Bozeman, Billings, or Missoula? - Mothering Forums

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Old 09-02-2008, 11:58 PM - Thread Starter
 
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DH and I are miserable where we are. We're really feeling the lack of like minded families. I HATE that I have a 45min to 1hr drive or longer to get to any decent groceries or other stores. And the homeschooling climate here is not so stellar.

So, we have family in Bozeman and we've been there to visit. I loved it. BUT Billings and Missoula seem more affordable to us and have work that DH could apply for. How do they compare? We're mostly concerned about finding like minded Mammas and Dads. Homeschooling, non-vaxing, homebirthing, ext. BFing, natural living are important things to us. Which one of these towns is our best bet? Oh, and I LOVED the food coop in Bozeman!
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Old 09-03-2008, 05:57 PM
 
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I can only really speak for where I live, Billings.

There is not a large community for what you are looking for. "homeschooling, non-vaxing, homebirthing, BFing, natural living". I definitely know of people who fall into some of these categories, but I would hesitate to say there is a community of them. (Maybe I am living under a rock? : I sometimes do.) IMO, people here are mostly mainstream.

I would guess Missoula and Bozeman are more what you are looking for. They are college towns and much more liberal. But I can't speak for them personally. Though I love visiting both!

As far as your other post, I think Great Falls would fall closer to Billings.

HTH!
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Old 09-03-2008, 06:40 PM - Thread Starter
 
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THanks so much, that's exactly the info I was looking for. I've been looking at Helena also....how about the "alternative" community there?
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Old 09-04-2008, 01:13 PM
 
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I have lived or spent signifigant time/have family in all the cities you have looked at (all larger towns in Montana, really). Missoula is really the only town that might have a "community" of like-minded folks. The rest will have little pockets of people who might share some of your values, might be a little more conservative or even far out for your comfort. I would look at other aspects of each town to really decide. For example, Missoula is very bicycle friendly, whereas Helena is most definitely not. Billiings is huge compared to all the others, and is much more of a "city" rather than a town. Missoula is headed that direction, though manages to keep some small-town charm for the time being, but it can take over an hour to get from one side of the city to the other during high-traffic times. However, Missoula is cloudy and grey for much of the year, and if you have seasonal affective disorder I would definitley not move there. But Msla is a milder winter climate, whereas the other cities get pretty darn cold for most of the winter. They all have decent health food/whole food stores. Helena is very polarized between the liberal/conservative population, probably because of being the capitol. I personally like Great Falls, but many would take issue with the air force base and Rah-Rah militarism there. Lots of politically/socially conservative folks in that town. Also the wind blows non-stop for 9 months of the year (which I like, but I'm in the minority).

Have you considered some of the smaller towns on the west side of the divide? Whitefish, Kalispell, the bitterroot valley area?
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Old 09-04-2008, 03:36 PM
 
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Good imput, Mack! I agree with you totally about Missoula, but you said it better. It is by far the most liberal pocket in Montana. I love visiting, and we have thought of moving there, but the opportunity has never arisen. Another downfall for Missoula, though, (coming from my SIL who went to school there) is that although the people are pretty cool, they also tend to be pretty transitory since so much of the population is based on the school. (She also said the winters are pretty bad with the inversions due to the valley.)

And I think, for Montana, Billings has a pretty mild winter, typically. We get those chinooks and have thaws for nearly every snowstorm.

But, and this is the reason for my reply.... I thought Kalispell and Whitefish was considered to be a very right-wing (politically speaking) area. Beautiful area though, and definitely not the cheapest.
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Old 09-04-2008, 04:33 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mack View Post

Have you considered some of the smaller towns on the west side of the divide? Whitefish, Kalispell, the bitterroot valley area?

When I looked at the real estate for those areas they seemed really way way out of our reach. Any input on Bozeman and/or Helena? Helena looks good on the internet.
Oh, and thanks SO much for the input. We'd be really smart to visit around and then move but I don't think we can afford to. We're going to have to make another blind leap and pray we're making the right choice. Again.
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Old 09-05-2008, 02:42 AM
 
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I just moved to Butte (from west Texas), and it seems like a pretty good place. I've found a lot of things I like about this community, and even things I was suprised to find, like a great farmer's market, a good yoga center, a strong dance community, a number of veg*ns and veg*n friendly places, etc.
Of course, I'm coming from west Texas, so that may sort of like moving to the desert after living on the sun and saying it's not very hot.

Vegan, mom to : Joe and Josh ::
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Old 09-06-2008, 03:14 AM
 
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It kind of sounds like Bozeman has what you are looking for, but your hang up is the cost of living. I don't really have experience with all the other towns you mentioned, but yes it is kind of pricey to live here. BUT, all the things you mentioned are very prevalant here (from what I can tell). We seem to have a large homeschooling network, but I am not a part of it yet, so I can't give you any first hand experience (my son is only 3). Our town is very big into homebirthing, we even just opened a new birth center (not attached to the hospital) run by the two most well known midwives in the valley. I haven't come across any negative comments about being a homebirthing mama or breastfeeding. You have already been to the coop, so you know that we have a lot of natural minded people here. We also have several very good naturopathic dr.'s and just mainly great resources for moms and kids. From what I understand though, Missoula is even more crunchy than Bozeman. If driving time is a concern, you can pretty much get anywhere within 20 minutes, if not a lot less than that. There was something in the paper the other day that said the price of an "average" family house is around $ 300, although I KNOW you can find a house to buy for a lot less than that, especially if you look in Belgrade (which is only 7 miles from Bozeman). I hope that helped in some sort of way.
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Old 09-06-2008, 02:28 PM
 
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I agree with cindy cindy about bozeman. One thing that I have heard is some people have a hard time making it here. The thing is,you move here mostly because it is so beautiful. I have lived pretty much all over the US and this is the MOST gorgeous place I have ever seen. Every time I drive from my house on the south side up through to 19th and see the Spanish Peaks and the Bridgers, I fall in love again.

That said, it is a great place for progressive people. The cost of homes is not cheap, but you could for example get an ok townhome for 175 or so. The schools are among the best in the nation here. I thought of hs but have decided to ps and been fine so far, tho the hs community is strong (and christian if that's your thing).

Kids walk and bike alone with safety. There is a great open minded community here and it is growing, much to the chagrin of the old timers It still retains a friendly small town feel, which I felt lacking when I visited Kalispell, and Missoula. Also I never saw so many Ron Paul signs as when I was up there in that neck of the woods.

It's sunny most of the time, tho lately has been cold for some reason. It is growing, but retains great bike trails and a free awesome bus system that is also growing.

I did visit Helena and I liked it, though it felt really conservative there.

Montana is Montana and not like anyplace else. I love it in Bozeman and feel it is the best place to have a family and business and has so much to offer for a small town. It is also slooowly becoming more diverse.
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Old 09-08-2008, 04:38 AM
 
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I live in Billings and have to agree that either Missoula or Bozeman sound a better fit for what you're looking for. Billings does not really have an AP/NFL community.

We visited Missoula recently and it was much more liberal than Billings. I really enjoyed it.

: co sleeping, babywearing, cloth diapering SAHM to two beautiful girls.
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Old 09-12-2008, 04:14 PM
 
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hi milkmommie,
posted on your greatfalls thread but i know these other cities well as well. if a real established community is number one on your list, i agree missoula is your town, and i also agree about traffic and the dark winters.
if just a small community or some like mindeds sprinkled about are good enough, you can find that in helena, billings, great falls, kalispell, and most in bozeman.

re kalispell - yes, there is a real militant streak there but also a real artsy and cruncy streak too. especially moving towards bigfork, or towards whitefish. its polarized. montana is changing, esp, the beautiful parts, because of teh influx of outsiders moving in.

kalispell is not a particularly charming city (bigfork and whitefish cute as little bugs) it has exploded in population and was zoned poorly, like much of montana. but its in one of the most beautiful places in the world, near one of the worlds most beautiful lakes and world class skiiing. you can find decent priced homes there if you look - its growing so fast - but depending on what you do for a living, jobs are very easy to get there. unemployment is very low.
if you love the outdoors, you can be very happy there. but lots of what you can find in montana you can find in colorado or washington state, with perhaps bigger communities of like mindeds.
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Old 10-20-2008, 02:47 AM
 
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I know this thread is over a month old, but I wanted to respond since I live in Missoula. I've spent some amount of time in all of Montana's bigger cities: Bozeman, Great Falls, Helena, Billings, and Butte. I think Missoula and Bozeman would have the best chance of having the type of community you're looking to find. Missoula is definitely known as being crunchier than Bozeman, while I think Bozeman is generally considered to have a more affluent population. But one unarguable point is that both Missoula and Bozeman are surrounded by incredible scenery, and boundless outdoor opportunities.

Speaking from personal experience, I have to say that Missoula has a small town feel to it with most amenities of a decent sized city (I've personally lived in communities ranging from 200 to 250,000 in size). On average, I'd say it usually takes me about 15 minutes to drive across town regardless of the time of day. If think the longest it ever took me to get somewhere was 30 minutes, when I was stuck on Reserve Street due to a pretty serious traffic accident.

I don't know much about the homeschooling scene, but I saw a recent thread on this board on Missoula homeschooling. I know quite a few parents that don't vaccinate or are on alternate vaccination schedules. There are also plenty of people that have home births here as well.

We moved to Missoula based on its reputation and I've never been disappointed with our decision. Montana is quite a state, and Missoula is a great place to raise a family. Good luck with planning your move!
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Old 10-20-2008, 12:42 PM
 
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Just thought I would chime in about Helena. It does tend to be more conservative than Missoula and you have to make more of an effort to find the "crunchy" community, but it is definitely here. A midwife came to Helena about 9 months ago, which is huge (the midwife I used came from Arlee), there is an awesome naturopathic doctor (DAN certified), our health food store is great (although not nearly as big or diverse as the Good Food Store in Missoula or the Co Op in Bozeman). I can walk anywhere I want to go from my house in about 10 minutes - The Real Food Store, Downtown, Coffeeshops, Bookstores. Housing prices are starting to come down in Helena. You can find small, older houses in the $180K range and new construction for the same price if you are willing to live in the valley.

Good luck...I think you can find the community you are looking for anywhere in Montana. It might just take more work and be a smaller community in some towns.
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Old 10-20-2008, 12:47 PM
 
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I forgot to mention that another thing I love about Helena is its central location. It is pretty much in the middle of Bozeman, Missoula, Butte, and Greatfalls. You can get to all of these cities in 2.5 hours or less. We have family in Bozeman and Missoula and make frequent trips over to both towns. Easy, fun day trips.
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Old 10-21-2008, 02:03 PM
 
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I agree with Nan's assessment of Helena It isn't as crunchy as other places, but there is plenty here and a very kid oriented town. Tons of free activities to do with children. A great farmer's market, a nice (though small) HFS, a few private co-ops, nice homeschooling community. We have a mainstream ped who is no-vax friendly, and I've had 5 non-medicated births (including twins) of no-vaxed babies, no eye junk, etc. at the local hospital with no fuss. (I know you're a HB'er, but I think it speaks to the fact that even the hosp here can be okay!) I think there is a pretty good tolerance for people who are different or have different choices here and it is a pretty stable economy with the state/fed presence, so depending what your dh is looking for, there is plenty of work available. Rent/Buy is more reasonable than Missoula/Bozeman also.

You can pretty easily get around and if you buy in town, it's easy to get around to anything you need on foot or bike. If you're familiar with the 'Walkability Score' site, most of the type of houses Nan mentions would score near 92-95--Walker's Paradise. I live just south of the older housing district in a 60s rancher type area and still score in the high 80s. Most of Missoula including even the University area scores in the 60s. They do have a nice bike infastructure though that easily extends your range, but it's pretty spread out. I've lived in Missoula and while I liked all it offered, and I've been back often to visit family and go to shows, but to me it is just a huge sprawl of snarly traffic IMO! I've never been there that it didn't take closer to 30 mins to go from one place to another and just the cars and congestion made me crazy! Though, it is really crunchy...yes! Berkeley of the Rockies. I have family that lives there, and they really like it, but also complain of the traffic/big city feel it has now versus 10 years ago when they first moved there.

I've also lived in Bozeman, I think it's probably about on par with Helena. You get a lot of yuppie type folks living there that throw off the vibe of Bozeman to me. But, it is a very, very beautiful place to live! There is a pretty large, non-religious homeschooling group that is active there as well.

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Old 10-22-2008, 07:00 PM
 
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I think bozeman is booming right now, so perhaps is higher cost of living. However, I think Missoula and Kalispell are also up there with costs of living. I think Billings has a more reasonable cost of living, although I don't have the actual info at hand.

Billings isn't as much of a hot bed for alternative families. And as far as MDC goes, I have known few people to live there who are members here... Let me put it this way, check out a phone book listing for midwives and health stores. That may give you an idea of how many resources they have devoted toward alternative health.

That being said, Missoula has typically been considered the tree-hugging capital of Montana.... I can't compare to Bozeman because I haven't lived there. But Missoula is very supportive of all kinds of alternative lifestyles.
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Old 11-19-2008, 02:52 PM
 
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Hi, ladies. I found this thread and thought it may be a good place to start- hopefully someone will come back to it and be able to help.
We live in Missoula and both of our children are unvaxxed. I was hoping someone might be able to share with me their doctor here who is okay with unvaxxing.

Any help would be GREATLY appreciated!
Jen
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Old 11-24-2008, 08:50 PM
 
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This is my very first post! I just recently moved to Red Lodge, MT, which is about an hour SW of Billings for some of the same things you're looking for. There is a group of folks here who are doing some alternative schooling, in a Waldorf related fashion - but openmindedly so. It's a smaller town so the work situation is a little tough, but there's a lot going on for little folks: playgroup, story hour, music class, pottery....However, the nearest coop is Billings and it's not as nice as the one in Bozeman. I've heard that some folks do purchasing once a month through United Natural Foods, which is bulk good stuff....so that's an option too. Lots of beautiful places to hike and play outside, and a nice community playground too.
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Old 11-24-2008, 09:49 PM
 
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My aunt lives in Missoula. I've really liked it every time I've visited. From what I've seen, there are some fairly crunchy stores and people. Nice natural food stores, whole foods, co-ops, etc.

Plus it's beautiful!

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Old 12-03-2008, 05:21 AM
 
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Ok so excited to tell you that Missoula rocks. Yes the town would seem transient but its not. Families are pretty darn rooted here. There are LOTS LOTS LOTS of homeschoolers breastfeeders, farmers, gardeners, cloth diaperers, intact boys, non vaccinated frunchy loving family people here.

I love our bus system. We are sooo bike friendly. HELLO there's a carousel!! With a park right next door that is guarded by dragons!! My son and I get to go out and do so soooooooooooo many free activites!! There's a co-op. Meadowsweet Herbs is local. There's M.U.D.D..

Yes we are "growing" but I think that makes it a great time to buy. Soon it's gonna get really pricey!! i live on the west side now. Feels like we live in the country because this was/is all farmland. West side is the place for neighbors. It is the good hood and we would have a hard time deciding buying there or on the west side. Probably west side... out of city limits so you can have goats chix fire pits etc.

The inversion is really cool. I don't understand why people feel illy towards it. I can't remember a day where we didn't get some sunshine!! It always break through! With the valley comes great rainbows.:

And well I'm here!! duh!
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