With so many people moving to Montana from out of state these days, we get a lot of questions about how to choose the best place to live. Montana has 7 major cities and they all offer very different lifestyles, job opportunities, and housing prices. Keep reading to learn more about each Montana city to decide which one may be the best choice for you. If a small town is what you're after, click here for the best small towns to move to in Montana.
Bozeman is the fastest growing city of its size in the nation, and for a good reason. Located in Southwest Montana, Bozeman is home to Montana State University, the biggest college in Montana. Because of this, the town maintains a youthful energy while still appealing to people in all stages of life. It has become a popular retirement destination and is also quickly becoming a popular hub for tech companies and startups with companies like Oracle, Schedulicity, onX, RightNow Technologies, Simms Fishing Products, and Mystery Ranch all headquartered in Bozeman.
Bozeman is located in the Gallatin Valley which is surrounded by six mountain ranges. There are two ski areas within an hour’s drive, and both the Gallatin and Yellowstone Rivers are within a 30-minute drive. As of 2020, the population of Bozeman was 53,293 while the population of Gallatin Valley was 118,960. Bozeman is known for its high cost of housing, although the surrounding areas offer more affordable options.
Known as “Bozangeles” to the rest of Montana, Bozeman has certainly become a bit more…fancy…since its cow town days. The picturesque downtown is now home to shops like Lululemon and Athleta, although you can still find so many unique and locally owned stores downtown as well. There are countless restaurants and bars that rival the culinary experiences of much larger cities. Bozeman has the lowest crime rate of the 7 major cities in Montana with 59.74 crimes per 1,000 residents. The median cost of a home is $651,000 as of December 2021. Contact us for more information about moving to Bozeman.
In July of this year, Billings was ranked the #1 Emerging Housing Market in the nation by the Wall Street Journal & Realtor.com. According to the study, the affordability and low unemployment rates in Billings along with the city's appeal to remote workers have made the real estate market in Billings boom.
Billings is Montana’s largest city with a population of 117,116 as of 2020. Its economy is built on energy industries, agriculture, livestock, distribution, and tourism and it offers one of the most affordable housing markets in the state. Billings does have the second-highest crime rate out of the 7 major cities in Montana with 126.46 crimes per 1,000 residents.
Billings is located between the Great Plains and the Rocky Mountains. On the edge of the city are the Rimrocks, sandstone formations that offer miles of hiking and biking trails, along with rock climbing and fantastic views of the area.
Missoula is like Montana’s wild child. A little bit funky, a tiny bit crazy, and always a good time. Home to the University of Montana, Missoula has a laid-back vibe that the residents embrace. With the Clark Fork River running straight through the city, a local ski hill, and plenty of public land access nearby, Missoula residents get to enjoy all the outdoor activities that make life in Montana so great.
Missoula is Montana’s second-largest city with a population of 73,489, and its housing prices fall somewhere in the middle. With a median home price of $564,000 as of December 2021, it is less expensive than Bozeman but more expensive than Billings. There is plenty to do by Montana standards, with a fair selection of shops, restaurants, and bars as well as a solid music scene. Missoula’s dominating industries are health care, retail, and food services along with mining and agriculture. Missoula’s crime rate is right in the middle compared to the other major cities in Montana with 115.36 crimes per 1,000 residents.
Located in the heart of northern Montana’s beautiful Flathead Valley, Kalispell is a beautiful place to call home. Located south of Glacier National Park and north of Flathead Lake, residents enjoy stunning mountain views and easy access to some of the best outdoor recreation in the state. Kalispell is charming and friendly and has world-class art galleries, delicious restaurants, a booming tourism industry, and a thriving community.
Housing prices in Kalispell have increased drastically over the past several years. According to Realtor.com, as of December 2021, the median list price of a home was $550,000, putting it not far behind Missoula and Bozeman. Kalispell’s strongest industries are in retail, professional services, the medical field, and government work. Kalispell also has the second-lowest crime rate of Montana’s major cities with 93.41 crimes per 1,000 residents.
Butte is a world of its own. This Montana city marches to the beat of its own drum and is fiercely protected by its locals. Butte was once a booming mining town and the first major city in Montana. The town’s history runs deep and is still very much a part of everyday life in Butte. With a population of nearly 35,000 residents, Butte has a city feel with small-town roots. Butte is home to several corporate and international regional headquarters including the National Center for Health Care Informatics, Pioneer Technical Services, and Northwestern Energy. Butte is also home to Montana Tech University and the Highlands College of Montana Tech.
Butte is located in Southwest Montana, a little over an hour’s drive from Bozeman. Butte boasts close access to the Continental Divide Trail where residents hike, bike and ski. Just south of the city is the Big Hole River with blue-ribbon trout fishing. The city is busy with breweries, restaurants, a weekly farmer’s market, bars, and many festivals during the summer months. The median price of a home is low for the state, at $289,000 as of December 2021. Butte’s crime rate is 94.7 crimes per 1,000 residents. For more information on moving to the area, contact Butte Real Estate Group.
Great Falls is located near the center of Montana in the northern Great Plains. The city is known as the “electric city” because of the number of dams and power plants in the area. The Missouri River runs through the city, creating a scenic backdrop for the River’s Edge Trail, a popular place for residents to gather and recreate. Great Falls is the 3rd largest city in Montana with a population of 60,442. Bio-processing, food production, and agriculture are prominent industries many large companies like Blue Cross Blue Shield, D.A Davidson, and VisionNet have offices in Great Falls and it is also home to the Malmstrom Air Force Base which employs thousands of residents.
Great Falls was named one of the most budget-friendly cities for homeowners in 2020, and the median list price of a home was $260,000 as of December 2021. Great Falls does have the highest crime rate amongst Montana’s largest cities with a rate of 149.28 crimes per 1,000 residents.
As Montana’s capital city, Helena has always been a point of focus for the state. But in recent years, Helena is taking on a new life as a hip, yet quaint Montana town. Located 90 miles south of Great Falls, Helena is located in the Prickly Pear Valley in the “just about” center of the state. There are several lakes in the area, Lake Helena, Hauser Lake, Holter Lake, and Canyon Ferry Lake that are popular places to recreate in the summer. Great Divide Ski Area is a short drive away, and there is a great network of mountain biking and hiking trails just outside of town.
Helena has a rich history, with some beautiful historic buildings including the Cathedral of Saint Helena. The center of downtown Helena is a pedestrian-friendly walking mall that is a hub of activity with art galleries, shops, breweries, restaurants, and entertainment venues. Helena has a population of just over 32,000 and a crime rate of 124 crimes per 1,000 residents. The majority of jobs in the city are government-related with more than 10,000 state employees. The median cost of a home in Helena is $411,000 as of December 2021.
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