It’s a coveted list – the 16 best places to live in all of the United States of America.
If you’re curious, check out this year’s No. 9. That’s right, it’s Missoula.
The Garden City broke the top 10 in Outside magazine’s “The 16 Greatest Places to Live in America.” The rankings were released last week and placed Missoula just behind Louisville, Kentucky, and just ahead of Boulder, Colorado.
“ ‘KEEP MISSOULA WEIRD,’ reads a popular bumper sticker in this western Montana college town (pop. 68,394),” the magazine tells its readers. “By red-state standards, Missoula is anomalous; a liberal outpost, it’s Montana’s biggest cultural center, yet it maintains a small-town feel.”
The article quotes local runner Mike Wolfe, who raves about the community’s trails – the Mount Sentinel trail foremost among them. He also lauds the community’s vibrancy and diversity.
“You can be whoever you want to be here,” he told the magazine.
The article also mentions – and provides web links – to the University of Montana, Brennan’s Wave, Draught Works Brewery, Caras Park and Big Dipper Ice Cream. It mentions trails, trails and, oh, paddling the Clark Fork River, along with winter skiing.
Missoula stands in good company. Topping the magazine’s list of America’s greatest places to live is Duluth, Minnesota. Provo, Utah; Minneapolis; Anchorage, Alaska; and Ithaca, New York, round out the top five.
“I’ve been a resident of Missoula for more than 30 years, a refugee from the flatlands of the Midwest,” Peter Stark, one of the magazine’s correspondents, writes in the article. “The mountains and rivers have always been here, but the lively energy and community have not.”
Stark remembers the deserted downtown streets and empty parking lots of past gray winter days. He remembers the closed shops on Higgins Avenue, the loss of local jobs and the feeling of being completely alone and rather isolated.
Now, he sees the city in a new light. Something of a rebirth.
“Today, downtown Missoula is an incredibly vibrant place,” he writes. “This took the work of people who really cared and were willing to spend the money to make these things happen.”