Obviously, if you've spent any time in Montana, you know that people love to point out the differences between Missoula and Billings. Most people would say the two cities couldn't be more different. And yes, there are very obvious differences.

  • Missoula tends to have a wetter, PNW-like climate while Billings is a high-mountain desert.
  • Billings is close to several large mountain ranges but the city itself feels relatively flat and prairie-like (except for the rimrocks) while Missoula is surrounded by hills and mountains.
  • Missoula tends to be more expensive than Billings. 
  • Billings votes reliably red while Missoula votes reliably blue. 

I think finding the differences between the cities is easy. But have you ever thought about what the two cities have in common? Let's try a quick experiment.

This picture is of a temporary 'Star Wars' store. Which city do you think would be more likely to have a store like that? 

Credit: Ashley
Credit: Ashley

You might think a nerdy dedication to pop culture would be more likely in Missoula...but you'd be wrong. This was actually a popup gallery in Billings from a few years ago.

Farmers Markets

Both cities have great farmers' markets. Missoula may have smaller markets in more places, but Billings' farmers' market occupies most of downtown Billings, which is not small.

Art Scene

Those electrical boxes decorated by local artists? Both towns have them. Beautiful murals in high-traffic locations? Check. First Friday? Yep.


Missoula has a reputation for having a "music scene" but venues like the Pub Station and Craft Local in Billings definitely hold their own. Not to mention, Metra Park regularly pulls big acts.

Both towns have been recognized by Outside Magazine

Missoula was included in a 2014 list of "The 16 Best Places to Live in the U.S." while Billings was named the Best Town of 2016.

The Great Outdoors

You can do all of the following within minutes to just a few hours of both Missoula and Billings:

  • trail run
  • mountain bike
  • rock climb
  • hunt
  • fish
  • kayak/raft
  • hike
  • ski

Award Winning Libraries

Both the Missoula and Billings libraries have won awards for design. The Billings Library won a national design award while the Missoula Library won an international design award. 


While Missoula is still more of a college town, Billings has both Montana State University-Billings and is home to Montana's oldest college, Rocky Mountain College.

But there's one thing that both Missoula and Billings have without question: Californians.

LOOK: Here's where people in every state are moving to most

Stacker analyzed the Census Bureau's 2019 American Community Survey data to determine the three most popular destinations for people moving out of each state.


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