Visiting Billings? We call it home! Here’s what we recommend to do in Billings.
We have a deep love for Billings here at Travel Montana Now. We have all lived there at some point, Nancy still lives in Billings, the rest of us frequently visit, and we have many, many relatives who reside in Billings (we’re from a big family!). So when it comes to the best things to do in Billings, we consider ourselves to be experts on the subject!
Billings is often overlooked by travelers for the glitzy mountain towns and gorgeous national parks to the west, but it is well worth putting Billings onto your Montana travel itinerary. Flanked by picturesque farmlands to the east and towering mountains to the west, Billings is close to all the different types of scenery that Montana offers.
In the city, a burgeoning food and drink scene is starting to garner attention from the culinary world while outdoor enthusiasts are finding the thrill of adventures that can be done at “the rims.” Add in some ancient history to be found at state park and more recent history found right in town and you’ll quickly see why Billings should be a destination unto itself and not just a jumping off point for Yellowstone.
As for us, whether we’re hanging out at a brewery downtown or cuddled up at home playing card games with cousins, Billings is one of our favorite places in the world.
Sorry to say, we won’t be inviting you to that family card game. 😉 But we do have a long list of other things you can’t miss seeing and doing while in Billings.
The Best Sightseeing and Activities in Billings, Montana
Whether you’re looking for historic sites, cool architecture, interesting museums, good eats and drinks, or outdoor adventures, Billings has it all. Read on for our recommendations for the top things to see and do in Billings.
Moss Mansion was built in 1903 by a wealthy entrepreneur, P.B. Moss, and his wife, Mattie, who moved to Billings in 1892. The mansion was designed by Henry Janeway Hardenbergh, an architect who also designed the original Waldorf-Astoria Hotel and Park Hotel. Today, Moss Mansion is open to the public for tours and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
A bit more about the stately mansion: Moss Mansion stayed in the Moss family for almost a century — their middle child, Melville, lived in the house her entire life until she passed away in 1984, and she is credited with preserving much of the original aesthetic of the mansion. Having never married or had children, after her death the house was placed in the care of the Billings Preservation Society to be used as a museum and help preserve the turn of the 19th century history of Billings.
Billings Breweries Walking Tour
Billings has a thriving brewery scene and if you love a good craft beer, then checking a few of them out via the Billings Brew Trail is a top thing to do in Billings. It’s the only walkable brewery trail in Montana and it’s located right in downtown Billings.
The Visit Billings Tourism Board even makes it super easy for you to do so, with handy maps detailing where each brewery is and what each brewery is known for. Stop by the visitor center to pick up a map.
Read my article on doing a Billings Brewery Tour here.
Pictograph Cave State Park
This was the one “touristy” place in Billings that my dad (who used to live here) wanted to show my stepmom (who had never been here) when they visited here for the first time. And no wonder — with gorgeous natural surroundings, cave drawings you can see that are believed to be 2,000 years old, and located only 15 minutes outside of downtown Billings, this is a must-do attraction during your time in Billings.
The Depot is a hub of the Billings social scene. Most locals have been to a wedding here (including my sister’s!) and conference parties are often held here. It’s far from just being an awesome event space, though.
The building is of historical significance and is worth a visit whether you’re doing a self-guided Billings historical walking tour or you just like to see important and beautiful old buildings.
Yellowstone Kelly Memorial on the Rimrocks
Yellowstone Kelly was a renowned and respected American frontiersman. He had adventures all over the west, but had a deep love for Montana. Before he died in 1929, he requested that his body be buried in Montana, saying: “I feel my body will rest better in Montana.” Yellowstone Kelly was buried with full military honors at a site that overlooks the Yellowstone Valley.
The committee that served as the Chamber of Commerce at the time vowed to build a monument to honor him. It took longer than planned, but in 2017, it was erected atop the rimrocks and called the Yellowstone Kelly Interpretive Site. The memorial is located in Swords Rimrock Park and teaches visitors about the way he helped shape the Yellowstone Valley. You can walk along the trail and see his grave along with views of downtown Billings below.
Experience Billings Trail System via Foot or Bike
Seeing Yellowstone Kelly’s gravesite isn’t the only activity to do in Swords Rimrock Park. Billings is often referred to as Montana’s Trailhead and Swords is the gateway to all those trails.
Go hiking, jogging, or biking along this intricate trail system that has two miles of paves trails, plus a 5-miles trail that takes you down to the river. If you fly into Billings or don’t have your bicycle with you, you can even borrow one from Billings’ Visitor Information Center for the day for free (though you’ll still need a credit card to put down in case of damages).
From the trailhead, you can see all five mountain ranges that surround Billings in the distance: Absaroka-Beartooth, Big Horn, Bull, Crazy, and Pryor.
Yellowstone Art Museum
One of the top things to do in Billings for art enthusiasts is taking an amble through the Yellowstone Art Museum and appreciating the diverse art exhibits. The artists whose work is showcased in the museum are from around the world, though there are always local artists on exhibit. There is also an artist in residence program at Yellowstone Art Museum.
In addition to art, you’ll find a cafe onsite. Those looking to build an art collection at home can sometimes find pieces available for purchase in the YAM Consignment Gallery that is open from mid-March to mid-January.
Western Heritage Center
The name says it all for The Western Heritage Center in Billings — this is a museum that is dedicated to preserving the culture and history of the west, namely the people and places of the Yellowstone River Valley and the Northern High Plains.
The Western Heritage Center does so via permanent exhibits and traveling exhibits. The permanent collection features over 35,000 pieces of art and memorabilia, including Native American art and beadwork, old photographs, architectural drawings, western wear and past styles, oral histories, and much more.
Go Rock Climbing or Rappel down the Rimrocks
Steepworld is the local climbing gym in Billings and has a strong sense of community. My oldest nephew was climbing the walls there by the time he was three! While you can visit the indoor climbing gym and get a day pass to climb, experienced climbers can also enjoy the outdoor climbing world of Billings by rock climbing or rappelling down the side of the rimrocks.
My sister with lots of little kids loves taking her children here. The zoo is open and spacious and home to a wide range of animals. The tiger exhibit is especially great as you can get close to where the tigers walk.
ZooMontana has several play areas with climbing and sliding equipment plus inside spaces with hands-on learning stations and question/answer placards.
Located near the Convention Center, Riverfront Park is a large park with both natural and manmade areas. Those manmade ones include a sand volleyball court, large playground, and a park shelter with BBQ grills.
Riverfront Park is bordered by the Yellowstone River and you’ll also find Lake Josephine located within its premises. The walking and jogging trails through the park will take you past scenic lake and river views.
Find a little garden oasis in the middle of Billings at the DanWalt Garden.
It’s home to a myriad of flora, including fruit trees of the apricot, plum, pear, and apple variety. For flowers you’ll find beautiful roses, irises, and peonies. There is also a lovely walking trail, benches on which to take a break, and a quaint little bridge going over a peaceful water feature.
Yellowstone County Museum
If you’re looking for free things to do in Billings that are indoors, the Yellowstone County Museum is a good option. It’s located in a cute little cabin in Billings, but is chock full of memorabilia and artifacts, most dating from Montana’s wild west past and others detailing the history and culture of native tribes in th Montana. Outside the main museum is also an enclosure for an old steam engine train that was built in 1903.
Also of interest at the museum is an exhibit on the history of baseball in Billings. Though the city isn’t home to a major league team, rooting for the minor league team that plays for Billings is a popular pastime for residents. The exhibit discusses this team as well as other baseball pastimes in Montana that are important to the community, such as Little League.
Downtown Billings Fun
Downtown Billings is great fun for a night out. The dance clubs have a mix of top 40 hits and country tunes to dance to while the dive bars are laidback and unpretentious for those not wanting to get all dolled up — ok, it’s Montana; even if you go to the dance clubs, you can wear jeans and a t-shirt and no one will look twice!
For dancing I like Daisy Dukes Saloon and Dance Hall. Just to hang out and enjoy a good drink, I enjoy Hooligan’s Sports Bar.
The downtown area also has a number of casinos, many of which are little gambling areas connected to bars and restaurants.
If you’re hungry while downtown, some of our favorite places to eat downtown include:
- Montana Brewing Company
- The Fieldhouse
- Last Chance Pub & Cidermill
For the morning after your night on the town, head to The Sassy Biscuit for some incredible brunch — try the cookie butter waffles!
Yummy Dessert in Billings — a Local Favorite
For dessert, head to Wilcoxson’s Ice Cream Co. on 19th street and buy some ice cream. We have family members who turn up their nose at any ice cream that’s not Wilcoxson’s and Wilcoxson’s fudgesicles are basically a family obsession and have been for decades — I can’t remember a time when my grandparents’ fridge hasn’t been stocked with them!
Must-Try Local Specialty Coffee
Us coffee lovers who hang out a lot in Billings get happy at this sight: the cute little kiosk of Mountain Mudd Coffee Espresso. Mountain Mudd has been around the city since 2004 and serves up some of the best coffee around in a convenient, friendly setting.
You’ll see their kiosks all around Billings. We usually go to the kiosks located off Shiloh and Grand, but we’ve had great coffee and service from all of them. Try the Mocha Mudd Espresso drink or the Huckleberry Frappe. Yum!
Enjoy Your Time in Billings!
Hope you have a fun and memorable time in Billings doing these historical, delicious, and outdoorsy activities that make up the best things to do in Billings. Maybe we’ll see you out there! 🙂