Best Things To Do In Billings Montana
Billings, Montana’s largest city, is located on the banks of the Yellowstone River in south-central Montana and has a population of over 100,000 people. Billings, however, is renowned as Montana’s Trailhead and is surrounded by Big Sky landscapes and public places that appeal to hiking, mountain biking, and easy access to nature. The Rimrocks, a group of spectacular sandstone cliffs that surround the city, provide a stunning background.
Billings is a popular destination in the region not just because of the rough and wild environment, but also because of the plethora of things to do. Billings’ attractions do a good job of capturing the western culture and wide-open landscapes of the American West.
Popular downtown visitor attractions include Western Art museums and historic theatres, in addition to several sidewalk patios and local stores. Downtown is also the site of major community events like as parades, art walks, and a weekly “Alive After 5” concert series that runs throughout the summer.
In Billings, history still reverberates through the streets, especially at the nationally accredited Western Heritage Center and the artifact-filled Yellowstone County Museum.
The Moss Mansion, built in 1903 and located on the southwest edge of downtown, is one of the best-preserved examples of early building in Billings. The surrounding caves at Pictograph Caves State Park are covered with artwork dating back over 2,000 years, providing a considerably richer historical perspective.
Things To Do In Billings Montana
• Moss Mansion
The Moss Mansion was built for industrialist Preston Boyd Moss and his family in 1903 and is currently on the National Register of Historic Places. It’s now a symbol of Billings’ early history and progress, with the interior and many of the home’s original furnishings and decorations beautifully preserved.
Throughout the year, self-guided and docent-led tours of the mansion are available. Tours are only accessible by appointment during the winter. The museum also offers many events throughout the year, such as the SpringFest artists fair and Haunted Moss in the fall. A complete schedule of events can be seen on the official website.
• The Rimrocks
The Rimrocks are a geological feature that distinguishes Billings. This long sandstone cliff wall that stretches along the northern edge of town is a popular place for sightseeing, sunset viewing, and in-city relaxation.
These picturesque “rimrocks,” deposited by an ancient inland sea and gently carved by the Yellowstone River over millions of years, provide a dramatic backdrop. There are numerous trailheads and parking spots to explore these remarkable city emblems.
Zimmerman Park, on the northwest edge of town, is a favourite after-work hangout, providing an easy route to get a view of the Rimrocks. Zimmerman Park is a popular spot for mountain biking and trail running, in addition to casual observation. Climbers are drawn to the area by the bolted climbing routes.
More Rimrock trails can be found further east in Swords Park and Phipps Park. On clear days, tourists may see the whole Yellowstone Valley, including the Beartooth Mountains, from atop these northern Rimrocks.
The newly extended trail system at the Four Dances Special Recreation Management Area on the east side of Billings provides more cliffside views of the Yellowstone River. Four Dances provides interpretive information about the area and is arguably the best place in Billings to catch a blazing sunset. It is primarily operated by the Bureau of Land Management and is only open to foot traffic.
At all Rimrock locations, visitors should be aware that rattlesnakes share the space with trail users.
ZooMontana is a one-of-a-kind facility that is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. ZooMontana isn’t your standard zoo, as it only has natural habitats and creatures that are acclimated to the area. Grizzly bears, grey wolves, and great horned owls are among the animals that live there.
Many of the animals at ZooMontana were deemed unfit for the wild and were given a second chance at life at this zoo. When it comes to animal care, the facility’s philosophy emphasises quality over quantity. Natural barriers such as ravines and cliffs, rather than cages and artificial walls, contribute to ZooMontana’s animal environment feel.
ZooMontana is a popular destination for family trips due to its affordable admission fee. Families especially enjoy ZooMontana’s unique programmes and activities, such as hosted birthday parties and holiday celebrations such as Boo at the Zoo in October.
• Pictograph Cave State Park
A picturesque five-mile journey southeast of Billings leads to this interesting state park. It’s one of Montana’s best state parks, with 23 acres and three caves full with archaeological wonders. Pictograph, Middle, and Ghost Caves in the park have yielded over 30,000 objects, including a large collection of over 100 cave paintings (some over 2,000 years old).
The park’s three caves are connected by a less-than-a-mile interpretive route, and while much of the remaining cave art is accessible with the naked eye, visitors are recommended to bring binoculars to get a closer view of the pictographs. At the cave’s entrance, there are plaques and other educational resources to assist visitors better grasp what they’re viewing. There are also restrooms and a picnic area at this location.
• Yellowstone Art Museum
The Yellowstone Art Museum (YAM) in Billings’ downtown section focuses on artwork from the northern Rocky Mountain and Northern Plains regions. YAM includes periodically rotating shows selected by local artists, with a permanent collection of over 7,300 works.
YAM offers a variety of methods for visitors to entertain themselves, including a self-guided tour of the site. The museum also offers a variety of educational programmes for children and adults, including activities for children and adult education workshops. The museum hosts live music and extended nighttime hours every First Friday of the month. Yoga at the Yam, an annual Art Auction, and YAM Free Days are all held at the museum throughout the year.
YAM urges visitors to check out the open-to-the-public Visible Vault, which houses everything that isn’t on exhibit, in addition to the colourful and eye-catching corridors of the main museum.
• DanWalt Gardens
One of Billings’ best-kept secrets is DanWalt Gardens. It’s located on the city’s southeast edge and offers magnificent gardens open to the public. Between April and October, the gardens proudly display a collection of annuals, perennials, shrubs, and trees, as well as attractive statues and hardscaping, with something new always in bloom.
DanWalt Gardens is a great spot for a peaceful moment during the day. With reservable space, it’s also popular for larger gatherings and photoshoots. Anyone with a camera is welcome to visit the gardens, but professional photographers with equipment must plan shoots ahead of time.
• Riverfront Park
Riverfront Park, located on the banks of the Yellowstone River, offers a calm reprieve from the rush and bustle of the adjacent city. Riverfront Park is a popular spot for family get-togethers and fast lunch breaks in nature, with reservable picnic shelters, hiking paths, and plenty of parking.
Lake Josephine is the focal point of the park, with horseshoe pits and sand volleyball courts bordering the shoreline. Because of its close proximity to the river, the park is also a popular site for boating and fishing.
Two Moon Park, operated by Yellowstone County Parks and located further upstream on the Yellowstone River, is another popular public space.
Dehler Park is another famous sports-themed public place near downtown. It has a multi-use stadium that is heavily used during baseball season in the summer.
• Western Heritage Center
The Yellowstone River Valley and Northern High Plains stories and history are carefully preserved at the Western Heritage Center. This nationally accredited museum has a collection of about 35,000 objects. Guided tours are offered, although guests are encouraged to explore the exhibits on their own.
The current museum is housed in the former Billings Library, which was built in 1901. It has a variety of exhibits that change on a regular basis, ranging from indigenous cultural relics to animal and biology studies. A High Noon Lecture Series and historic walking tours are among the museum’s many community initiatives.
The Western Heritage Center is open Tuesday through Saturday, with fewer hours available during the winter months. Members receive free admission, while others pay $5.
• Lake Elmo State Park
This state park is focused around the shoreline of Lake Elmo and spans approximately 120 acres on the north side of Billings, within city boundaries. Hiking the 1.2-mile route around the lake and fishing from Roger’s Pier, which juts out into the water, are both popular activities at this state park.
The lake is surrounded by playground equipment, a swimming beach, and picnic tables. A 200-acre off-leash dog park on the west banks is popular with pet owners. Boating is another popular activity at the park, which allows only non-motorized boats.
• Downtown Billings
The downtown core of Billings continues to expand as a cultural heart of the Greater Yellowstone region, with sidewalk patio dinners and distinctive local retail choices. The Yellowstone Art Museum and the Western Heritage Center, as well as performing venues like the historic and freshly rebuilt Alberta Bair Theater, are all located downtown.
There are other additional locations across downtown that host live music and comedy acts, as well as book readings. In the summer, a live music soundtrack is supplied by the weekly Alive After 5 street fair celebration.
Several more city-wide trademark events are held in downtown Billings. Downtown, which hosts a lively St. Patrick’s Day Parade, also celebrates the fall season with an annual HarvestFest, which includes the summer’s Farmers Market finale. Every other month, ArtWalk Downtown takes place on the last Friday.
The historic zone surrounding Montana Avenue is the location to go for the heart of downtown and the biggest evening activities.
• Yellowstone County Museum
The Yellowstone County Museum, located near the Billings Logan International Airport, provides additional insight into the region’s history. This renowned museum features approximately 5,000 square feet of exhibit space and relics, including pioneer waggons, rare guns, and other early Montana items.
The museum’s Ghost Dance exhibit displays clothing, instruments, and relics from the region’s Indigenous civilizations. Rooms dedicated to sidesaddles, Montana prehistory, and Plains Indian art are among the other popular permanent exhibitions. The museum also has a rotating display schedule, so there’s always something fresh to view.
The museum is located directly across the street from Billings Logan International Airport, and guests enter the facility as if they were driving to the airport. Parking is free, and entrance is also free, however donations are gratefully accepted. The Yellowstone County Museum is open Monday through Saturday, with the exception of holidays and January.
• Bighorn Canyon Recreation Area
Billings’ proximity to famous Montana vistas is a key draw. Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area, which is about a two-hour drive away, has one of the state’s largest landscapes.
The majestic canyon walls encircling the 70-mile Bighorn Lake, which traverses state lines between Montana and Wyoming, provide a beautiful vista. Boating, hiking, and photography are all popular activities here. Fort Smith, Montana, has visitor resources, including campgrounds, while Lovell, Wyoming, lies further south.
• Yellowstone National Park
A four-hour trip from Billings will take you to the world-renowned Yellowstone National Park. Yellowstone was designated as the country’s first national park because of its hydrothermal features, which include fumaroles, hot springs, and geysers.
Yellowstone’s top hiking paths are a great spot to start your exploration of the two-million-acre park. During the winter, other popular activities include fly fishing and cross-country skiing.
The Beartooth Highway is a National Scenic Byway that leads from Billings to Yellowstone National Park. The route takes tourists to the park’s northeast entrance. The byway starts at Red Lodge, a small mountain village, and runs for 68 miles to the park.
The Beartooth Highway is available periodically during the summer months, and it’s a journey not to be taken lightly. Along the way, spectacular views of the Absaroka and Beartooth Mountains emerge, especially as cars ascend the 10,947-foot Beartooth Pass. During the winter, the picturesque lane is a popular snowmobile path.
So this was our list of some of the fun and best things to do in Billings Montana, I hope you found some of your interest.