“I’m in love with Montana,” wrote John Steinbeck in his road-trip memoir Travels with Charlie. “For other states I have admiration, respect, recognition, even some affection. But with Montana it is love.”
Travel + Leisure readers showed similar devotion to Big Sky Country in this year’s America's Favorite Places survey. Three of the mountain town winners are in Montana, where the northern Rockies meet the Great Plains. The rapid change in elevation near towns like Missoula makes for some of the country’s steepest skiing, bringing winter visitors year after year.
“The mountains are our backdrop, playground, and really the center of our community. As my grandmother always said, we live in God's cathedral,” says Cameron Combs, a Montana native whose family has run a ranch near Bozeman since 1959.
In the annual America's Favorite Places survey, readers of all stripes evaluate hundreds of cities and towns across a range of categories, from the friendliness of the locals to the quality of the pizza. Unlike Travel + Leisure's World's Best Awards, which encourages readers to weigh in on travel experiences across the globe, the America's Favorite Places survey is a way for locals to share what their hometowns do best.
When it comes to mountain escapes, it’s clear they’re looking for more than just access to a ski lift or a pretty view. Some readers want history: a Rocky Mountain mining town reborn as a luxe resort, or a storybook New England village. Others are looking for arts and culture, such as at a Southwest artist community or a restaurant mecca in the Southeast.
Read on for the full list.
Travel + Leisure’s America’s Favorite Places survey opened on 10/8/2015 and closed on 04/15/2016. It was open to everyone, and ran alongside a sweepstakes. The open-response survey asked respondents to submit their favorite place and rate it in over 65 categories, including affordability, notable restaurants, and public parks. Cities are defined as governed bodies with a population over 100,000.