I was born and raised in Montana. Here are 4 of the best things about living there — and 4 reasons why I wouldn’t go back.

I love the Montana desert, but I hate how cold it can get.Jordan Parker Erb/Inside Man

  • I was born in Montana and lived there until I left for college. I go back several times a year.

  • As a child I dreamed of leaving. Now that I have, I see the pros and cons of the state more clearly.

  • I love having the outdoors at my fingertips, but the lack of city life holds me back.

I was born in Helena, Montana and spent much of my 18 years there dreaming of leaving.

Side-by-side photos show the author in her hometown of Helena as a child (left) and as an adult.

The author in her hometown Elena as a child (left) and an adult.Jordan Parker Erb/Inside Man

I had that particular kind of resentment that many teenagers feel about where they were raised: It’s too small, too boring, too whatever. But since leaving college in 2015, I’ve developed a more nuanced view of my home state.

While I still think there are downsides to living there (like the freezing winters), I see the huge positives and spend at least a month every year working remotely from my childhood home.

From the vast outdoors to the perfect summers, here are the best parts of living in Montana—and what keeps me coming back.

Living in the Big Sky State means you have access to pristine wilderness everywhere you turn.

Side-by-side photos show a field and mountains in front of the author's house.

The field in front of my childhood home (left) and the mountains behind it.Jordan Parker Erb/Inside Man

When I return to my childhood home in Helena, I’m reminded of how important nature is to me—and I don’t have to go far to get to it.

If I go out my back door, I can go straight to the mountains for a walk. And just steps from my front porch is a sprawling field with a stream for my dog ​​to splash in during the summer.

These are not the only advantages of my neighborhood: In the center of the city is Mount Helena, a city park with miles of walking trails. Even without leaving the city limits, residents have access to beautiful views and wide open spaces.

Going out for food and drinks is usually cheaper in Montana than in places like New York – and there’s no sales tax.

The author at a bar in Montana where there is no sales tax.

The author at a bar in Montana where there is no sales tax.Jordan Parker Erb/Inside Man

When I go out for dinner or drinks in Montana, I feel like I’m getting more without having to spend more.

In my experience, drinks like White Claws can cost half as much as in New York, where I’m currently based, which makes a night out much more affordable.

Montana also has no local or state sales tax — compared to New York, where the combined state and local sales tax is nearly 9% on food and beverages sold in restaurants.

I love being able to drive wherever I want without getting stuck in traffic.

Four people in front of an FJ Cruiser

The author and three friends on a hiking trail outside Bozeman, Montana.Jordan Erb/Insider

When I’m in Montana, I love being able to run around town running errands without getting stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic. Although Montana’s cities are growing and of course experiencing traffic, it is nothing like that of large metropolitan cities.

It feels so liberating to get in the car and go where I want without having to walk to the nearest train station or bus stop and wait for public transport that is often late.

The summer months are relatively mild – and in my opinion the perfect temperature.

The author smiles, arms outstretched, by a river in Montana.

Summer in Montana is the perfect temperature for outdoor recreation.Jordan Parker Erb/Inside Man

Visiting Montana in the summer means enjoying all the great things about the state — its rivers, lakes and mountains — without the stifling heat.

That doesn’t mean Montana doesn’t get hot. The average temperature in July is in the mid-80s, and there are certainly days better suited for indoor relaxation than outdoor adventure. But the humidity is low, making it much less sticky than an East Coast summer.

The mild summer months make it the perfect time for hiking, kayaking, and the great outdoors.

On the other hand, winters can be brutally cold. Enter: the downsides of living in Montana.

Side-by-side photos of a thermostat showing a temperature of -40 degrees and the author in all her winter gear.

In December 2022, the weather dropped to around -40 degrees Fahrenheit for days in a row.Jordan Parker Erb/Inside Man

While I was home for the holidays in 2022, Montana was hit with a cold snap that sent temperatures down to -40 degrees Fahrenheit for days on end.

The weather isn’t always this extreme, but Montana winters get very cold. In Helena, the average January low is 13 degrees and the high is 33 degrees, and snow usually starts in October and can last until April or later.

Montana’s long, brutal winters prevent me from enjoying all the state has to offer and are one of the main reasons I don’t see myself returning anytime soon.

It can also be expensive to get to, depending on where you’re coming from.

Photo of an airplane wing over fields and mountains in Montana.

Traveling to and from Montana can be expensive.Jordan Parker Erb/Inside Man

I often joke with my family that it’s cheaper to fly to Europe than it is to fly back to Montana, and there is a grain of truth behind the hyperbole.

In a recent scan for flights from New York to Helena, tickets were going for a whopping $700. For the same week, the cheapest tickets to London were sold for $422.

Traveling is probably my biggest passion and living in a big city like New York allows me to do it more often at a lower cost. Flights from Montana can be prohibitively expensive – even if you’re flying from one of the major airports – creating a bigger barrier to frequent travel.

If you’re shopping or craving something in particular, you may have a hard time finding it when you need it.

Downtown Helena, Montana

Without many large retailers, I do most of my shopping in downtown Helena.Matt Volz/AP Photo

Even though it’s the state capital, there’s always been a sense that Helena has something of a big-box retailer’s curse hanging over it. Growing up, the mall was a place where old people went to roam its empty hallways until it was eventually closed and torn down.

There are no department stores left in town; Macy’s was the last one left and closed its doors in 2020. The biggest stores are TJ Maxx, Target and Walmart, and fast food restaurants like Sweetgreen have yet to pop up anywhere in the state.

Because of this, I tend to shop at small businesses and eat locally. I love supporting small businesses—my family is made up of entrepreneurs—but if I’m looking for something in particular, it can be frustrating not to have a variety of stores to choose from.

The lack of city amenities is the main thing that stops me from coming back.

Side-by-side photos show the author in various locations in New York.

I love the endless things to do in big cities — something Montana towns don’t necessarily have.Jordan Parker Erb/Inside Man

I’ve always been drawn to city life: I’ve lived in Boston and New York, as well as smaller urban areas like Indianapolis and Boise, Idaho.

In each city, I grew to love the sheer variety of things to do and see. In New York, I love that there’s always something going on and the party never ends. The city vibrates with lively restaurants, hidden bars and all-night bars – all of which keep me from moving home permanently.

Montana offers a quieter, quainter experience. It’s something I value but can’t go back to.

At least not yet.

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