Helena is the state capital of Montana and traces its roots back to the 1800s, when it was a mining camp. It still remains today as one of the city’s most prominent features and has served as the state capital of Montana since 1875, shortly after it became a state. Helena is rich in history with all kinds of tales to tell.
Helena is Montana’s capital city and a major tourism destination. The picturesque Mount Helena backdrop provides miles upon miles of hiking trails to explore.
Helena offers a lot of interesting walks and activities for tourists such as the Capital Building, the Pedestrian Mall, and nearby museums.
Make your trip to Helena the best possible with our list of things to do in the city.
1. Visit the Montana State Capitol
The State Capitol overlooking Helena has proudly served the people and looked over the town for nearly a century. The pinnacle dome and “Lady Liberty” atop the building add an extra sense of presence, while the Greek columns at one point lend an aura of importance to this now historic structure.
The stunning beauty and craftsmanship of the Capitol is found within the interior, so any member of the public is welcome to visit during daily operating hours. Some areas of interest in the capitol are the Old Law Library, the West Rotunda, and a whole lot of pieces of statehood paintings and art that decorate throughout it.
Attractions & Things to Do in Helena, MT. The Capitol is open 7 days a week with limited hours on the weekends. It’s closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years Day. Admission is free.
Address: 1301 East Sixth Avenue, Helena, Montana
2. Stroll around Last Chance Gulch & the Downtown Pedestrian Mall
Helena, Montana got its start on Helena Creek where prospectors discovered gold in 1864. Last Chance Gulch remains a rich cultural area of the city today, and is also the heart of a quaint downtown district.
Businesses and storefronts span both sides of Last Chance Gulch, which locals may refer to as Main Street. South of Sixth Street, Last Chance Gulch is landscaped pedestrian mall and an exceedingly popular place to stroll around. Several aesthetic features intersperse this vehicle-free downtown area, including historic buildings, statues, and a retired Trolley Car.
This neighborhood boasts a lively shopping area Attractions & Things to Do in Helena, MT, restaurants that provide fine dining for all tastes, an outdoor patio for al fresco dining and recreational shopping. There is also a vibrant nightlife scene in this area of town.
3. Take a Hike at Mount Helena City Park
Mount Helena is an iconic landmark of Attractions & Things to Do in Helena, MT and it’s the city’s flagship natural attraction. It has over 600 acres and it has several miles of hiking trails. One of the most popular routes, the 1906 Trail, leads to the summit for dramatic views.
The 1906 Trail provides an otherwise difficult, but satisfying hike with 1,100 feet of elevation gain in 0.7 miles. The views from the summit are worth it though. A different way to reach the summit is found on the incredibly steep Powerline Trail which covers the same elevation in 1.6 miles.
A network of trails exist in every park, and some are easily accessible while geography allows. It implies that they lie on a different level rather than near each other and so it helps to have a GPS app when visiting the park for the first time or when doing a long hike.
4. Step Back in History at Reeder’s Alley
With buildings dating back to the 1870s and filled with storefronts from the 1800s, Reeder’s Alley presents a special glimpse into Helena’s early history. This preserved alleyway is now located in downtown. Today, it is also filled with modern businesses and offices including a restaurant, office space for Attractions & Things to Do in Helena, MT and more.
Interpretive signs and information enhance a stroll through the area, as well as feel like you’ve stepped into the past. The nearby Pioneer Cabin is the oldest registered domicile in the city. In addition to tours of the cabin, you can also ask for a tour of Jackson’s Bar located onsite and visit Jackson’s Grave.
Address: 212 South Park Avenue, Helena, Montana
5. Dive Deep into History with the Montana Historical Society
Montana’s Museum is located in beautiful, hard-to-miss proximity to the Montana State Capitol. In addition to many galleries, the museum features stunningly detailed displays of its state’s rich history.
The American Museum of the Crow Indians, located in The Montana Room, is a great place to learn about the historical interactions between Native Americans and European settlers. Some of the most popular permanent exhibits include the Charles M. Russell Gallery, collections detailing Lewis and Clark’s interactions with Montana, and an immersive look into the Montana frontier and its past pioneers.
The museum’s vast collections comprise thousands of artifacts. Numerous educational and social events are also facilitated by the Historical Society every month, including tours and special summer train tours.
Address: 225 Roberts Street, Helena, Montana
6. Find Inspiration at the Cathedral of Saint Helena
The twin spires of the Cathedral of Saint Helena have been a recognizable feature of the city for over a century. It was heavily damaged by an earthquake in 1935 and has been restored significantly many times throughout its history. It is an architectural wonder that has always played a large role in how people perceive Fort Collins.
Attractions & Things to Do in Helena, MT Anyone can attend services at the cathedral, and guided tours are available during weekdays between Memorial Day and Labor Day. The stained glass windows at the cathedral make a visit worth your while, and simply strolling around their grounds by the green grass is a way to enjoy this building’s beauty.
Address: 530 North Ewing Street, Helena, Montana
7. Follow in the Steps of Lewis and Clark at Gates of the Mountain Wilderness Area
Gates of the Mountain National Recreation Area is located 20 miles north of Helena, MT and is home to deep geological formations, towering limestone cliffs and a sense of grandeur. Established in 1904, this recreation area preserves one-of-a-kind history and beauty that the Corps of Discovery experienced before it introduced Meriwether Lewis to the term Gates of the Mountain.
Miles of hiking trails wind throughout the area, and surrounding picnic areas encourage visitors to enjoy lunch with a view. Boat tours are a popular way to experience Gates of the Mountain, which can be enjoyed throughout the summer. Tours include a guided narration about the history and dramatic geology of the area.
8. Enjoy a Stop at Holter Museum of Art
The Holter Museum is Attractions & Things to Do in Helena, MT a cultural hub of the city, host to art exhibits that range from regional to national to international. The permanent installation includes rotating displays related to modern culture and events, and includes a variety of art forms.
Admission to the museum is free, and donations are greatly appreciated. The museum hosts numerous events throughout the year, including family trivia nights, fall art walks and artist speaker series. Educational programs at the museum include classes and workshops for all age levels. Attractions & Things to Do in Helena, MT The museum also offers extra-special occasions for group gatherings where the entire facility can be rented out.
Address: 12 East Lawrence Street, Helena, Montana
9. Conduct a Family-Friendly Experiment at ExplorationWorks
Exploration Works is Attractions & Things to Do in Helena, MT a science museum dedicated to providing fun activities for people of all ages. The main collection includes several hands-on exhibits, as well as a discovery area for children under five. Guests can also participate in educational training and workshops on site or through summer camps or community groups.
Community events like the ones available at the Kids Fairs on Saturdays and Sundays add to the appeal of the educational space. One specific family series that you might not want to miss is Tinker Labs, which offers a fun experiment for kids and parents to enjoy. The museum also offers Explore Kits which are free for teachers.
The Exploration Works outdoor plaza provides an enjoyable entrance to the museum. The Great Northern Carousel is a popular location for birthday parties as well as children’s events, a favourite at the museum since 2002. This carousel features several hand carved animals that are lifelike and fantastical, like grizzly bears and cutthroat trout, loping bighorn sheep, and more.
Address: 995 Carousel Way, Helena, Montana
10. Bring a Dog to Centennial Park
Centennial Park is an expansive landscaped space filled with sports fields, playgrounds and beautifully decorated monuments. The park is off of the main road in a nice area, just northwest of downtown DC. Extensive baseball fields and ample lawn give the place lots to do. Throughout the path system there are various exercise options available. It is one of the best Attractions & Things to Do in Helena, MT.
The “Paws Park” dog park is a popular spot in Centennial for people and their dogs to go to the same place, with separate areas for big and little-sized dogs. The water spigots, benches, and amenities are spread throughout the different areas of the dog park.
Centennial offers a space where people with mobility issues or those who have physical limitations can enjoy the outdoors. There is also a skate park, which is 17,000-square feet and accommodates every activity imaginable: skating, rollerblading and scooters.
Address: 200 North Last Chance Gulch, Helena, Montana
11. Explore Underground at Lewis & Clark Caverns State Park
Lewis and Clark Caverns State Park is Montana’s first state park and is one of the most elaborate cave systems in the Northwest. It is only accessible with guided tours, which take place between May and September.
Three tours are offered by the park, including a guided tour, an advanced, and a more difficult. – The three levels offer different comfort levels with each tour.
Lewis & Clark State Park has an ample campsites, as well as provides multiple levels of hiking trails that sprouts out from the ground above the cave system to remain open after the caves close.
At the state park visitor center, we have recently renovated areas to offer information on complex geological and historic features of the area. Check it out!
Address: 25 Lewis & Clark Caverns Road, Whitehall, Montana
12. Enjoy the Change of Seasons at Spring Meadow Lake State Park
On the western edge of the city with an impressive view of Mount Helena, Spring Meadow Lake State Park is a popular family destination to experience nature. The lake at Spring Meadow Lake State Park is the central attraction and giving visitors the opportunity to swim, fish, skate or boat. During the summer, there are also many opportunities for personal floats on the water. Spring Meadow Lake State Park has free rental for personal flotation devices.
The park has shaded areas that overlook the waterfront where you can relax on a picnic. The trail is only a mile around, so there’s a chance to see wildlife along it.
Address: 2715 Country Club Avenue, Helena, Montana
13. Ski at Great Divide
Great Divide Ski Area is a ski resort near Helena, Montana. Great Divide has five lifts and over 100 runs that offer new challenges every day, which extend through late November to March. The ski season runs from late November to March with occasional schedules throughout April.
Boasting an early opening season and family-friendly reputation, Great Divide is also at the top of its class in terms of value, with a family of four able to ski for $200 or less on peak during the 2021/22 season.
Address: 7385 Belmont Drive, Marysville, Montana
14. Tour the Original Governor’s Mansion
The Governor’s Mansion is on the US National Register, and was built as a personal residence in 1988. The mansion began housing the Governor and relatives since 1913 and has served nine different families over nearly 50 years.
Today, the Montana Historical Society operates this house and it is open to be seen in May and September. It has over 150 years of history and looks as if it has always been lived in. Within the house, you can see artifacts that will provide insights into what life was like in the early twentieth century in Montana.
Address: 304 North Ewing Street, Helena, Montana