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A surfer turns at the base of the wave to the south of Brennan's Wave in this May 2017 photo. Outside magazine has named Missoula one of  25 “Best Towns Ever: Where to Live Now” in its July issue. Missoula Downtown Association Executive Director Linda McCarthy says Missoula frequently makes such lists because of things like its river surfing culture and the city's many free festivals.

Citing Missoula’s rivers, trails, community-supported agriculture and college students, Outside Magazine named Missoula one of 25 “Best Towns Ever: Where to Live Now” in its July issue.

The list recognizes “The 25 Most Fit, Fun and Adventure Ready Towns” for having “all the adventure a traveler could ask for, while also offering drool-worthy food and drink scenes, a kid-friendly environment, and a welcome mat to people of all backgrounds.”

Missoula was named “The Shoo-in,” meaning it was a runner-up in the list. A news release explained what makes Missoula stand out in a state filled with beautiful scenery and charming towns.

“Montana has no shortage of places circled by mountains, trails and trout-stuffed rivers, but none match Missoula, where loggers, guides, CSA (Community Supported Agriculture)-loving parents, ranchers and University of Montana students all blend together. 

Linda McCarthy, the executive director of the Missoula Downtown Association, said Missoula frequently appears on these kinds of lists because of its unique art and music scene, river-surfing culture, and proximity to wilderness areas.

“I don’t think it’s a secret anymore,” McCarthy said about Missoula’s allure. 

The Missoula Downtown Association organizes events in Caras Park, puts up seasonal decorations downtown, and works to build Missoula’s infrastructure while preserving its culture. She said their events, such as Downtown Tonight and River City Roots Festival, are a way for people of all backgrounds to connect.

“Another thing that’s really cool is most of the things that we do downtown are admission-free events, so they’re an opportunity for people to explore great family-friendly events that don’t take a lot of cash.”

But the best thing about Missoula, McCarthy said, is the people, who keep Missoula feeling small, even as it gains national attention and continues to grow. 

“When you walk down the sidewalk, people look you in the eye and smile and say hello,” McCarthy said. “When they find out you're not from here, they want to welcome you and tell you about all the cool things to do around here.”

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