82 miles E of Butte; 142 miles W of Billings; 91 miles N of West Yellowstone

A college town and tourism hot spot with a friendly, semibohemian vibe, Bozeman was first settled in the 1860s as a farming hub. Today, its cowboy edge has been mostly chipped away, revealing a sophisticated Western chic in the form of a vibrant downtown strip filled with independent shops and restaurants. The area bustles all year long -- whatever the season, the locals are always out and about. The city has also become the unofficial capital of Montana environmental politics, with several nationally important nonprofits based here.

Bozeman has experienced its greatest growth since 1990, and it shows little sign of slacking off. In fact, longtime residents worry that the town may be getting a little too hip. But it's easy to see the city's appeal. The university, Montana State, is a good one, and the downhill skiing at nearby Bridger Bowl is excellent and free of lift lines. The fact that Bozeman is less than 100 miles from Yellowstone certainly doesn't hurt, either.

But Bozeman hasn't always been a hotbed of activity. In the 1930s, for instance, local ordinances prohibited dancing anywhere in town after midnight, and in beer halls at any time. It was illegal to drink beer standing up, so all the bars had plenty of stools.