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 an excellent 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 Billings has so many fun things to do and attractions. If you want to learn some of Montana’s history, eat local cuisine, visit art museums, and much more before you explore Montana, don’t hesitate to visit Billings first.
Montana 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.
Boothill Inn and Suites provides all guests with a spacious, modern room, complete with free Wi-Fi, a flat-screen TV and air conditioning. A hot breakfast is served at each morning and the front desk can help book tours of Yellowstone National Park if desired.
Featuring 3-star accommodation, Ledgestone Hotel Billings is located in Billings, 7.8 km from MetraPark and 4.7 km from Deaconess Medical Center of Billings Inc Heliport. At the hotel, every room is fitted with a desk, a flat-screen TV, a private bathroom, bed linen and towels. All units at Ledgestone Hotel Billings include air conditioning and a wardrobe. The accommodation offers a business centre, free WiFi access, laundry service and free private parking.
Hotel Northern offers a convenient location in downtown Billings, Montana. Walking distance to museums, shopping, and dining, the hotel is situated right off the interstate with plenty of parking for your convenience. Just minutes away from Yellowstone National Park or the airport, let the hotel be your home base while you explore all that Billings has to offer.
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 place to stay – Hampton Inn Billings
Things to Do in Billings, Montana
There are plenty of fun things if you are wondering what to do in Billings, Montana. Whether it is adults-only or kids’ activities, Billings has it all. Most Billings activities revolve around the area’s natural beauty, but even the less outdoorsy travelers will find things they enjoy here.
1. Yellowstone Art Museum
The Yellowstone Art Museum houses historical 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 the Montana Collection. It has become one of their most popular exhibits.
The museum offers camps for kids, classes for adults, 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 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 has 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: Things to Do in Cheyenne, Wyoming
3. Pictograph Cave State Park
Five miles south of Downtown Billings, you will find the prehistoric attraction for which Billings may be best known. Pictograph Cave State Park encompasses three caves: 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. Thousands of artifacts, such as tools and weapons, have been recovered from the site.
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 showing 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 historical building displaying Western artifacts, photographs, exhibits, and stories in general. They aim 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 with the Yellowstone Art Museum and the Moss Mansion Museum, all within walking distance.
See Related: 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. 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, makes 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 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 and 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, 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 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 walk along the trails of Swords Rimrock Park. This beautiful area of nature is in town, making for easy access, but it 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 significant 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 crucial 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 Billings’s central heating and utility company. Indeed, Mr. Moss was indispensable 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 is open to visitation by the public. They exhibit artifacts, stories, preserved rooms, 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 slight cool-down! Look no further than The Reef, Montana’s largest indoor water park. Please don’t pass it off as one of Billings’ kid activities, 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 a part of the Big Horn Resort, Ascend Hotel Collection property. The hotel is modern and comfortable but also quite affordable, making it an excellent 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 various 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 unite 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 orchestra’s mission 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. The park has a great picnic area just along the river, so it’s a great place to bring some lunch and relax.
Several hiking trails and running trails are found throughout the park ranging from 0.2 miles to 1 mile, so nothing too intense. The Yellowstone River Parks Association maintains the trails, 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!
See Related: Best & Fun Things to Do in West Yellowstone
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 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 a rescue center for the wildlife inhabiting 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 a unique mix of local animals you may not have a chance to see in the wild during your stay anyway, so this is a worthwhile stop.
Many visitors like to make Red Lodge an overnight stop for its proximity to Billings and Yellowstone (more on that below). There are many 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!
How to Get To & Around Billings, Montana
Before we jump into the tourist attractions and fun stuff close by, you might wonder 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. Its location makes it a great starting point to see Montana and parts of Wyoming and Idaho.
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 the availability in the city to get the lowest prices.
Can you visit both Billings, Montana, and 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 undoubtedly 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 major cities in the west, but a road trip to this part of the country will leave you in awe. There are a ton of National Parks and natural wonders in all directions out here.