Helena, Montana’s capital, is a result of the 1800s Montana Gold Rush. It was originally a mining camp known as Last Chance Gulch that remained downtown. The city has been the capital of Montana since 1875, one-year after Montana became a state. It is rich in history at every turn.
It is also a popular tourist destination for the Montana Great Outdoors. The city is surrounded by Mount Helena, a hard-to-miss mountain that provides miles and miles of hiking trails. The iconic Montana landscapes that surround the city, such as Gates of the Mountains, which Meriwether Lewis named, are a draw for visitors looking for greater adventures.
Helena has it all. You can explore the history, culture, and outdoors in one day. You can easily reach the State Capitol in sterling and the downtown Pedestrian Mall. There are also nearby museums and hiking trails.
Our list of top things to do and see in Helena will help you plan your Montana vacation.
Montana State Capitol #1
The State Capitol is surrounded by beautiful hillsides and elegant neighborhood buildings. It has been proudly overlooking Helena for more than 100 years. The capitol building’s tall dome and Lady Liberty perched on the top add extra height, while the granite columns and Greek architecture give it a feeling of significance.
The Capitol’s interior is where the real beauty and craftsmanship lies. However, anyone can visit the space during normal operating hours. The Old Law Library, Capitol Rotunda, as well as many other pieces of statehood art and paintings that decorate the Capitol are some of the areas of particular interest. The Capitol is closed Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years Day. Admission is free.
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|Address:||1301 E 6th Ave, Helena, MT 59601, United States|
Mount Helena City Park #2
Mount Helena, Helena’s iconic landmark and most prominent natural attraction, is a highlight of Helena. The park covers over 600 acres with several miles of hiking trails. It is located on the hillsides above Reeder’s Alley. The 1906 Trail is one of the most popular routes to reach the summit, offering spectacular views.
The 1906 Trail measures approximately 1.6 miles and has 1,100 feet elevation gain. The 1906 Trail is too steep and long for easy. However, the views are well worth the effort. The Powerline Trail, which traverses the same height in 0.7 miles, is another route.
Mount Helena has many trails that cater to different abilities. It’s also not the only place in town where you can hike. Mount Ascension Park is just across the canyon and offers a similar network with elevated hiking trails. Although a map can be found at both park trailheads, it is a good idea to have a GPS device in case you are new to the area or if you plan on doing a long hike.
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|Address:||Dump Out Trail, Helena, MT 59601, United States|
Reeder’s Alley #3
Reeder’s Alley, located in the southwest corner downtown, offers a full immersion into Helena’s history. It features buildings and architecture that date back to the 1870s. It is the oldest piece of Helena’s history that remains intact. The historic Reeder’s Alley today is filled with modern storefronts including a restaurant, office space and the Visit Helena Montana office.
The area is dotted with information and signs that provide insight. It feels like you are stepping back in time when you walk on the brick walkway. The Pioneer Cabin, which is located adjacent to the city’s oldest registered residence, can be toured by the public.
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|Address:||212 S Park Ave, Helena, MT 59601, United States|
The Cathedral of Saint Helena #4
The twin spires of Saint Helena Cathedral, located near downtown and the Old Governor’s Mansion have been overlooking the city for more than a century. This Gothic cathedral was severely damaged by the 1935 earthquake. Over the years, significant restorations and improvements have been made to it. The architectural beauty of this place of worship is a distinctive feature.
Public services are open to all visitors. Guided tours are also available between Memorial Day weekend and Labor Day. It is worth visiting the cathedral for its vast collection of stained glass windows. You can also walk around the exterior on the lawn and enjoy the beautiful architecture.
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|Address:||530 N Ewing St, Helena, MT 59601, United States|
Holter Museum of Art #5
The Holter Museum in Helena is a cultural center. It hosts regional, national and international art exhibits. The museum’s rotating displays are about expressions of modern culture. Permanent installations include a variety of art forms.
To appreciate the art, admission is free. However, donations are welcome. There are many events at the museum throughout the year including family trivia nights and fall art walks. The museum offers classes and workshops for all ages. The entire facility can be rented for groups of people, or even special occasions.
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|Address:||12 E Lawrence St, Helena, MT 59601, United States|
Downtown Pedestrian Mall #6
This is the area in Helena that was prosperous and known as Last Chance Gulch. It’s where the city began. In 1864, the city’s modern history began when prospectors discovered gold in the gulch. The charming downtown district of Downtown is home to this area, which is rich in culture.
Last Chance Gulch is home to businesses and shopfronts on both sides. Some locals refer to it as Main Street. Last Chance Gulch, south of Sixth Street is a pedestrian mall that has been landscaped and is very popular. This pedestrian-friendly downtown area is dotted with several aesthetic features, including statues, historic buildings, and a retired Trolley Car.
The pedestrian mall is a hub for shopping and dining. Lasso the Moon Wonderful Toys and Big Dipper Ice Cream are popular with teenagers. Patio seating is also a popular choice for adults who enjoy fine dining. The area is also home to a lively nightlife scene that offers evening entertainment.
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|Address:||VA 22902, United States|
Montana Historical Society #7
The Montana Historical Society is located adjacent to the State Capitol. It’s easy to miss the large sculptures that line the lawn. The Historical Society is home to the Montana’s Museum with many exhibits and galleries.
A Charles M. Russell Gallery is a popular permanent exhibit. It contains collections about Lewis and Clark’s interactions in Montana and offers an immersive view into Montana’s frontier and past pioneers. The museum also includes a large section dedicated to the lives and history of the local indigenous people.
The museum has a vast collection that includes thousands of artifacts. The Historical Society facilitates many educational and social events every month. This includes guided tours of the Old Governor’s Mansion. The Historical Society also offers special summer miniature-train tours.
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|Address:||225 N Roberts St, Helena, MT 59620, United States|
FAQ’s : Top 7 Best Places To Visit in Helena, Montana
Is Helena Montana worth visiting?
While it’s possible to spend a day or two in Helena, a longer trip is recommended. Whether you want to visit the state capitol, take a hike on Mount Helena, or visit a brewery, there’s something for everyone. And the city is quaint, with many pedestrian-only areas and a renowned women’s mural. There are several tours in the city to choose from, so you can find the perfect one for you.
Is Helena a nice place to live?
Considering moving to Helena? Find out what Helena has to offer! The city has plenty of outdoor activities and has some beautiful natural areas to explore. The Upper East Side offers picturesque views of the valley and dozens of trailheads into the wilderness. Those looking for more urban amenities can consider North East Helena or the Upper West Side. Historic ornate mansions are a hallmark of Helena’s culture and are mainly found in the Upper West Side.
What is there to do in Helena in the winter?
Whether you’re looking for outdoor activities, shopping opportunities, or a romantic setting, Helena has plenty to offer. There are a number of ice rinks in the area. Visitors can spend a fun-filled evening skating on the ice at Memorial Park, where you can also warm up in the warming house. If you don’t feel like getting on the ice, you can check out the ice rinks in Lincoln Park and Cunningham Park, both of which are free.
Why Helena Montana is famous for?
You may wonder why Helena is famous for gold. Founded around the gold rush of the 1870s, this mining town was unlike most American cities. During the second half of the 19th century, a Pennsylvania architect named Louis Reeder designed a series of palatial homes for miners. Built with stone and brick, these homes form a picturesque, small town. While they are no longer standing, they do serve as an interesting historical testimony of the city.