Best hotel, livable cities: Welcome to Montana


Triple Creek Ranch, Darby, Mont. It can be yours for $1,400 a night.

Business Insider released its list of the 30 best hotels in the world this week, and if you scroll down through its gallery of photos it’s not hard to understand why most of the swank joints made the list.

There are magnificent beachside accommodations in Indonesia, Maldives, Mexico and St. Lucia, luxurious digs in cities like Paris, Prague and Chicago, and castles and palaces in Ireland, Italy and Hungary.

But No. 1 on the list? The Triple Creek Ranch in little old Darby, Mont. I would like nothing more than to spend a day or two at the Triple Creek, to give Last Best News readers a detailed description of what must be amazing amenities, but with cabin prices starting at about $1,400 a night, our accountant tells me I could probably afford about 15 minutes, which wouldn’t be enough for a complete story.

You can still build a cabin in Montana for less than $1,400, if you don’t care about luxuries like electricity and running water. Hell, didn’t the Unabomber build his cabin for, like, $7?

But I should point out that the $1,400 fee covers all activities, including horseback riding, hiking or snowshoeing, a fly-casting clinic, archery, sapphire panning or tennis. Or as it says on the ranch website, “While we have an abundance of activities at Triple Creek Ranch and nearby, part of the charm is the joy of doing nothing at all.”

For $1,400, I wouldn’t even sleep. I’d do every activity twice and eat like a horse. Anyway, I will say this for the Triple Creek: I’d be more relaxed there, physically and morally, than if I dropped a few thou on a luxury hotel in a place like India or South Africa, both of which have at least two hotels on the top-30 list.

For that matter, it would be troubling to spend a night at the palace in Hungary, knowing that thousands of Syrians are struggling to survive just over yonder.

Meanwhile, just released its Top 100 Best Places to Live list, and four Montana cities made the list in the small-to-mid-size category, which includes cities with populations between 20,000 and 350,000.

Missoula did best, coming in at No. 32 on the list, followed closely by Bozeman at 34, Billings at 39 and Helena at 61. Considering how small our state’s population is, I’d say it’s a pretty good feat to have four cities that highly ranked.

The press release from is full of words and phrases like methodology, impact analyses, data-driven and data points, so I guess we are to believe that this is a scientific ranking of some kind, or, as Livability itself says, a “landmark study.”

Basically, studies like this rank cities based on much how fun you can have outside your house without being mugged, and if you get mugged, or hurt having fun, how good the local health-care system is.

The top-ranked city was Rochester, Minn., home to the Mayo Clinic. Man, if you get mugged there, the best doctors in the world will patch you up. Rochester earned a total of 674 points, while the lowest-ranked city, Bethesda, Md., had 583.

By comparison, Missoula amassed 619 points, just ahead of Bozeman with 618. That’s a lot closer score than most Cat-Grizzly games. Billings had 615 points, suggesting that if we up our game at all—another tennis court or two, a few new fancy machines at one of the hospitals, a decent enrollment bump at MSU-Billings—we could be the top-ranked Montana city next go-round.

Helena had 597 points. I would love to know where Butte and Great Falls, the only other Montana cities big enough to qualify, were ranked. The latest figures I found show Kalispell with a population of 19,927, so surely it will qualify for consideration next year.

It’s got a ways to go, though, before it makes the Livability list, I’d hazard to say. I’m sure there must be a lot of good things about that town, but my impression of it is that it consists of several dozen extended strip malls lining sign-choked roads.

I should add that in the narrative explaining why Billings made the list, it says that all of our downtown breweries also “helped Billings land on our Beer Cities list.”

Hmm. “Beer City.” I like it. At least people wouldn’t always be asking us—as they do when they see “Magic City”—“What does that even mean?”

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