13 Top-Rated Attractions & Things to Do in Billings, MT | PlanetWare

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Billings, Montana is the largest city in the state and home to many fun attractions. We spent a few days exploring the city in late September 2019 and here were some of our favorite hikes, restaurants, breweries, and parks. Let us know what we left off in the comments.

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On the banks of the Yellowstone River in south-central Montana, Billings is Montana’s largest city, with over 100,000 residents. Far from crowded, though, Billings is known as Montana’s Trailhead and is surrounded by Big Sky landscapes and public spaces that cater to hiking, mountain biking, and easily escaping into nature. The city itself is backdropped by magnificent sandstone cliffs known as the Rimrocks.

It’s not just the rugged and wild scenery that makes Billings a popular destination of the region; an abundance of things to do draws visitors from across the state. And the attractions of Billings do well to embody the western culture and wide-open spaces of the American West.

Alongside numerous sidewalk patios and local shops, popular downtown tourist attractions include Western Art museums and historic theaters. Downtown is also the epicenter for big community celebrations, including parades, art walks, and a weekly “Alive After 5” concert series throughout the summer.

History still rings from the streets in Billings, especially at places like the nationally accredited Western Heritage Center or the artifact-filled Yellowstone County Museum. On the southwest side of downtown, the Moss Mansion, constructed in 1903, is one of the best-preserved examples of early development in Billings. For a much deeper historical perspective, the nearby caves at Pictograph Caves State Park are adorned with artwork over 2,000 years old.

For more ideas on places to visit, read our list of the top things to do in Billings.

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1. The Rimrocks

The view from Four Dances Recreation Area The view from Four Dances Recreation Area | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

The Rimrocks are a defining geological feature of Billings. This long wall of sandstone cliffs that runs across the northern edge of town is a favorite spot for sightseeing, sunset watching, and in-city recreation.

Deposited by an ancient inland seaway and slowly carved over millions of years by the Yellowstone River, these scenic “rimrocks” are a striking backdrop. Numerous trailheads and parking areas are available to explore these outstanding symbols of the city.

Zimmerman Park is a popular after-work escape on the northwest side of town, offering an easy way to catch a view atop the Rimrocks. Alongside casual observation, Zimmerman Park is also a popular place to go mountain biking and trail running. Bolted climbing routes also entice rock climbers to the area.

Zimmerman Trail on the west side of Billings Zimmerman Trail on the west side of Billings

Further east, Swords Park and Phipps Park offer more Rimrock trails to explore. From atop these northern Rimrocks on clear days, visitors have a great view of the Yellowstone Valley, including the Beartooth Mountains.

On the east side of Billings, the newly expanded trail system at the Four Dances Special Recreation Management Area offers more cliffside views of the Yellowstone River. Primarily operated by the Bureau of Land Management, and only open to foot traffic, Four Dances provides interpretive information about the area and is arguably the best place to catch a blazing sunset in Billings.

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Visitors should be advised that rattlesnakes share the space with trail users at all Rimrock locations.

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2. Moss Mansion

Moss Mansion Moss Mansion | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

Constructed in 1903 and now on the National Register of Historic Places, the Moss Mansion was built for the entrepreneur Preston Boyd Moss and his family. It’s now a symbol of early history and development in Billings, and the interior and many of the original furnishings and decorations of the home have been well-preserved.

Self-guided and docent-led tours of the mansion are available throughout the year. Tours are only available in winter by appointment. The museum also hosts several celebrations, including the SpringFest artisans fair and Haunted Moss in autumn. Check the official website for a full calendar of events.

Address: 914 Division Street, Billings, Montana

Official site: https://www.mossmansion.com/

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3. ZooMontana

Grizzly bear at ZooMontana Grizzly bear at ZooMontana

Accredited by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums, the non-profit ZooMontana is a unique facility. It’s not a typical zoo experience at ZooMontana, which exclusively features natural habitats and animals adapted to the region. Its menagerie includes grizzly bears, gray wolves, and great horned owls.

Many of the animals at ZooMontana were no longer fit to live in the wild and have been given a second chance at this zoo. And the facility’s mantra has an emphasis on quality, not quantity when it comes to animal care. Natural barriers, including ravines and cliffs instead of cages and concrete walls, add to the wildlife habitat feel of ZooMontana.

The low price of admission makes ZooMontana very popular for family outings. Families also enjoy the special programs and events offered by ZooMontana, including hosted birthday parties and holiday events like Boo at the Zoo in October.

Address: 2100 Shiloh Road, Billings, Montana

Official site: http://www.zoomontana.org/

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4. Pictograph Cave State Park

Pictograph Cave State Park Pictograph Cave State Park

This unique state park is a scenic five-mile drive southeast of Billings. One of the best state parks in Montana, it encompasses 23 acres and three caves filled with archaeological wonder. Approximately 30,000 artifacts have been recovered from Pictograph, Middle, and Ghost Cave within the park, including a robust collection of over 100 cave paintings (some over 2,000 years old).

A less-than-a-mile interpretive trail connects all three caves at the park, and while much of the remaining cave art is visible to the naked eye, visitors are encouraged to bring binoculars to enjoy the pictographs better. Plaques and other educational resources sit at the entrance to the cave to help visitors better understand what they’re seeing. Restrooms and picnic space are also available at this day-use park.

Address: 3401 Coburn Road, Billings, Montana

Official site: http://stateparks.mt.gov/pictograph-cave/

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5. Yellowstone Art Museum

Yellowstone Art Museum Yellowstone Art Museum | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

In the downtown district of Billings, the Yellowstone Art Museum (YAM) primarily highlights artwork from the northern Rocky Mountain and Northern Plains regions. With a permanent collection of over 7,300 works, YAM features regularly rotating exhibits curated by local artists.

Visitors can enjoy YAM in numerous ways, including a self-guided tour throughout the facility. The museum also hosts an array of educational programs ranging from children’s activities to adult education classes. Every First Friday of the month the museum features live entertainment and extended evening hours. Other events at the museum include Yoga at the Yam, an annual Art Auction, and YAM Free Days throughout the year.

Alongside the colorful and eye-catching halls of the main museum, YAM also encourages visitors to check out the open-to-the-public Visible Vault where they store everything that isn’t on display.

Address: 401 N 27th Street, Billings, Montana

Official site: https://www.artmuseum.org/

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6. DanWalt Gardens

DanWalt Gardens DanWalt Gardens | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

DanWalt Gardens is one of Billings’ best-kept secrets. It’s on the southeast side of the city and features beautiful gardens for the public to enjoy. With something new always in bloom between April and October, the gardens proudly display a collection of annuals, perennials, shrubs, and trees, as well as ornamental statues and hardscaping.

DanWalt Gardens is a popular place to visit for a contemplative moment in the day. It’s also popular for bigger events and photoshoots, with reservable space available. Everyone is welcome to bring their camera to the gardens, but professional photographers with equipment need to schedule shoots in advance.

Address: 720 Washington Street, Billings, Montana

Official site: https://thedanwaltgardens.com/

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7. Riverfront Park

Riverfront Park Riverfront Park

On the banks of the Yellowstone River, Riverfront Park provides a peaceful respite from the hustle and bustle of the city nearby. With reservable picnic pavilions, hiking trails, and plenty of parking, Riverfront Park is popular for family get-togethers and quick lunch breaks in nature.

Much of the park is centered around Lake Josephine, with other activities like horseshoe pits and sand volleyball lining the shore. And with such proximity to the river, the park is also a popular spot to access the water for boating and fishing.

Another popular public space can be found at Two Moon Park, managed by Yellowstone County Parks and located farther upstream on the Yellowstone River. The paved Dutcher Trail extends from Two Moon Park to the 13-acre Coulson Park.

Dehler Park is another public space near downtown that is popular with sports fans. It features a multi-use stadium that is well utilized during the summer baseball season.

Address: 8001 South Billings Boulevard, Billings, Montana

Official site: https://www.billingsparks.org/park/riverfront/

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8. Western Heritage Center

Western Heritage Center Western Heritage Center | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

The Western Heritage Center proudly preserves the stories and history of the Yellowstone River Valley and Northern High Plains. Over 35,000 artifacts comprise the collection of this nationally accredited museum. Guests are encouraged to explore the exhibits on their own, and guided tours are available.

The current museum is housed within the historic 1901 former Billings Library. It features regularly rotating displays ranging from indigenous cultural artifacts to wildlife and biology research. The museum also hosts numerous community programs, including a High Noon Lecture Series and historic walking tours.

The Western Heritage Center is open Tuesday through Saturday, with more limited hours in the winter. Admission is free for members and five dollars for guests.

Address: 2822 Montana Avenue, Billings, Montana

Official site: https://www.ywhc.org/

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9. Lake Elmo State Park

Roger's Pier at Lake Elmo State Park Roger’s Pier at Lake Elmo State Park | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

Encompassing over 120 acres on the north side of Billings, within city limits, this state park is centered around the shores of Lake Elmo. Hiking the 1.2-mile trail around the lake is a popular thing to do at this state park, as is fishing from Roger’s Pier, which extends over the water.

Playground equipment, a swimming beach, and picnic tables surround the lake. On the west banks, a 200-acre off-leash dog park is popular with pet owners. Boating is also a frequent activity at the park, with only non-motorized boats allowed.

Address: 219 Rolling Hills Drive, Billings, Montana

Official site: http://stateparks.mt.gov/lake-elmo/

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10. Downtown Billings

Babcock Theatre in downtown Billings Babcock Theatre in downtown Billings | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

For sidewalk patio meals and unique local shopping opportunities, the downtown district of Billings continues to grow into a cultural hub of the Greater Yellowstone region. Cultural attractions like the Yellowstone Art Museum and the Western Heritage Center are downtown, as well as performance venues like the historic and newly renovated Alberta Bair Theater.

Numerous other venues are scattered throughout downtown, offering live performances in music and comedy, as well as book readings. And a live music soundtrack is provided every Thursday in the summer with a weekly Alive After 5 street fair celebration.

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Downtown Billings hosts several other signature events of the city. Home to a festive St. Patrick’s Day Parade, downtown also celebrates the fall season with an annual HarvestFest that features the finale of the summer’s Farmers Market. And ArtWalk Downtown occurs on the last Friday of every other month.

For the heart of downtown and home to the most nightlife activities, the historic district surrounding Montana Avenue is the place to go.

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11. Dive into Regional History at the Yellowstone County Museum

Further insight into the region’s history is found at the Yellowstone County Museum near the Billings Logan International Airport. This acclaimed museum has over 5,000 square feet of display space and artifacts, including pioneer wagons, rare firearms, and other objects of Montana’s early settlement.

The Ghost Dance exhibit at the museum features attire, instruments, and relics from Indigenous cultures of the region. Other popular permanent exhibits include rooms dedicated to sidesaddles, Montana prehistory, and Plains Indian art. The museum also has a regular rotating exhibit schedule, ensuring something new to see with each visit.

The museum is right next to Billings Logan International, and visitors access the facility like they’re driving to the airport. Free parking is available, and admission is also free, although donations are appreciated. The Yellowstone County Museum is open Monday through Saturday and closed for holidays and the month of January.

Address: 1950 Terminal Circle, Billings, Montana

Official site: http://www.ycmhistory.org/

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12. Day Trip to Bighorn Canyon Recreation Area

Devil's Canyon overlook in Bighorn Canyon Recreation Area Devil’s Canyon overlook in Bighorn Canyon Recreation Area

A big appeal of Billings is its proximity to prominent Montana landscapes. And one of the biggest landscapes in the state can be found with an approximately two-hour drive to Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area.

Centered around the 70-mile Bighorn Lake that straddles state lines between Montana and Wyoming, the magnificent canyon walls surrounding the lake offer a stunning view. Popular things to do here include boating, hiking, and photography. Visitor resources, including campgrounds, are found in Fort Smith, Montana, and farther south in Lovell, Wyoming.

Official site: https://www.nps.gov/bica/index.htm

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13. Day Trip to Yellowstone National Park

Morning Glory Pool in Yellowstone National Park Morning Glory Pool in Yellowstone National Park | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

The world-famous Yellowstone National Park can be reached from Billings with an approximately four-hour drive. Filled with hydrothermal features, including fumaroles, hot springs, and geysers, Yellowstone has special designation as the country’s first national park.

The best hiking trails in Yellowstone are a good place to start exploring the two-million-acre park. Other popular activities include things like fly fishing and cross-country skiing throughout the winter.

The Beartooth Highway is a National Scenic Byway that offers an extremely scenic approach to Yellowstone from Billings. The route delivers visitors to the northeast entrance of the park. The byway really begins in the mountain town of Red Lodge and spans 68 miles to the park.

The Beartooth Highway is seasonally open throughout the warmer months, and it’s truly a route not to be rushed through. Stunning vistas of the Absaroka and Beartooth Mountains rise along the drive, especially as drivers top the 10,947-foot Beartooth Pass. The scenic roadway is a popular snowmobile route during the winter.

Official site: https://www.nps.gov/yell/index.htm

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imageMore Cities in Montana: Two hours west of Billings, the university city of Bozeman also has major natural appeal near the border of the Custer Gallatin National Forest. On the western half of the state, the city of Missoula is a prominent stop along the I-90 corridor and includes access to wild and awesome places like the Bitterroot Mountains and the Rattlesnake National Recreation Area. For a great mountain getaway, the northern city of Whitefish features front door access to Whitefish Mountain Resort and Glacier National Park.

imageExploring Yellowstone National Park: A four-hour drive from Billings, the two-million-plus-acre Yellowstone National Park offers amazing recreation activities through the year. While winter is predominantly focused on cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and snowmobiling, the summer and shoulder months are particularly nice to explore some of the Best Hiking Trails in Yellowstone. For a place to spend the night and extend the trip, the Top-Rated Campgrounds in Yellowstone offer spacious tent sites and places to park an RV.



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Billings, Montana is the largest city in the state and home to many fun attractions. We spent a few days exploring the city in late September 2019 and here were some of our favorite hikes, restaurants, breweries, and parks. Let us know what we left off in the comments.

Read more at ThroughMyLens.com

Follow me:
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/throughmylensco
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Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/throughmylensco
Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/throughmylensco

Gear:
See all the gear I use here https://www.amazon.com/shop/californiathroughmylens

Music:
Epidemic Sound
https://www.epidemicsound.com/referral/usqgdp/

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