Montana’s small capital is a prime home base for exploring the entire state. Founded as a gold rush town in the 1860s, the town was once known as Last Chance Gulch. Today there is a pedestrian zone in the center of town with numerous historical buildings and small shops. From the numerous Victorian mansions one can see that some citizens have made fortunes here. In the meantime, numerous villas have been converted into bed and breakfast accommodation. The Montana State Capitol in the city center is also worth seeing. It is adorned with some beautiful historic Charles Russell murals. In front of the Capitol stands a statue of Jeanette Rankin, who became the first woman elected to Congress in 1917.www.helenamt.com
A ten minute drive from downtown Helena is the Broadwater Hotsprings, the region’s only natural hot springs. You can swim and bathe in outdoor pools of different temperatures. www.broadwatermt.com
According to usaers, located in the heart of the Rocky Mountains, the city of 35,000 is named after the cone-shaped Big Butte Hill to the northwest. The place, which had more than 90,000 inhabitants almost 100 years ago, became rich because of its numerous mineral deposits, primarily silver and copper. It experienced its heyday from the 1870s to the first half of the 20th century. Butte’s multicultural flair is evident at events such as the annual St. Patrick’s Day, which Irish descendants celebrate lavishly. www.butteelevated.com
One of the biggest highlights of the place is the World Museum of Mining, housed in a former gold mine. In addition to an extensive collection of equipment, memorabilia and minerals, the history of the formation of the miners’ union and the important role of Butte are also discussed. Outside the museum are 50 buildings from the era 1880-1910. They recreate an early mining settlement with a church, school, brothels and simple hotels. One of the highlights is a mine tour that leads directly into the mine. Open April to September. www.miningmuseum.org , 155 Museum Way, Butte, MT 59701
Above Butte is the approximately 30 m high statue of Mary “Our Lady of the Rockies” www.ourladyoftherockies.net.
Those interested in historical adventure tours should contact the organizers of Old Butte Historical Adventures www.buttetour.info .
Located in the center of the Gallatin Valley, the small town with almost 37,000 inhabitants is in the former hunting ground of the Sioux. Today this is one of the most fertile growing areas in the entire region. Bozeman was founded in the 1860s. The city is one of the few Montanas that didn’t develop because of mining or the railroad. It has been of greater importance since 1893 because of the Montana State University located here, which is incidentally the largest in the state. www.bozemancvb.com
Absolute attraction is the Museum of the Rockies, which deals intensively with four billion years of geological history. The biggest highlight is the extensive collection of dinosaur bones, skeletons and eggs. They are among the largest of their kind in the world. Most of the primeval reptile exhibits come from finds from the Montana Plains. The collection of Indian artefacts is also worth mentioning. The Taylor Planetarium is also on the premises. www.museumoftherockies.org , 600 West Kagy Blvd, Bozeman, Montana 59717
Also of interest is the American Computer & Robotics Museum, which deals intensively with the topic of new technologies and claims to depict 4,000 years of human history. www.compustory.com , 2023 Stadium Dr, Unit 1-A, Bozeman, MT
Located in a former prison, the Gallatin History Museum tells the story of how the city was settled. www.gallatinhistorymuseum.org , 317 W Main St, Bozeman, MT 59715-4576
The nearly 100-strong community can definitely be described as an archetypal gold rush settlement. Gold was found in 1863, the city boomed and to this day there are around 100 houses from this period. Visitors can take half-hourly stagecoach rides (Alder Gulch Stage Line) and of course pan for gold. www.virginiacity.com
There is also a historic steam train: the Alder Gulch Short Line Railway www.virginiacitymt.com/trains , 300 West Wallace Street (corner of Hwy 287 and Jackson Street) runs a 1910 locomotive.
If you’d like to catch a vaudeville performance of a melodramatic 1930’s play, go to the Illustrous Virginia City Players www.virginiacityplayers.com , 338 W. Wallace St. Virginia City, MT 59755
For the more adventurous, there is also a dedicated Ghost Walk where you can learn all sorts of spooky stories about the area in an hour. www.virginiacity.com/ghost-tours , 344 West Wallace Street, PO Box 271, Virginia City, MT, 59729 (mid-June to mid-August only)
The city of around 60,000 inhabitants, the third largest in Montana, is also nicknamed “Electric City” because of the numerous river power plants and is picturesquely situated between the Rocky Mountains in the west and the Little Belt Mountains in the east on the Missouri. As it flows through the city, the river drops some 150m in a series of rapids and breathtakingly large falls. The first explorers to see these were Meriwether Lewis and William Clark on the famous Lewis and Clark Expedition in 1805. www.visitgreatfallsmontana.org
Great Falls is known far beyond its borders for two museums: The Charles M Russell Museum offers a colorful exhibition on the history of the American West and focuses its collection on the life and work of local cowboys and that of Wild West universal artist Charlie Russell (1864-1926), who significantly shaped the cultural flair of his hometown. The home and studio of the dazzling personality are right next to the museum. www.cmrussell.org , 400 13th St N; June to Sept Tue – Sun 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Two miles northeast of downtown is the Lewis And Clark Historic Trail Interpretive Center on a bluff overlooking the Missouri . The museum traces the adventurous research journey of the two explorers Lewis and Clark between 1803 and 1806 and is also the heart of the National Forest of the same name. www.fs.usda.gov , 4201 Giant Spring Rd; Memorial Day -Sept Tue – Sun 9-5
Great Falls has also been known for its unique Sip ‘n Dip Lounge since the 1960’s . In the Polynesian-style bar, girls dressed up as mermaids cavort in the indoor pool in the evening. Guests can watch the swimmers through windows in the bar room. There is also musical entertainment. Frommer’s Travel Guide called the bar at the O’Haire Motor Inn one of the tackiest yet quirky-coolest nightspots in the entire western United States. O’Haire Motor Inn , 17 7th Street South, Great Falls, MT 59404