our top 10 because it’s not exactly unique to Bozeman. But, kids love indoor trampoline places, and this one is good! It huge open trampoline areas, a slackline, a climbing wall, an obstacle course type thing, and a couple of toddler play areas (since it can be a little crazy for the smaller kids).
Want a little more excitement? Indoor climbing is such a fun experience for kids and their parents! Spire is one of the few indoor climbing centers we’ve visited that allowed younger children to participate. They can even put on a harness and climb the big wall, if they are up for it! The whole family can rent everything you need to get started as well.
Window Shop downtown Bozeman
In a time when cities and towns across the country are struggling to keep their downtown alive, Bozeman has somehow managed to keep theirs thriving. And this is despite the tragic gas explosion which decimated a full block of downtown Bozeman back in 2009. The city was able to rebuild, yet continues to keep its old charm. You’ll find independent coffee shops, book stores, beautiful children’s boutiques, and amazing art galleries filled with local artist’s work. During the month of December, you’ll see Bozeman’s sort of infamously ugly ‘spider’ decorations that are hung in the middle of downtown. Also, watch for the blue light atop the Baxter Hotel. If it’s flashing, that means its snowing up at Bridger Bowl.
A winter vacation in Bozeman with kids is just perfect because of the thick layer of snow covering this beautiful mountain town. But be prepared for LOW temperatures, as Bozeman temperatures are known to drop well below 0°F. Being so far north also means the sun sets as early as 4:30 pm in the dead of winter. So in addition to all of these great winter activities, plan to spend some evenings relaxing inside. There is nothing like getting cozy inside with family or friends after a day out in the snow!