Billings is the largest city in Montana, and it is in the south-central part of the state in Yellowstone County. Known as the Magic City, Billings is a trade hub, so it attracts many business travelers. However, the city and surrounding area also have many leisure attractions and activities for those traveling for pleasure. There is something for everyone to enjoy in the city, including historic monuments, outdoor spaces, family attractions, and much more. Here are the 20 best things to do in Billings, MT, for first-timers.
20. See Pompeys Pillar National Monument
Pompeys Pillar National Monument is a designated national monument in Billings that is managed by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management. It is a natural rock formation that stands 150-feet above the Yellowstone River, and its base covers more than one acre. The pillar features Native American petroglyphs, and it also has the signature of William Clerk, who was a co-leader of the Lewis and Clerk expedition. His signature is the only remaining evidence of the expedition taking place along that route. Next to the rock formation is the Pompeys Pillar Interpretative Center, which has exhibits relating to Captain William Clark’s journey.
19. Take a Day Trip to the Bighorn Canyon National Recreational Area
The Bighorn Canyon National Recreational Area is just outside Billings, and it covers 120,000 acres. It is a stunning area to explore, and some of the most popular activities to enjoy within the recreational area include hiking, camping, boating, biking, horseback riding, and fishing. There are also historic ranches to visit within the recreational area.
18. Visit Audubon Conservation Education Center
Audubon Conservation Education Center was founded in 1976, and it is an independent conservation organization. The aim of the organization is to preserve the wildlife and natural ecosystems of Montana, including the native birds. They also aim to educate the public around these topics. Visitors to the center can connect with nature and see native birds in their natural habitat.
17. Explore Four Dances Recreation Area
If you enjoy spending time outdoors during your vacations, then a wonderful place to visit is the Four Dances Recreation Area. The recreation area is just outside downtown Billings, and it is bordered by the Yellowstone River and magnificent river cliffs. It is full of native flora and fauna, such as Yellowstone River cottonwood riparian, native sagebrush, and ponderosa pine. Many people explore this area to observe the wildlife or simply to see the beautiful surroundings. In the winter, it is a popular place for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing.
16. Go Shopping at Rimrock Mall
If you enjoy a spot of retail therapy when you are on your vacation, then the best place to visit is Rimrock Mall. The mall measures 600,000-square-feet and has hundreds of retail shops and department stores. It also houses multiple restaurants and food vendors, so you can grab a bit to eat while you are there. Various events take place at the mall, and it is considered a hub of the community.
15. Check What’s On at MetraPark
MetraPark is a multi-facility venue that spans 189-acres. It includes a trade show and convention center, fairgrounds, a sports arena, a concert arena, and rodeo grandstands. Therefore, it has areas to host multiple types of events and exhibitions. There is always something going on at this venue, and often there are several shows, competitions, or events taking place at the same time in different sections of the venue. Check what is on during the time of your visit, and book tickets in advance if there is something that takes your fancy.
14. Hike the Pryor Mountains
The Pryor Mountains sit between Billings and the Montana-Wyoming border. The mountain range consists of Big Pryor Mountain and East Pryor Mountain. Many people consider these mountains one of the most beautiful landscapes in Montana. There are many hiking trails in the area, and walking these trails gives you the chance to fully appreciate the beauty of the area surrounding Billings. The habitat in the mountain is diverse, with almost 1,000 species of trees and plants. It is also a wonderful place to see native wildlife, including golden eagles, calliope hummingbirds, mountain lions, and bighorn sheep.
13. Have Fun at Reef Indoor Water Park
A fun place to visit on a rainy day is the Reef Indoor Water Park in Billings, and it is equally as good as a place to cool off on a hot day. It is the largest indoor water park in Montana, and it is filled with water-themed rides and slides for people of all ages. Some of the attractions include the tropical Twister body slide, a three-story tube slide, a huge wave pool, and a 250-gallon water dumping bucket. There is also a 20-person hot tub and an activity pool for enjoying fun and games.
12. Go to Yellowstone County Museum
The aim of the Yellowstone County Museum is to collect, research, and preserve the diverse culture and natural history of Yellowstone Valley. Exhibits within the museum give visitors a clearer understanding of the pre-history of the plains, and there are also educational programs around this topic. The artifacts on display cover topics including mining, Indian tribes, music, military, transportation, and lifestyles of the area’s residents in and before the 1950s. A popular exhibit at this museum is a replica of a trading post called the Lewis and Clark Fur Trading Post Exhibit.
11. Sample the Wines at Yellowstone Cellars & Winery
Yellowstone Cellars & Winery creates wines using grapes from small vineyards in the Yakima Valley region in Washington. Although the grapes are transported from Washington, the wine-making process begins in under 30 hours from the time they were picked, and the process includes pressing and fermenting the grapes and bottling and cellaring the wines. Visitors can take tours of the wine production facilities, and there is a tasting room where they can sample the wines. The winery is also a music venue with a large event space.
10. See a Performance at Alberta Blair Theater
Vacation Idea recommends watching a performance at the Alberta Blair theater during your visit. The art-deco-style theater opened in 1931, and it was originally called The Fox Theater. Now, the theater is one of the largest performing arts centers in the area. The 1,400-seat venue hosts various performances throughout the year, including music, dance, and drama productions. It is best to check the schedule and book tickets in advance if you want to watch a performance during your visit. The theater also holds programs and events throughout the year.
9. Explore Lake Elmo State Park
Lake Elmo State Park covers 120 acres, and it is on the north side of Billings. Lake Elmo sits centrally within the park, and there is a 1.2-mile trail around the lake. Roger’s Pier extends out into the lake, and it is a popular spot for fishing. On the shores of the lake, there is a swimming beach, a dog park, and picnic tables. The park is a fantastic place to explore on a sunny day. If you are visiting Billings with children, then there is plenty of space for them to let off some steam, and there is playground equipment where they can have some fun.
8. Hike the Trails at Riverside Park
Riverside Park sits on the banks of the Yellowstone River. Lake Josephine is at the center of the park, and this is used for various activities, such as boating. There are also activities on the shores of the lake, including sand volleyball and horseshoe pits. There are various hiking trails throughout the park, and there are picnic pavilions. One of the trails leads from Riverside Park to Two Moon Park and then becomes the Dutcher Trial leading to Coulson Park.
7. Go to the Western Heritage Center
The aim of the Western Heritage Center is to preserve the history and stories of the Northern High Plains and the Yellowstone River Valley. There is a collection of more than 35,000 artifacts in the museum, along with rotating exhibits covering topics such as wildlife, biology research, and indigenous culture. Although guided tours are available, visitors are welcome to tour the exhibits on their own. The museum hosts walking tours and various community programs.
6. See the Art at Yellowstone Art Museum
The best attraction for art enthusiasts to include in their vacation itinerary is the Yellowstone Art Museum, which is in the downtown district of the city. There is a permanent collection of more than 7,300 works, and the museum highlights artwork from the Northern Plains and Rocky Mountain regions. The museum also has rotating exhibits of work by local artists. In addition to the main displays, there is a Visible Vault where the museum stores the work that is not on display. The Visible Vault is open to the public. Yellowstone Art Museum runs various educational programs and classes, and it is used as a venue for several events throughout the year.
5. Stroll Around DanWalt Gardens
DanWalt Gardens is on the southeast side of Billings, and it is open from April to October. There are beautiful public gardens featuring collections of trees, shrubs, perennials, and annuals. There are also sections with hardscaping and ornamental statues. At most times, the gardens are the perfect place to get away from the bustle of the city and enjoy the peace. However, the gardens are used as a venue for events several times a year, and the gardens are less peaceful at this time.
4. Go to Pictograph Cave State Park
Just outside Billings is Pictograph State Park, which covers 23 acres. The highlight of the park is the three caves that have archeological artifacts. The Pictograph, Middle, and Ghost Caves in the park have more than 100 cave paintings, some of which are more than 2,000 years old. There is a mile-long trail connecting the caves, and visitors can view the caves from the trail only. Therefore, it is recommended that visitors bring along binoculars for better viewing.
3. Spend the Day at Zoo Montana
One of Billings’ most popular family attractions is Zoo Montana, which offers something different from the usual zoo experience. The habitats within the zoo are adapted to reflect the natural habitats of the animals living there. Many of the animals were unable to continue living in the wild, and living in the zoo has become their second chance in life. There are more than 100 animals at the zoo, representing 58 species. In addition to seeing and learning about the animals, there are other activities to enjoy, and the zoo also has botanical gardens.
2. Visit Moss Mansion
Moss Mansion is one of the most historically significant structures in Billings, and it is on the National Register of Historic Places. It was constructed in 1903 for entrepreneur Preston Boyd Moss, and it is considered a symbol of the early development of the city. Tours of the mansion and its grounds are available, and it hosts many events throughout the year.
1. See the Views from The Rimrocks
According to Planetware, one of the best things to do in Billings, MT, for first-timers is to see the views from The Rimrocks. These sandstone cliffs are a natural geographic feature of the city. They run along the edge of town and were formed by an ancient inland seaway and then carved out into their shape by the Yellowstone River. A hike to the top of the cliffs takes you to the perfect spot for enjoying views across Billings and beyond. It is also a popular place to watch the sunset. One of the easiest ways to access The Rimrocks is via Zimmerman park, which has many walking and mountain biking trails.