Ever wondered how snowflakes taste, and what a winter wonderland looks like in real life?
If you’re already gearing up for the most magical time of the year, Christmas in Montana may just be the answer to your snow-dusted dreams.
From sleigh rides through freshly fallen powder to sipping hot chocolate by roaring fireplaces in luxurious lodges, Montana offers a unique holiday experience that combines rugged outdoor adventures with a healthy dose of Christmas cheer.
So, whether you’re a nature-loving snow bunny seeking the perfect slope or a family yearning for a truly unforgettable Christmas getaway, this is the article you’ve been waiting for.
Prepare to be enchanted as we guide you through 15 of the most unforgettable and essential Montana activities for the entire family to enjoy, making this holiday season one for the memory books.
- Related article: Montana’s Ideal Season
So grab a cup of cocoa, cuddle up by the fire, and let’s delve into the magic of Christmas in Montana. Are you ready to experience joy and wonder like never before? Then don’t miss a single word.
Best Things to Do in Montana During Christmas
When it comes to celebrating Christmas, Montana offers a one-of-a-kind experience that embraces both the cozy and the adventurous.
Whether you’re in the mood to hit the slopes, enjoy a festive event, or simply snuggle by the fire here are must-do activities to make your holiday season a true Montana masterpiece.
1. Spend Your Christmas in a Winter Lounge
When it comes to experiencing the full of Montana’s winter charm, can you think of a better way than cozying up in a Winter Lodge?
Picture this, you’ve just come in from a day of skiing or snowshoeing, and now you’re wrapped up in a blanket, feet propped by a wood fire in a cozy cabin, and the peace and quiet outside—pure magic!
When you’re ready to settle into your Christmas getaway, here are two winter lodges in Montana that are worth a second glance:
- Old Faithful Snow Lodge – The Old Faithful Snow Lodge in the Upper Geyser Basin of Yellowstone National Park is a winter wonderland straight out of a postcard. And yes, your window can be your personal wildlife-viewing post!
- Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel – This seasonal gem, also in Yellowstone National Park, is the perfect place to watch the snowflakes fall. They also host a charming candlelight service at the Mammoth Chapel. This will offer you a peaceful quiet pause amidst the holiday buzz.
These holiday havens aren’t just about the ambiance; they also thoughtfully host special dinners on December 25th and December 31st.
Old Faithful Lodge and Mammoth Hot Springs open their doors by mid-December to ensure you get that full-blown Christmas experience.
Just a quick heads-up for the go-getters out there, these in-winter lodges are in high demand during the holiday season, so nabbing a reservation well in advance is a must-do if you’re planning off a West Yellowstone Christmas.
If you’re craving a Christmas that’s part dream and part reality, Montana’s winter lodges are the stuff memories are made of.
2. See the Nutcracker in Montana
A Montana holiday staple, no Christmas getaway in Montana is complete without taking in a performance of The Nutcracker.
If you are interested in going to a Nutcracker during your Christmas trip in Montana event then Garden City Ballet is perfect for you.
Their performances will transport you to a place of absolute serenity. The exceptional talent of the dancers combines with beautiful costumes and stage decorations for an experience that’s truly transcendent.
Here are details on Garden City Ballet’s performances:
- Where – University of Montana Theater, Missoula, Montana
- When – From December 15th to 17th, 2023
- Ticket Prices – Ticket prices range from $40 to $45
Whether you’re traveling solo, with a loved one, or even with the whole family, make sure to plan an evening to see the Garden City Ballet’s rendition of The Nutcracker.
And trust me – it doesn’t get any more Christmas in Montana than this.
3. Tour Kalispell’s Conrad Mansion During Christmas
When most people think of Montana, they imagine sprawling landscapes and outdoor adventures.
But let me tell you, Christmas in Montana isn’t just about snow-covered peaks; it’s also about experiencing the charming holiday traditions that have been held dear for over a century.
One of the best places to do that is exploring Kalispell’s Conrad Mansion.
Located on Woodland Ave in Kalispell, the Conrad Mansion is a beautifully restored historic home that dates all the way back to 1895.
The rooms are adorned with historical-themed decorations, and the air is thick with the scents of pine and spices.
The best part? The holiday transformation! The Conrad Mansion in Montana truly pulls out all the seasonal Christmas decorations, casting it like a warm Christmas spell over the Mansion.
The mansion comes alive with guided tours led by knowledgeable folks. They’ll amuse you with tales of the Conrad family and their Christmas high-spiritedness.
Don’t miss the opportunity to immerse yourself in this historic holiday wonderland. Trust me, this place knows how to tug at those holiday heartstrings.
Add it to your Christmas in Montana checklist, and you won’t be disappointed.
4. Attend a Tree Lighting Ceremony
The holidays in Montana are timeless ongoing stories. And what better way to immerse yourself in this narrative than by attending a tree-lighting ceremony?
Attending a tree lighting ceremony is your ticket to experiencing the enchantment of a Montana Christmas.
Imagine breathing the crisp winter air, sipping on hot cocoa, and witnessing the collective joy that the first flicker of lights dances across the evergreen branches.
These are no ordinary light shows; they are Montana holiday traditions set against a backdrop of amazing scenery.
Here are several tree-lighting ceremonies that you can join in Montana:
- The Annual Tree Lighting Ceremony on Officers Row – Here, a giant evergreen hails the holidays with luminescent grandeur, a tradition that echoes back for over a century.
Tip: Arrive early to snag a spot close to the tree and really feel the holiday magic.
- The Tree Lighting Ceremony in Bigfork – In the charming town of Bigfork, the yearly tree lighting ceremony is held in front of Bjorge’s Gallery. The tree itself decked out with lights and ornaments, becomes a glowing beacon of holiday cheer.
Tip: Bring some spare change for a post-ceremony stroll through Bjorge’s Gallery; the local art scene takes on an extra dose of Christmas whimsy.
- The Tree Lighting Ceremony in Butte – Uptown Butte’s Christmas Stroll features a tree lighting ceremony that symbolizes community unity. The event offers music, spontaneous dancing, and a memorable Christmas experience.
Tip: Come on an empty stomach; the local food vendors turn this stroll into a culinary adventure.
Rubbing elbows with both locals and visitors who have made this an annual tradition generates an electric enthusiasm rarely found elsewhere.
Whether you choose Officers Row, Bigfork, or Butte (or all three!), you surely will experience the festive Christmas atmosphere. So, don’t miss out on these Montana holiday staples.
5. Ride a Sleigh in Montana
If your vision of a perfect Christmas involves wooden sleighs and a team of sturdy horses, you’ve come to the right place.
Riding a sleigh during the holidays in Montana is a must-do activity, especially in the western part of the state known for its beautiful rocky terrain. This Christmas tradition is well-loved by locals and visitors alike.
Now, let’s pick the best spot for your sleigh ride, shall we?
- Bar W Guest Ranch – Located in Western Montana, This Montana ranch provides sleigh ride packages for groups of up to 10 people. Rides are available in the morning, at lunchtime, or in the evening, and each includes a meal.
- The Resort at Paws Up – The Resort at Paws Up offers a luxurious and unique vacation experience in the heart of Montana’s wilderness.
- 320 Guest Ranch – This location is conveniently situated between the Big Sky Ski Resort and Yellowstone Park in Montana, making it an excellent winter destination.
Sleigh rides in Montana aren’t just casual outings with bells. They offer a chance to immerse yourself in the state’s wintery landscapes.
Whether you choose the full-day adventure at Bar W or the elegant carriage rides at Paws Up, you’re in for an exciting experience that will leave you feeling as cozy as a poinsettia in a rustic cabin.
6. Shop in a Christmas Market
There’s something about strolling through twinkling lights, clutching a warm cup of cocoa, and browsing stalls brimming with holiday treasures that make this festive experience so irresistible. And Montana doesn’t disappoint.
Here are 3 Christmas markets you can’t miss on your Montana Christmas escapade:
|What to Expect
|Biggest Montana market, one-stop refuge for holiday needs
|The Fairgrounds in Kalispell
|November 10 to 11, 2023
|Creative crafts and unique local finds
|Little Red Truck’s European Christmas Market
|European-style Christmas market
|December 8 to 9, 2023
|Handcrafted gifts and seasonal treats
|Rescued and Reclaimed Country Christmas Vintage Market
|Whole festive experience and shopping
|December 1 to 2, 2023
|Vintage and reclaimed items
From unique local crafts, and activities for kids to food and live music, Christmas markets in Montana offer a festive atmosphere that’s perfect for both holiday shopping and holiday browsing.
Whether you’re in Kalispell or in Southeast Montana, be sure to check out one of these merry markets for a dose of holiday cheer and perhaps to find that special something for that special someone.
Adventurous souls and fun-loving families alike will find these Christmas markets to be a fantastic complement to their Montanan Christmas adventure.
7. Take a Photo With Santa in Montana
Ready to capture that priceless moment when your little ones meet the man in red?
Luckily, Santa makes more than just a once-a-year appearance in Montana, cropping up at all sorts of markets, festivals, and events. So make sure to see and take a photo with him.
Here are places where you can spot Santa:
- The Fairgrounds in Kalispell – Catch Santa during the Market Beautiful extravaganza on November 10-11, 2023. It’s the perfect opportunity to snap a shot with the man himself while browsing the merry market stalls.
- Gallatin Valley Mall in Bozeman – Make sure to watch out for The Santa Experience in Bozeman, which is a highly anticipated and beloved event that’s truly magical. The schedule can change, so be sure to check early and mark your calendar accordingly.
- Butte Christmas Stroll – His busy schedule also includes a stop at the Butte Christmas Stroll, usually during the children’s parade. Imagine the glow on your children’s faces as they meet Santa amid the charm of the Christmas stroll.
Now that you know you’ve got options, wrap the camera and a sprinkle of anticipation in your holiday bag. Santa might just pop up where you least expect him.
8. Ride a Snowmobile in the Bitterroots
If sleigh rides feel way too “Santa Claus,” why not turn up the exhilaration factor and hop onto a roaring snowmobile instead? Buckle up, because this is a Montana experience that goes 0 to 60 in unforgettable seconds.
You’ll find plenty of snowmobile trails in the Bitterroot Mountains southwest of Montana during the Christmas season. I can personally vouch for the exhilarating wind-in-your-face adventures here – it’s a must-try experience!
Skalkaho Snowpark, located in Bitterroot National Forest, boasts 50 miles of groomed trails, making it suitable for riders of all levels. It’s conveniently accessible from Darby, a nearby town offering snowmobile tours and rentals.
Lolo Pass takes snowmobiling up a notch with a vast 250-mile interconnected network, providing riders with diverse terrains and breathtaking scenery.
Darby serves as a helpful base for snowmobilers, offering essential services and information.
Environmental responsibility is a priority in the Bitterroot Forest, with approximately one-third of its area (543,840 acres) designated for snowmobiling to minimize environmental impact.
Snowmobile season in Montana’s Bitterroot Mountains is like skiing on a magic carpet with a nitrous boost—it’s quite simply a winter dream come true.
Whether you’re planning an action-packed getaway or just a snowy change of pace, this is as Montanan as it gets.
9. Ski During Christmas in Montana
You can’t talk about Christmas in Montana without mentioning snow sports.
Snow activities (especially skiing) in Montana are a cherished part of local culture, much like mistletoe and jingle bells during the Christmas season.
Whether you’re experienced or new to it, enjoying the snowy outdoors in the Treasure State is a fantastic way to celebrate.
Here’s a quick look at Ski Resorts for Your Montana Christmas Adventures:
- Whitefish Mountain Resort – Located southwest of Glacier National Park, Whitefish Mountain Resort offers a massive 3,000 acres of skiing terrain with 11 lifts to accommodate everyone from beginners to daredevils.
- Discovery Ski Area – Located in southwest Montana, Discovery Ski Area boasts 2,200 acres of diverse slopes and an uncrowded atmosphere, making it a family favorite.
- Big Sky Resort – Big Sky Resort has the largest terrain in the United States, sprawling across a jaw-dropping 5,800 acres in south-central Montana.
- Lost Trail Powder Mountain – Just a stone’s throw from the rugged beauty of Glacier National Park and bordered by Idaho, Lost Trail Powder Mountain is a hidden gem known for its untouched powder
A quick tip for the skiers who also like to mix it up, remember that cross-country skiing is just as rewarding and picturesque as downhill skiing, and many skiing areas in the state provide ample trails for this alternate style.
When you visit Montana in the winter, it’s not just about skiing. You’re diving into a wonderful blend of Montanan tradition and adventure that you and your loved ones will cherish for a long time.
10. Go Cross-Country Ski in Yellowstone National Park
If you want to take things slow and savor winter’s serene beauty while getting a great workout during your Christmas trip, then cross-country skiing in Yellowstone National Park is the way to go.
Yellowstone National Park is the perfect backdrop for a day of cross-country skiing. This is the place to put on your skis and get lost in the ethereal winter wonderland.
The Northern Entrance and Mammoth Hot Springs are particularly great starting points for your adventure.
Here are some cross-country skiing areas that you can check out:
- Mallard Creek Ski Trail – A skier-tracked, 12-mile round trip, and the most difficult trail in the park. Only for the fearless and advanced skiers who crave a challenge.
- Mammoth Area Ski Trails – For those who prefer a more groomed path, Mammoth offers over 19 miles of pure cross-country skiing joy. It’s like gliding through powdered sugar.
- Chief Joseph Pass – If you’re up for a little exploration outside the park, this trail system located west of Wisdom is a solid choice. The Bitterroot Cross-Country Ski Club keeps the trails groomed weekly, ensuring a smooth ride.
So, strap on your skis, don a warm hat, and embrace the wintry wonder of Yellowstone from a whole new perspective!
11. Attend the Missoula Parade of Lights
If you’ve ever needed visual proof that Christmas is truly the most magical time of the year, the Missoula Parade of Lights is where you’ll find it.
To the west of Glacier country, held in downtown Missoula, Montana, these festive holiday happenings turn the city streets into a dazzling dreamscape of Christmas lights.
The children’s light parade is my absolute favorite. Seeing the kids walk down the street, their faces all lit up with the magic of Christmas is an experience that will stay with you long after the holiday season is over.
|Missoula Parade of Lights
|Western Montana, Downtown Missoula
|December 2, 2023
|– Christmas lights in downtown – Children’s Light Parade – Winter Makers Market for unique gifts – Fire barrels and festive caroling – Hot cocoa and toddies for a warm holiday cheer
Whether you’re on a romantic getaway or looking for a family-friendly adventure, the Missoula Parade of Lights should be a non-negotiable entry on your busy holiday itinerary.
And hey, no one will blame you if you make your winter trip to downtown Missoula a nighttime stroll in search of more holiday wonderment.
12. Ride a Horse-Drawn Carriage in Downtown Missoula
The experience is more than a fancy ride—it’s a gateway to the holiday spirit!
Who knew navigating Missoula’s streets could be so festive?
As the horses’ breath mingles with the crisp winter air, you sway gently to the rhythm of their steps, taking in the twinkling lights and the buzz of holiday cheer.
The horse-drawn carriage rides are a holiday season staple in downtown Missoula—totally free for the public.
Located near the corner of Higgins Avenue and East Pine Street in Missoula, you can’t miss the line-up of horse-drawn carriages ready to drive you away into a festive Montanan atmosphere.
Aside from being a classic Christmas in Montana experience, here are two highlights of what riding a horse-drawn carriage offers:
- The Chance to Interact with Horses – Visitors can connect with the horses, an uncommon opportunity offered by some operators, enhancing the memorable experience of this horse-drawn carriage ride.
- A Unique Perspective on the Christmas Hustle – Exploring Missoula’s downtown on a horse-drawn carriage during the festive season unveils a unique perspective on the holiday ambiance.
Whether you’re on a romantic getaway or making cherished memories with your loved ones, this horse-drawn carriage experience will undoubtedly crystallize your Christmas in Montana.
13. Take a Stroll in Bigfork’s Christmas Town
If you’re after a beloved holiday tradition that delivers all the requisite festive vibes, the town’s Christmas Stroll should definitely earn that top spot on your wish list.
From early November through New Year’s Eve, Bigfork transforms into a Christmas wonderland with holiday traditions, festive cuisine, enchanting light displays, and Christmas-themed activities for children.
As you stroll down the main street, decked out in holiday lights, it’s hard not to be captivated. And we’re not just talking about the city lights person; the decorations alone could warrant an entire afternoon of “oohs” and “aahs.” Trust me, this is a photo-op you won’t want to miss.
Now, let’s talk about the activities.
Here are some of my favorite Christmas town events:
- Parade of Lights – If you attend the Parade of Lights, you can expect a festive holiday atmosphere with holiday floats, lights, and decorations. Visitors can also enjoy the festive village and visit local businesses
- Downtown Decorations – A feast for the eyes, these meticulously adorned streetscapes will have you reaching for your camera in no time.
- Bigfork Elves Decorating Day – Ever seen a town in a race to be merrier than the next? That’s what this is all about. A hundred or so elves pick up their tinsel and make a town-wide effort to decorate every nook and cranny.
- Happy Hounds – Because pets deserve a spot on Santa’s Nice List too. A local pet store hosts this tail-wagging event, complete with pet photos with Santa and a delightfully festive photo booth.
When night falls, the town crescendos the festivities with a tree-lighting ceremony accompanied by live renditions of classic Christmas carols.
If you’re in Montana during the holiday season, a casual stroll through Bigfork’s Christmas Town is one gift you simply can’t pass up.
14. Soak at Chico Hot Springs
After a full day of outdoor winter activities, you might want to rejuvenate by slipping into the warm embrace of Chico Hot Springs Resort during your Montana Christmas trip.
The sensation of submerging yourself into the natural hot pools, with snowflakes gently drifting overhead. It’s an experience that effortlessly melds the season’s chill with the cozy splendor that only Montana can offer.
Chico Hot Springs, located in Paradise Valley near Pray, Montana, offers a holistic Christmas retreat experience encompassing accommodation, dining, and entertainment.
Accommodation is available in the historic Main Lodge, providing a convenient stay for guests who want to enjoy the hot springs without the need to drive home.
The dining options at Chico Hot Springs emphasize elegance and a touch of class, complementing the hot springs experience.
Adding to the appeal is the Chico Saloon, a lively spot hosting weekend soirées with live music, creating a vibrant winter nightlife scene in this iconic Montana setting.
I’ve visited Chico Hot Springs in Paradise Valley more times than I can count, and without fail, it always manages to weave its holiday magic around me.
As for you, consider this not just a suggestion, but an invitation: plunge into this wintry oasis and let the stresses of the holiday season melt away under Montana’s skies.
15. Attend the Treasure State Chorale Christmas Concert
Get Carried Away by the Choral Magic!
What’s a Montana Christmas without a choir? You know, all those Christmas movie classics like “Elf” and “Home Alone” have taught us that some joy is best shared, harmoniously, through the magic of song.
The Treasure State Chorale Christmas Concert is your passport to an especially “treasure-y” kind of tune, one that burrows deep into your heart, stirring emotions you forgot you even had.
No, this isn’t a regular carol sing-along; it’s choral performances on a professional level. The Treasure State Chorale, an eclectic adult mixed chorus, isn’t afraid to traverse musical genres.
From classical to pop and jazz, they’ve got your holiday soundtrack covered. Come expecting a mix of awe-stirring classics like “Ave Maria” and whimsical additions like songs from “The Polar Express.”
Attending a Treasure State Chorale Christmas Concert adds an extra topping to your Montana Christmas holiday experience that will surpass the already high standards that are set by the state.
Go experience it for yourself. Trust me, your ears won’t want you to skip this one!
Christmas in Montana Final Thoughts
Christmas in Montana is truly a magical experience. From the enchanting choral concerts to the cozy and festive atmosphere, this state offers a unique charm that is hard to find elsewhere.
The state is filled with a variety of activities and traditions that make it an ideal destination for a holiday trip.
One of the best parts of Christmas in Montana is the festive events and the scenic towns. From Missoula’s parade of lights to Bigforks’s festive Christmas events, Montana knows how to throw a holiday bash.
These events are the perfect way to immerse yourself in the local culture and ignite that warm, fuzzy holiday spirit.
Picture-perfect towns like Bozeman, Missoula, and Whitefish become winter wonderlands straight out of a holiday card, with snow-capped mountains as their backdrops.
Don’t forget the outdoor winter activities. You enjoy activities like sleigh rides, snowmobiling, and even horse-drawn carriage rides through festive downtowns, all wrapped in a magical holiday atmosphere.
Of course, we can’t forget the traditions—holiday foods that warm the heart and tummy. You can enjoy a thick slice of huckleberry pie or savor a hearty Montana steak during the holidays.
Christmas in Montana is the one-of-a-kind blend of scenic beauty, community spirit, and a bountiful array of activities that make Montana a Christmas destination like no other.
Whether you’re enjoying the lively events, embracing the great outdoors, wandering through scenic towns, or savoring the local cuisine, Montana’s Christmas spirit is a gift worth experiencing.
Christmas in Montana FAQs
1. What Part of Montana Is Best for Christmas?
Different places may appeal to different preferences and tastes.
If you are looking for a charming tourist destination with beautiful Christmas lights and decorations, then you may want to consider Billings.
Billings in winter is known as one of Montana’s most beautiful towns, especially during the holiday season.
2. When Does The Holiday Season Begin in Montana?
The holiday season in Montana typically begins in mid-November and runs through New Year’s Day.
Visitors can enjoy live holiday music, visits with Santa, Christmas caroling, and more during their visit to Montana during the holiday season.
3. What Is the Snowiest Part of Montana?
West Yellowstone, in Western Montana, receives an average of 160.4 inches of snowfall per year, making it one of the snowiest places in Montana.
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