By Sean Reichard
John Bozeman isn’t someone who will be remembered as an important figure in Yellowstone National Park history, especially since he died before it was established. In fact, history doesn’t remember John fondly at all. He abandoned his wife and children in 1858 to make a fortune as a miner before deciding it would be a better business move to “mine the miners”. So he blazed the Bozeman Trail – which started in Wyoming and ended in Bannock, Montana — and established Bozeman near the trail to ensure its success. Later, in 1867, he was murdered under mysterious circumstances.
Nonetheless, John Bozeman’s legacy is his eponymous town. Located at the bottom of the Bridger Mountains, Bozeman is 4,810 feet (nearly a mile) above sea level, with a healthy population of 32,500. The summers are pleasant and the winters not as cold as you’d think. A trip to Bozeman is a lovely little day trip. In addition, Bozeman was honored the top spot in BizJournal’s survey of small towns across the nation.
To get to Bozeman from Yellowstone National Park, the best place to start in the park would be Mammoth Hot Springs, close to the North Entrance and the Gate community of Gardiner. Depending on the season, you get to Gardiner by taking Grand Loop Road towards Mammoth Street, then a slight right at Mammoth Street, and then north on U.S. Route 89.
Once you reach Gardiner, stay on US-89 for 52.8 miles, then merge onto I-90 West towards Butte. Exit 309 takes you right into scenic Main Street and the heart of Bozeman.
Whether you are in a party of one or twelve, there is no shortage of things to do and sights to see in Bozeman. Go to the Museum of the Rockies (600 W. Kagy Blvd.) and see the dinosaurs and the Planetarium, which features a top-notch digital projector, sound system, and special effects. Another superb feature of the museum is the interactive, living history farm. If you show up on Independence Day, you’re invited for ice cream and activities (too bad they had no Jarts back in the 1890s).
Besides the Rockies museum is the Pioneer Museum and Bookstore (317 W. Main St.), currently located in the historic county jail building.
Another attraction is the Children’s Museum (234 E. Babcock St.), which features places to build your own cabin, an exhibit about the natural beauty of Montana, and a bubble wall! Fun for the whole family, and depending on whom you ask, one person. Plan your trip on a Friday, and you can go for free from 5:00 to 8:00 p.m.
Another place to go is the American Computer Museum on the campus of Montana State (2304 N. 7th Av.), where the exhibits center on the development of communication over a period of 2000+ years, ranging from crude typewriters to the Internet.
You want to shop? Bozeman has plenty of places to go shopping, especially on Main Street.
Are you a fly-fishing aficionado, or are in need of fly-fishing equipment? Then look no further than Bozeman, which features 19 separate shops specializing in equipment, flies, outfits, or lessons.
Are you tired and hungry from the trip? Then stop by the Bozeman Community Co-Op (908 W. Main St.) for a healthy snack. You may even want to grab something for the ride back to Yellowstone.
Do you need a good place to eat, someplace perfect for one person or a family of twelve? Then head to MacKenzie River Pizza Company (232 E. Main St.; N. 19th St. & Rawhide Ridge), a lovely pizza chain with twelve locations native to Montana. The food is good, the décor lovely, and the service is amicable. You can’t lose if you go to MacKenzie River Pizza for dinner.
So after museums, stores, and dinner, you should either be ready for the drive back to Yellowstone, or stay the night in Bozeman, after a long, satisfying day.