Fall Back – What Now? Things to do during the shorter days.
Daylight Savings ends this weekend, and the days start getting shorter, which for us here in Montana means during early December, the sun will set around 4:40 pm and rise again just before 8:00 am. Yes, it’s cozy, and the duration isn’t long, but having less daylight does alter your activity schedule. Fortunately, Montana’s Yellowstone Country is loaded with adventures and even entertainment that spans the hours from dawn into dusk.
One of our favorite examples is the Kids ‘N’ Snow weekends in West Yellowstone. Established to teach kids how to have fun in the snow and learn lifelong healthy habits, Kids ‘N’ Snow has become a favorite for residents and a sought-after event for visitors. Kids learn how to ice fish on Hebgen Lake, cross-country ski by playing ski games, learn to snowshoe with a Park ranger, experience dog sledding, and when the sun sets, ice skating, sledding, and s’mores are all still available!
On the topic of ice skating, there are some great rinks across the region, indoor and outdoor, and they all offer night skating. In Bozeman, there are three outdoor rinks located in City parks, plus two sheets of ice (indoor and outdoor) at Haynes Pavillion. Big Sky has a rink in Town Center, Heritage Park in West Yellowstone, an indoor ice rink in Livingston, and a rink at Lion’s Park in Red Lodge.
YC has many museums, from the Smithsonian affiliate, Museum of the Rockies, to smaller history museums like the Livingston Depot Center, Museum of the Yellowstone, Carbon County Museum, and Crazy Mountain Museum. Each tells the story of our history and lends insight to the places you visit.
Many artists call Montana home. Some say the natural beauty is inspiring; others prefer to reside in more remote areas. We can’t argue with either of those. And, if you’re so inspired, there are several options for art classes. Bozeman Art Museum offers a variety of workshops, classes, and longer courses. With advanced notice, you can arrange a private pottery lesson at Red Lodge Clay Center or plan your trip around one of their workshops.
While some wildlife watching is better in the winter (wolves can be spotted more easily against the snow), most animals are hunkering down and are less visible during the winter. You can still learn more about the wildlife in our area through one of the wildlife sanctuaries, which are home to animals that can no longer live in the wild. There are three in YC: Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center in West Yellowstone, Montana Grizzly Encounter in Bozeman, and Yellowstone Wildlife Sanctuary in Red Lodge.
Of course, ‘tis the start of the shopping season, and one of my favorite things is to bundle up and explore our local downtowns. This isn’t your typical urban shopping experience – these boutiques, galleries, specialty, and outdoor shops carry items you won’t easily find online or in the box stores. Many purveyor’s shops are full of handmade and unique items in apparel, home décor, and even outdoor gear. Montana attracts entrepreneurs, and that spirit generates some exciting goods.
All good shopping trips end with Happy Hour and potentially dinner out. We love the seasonal craft cocktails and the comfort food starting to appear on winter menus. We also enjoy a table full of appetizers, surrounded by family and friends.
Live Music and Theater
Year-round, live music and theater grace the stages of even some of our smaller towns. The Shane Center in Livingston has a robust theater program with avid participation from the community. The Ellen Theatre in Bozeman hosts plays, comedians, musicians, and film. Last Best Comedy, also in Bozeman, brings you live comedy at least four nights a week. Between the ELM and Rialto, national and regional headliners have added this region to their tours regularly.
And finally, one of the biggest perks of the shorter days is the more extended stargazing opportunities. Montana has minimal light pollution, especially when you get outside of the busier areas. It’s well worth staying in one of our smaller towns like Gardiner, just outside the YNP North Entrance, or Cooke City and Silver Gate, at the Northeast Entrance, for an extra memorable experience. Just minutes from town, you can experience dark skies full of stars so dense it’s hard to imagine if you’ve never seen it. Put it this way: we feel lucky to be able to view our night skies year-round, and we never tire of the sight. During the summer, we can spend hours enjoying the evening starlight.