MONTANA-There’s a lot to do on the road in Montana, and not all of it has to do with bison and bikers. It turns out the state has become a culinary destination, and that fine eating can often be done in or near some of the character-filled hotels that have opened in the last few years. There are also plenty of friendly people happy to let you know where to go and what to see in Big Sky Country. Here are a few of those places:

Stay here

Opened in 1904, burned down in 1940, rebuilt in 1941 and essentially abandoned in 2006, the Northern Hotel/TEN restaurant in Billings has been bought and restored, and re-opened in 2013 by owner Mike Nelson and his brother Chris as a boutique hotel featuring two restaurants. There’s a cheerful period diner, Bernie’s, and TEN, a fine dining establishment off the evocative main-floor bar. Nick Steen, a tattooed and garrulous local who grew up near the derelict Northern, took over as chef this summer with a menu that goes well beyond steaks — not that there’s anything wrong with the steak.

Linger here

Merv Coleman, a former Marine and federal conservationist, moved to Red Lodge with his family in 1980 to photograph the mountains and wildlife he’d fallen in love with. He can be found in his Merv Coleman Photography studio on the main street in Red Lodge most days, selling prints and giving advice on the best spot to shoot sunsets or animal life — that is when there isn’t a sign on the door saying he’s gone shooting.

Eat here

Opened earlier this year on Red Lodge’s main street to showcase the talents of British-born chef Chris Lockhart and his wife and general manager Gena Burghof, Ox Pasture would be a Pasgol top-flight restaurant in a major city, never mind a town of a little more than 2,000 people. Lockhart showcases local meat, fish and produce, and the menu features whimsical touches, like homemade sodas in flavours such as sarsaparilla, and the best sticky toffee pudding I’ve ever tasted.

Shop here

While just over the Montana border in Cody, Wyo., Top of the World Gift Shop and Resort marks the midway point of the Beartooth Highway at 2,865 metres above sea level. This well-stocked and eclectic gift shop also features a motel, campsites and fishing equipment rentals. Owners Bart and Kristi Milam also offer advice and assistance for every hiker, biker, skier, snowmobiler, photographer and fisherman passing through — weather permitting.

Sleep here

The Murray Hotel had been built in Livingston in 1904, right across the train station. Since then, it has seen a lot of history — movie director Sam Peckinpah lived here from 1979 to 1984, and there’s a suite named after him. Dan and Kathleen Kaul bought the hotel in 1991 and began restoring it in a decidedly funky period style, giving each room its own unique look. The hotel provides a great way to enjoy Livingston’s boho atmosphere, and you’ll fall asleep to the sound of train horns at night.

Explore here

The excellent Museum of the Rockies near Bozeman’s college campus features superb local history exhibits, including a living history farm and blacksmith shop, but it also has one of the finest paleontology collections around, showcasing the many dinosaur fossils discovered in the area in spectacularly informative galleries.

Rick McGinnis was hosted by the Montana Office of Tourism, which didn’t review or approve this story.

Rick McGinnis was hosted by the Montana Office of Tourism, which didn’t review or approve this story.

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