Montana is a state that will not disappoint most travelers. If you enjoy hiking trails, outdoor activities, and overall incredible natural beauty, this great state is one to add to your list.
Many travelers choose to base their trip out of Montana’s largest city, Billings. This town is a great hub for travel in Big Sky Country thanks to its easy access to various National Parks, the Northern Rocky Mountains, and all the attractions of the Yellowstone River.
But this stop of the Lewis and Clark Expedition is not to be overlooked as there are so many fun things to do and attractions in Billings itself. If you want to learn some Montana history, eat local cuisine, visit art museums, and much more before you head out to explore Montana, don’t hesitate to visit Billings first.
Montana really is a hidden gem of the United States, and Billings shouldn’t be skipped. Read on to see what not to miss in this beautiful part of the wild west.
Table of Contents
- How to Get To & Around Billings, Montana
- Best & Fun Things to do in Billings, Montana
- 1. Yellowstone Art Museum
- 2. Riverfront Park
- 3. Pictograph Cave State Park
- 4. Western Heritage Center
- 5. Yellowstone County Museum
- 6. Lake Elmo State Park
- 7. Swords Park Trail
- 8. Moss Mansion
- 9. The Reef Indoor Water Park
- 10. Alberta Bair Theater
- 11. Two Moon Park
- 12. Yellowstone Cellars & Winery
- 13. Four Dances Natural Area
- 14. Zimmerman Park
- 15. DanWalt Gardens
- 16. Pompeys Pillar National Monument
- 17. Yellowstone Wildlife Sanctuary
- 18. Yellowstone National Park
- Can you visit Billings, Montana with Yellowstone?
- What are the Billings, Montana things to do in the winter?
- How many days should you spend in Billings, Montana?
- Should I fly into Billings or do a road trip to Montana?
Need that best-of Billings info now? Like right now? As now as could be now?! No worries; feast your hungry little eyes!
- Most significant landmark – Pictograph Cave State Park
- Best park – Swords Park & Trail
- Best free activity – Yellowstone County Museum
- Best family-friendly activity – The Reef Indoor Water Park
- Best activity for adults – Yellowstone Cellars & Winery
- Best outdoor activity – Four Dances Recreation Area
- Most well-known attraction – Yellowstone National Park
- Best all-round accommodation – Hampton Inn Billings
How to Get To & Around Billings, Montana
Before we jump into the tourist attractions and fun stuff in the area, you might be wondering how exactly to get to this remote part of America.
So, where is Billings, Montana exactly? The city is in the southern part of this large state, not far from the border with Wyoming. In fact, its location makes it a great starting point not only to see Montana but parts of Wyoming and Idaho as well.
The city is served by the small Billings Airport, where the regional subsidiaries of most major US airlines fly. The smaller city of Bozeman also isn’t far, which has a similar-sized airport. Use a site like Skyscanner to make sure you are searching all possible airlines and get the best possible deal on airfare.
This all being said, it is very important to have a car if you plan on getting out of the city. A road trip with your own car to this part of the country is an awesome idea. If you need to rent one, Kayak can show you all of the availability in the city to get the lowest prices.
Best & Fun Things to do in Billings, Montana
If you are wondering what to do in Billings, Montana, there are plenty of fun things. Whether it’s adults-only or kids’ activities, Billings has it all.
1. Yellowstone Art Museum
The Yellowstone Art Museum houses historic and contemporary art from the region. The art center specifically collects works of local artists, ranging from emerging to internationally-known, and displays them in what is called the Montana Collection. It has become one of their most popular exhibits.
The museum offers camps for kids as well as classes for adults, as well as special events throughout the year, and art auction nights.
You can visit the museum any day but Monday and don’t forget to pick up a guide at reception before you head in.
See Related: Best Museums in the US You Need to Visit
2. Riverfront Park
You’ll find plenty of places for nature trails, picnic sites, and other activities in the outdoors around Billings, but Riverfront Park is one of the most popular. This park on the banks of the Yellowstone River and Lake Josephine is a tranquil escape from the (not-so-busy) city.
Riverfront Park is lined with hiking trails, picnic tables, fishing spots, mountain biking trails, and wildlife. It’s a great place to bring your family, as the hiking here isn’t at the intense levels you can find in other parts of the region.
If this riverside peace is your kind of place, you can stay nearby at the Hampton Inn Billings. It’s just a five-minute drive to Riverfront Park for a morning walk, and you’ll get that tasty and always-free Hampton breakfast every day.
See Related: Fun & Best Things to do in Cheyenne, Wyoming
3. Pictograph Cave State Park
Just five miles south of Downtown Billings, you will find the prehistoric attraction that Billings may be best known for. Pictograph Cave State Park encompasses three caves known as the Pictograph, Middle, and Ghost Caves. Generations of humans lived here thousands of years ago.
The hunter-gatherers that called these caves home left behind rock paintings on the walls, called pictographs. Tens of thousands of artifacts have also been recovered from the site such as tools and weapons.
Visitors to the State Park have the opportunity to hike the loop connecting the caves and should consider bringing binoculars to view the cave art more closely. Bird watching is another favorite here, and picnic sites are available on-site.
There is a new visitor center with interactive displays and a gift shop. The entry fee for nonresidents is a fair $8. If you are looking for a more personalized private tour that will also show you some of the Native American heritage sites nearby, this boutique guided tour is a great option.
See Related: Things to Know Before Going to Zion National Park
4. Western Heritage Center
The Western Heritage Center is a historic building displaying western artifacts, photographs, exhibits, and stories in general. Their aim is to keep alive the history of the local settlers of the surrounding Yellowstone Valley and Northern Plains.
The center is a former affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution and continues to follow its exhibit and archival standards, making this a truly quality museum.
There are over 40,000 items in their collection like photographs, oral stories, tools, trinkets, historic firearms, clothing, and much more. There is even a genealogical center preserving the family trees of the area.
If you visit Billings, Montana, this is a super-interesting stop and an easy one even if you don’t plan on staying in the city. And if museums are your thing, you can easily combine this one with the Yellowstone Art Museum and the Moss Mansion Museum, which are all within walking distance from each other.
See Related: 29 Best Things to do in Missoula, Montana
5. Yellowstone County Museum
Another museum on our list but not in the historic district of Billings like the others is the Yellowstone County Museum, conveniently located at the city’s airport. This makes it an easy attraction to visit on your way in or out of the area.
Another reason to visit is the fact that admission is free! Its mission is to preserve the history of the Yellowstone River Basin and its resident natives, settlers, and pioneers. In fact, the entrance of the museum is a historic log cabin, built-in 1893.
Exhibits besides the historic cabin are the firearms museum, an old 1901 steam engine train, the Coulson City Saloon, and more. The great variety here combined with no cost for parking or admission make this one of the best free things to do in Billings.
See Related: Visiting Yellowstone in Winter
6. Lake Elmo State Park
If you want to enjoy some of the awesome fishing Montana is known for, or want to cool off from the summertime sun, Lake Elmo State Park is your place. This 123-acre park surrounds a large reservoir in the north of Billings.
This park is another great one for families and kids, thanks to all the fun that can be had on the water. Swimming, paddle boarding, kayaking, and boating are local favorites. You can also stroll around the lake on the easy trail, as well as fish from the pier. If you are bringing your dog along, this is one of the parks where they are very welcome with some simple rules.
Camping is not allowed, however, although you are welcome to bring picnic supplies and enjoy the park all day. If you happen to be visiting in the winter, ice fishing and ice skating are both possible on the lake – but dress warm!
7. Swords Park Trail
For a great view of this small city’s skyline and the surrounding hills, take a stroll along the trails of Swords Rimrock Park. This beautiful area of nature is in town making for easy access but feels like it is miles away.
The miles of paved trails make for easy hiking for people of all skills, leading to historical monuments and beautiful views above the town. It also has a great bit of Billings history within it.
The trail that runs through it is named after Black Otter, a Chief of the Crow Indians. Both he and Yellowstone Kelly, a famous Civil War veteran who famously explored the country’s west with some Native American companions, are laid to rest at a high point in the park.
See Related: Tourist-Friendly Native Indian Reservations to Visit
8. Moss Mansion
The home once belonged to the entrepreneur Preston Boyd Moss, a very important figure in early Billings history. The prominent Moss family was involved in local banking, the first dial telephone company in town, the local newspaper, and the central heating and utility company of Billings. Indeed, Mr. Moss was highly important to the development of Billings in the late 1800s and early 1900s.
Today the mansion is preserved as a time capsule of life in Billings and open to visitation by the public. They exhibit artifacts, stories, preserved rooms and architecture, and much more. You can take a self-guided tour, attend one of their educational programs, or enjoy one of their many events celebrating Billings.
If you want to hit all the museums and historic attractions of downtown Billings, most of them are conveniently within walking distance from each other. Staying in a local hotel makes it even easier, such as the Home2 Suites by Hilton Billings, which offers studios and suites for extra space and home-like amenities- perfect for families and budget travelers.
9. The Reef Indoor Water Park
Even in chilly Montana, sometimes we could use a little cool-down! Look no further than The Reef, Montana’s largest indoor water park. Don’t pass it off as one of the kid activities Billings has to offer, as it’s a ton of fun for everyone.
Located in the southwestern part of the city, this giant aquatic playground boasts a 55,000-gallon wave pool and a 20-person hot tub, besides all their other awesome slides and rides. Dry activities include an arcade sunbathing area on the patio.
The park is actually a part of the Big Horn Resort, Ascend Hotel Collection property. The hotel is modern and comfortable but also quite affordable, making it a great choice for accommodation during any trip to Billings. Guests also benefit from free parking and reduced admission prices to The Reef.
Don’t forget to bring a towel, which is required and not provided by the park. You will, however, find pizza and paninis available for purchase inside.
See Related: Best Spring Break Destinations for Families
10. Alberta Bair Theater
If you want to check out the entertainment in Billings, Montana, see what’s going on at the Alberta Bair Theater. This venue hosts all kinds of performances such as concerts, plays, comedy shows, and more.
The Alberta Bair Theater is a mainstay of Big Sky Country, bringing a host of entertainers to the area for over 80 years. While big-name performers often pass through this iconic venue, it’s also a great place for the community to come together and support local entertainment groups.
Check out the Billings Symphony Orchestra & Chorale, who often perform at the theater. For a small town, Billings has such an amazing orchestra. The mission of the orchestra is to enrich lives through music, and I definitely see how they do that.
11. Two Moon Park
Two Moon Park is a peaceful park just along the Yellowstone River. The park is named after the last chief of the Northern Cheyenne tribe. There’s a great picnic area in the park located just along the river, so it’s a great place to bring some lunch and relax.
There are several hiking trails and running trails found throughout the park ranging from 0.2 miles to 1 mile, so nothing too intense.
The trails are maintained by the Yellowstone River Parks Association so they are very safe for all activity levels.
12. Yellowstone Cellars & Winery
Located right on the outskirts of Billings and along the Yellowstone River, Yellowstone Cellars & Winery might be considered by some as one of the more unusual things to do in Billings. After all, would you expect to find wine out here?
Well, you certainly can, made and bottled right in Billings using grapes from the rich soil of the Pacific Northwest. One of the best things about Yellowstone Cellars is that wine tastings are complimentary and available without reservations.
The winery is a family business that just started in 2010. They take great pride in the quality of their products, ensuring that grapes are transported less than 13 hours after picking and immediately crushed, fermented, and barreled.
Besides making great wine, they have live music every Friday and Saturday night, so pair your drink with some great entertainment!
See Related: Best Wineries in Minnesota | Top Vineyards to Visit
13. Four Dances Natural Area
Also referred to as the Four Dances Recreation Area, this protected land consists of 765 acres just two miles east of downtown Billings. It sits atop a plateau above the Yellowstone River several hundred feet below.
You can imagine that the views from such a plateau are incredible, and there are plenty of trails leading to viewpoints that you can enjoy. Most hikers find them to be easy to moderate as a bonus. Four Dances should be considered an overall best of Billings attraction for its accessibility and breathtaking scenery.
The area is for the protection of the nature and wildlife that live within it, so bring your camera and binoculars. Leashed dogs are allowed, but motorized vehicles are not to protect the area for everyone’s enjoyment.
14. Zimmerman Park
Another fantastic park in Billings, the uniqueness of Zimmerman Park comes from the fact that it sits on the Rimrock – the geological rimrock sandstone formations that form a “rim” around Billings. It is another place to catch beautiful views of the city, the valley, and surrounding lands.
The trails here are mostly dirt, so bring decent hiking shoes. Besides the panoramas that await you from the rim edge, you’ll find some interesting moonscapes of boulders around the area.
Be careful- rattlesnakes live in these parts!
15. DanWalt Gardens
The DanWalt Gardens like to say that there is always something blooming in their gardens and that it is Billings’ best-kept secret! This botanical oasis is easily accessible from downtown, and isn’t far from the Riverfront Park, making it an easy addition to the hiking there.
DanWalt is open from May to October, the season that most visitors find themselves in Billings. Entry prices are very reasonable and group tours are available. There is an incredible variety of flowers that are all listed on their website along with their blooming seasons – a favorite here is their tulips.
If your visit to Billings is more than just a vacation, DanWalt is also a venue for weddings and events. Between the botanical and natural surroundings, it could be one of the most beautiful places to make these kinds of memories in Billings.
See Related: Best Gardens in Europe to Visit
16. Pompeys Pillar National Monument
This National Monument can be found just outside Billings less than a 30-minute drive to the northeast. Pompeys Pillar is a geological wonder emerging hundreds of feet from the banks of the Yellowstone River.
The monument is best known for the inscription that William Clark left on it during the Lewis and Clark Expedition, still visible today. This transportation back to the wild west of the 1800s is special for most people whether they love history or not.
In fact, Pompeys Pillar is significant for more than Lewis’ mark left on it. Many more people left their own evidence of living here over thousands of years, well before the settlers arrived.
The private tour of some of the best sites of the Billings area that we mentioned above also consists of a stop at Pompeys Pillar, but you can easily reach it by car on your own as well. Search Kayak and Skyscanner for the cheapest car rentals in Billings.
17. Yellowstone Wildlife Sanctuary
Moving a bit further from Billings, a drive out to the Yellowstone Wildlife Sanctuary can be well worth it for those on their way to the National Park or who don’t have time to make it all the way there. It’s just an hour away from Billings in the quaint little town of Red Lodge, just before the northern limits of Yellowstone.
The wildlife park is actually a rescue center for the wildlife that inhabit Yellowstone. While they are there for care and rehabilitation, visitors can have a chance to see them up close for an educational experience.
Besides the famous American Bison that the world comes to the Yellowstone area to see, you’ll find black bears, bobcats, coyotes, wolves, hawks, mountain lions, and much more here. It is really a special mix of local animals that you may not have a chance to see in the wild during your stay anyway, so this is a very worthwhile stop.
Many visitors like to make Red Lodge an overnight stop for its proximity to both Billings and Yellowstone (more on that below). There are a ton of vacation rental homes here, like this 2-bedroom 2-bathroom condo in historic downtown, which can provide you the space and savings to bring the whole family along.
See Related: A 5-Day Yellowstone Itinerary You’ll Want to Copy
18. Yellowstone National Park
Finally, in terms of things to do near Billings, Yellowstone National Park has to be number one. This National Park is so famous for very good reasons, and Billings can be a starting or ending point to get there.
Yellowstone is mostly in Wyoming and in a bit of Idaho, but Billings is just to the northeast of the park. After just a few hours’ drive, some of the most amazing wildlife, mountains, and geysers await.
If you are planning a trip to this part of the country, do NOT skip Yellowstone! There are plenty of outdoor activities like white water rafting, safari hiking tours, and so much more. If you are more into simply enjoying the drive, consider a self-driving audio-guided tour.
If you are making Billings your gateway to Yellowstone, you may want to stay on the road headed towards it. You can find beautiful houses along the river for rent, like this one, with lots of space and full kitchens. Families and budgeters will appreciate this!
Can you visit Billings, Montana with Yellowstone?
You certainly can! Despite being mainly in Wyoming, the eastern borders of Yellowstone National Park are less than two hours’ driving distance from Billings. The city is a great starting point for a Yellowstone trip.
What are the Billings, Montana things to do in the winter?
While winter is certainly the low season in Billings, there is still plenty to do. The various parks and trails are open and will be a snowy wonderland. Ice fishing is available on certain lakes. Finally, the various museums are all open and great places to visit.
How many days should you spend in Billings, Montana?
There is plenty to do in Billings, but most travelers don’t need more than a few days here. Many people like to make Billings a starting, ending, or intermediate point on a larger Montana trip as this great state has so much to offer.
Should I fly into Billings or do a road trip to Montana?
The Billings Airport has flights to a few of the major cities in the west, but a road trip to this part of the country will put you in awe. There are a ton of National Parks and natural wonders in all directions out here.
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