Montana makes a state of contrasts—on the one hand, you’ll find the wilderness that gives Montana its rowdy reputation, complete with critters that most people only dream of seeing in their natural habitats. On the other hand, you can find a luxe and boujee escape in Bozeman, where you’re more likely to be rubbing elbows with celebrities and movie stars who prefer a luxe mountain getaway than you are to find lions and tigers and bears roaming the streets. But just out of town, the state’s other residents—you know, the four legged, furry ones—make quite the statement too.
Fortunately, it’s easy to find spots where you can have a close encounter of the wild kind without worries for you or the animals. We don’t call it the wild, wild West for nothing, after all. Get in on the unbridaled action with an up close and personal wildlife encounter, followed up with everything from whiskey to wine that will delight your palate and get a glam night going.
Encounter Grizzlies and Pound Whiskey
Local heros at the Montana Grizzly Encounter help rescue bears and give them a better life at this rescue and education sanctuary. This is a chance to see these gorgeous and misunderstood creatures up close, with no bars or cages to separate you from the experience. Know you’re doing right by the animals in helping to support a stellar cause while still feeding that blood-pulsing feeling of being so close to an untamed creature.
Take that adrenaline high out on the town and feel the fire of a whiskey tasting at Bozeman Spirits. Getting boozy has a local flare here, and the ambiance is on point with rough stone and warm-hewn wood meeting steely industrial for a style that is very modern mountain man. Toss back a few, or try some of their signature cocktails, and linger the night away.
Tour Your Way to Bar IX
While the weather stays crisp but dry in autumn, and Yellowstone’s roads are open, a Wildlife & Scenic Day Tour with Bushback lets the experts take you to the best spots for spotting wildlife in the—you know—wild. This 10–12 hour private jaunt will take you up mountain and down valley in the comfort of a chauffeured situation. Your guide will also discuss Yellowstone National Park’s geology, history, wildfires and wildlife in detail throughout the tour, but the real goal is to spot the grizzlies, black bears, wolves, wolverines, bison, pronghorn and more critters that call Yellowstone home. When the weather turns chilly, check out snowcoach and snowmobile options to get you out there regardless of the season.
After a hard day hitting the road in search of critters, head back to the BZN and hit the dance floor at Bar IX to seek out a savage night of your own. This place is pumping, so shake it while you sip on cocktails and relish the raving atmosphere at this spot, named the best college bar in America.
Wolfish Bites and Zebra Nights
The West Yellowstone Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center is open 365 days of the year, with bears, wolves and birds of prey on rotation at this nonprofit. Programs continue throughout the year, so you have a chance to learn a little while you take in the majesty of these animals. Make a connection, and keep in touch by adopting an animal to help support the mission. Or keep an eye on your favorite critters throughout the year through the lense of their bear and wolf webcams.
Later on, wine and cheese pair perfectly with an intimate atmosphere ideal to lean into a conversation reminiscing over the crazy day while you relax at PLONK Wine. Then end the day of wildlife with a night at a wild-inspired nightclub, Zebra Cocktail Lounge. At this compact nightclub, you’ll find regional microbrews in casual digs, with live music or DJs spinning to keep the dance floor hopping.
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