If the day ever comes – and at this rate, how could it not? – that someone compiles a top 10 list of cities that make top 10 lists, Missoula will almost certainly be listed in the top 10.
In 2015 alone, Missoula was named everything from one of the most livable cities in America, to one of the worst-designed cities in the world.
During the past 12 months we were recognized as one of the 20 coolest towns in the United States, one of the best places in America to live and work as a moviemaker, and – we don’t make this stuff up – one of the best places in the country to hide in the event of a zombie apocalypse.
Our “stadium experience” at Washington-Grizzly ranked No. 7 in the country, ahead of Ohio Stadium at Ohio State University, and our farmers market was listed at No. 8 in the West, just a few spots down from ones in Honolulu and Portland, Oregon.
Missoula made lists ranking “playability,” must-see museums and most livable small cities (not to be confused with also being one of the most livable cities, period). It took partial credit for having one of the spookiest ghost towns (Garnet) and the No. 1 spot in America for wildlife-watching (the National Bison Range).
There wasn’t even any reason for Missoula to steal Moiese’s thunder to get a No. 1 ranking among the many lists where it was listed.
In 2015, Missoula was also named the most “fitness-friendly city” in these United States.
The lists are compiled by a wide range of organizations, companies, magazines, bloggers and Internet websites, many no doubt designed to drive traffic to their sites.
One, called, AlterNet, says such lists are a staple of a culture obsessed with ranking things – movies, college football and basketball teams, even criminals, as per the FBI’s most-wanted list.
Accordingly, AlterNet once came up with its own top 10 list of top 10 lists, indentifying lists of things such as top 10 Internet hoaxes, top 10 bad jobs and the 10 most looked-up words on the Internet, “in order of their most-looked-uppedness” (“integrity” and “refugee” ranked 1-2 at the time).
Not all such lists go as high as 10, and many go way past it, to 100 and beyond. Good thing that, because in 2014, Missoula was considered only the 61st most livable city in America by Livability.com, a website that ranks such things.
This year, Missoula rocketed to No. 8 on the same list (Madison, Wisconsin, was No. 1). Livability cited the city’s ability to lure Paul McCartney – who regularly plays venues that seat more people than live in Missoula – to town for a 2014 concert in Washington-Grizzly Stadium as a sign of Missoula’s ability to offer “big-city amenities in a small-city package,” as Mayor John Engen put it.
Interestingly, Thrillist, a website devoted to food, drink and travel, came up with identical rankings when it chose the 10 most livable small cities in America. Madison was first; Missoula eighth.
Thrillist will rank just about anything, it appears, right down to America’s most porn-obsessed cities.
That’s one top 10 list Missoula didn’t make, but congratulations to San Antonio, Texas, which was No. 1.
Matador Network, a travel website, decided Missoula – which it called “the art and cultural epicenter of Montana” – was one of the 20 coolest places because “not only does it have the highest hipster-to-civilian ratio in Montana, it also has the most Ph.D.s working at bike and coffee shops.”
On a list where Ashville, North Carolina, was the coolest place there is, Missoula landed at No. 6.
Missoula’s No. 1 ranking as the nation’s most fitness-friendly place, bestowed by SmartAsset, a company that provides “simple answers to complex financial questions,” was based on several criteria.
It cited “the city’s proximity to a multitude of national parks and forests,” adding that “when bad weather strikes there are still good options for exercise in Missoula. It ranks second in SmartAsset’s analysis for its concentration of fitness-related businesses. For example, there are 18 different recreation or fitness centers in Missoula, which has a population of about 70,000 people.”
Missoula beat out Boulder, Colorado; Corvallis, Oregon; Boston; and even Madison – take that, you alleged most livable city – for the top spot on the fitness-friendly list.
There were no numerical rankings, just a list of 240 cities KaBOOM!, a national nonprofit dedicated to “bringing balanced and active play into the daily lives of all kids,” named as “Playful City USA” communities.
But Missoula was on it, for the seventh time. No other city in Montana was.
TravelPulse, another travel website, decided the National Bison Range north of Missoula was the best place in America to watch wildlife. The Bison Range beat out three national parks, including Denali in Alaska and the Everglades in Florida, to come away with the No. 1 ranking.
In other lists released in the past year, Missoula ranked as the third-most college educated town in Montana (behind Bozeman and Whitefish). The Montana Museum of Art and Culture on the campus of the University of Montana was named as the state’s “can’t-miss” museum by the TravelPod blog.
And we were the fourth best place to live and work as a moviemaker, as determined by MovieMaker Magazine. No. 1 was Ashland, Oregon.
On a list not even Hollywood made, Missoula was there.
Which brings us to two of the odder lists that singled out Missoula.
Lumped in with the likes of Jakarta, Dubai and Dhaka, Bangladesh – the latter of which is a city of 7 million people and features only 60 occasionally operating traffic lights at its 650 busiest intersections – Missoula was named a nightmare for drivers.
And these times, Missoula was up against every city on Earth. Madison, Wisconsin, evidently didn’t stand a chance.
Thrillist was back to name us one of the nine worst-designed cities on the planet.
Not to be outdone, EscapeHere.com, another travel website, named Missoula one of the 10 most poorly designed cities in the world.
Both lists cited the stories of our Slant Streets neighborhood and “Malfunction Junction” intersection, the latter of which we thought we had sort of fixed years ago.
EscapeHere.com called Missoula “a mess of bad intersections and confusing streets where trying to make a left-hand turn is next to impossible.”
Thrillist went into the Slant Streets’ history, and added, “As if that weren’t enough, Missoula also developed numerous needlessly complicated intersections, the most heinous of which is a five-lane intersection appropriately nicknamed ‘Malfunction Junction.’ ”
Both lists are identical – they also include Sao Paulo and Brasilia, Brazil; Naypyidaw, Myanmar; Atlanta; and Boston – but EscapeHere added New Orleans to get to 10.
The good news is, when the zombie apocalypse comes, Missoula will evidently be one of the last places the walking dead get to. Maybe they heard what a mess our street layout is.
Researchers at Cornell University – did we mention we aren't making this up? – identified the best and worst places to be in case of a zombie apocalypse in 2015.
Missoula was tabbed as one of the four least-affected areas in the country, along with Boise, Idaho; Salt Lake City; and Denver.
Where you don’t want to be, according to Cornell, is Scranton, Pennsylvania; Fort Wayne, Indiana; Austin, Texas; or Bakersfield, California. The zombies will be chowing down on human flesh in those places a lot sooner, they say.
Densely populated areas would be most susceptible in the initial days of a zombie apocalypse, according to Cornell, but 28 days into one, the danger shifts to smaller communities in the vortex of larger cities. Since we’re more than a few miles from Seattle, Denver, Minneapolis and Calgary, Alberta, we’re evidently in a safe zone.
The study allegedly had a serious aspect to it. Alexander Alemi, one of the authors, told the Wall Street Journal the zombie simulation could have applications for modeling real-life outbreaks of infectious diseases.
All that is just a year’s worth of lists where Missoula is listed.
It was much the same in 2014, when Missoula made lists for the best places to retire in the nation, the 10 best river towns, the top 10 cycling towns, the 16 best places to live in America, the 100 best places to live in America, 50 film festivals worth the entry fee (Big Sky Documentary Film Festival), the 25 most beautiful college campuses in America (UM, if you were wondering), nine small beer cities that deserve national attention, the 20 best microbreweries in America (KettleHouse Brewing Co. was No. 1), six destinations for an adventurous weekend, the 12 best unusual beer experiences in the USA (Missoula Craft Beer Week) and the ultimate adventurous bucket list (for our kayaking).
Oh, and that list where Missoula muscled its way in alongside the likes of Notre Dame, Alabama and Michigan for the best stadium experience was technically a 2014 ranking. It just wasn’t released until January of this year.
What will 2016 bring? Time will tell, but we’re willing to hazard a guess, which is: