11 Top-Rated Attractions To Visit In Helena (2023)
Only a few cities in the West are rich in history, art, and fun. And one of the best entries in this list is undoubtedly Helena. Montana’s State capital, the city of Helena, was discovered initially during the Montana Goldrush as a gold camp. Due to the cause, it started becoming wealthy, contributing to the state’s never stopping development. Though Montana is one of the mountain states, Helena will still offer a city-like vibe. It has a lot of foundations that add to its economic growth, tourism also is one of them.
Tourism in Helena stays lively throughout the year; the primary season, though, goes from May to February. Surrounding the Helena city limits lies the iconic Montana mountains and landscapes. Whereas within the boundaries, there are several indoor tourism attractions. Whether you are a history buff, Museum lover, or have a soft corner for art, you will never fall short of options in Helena. Stating that, here is a list full of popular tourist attractions in Helena. Have a look and add your favorites to your itinerary.
11 Top-Rated Attractions To Visit In Helena
1. Montana State Capitol
You cannot visit a capital city and miss the State Capitol building. The Montana State Capitol is located at 1301 East 6th Ave in Helena, open for public visiting throughout the year. From the outside, its Greek neoclassical architectural style, along with the tall dome and “Lady Liberty” perched on its top, impresses to no ends. If you are an architecture lover, the view alone will please your heart. Though for observing more craftsmanship, a visit inside the capital building is necessary. Visiting inside is possible from Monday through Friday from 7 am to 6 pm. Some notable elements include the four famous archetypes painting (from 1902) Old Law Library and the Capitol Rotunda. Admission inside the capital building is free for all, though note that it stays closed on the weekend and at National festivals.
2. Cathedral of St. Helena
The Cathedral of St. Helena is a must-visit tourist attraction in Helena. This breathtakingly beautiful structure was built back in 1924 and is popular among tourists for its architectural presence. Today one can visit here for guided cathedral tours, public services, and other spiritual purposes. Upon touring it from inside, you will observe a vast collection of stained-glass windows, an elaborate bronze altar canopy, the grillwork, and the gilding of the interior. These windows aren’t just visually appealing but also narrate the story of the fall from grace of Adam and Eve. Once done with the insides, take a stroll on the property’s exterior on the beautifully manicured gardens. The landscape backdrop observing the Cathedral of St. Helena from outside is delightful regardless of the season.
3. Downtown Helena
Located at the base of Mt. Helena, the most historic mile in Montana is Downtown Helena. This prosperous city got its start, and thus the area is also known as the Last Chance Gulch. It is where prospectors found gold back in 1864, and the area is still a wealth of history. The ideal way to explore this region is via walking tours. From several notable stops, some of the must-visit include Helena’s oldest home, the Pioneer Cabin, and Caretaker’s House. Or stop at the California Wine House, Colwell Building, and the Yee Wau Cabin. Right away from the main street is the Reeder’s Alley, a local’s and tourist’s favorite. Supremely aesthetic, downtown Helena is a vehicle-free area, thus safer to bring kids and elders. It is also a popular shopping, eating, and drinking spot.
4. Helena National Forest
Located in west-central Montana, the Helena National Forest is also known as Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest. This nature’s wonder is spread over 984,558 acres, divided into various sections. Its western section is home to the Bob Marshall Wilderness and the Scapegoat Wilderness area, the eastern section to the Gates of the Mountains Wilderness, and the southern section to the Elkhorn Mountains. Upon exploring the forest, one can observe a sustainable population of North American brown bears, also known as Grizzly bears. Other wildlife includes black beer, mule deer, elk, mountain lions, Canadian lynx, antelope, and more. There are 1000 miles of developed trails availing for hiking, biking, skiing, snowmobiling, and horseback riding. Visitors also enjoy picnicking and camping inside the forest. You may also find numerous fishing streams, lakes, and pleasant waterfalls.
5. Great Divide Ski Area
The Great Divide Ski Area is your mandatory stop if you visit Helena during winters. Half an hour northwest of Helena, this ski area is a prominent winter wonderland, ideally amongst skiing enthusiasts. Covering 1600 acres of skiable terrain, it is home to over 100 trails, five lifts, three mountain peaks, and three picturesque valleys. Regardless of one’s age and skiing skills, there is something to do for everyone. For novices, there is the Backyard beginners’ slope. Though visitors who already know the skills can access the Meadow Mountain, Wild West, and the Snow Zone. Or for night skiing under the artificial lights, consider visiting here on Fridays. The Divide Ski Area has a reputation of fair value as a group/ family of 3 to 4 can enjoy here for close to $200. They even offer several discounts throughout the year.
6. The Original Governor’s Mansion
Another attraction for architecture enthusiasts, the Original Governor’s Mansion, is in the Queen Anne style. It has served 9 Montana governors and their families during its operating years for over five decades. Today, the Montana Historical Society owns the building and is open for public exploration. One can visit here from May through September for guided tours. Upon visiting inside, you will observe period-authentic furniture and decorations along with refurbished interiors. Everything is precisely set for lending insights into how life looked back then. A tour here is all about peeking into the affluent lifestyle that the wealthy’s lived during the early 1900s. Admiring the splendors of this extravagant mansion is fun on its own.
7. Spring Meadow Lake State Park
The Spring Meadow Lake State Park is another outdoor recreational spot in Helena. This popular family destination is located on the western edge of the city. The park is spread over 30 acres, with Spring Meadow Lake as its central attraction. This also makes it a popular spot for swimming, sunbathing, fishing, and scuba diving. Depending upon the frozen lake layer during winters, it also avails for ice skating. Another attractive feature of the park is the 8 miles long hiking, walking, and cross-country skiing trails. Besides that, there are numerous shaded picnic areas, short nature trails across the lake, and various local and harmless wildlife. Though the park is an ultimate year-round destination, the winter and spring seasons are more outstanding. Lastly, it also hosts several periodic and annual events throughout the year.
8. Holter Museum of Art
Located in the heart of downtown Helena, the Holter Museum of Art is a gem of Montana. Art isn’t just a means of display here, but they even teach, create, interpret, and preserve it in various forms. Work from regional to national and international artists, their collection is a massive mixture of multiple varieties. Their permanent collection is home to contemporary Montana art and works from the Northwest. Whereas the rotational display deals in a wide variety of art forms. The museum hosts several annual events, educational programs, art classes, and workshops. If you are an artist or an art lover visiting the Holter Museum in Helena is necessary. Especially when admissions here are always free, there are no excuses to miss this place. The museum operates from Tuesday through Friday from 10 am to 5:30 pm and until 4 pm on Sunday.
9. Montana Historical Society Museum
Another great stop for museum buffs is the Montana Historical Society in Helena. Also known as Montana’s Museum, it aims to trace the state’s culture, history, art, and native artifacts. Their display is a massive collection of over 50,000 artifacts focusing on historical, archaeological, and ethnological elements. This vast collection doesn’t overwhelm, considering it is divided into several galleries. Some of the highlights include the Charles M. Russell Gallery and the Native American gallery. The region’s indigenous populations’ history and daily lives also have a dedicated section here. Every single element here is majestic in purpose and presentation. This would be an exciting place for groups and families.
10. Myrna Loy Center
The Myrna Loy Center is a performing art center located in Helena. The center lends its name from Myrna Loy, the first lady of film in Montana. Inside the center are a screening room, an auditorium, three significant theatres, and a gallery. Upon your visit here, you can enjoy performing art in the form of dance, music, films, and literature. They have a show for every day, and details for the same are available on their official website. To one’s surprise, this marvelous center is located inside an over 100-year-old county jail, and one can still observe antique integrity relating to the same. Before going back, do not dare to miss the Jailhouse Gallery displaying beautiful local artwork.
11. Blackfoot River Brewing Company
The Blackfoot River Brewing Co. is a hopping taproom and microbrewery in Helena. It is known for some of the finest traditionally handcrafted beers. The best part is that they only use the traditional ingredients specially used for different types of beer. Every sip you take here is assumingly of the highest quality possible. For first-timers or those who cannot decide, they offer 12 oz. Glasses of beer or a tray full of sampling varieties. Their taproom has a great downtown atmosphere ideal for enjoying with your partner or friends. NOTE: The Montana drinking law limits liquor consumption to 48 ounces per person, per day; hence be mindful.