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Anaconda - Cheap Travel Destination

We can afford more expensive vacations now, but looking for cheap travel destinations is a habit we developed during leaner times, and it still means being able to do more for the money. Also, as we continually discover, the cheaper places can be just as much fun. Anaconda, Montana is a good example of this.

We first drove into Anaconda five years ago, in 2002, and we loved this little mountain town from the start. In fact, we bought a nice house the next day for $17,500. We only lived there for a few months before selling the home for a small profit, but we wondered about the town over the years. In August of 2007 we returned for a visit.

Home prices may have double or tripled since 2002, but this is still one of the more beautiful and affordable vacation destinations around. The town is surrounded by mountains. The Old Works Golf Course, designed by Jack Nicholas, is at the east edge of town, and 18 holes cost between $29 and $46. The Discovery Ski Basin is fifteen or twenty miles up into the mountains, and has some of the steepest lift-served skiing around. A full day is $32.

If you want inexpensive lodging in Anaconda, you can find a nice room in one of the several hotels for around $60 to $80. At the Harp and Thistle Inn downtown (Main and Commercial) you can get a room in a classic historical building for about $43, or rent one for the whole week for $140. The noise from the bar downstairs will only keep you up on weekends, and if you decide to join the party, there is hardly a drink they don't serve.

If you are camping, there are several campgrounds in the area. Some are as cheap as $10 per night, or you can do as we do and camp for free along any of the dirt roads that head into the national forest lands west of town. There are two RV parks in Anaconda as well.

Want to gamble? Every one of the dozen or so casinos in town have nickel slot machines. Nickel Annies on Park street will give you $2 just for signing in, and the 1st Quarter Restaurant and Casino always has free snacks out, as well as free drinks while you are gambling. Get a copy of the Anaconda Leader newspaper (it comes out on Wednesday and Saturday) and you'll usually find coupons good for a free $3 of play at several places. These deals may not last, but then again, they have been running the same specials since we lived there five years ago.

On Main Street you'll find the Washoe Theater, a movie palace built in 1936 with Art Deco furnishings, murals, and ornamentation in silver, copper and gold leaf. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Sites, and is rated a national treasure by the Smithsonian Institution, due to the lavish interior. A movie costs just $4, and it may be the only theater where you can get a small popcorn or drink for under a dollar (90 cents). It costs 25-cents extra to sit up in the balcony.

If you are looking for a beer or some music, the Rock Inn, on Commercial, has live music on Saturday nights with no cover charge. The Classic Cafe, on Park Avenue has draft beer for $1.25, and you can get a big basket of French fries for $2.50. If you want to really go cheap, drop a few nickels in a slot machine. Most of the casinos in town offer free drinks while you play.

On a bad day, when we lost at the casinos, hours of entertainment cost us less than ten dollars. At the Classic Cafe, a basket of fries, three beers and two cups of tea cost us a total of $8.25, and the wi-fi internet use was free. Free wi-fi is also available here in the beautiful Hearst Library on fourth and Main, where I am writing this. Anaconda is one of the best cheap travel destinations.

Note: Take I-90 from Butte, west to Hwy 1; follow that six miles to Anaconda. This page was written in mid-August, 2007.


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