Montanan’s Guide for Great Falls: What to Do, Things to See & Where to Stay
Great Falls has the tagline of “Genuine Montana,” and with so many things to do that range from fly fishing to skiing to mountaineering to following the trail of Lewis and Clark, it’s no wonder.
Great Falls isn’t just about the adventure; it’s also a burgeoning arts community and is known as Montana’s Museum capital with several things to do in Great Falls just focused around art and museum exhibits. Among Montanans, Great Falls is well known for its history, beer, and mermaids.
Wait…did you say mermaids?
Yup, one of the top things to do in Great Falls involves mermaids. Read on for that and our recommendations for all of the best things to see and do while in Great Falls, Montana.
Best Things to Do in Great Falls
We’ve split this guide into four parts based on the outdoors, history, art, family, and food and drink. Let’s start with the outdoor activities since they’re one of the main draws of Great Falls.
Outdoorsy Things to Do in Great Falls
Fly Fish in the Missouri River
The great Missouri River runs right through Great Falls, and one of the best ways to experience it is on a fly fishing excursion. You’ll find fly shops right in town renting gear you’ll need and you can do it on your own if you know what you’re doing, or sign up for a group outing with a guide, or even take a beginner’s class.
Great Falls of the Missouri River
This thing to do will help you understand how Great Falls got its name and its nickname of the Electric City since it is home to five major waterfalls along the Missouri River that power five hydroelectric dams. The five falls are Black Eagle Falls, Colter Falls, Rainbow Falls, Crooked Falls, and the Great Falls.
If you only see one of the Great Falls of the Missouri River, make it Black Eagle Falls. This spectacular waterfall is 35 feet high and an impressive 782 feet wide. It is part of the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail.
Gibson Park is a charming state park in Great Falls that offers a variety of amenities. Visitors can sit on the grass or a park bench and simply enjoy the leafy ambiance and colorful flowers as you take in gorgeous river views.
Visitors can also get their heart rate pumping with a brisk walk down one of the park’s walking trails that weave through flower gardens in the spring and summer. Those looking for things to do in Great Falls with kids will appreciate Gibson Park’s large playground.
Lastly, don’t miss checking out the Historic Vinegar Jones Cabin located on the premises of Gibson Park.
Giant Springs State Park
Giant Springs State Park is home to one of the largest freshwater springs in the country. You can view the spring while walking along the park’s trail system, which covers two miles. Adding to the spring’s acclaim is the fact that it was discovered in 1805 by Lewis and Clark.
Picnic facilities are also located in the park and you can enjoy a picnic with views of the Missouri River. From Giant Springs State Park you can also see Rainbow Falls, a popular fall to see of th five Great Falls of the Missouri River.
Rivers Edge Trail
If you like hiking or bicycling, the Rivers Edge Trail is an incredible network of trails that cover 53 miles and connects directly to some of the top things to do in Great Falls.
From Rivers Edge Trail, you can access the historic downtown, the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Museum, Rainbow Falls, Giant Springs State Park, and many more parks and attractions.
The trail journey itself is great for nature lovers as it takes you through trees and valleys with gorgeous views of river canyons, mountains, and waterfalls.
Historic Things to Do in Great Falls
Tenth Street Bridge
The Tenth Street Bridge in Great Falls is a historic bridge that stretches across the Missouri River for 1,130 feet. It was built in 1920. When it was built, it was the longest open-spandrel ribbed concrete arch bridge in Montana and it’s still the oldest such bridge in Montana.
This bridge used to be the only way to cross the river, but today it is still undergoing preservation plans and can’t be accessed. Still, you can see the historic bridge and its eight arches stretching across the the Missouri from the banks of the river.
Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center
Learn more about Lewis and Clark’s expedition at this informative center that has a number of sculptures, dioramas, videos, and hands-on displays to teach you about the journey of these two famous explorers.
In addition to the information found inside, you can walk along the center’s walking paths that have stunning views of the mountains and the land that was traversed by Lewis and Clark two centuries ago.
Self-Guided Walking Tour of Great Falls’ Historic District
Great Falls is home to a number of historical buildings and the city makes it easy for you to do a guided tour. Simply stop by the visitor center, pick up a map, and begin your journey while you stop to read about each point of interest.
Notable architecture styles you’ll see on a historical walk through Great Falls’ Lower Northside include Colonial Revival, Tudor, Craftsman, Prarie, Second Empire, and Queen Anne style homes.
First People’s Buffalo Jump State Park
Learn about the importance of buffalo jumps to Montana’s native people with a visit to this unique park, which is home to the largest buffalo jump in North America.
A buffalo jump involved the herding of buffalo and driving them to their death over the edge of a cliff. It may sound violent, but buffalo jumps were an important part of Native American culture and livelihood.
Another thing honoring the buffalo history of Great Falls is an artistic endeavor: the Great Falls Buffalo Hunt. And that leads us into our next section of things to do in Great Falls: The Arts.
Artsy Things to Do in Great Falls
Do the Great Falls Buffalo Hunt
Located all around Great Falls are artistic renderings of buffalos. You can go on a hunt around town to find all of these fiberglass buffalo sculptures that are colorful and creative. Make the hunt easier by getting the location points here.
C.M. Russell Museum
See the paintings of a cowboy — and one of the e most renowned old western artists in the world — at the C.M. Russell Museum in Great Falls. The museum is named after that aforementioned cowboy and proudly displays many of his works of art in the museum. The museum is located on the property where he and his wife lived and you can also tour the house they resides in and walk around the adjacent grounds.
Paris Gibson Square Museum of Art
See contemporary art with a Montana flair at the Paris Gibson Square Museum of Art. The Museum is dedicated to preserving the works of contemporary and self-taught artists in Montana.
In addition to all the art inside, the actual building that art is housed in is of architectural significance. It was built in 1896 and features a sandstone exterior. It served as a school until the 1970s and then was reopened as an art and cultural center, and continues to thrive as one today.
Family Fun in Great Falls
Electric City Water Park
Escape the Montana summer heat at the Electric City Water Park in Great Falls. This is an outdoor thing to do, so the water park is only opened seasonally when it’s warm out. Kids and adults alike will have a blast on Montana’s only 3-in-a-ro Flow Rider, or taking it easy on the Lazy River. There is also a massive plunge water slide called the Power Tower as well as a large circular one. Families will no doubt like hanging out near the children’s water play structure, which is the largest in Montana.
Children’s Museum of Montana
If you’re traveling with kids, the Children’s Museum of Montana is definitely at the top of the list for best things to do in Great Falls. It has a hands-on approach and a low entrance fee.
It has interactive exhibits where little hands can touch and move things around to learn more about the world and their environment. Exhibits include a play hospital, play credit union, frontier homestead recreation, plus exhibits where they can learn more about math, science, and Montana’s culture.
Mermaid Tales and Beer Trails in Great Falls
Watch Mermaids at Sip ‘n Dip
Alright, it’s time to talk about those mermaids. Montana might be far from the first place you’ll think of for beach and ocean ambiance, but that’s just what you’ll find at Sip ‘n Dip, a wildly unique and fun restaurant that’s main feature is — you guessed it — mermaids.
Walk into Sip n’ Dip restaurant and you’ll immediately notice the beachy decor. Glance at the menu and you’ll discover fruity Mai Tais and other island sounding fare on the menu. Then let your eyes linger to the far wall (ok, let’s be honest, this is probably the first thing you’ll be looking at) and you’ll see a large pool with what appears to be real live mermaids swimming in it.
These mermaids are actually humans just like you and me, but they have perfected the art of gracefully swimming around underwater with a large mermaid tail covering their legs!
Go on the Great Falls Beer Trail
Great Falls is home to several breweries. In addition to great beer, what makes these breweries special is that they source their barley for the beer within 50 miles of Great Falls and then malted right in Great Falls.
Located right in downtown is The Mighty Mo Brew Co, Jeremiah Johnson Brewing Company, and Harvest Moon Brewery. A bit farther outside of downtown is Black Eagle Brewery.
Where to Stay in Great Falls, Montana
Planning to spend a night or two (or longer) in Great Falls? Here are a few recommended options:
Springhill Suites by Marriott Great Falls: For some more space, opt for the suites at Springhill Suites by Marriott. This Great Falls hotel also has free Wi-Fi, an indoor pool, and a gorgeous location right by the river with an outdoor fire pit overlooking the water.
Heritage Inn: For a budget-friendly stay that still has some local charm, check out Heritage Inn. It also has an onsite indoor pool and an adjacent casino and sports bar.
Getting to Great Falls, MT
Now that you’re excited for all the things to do in Great Falls, here’s how you get there.
The closest major airport in Montana is Bozeman, which is 178 miles from Great Falls (about a 3-hour drive). Billings has Montana’s other international airport, which is roughly 220 miles away. However, don’t despair if you don’t want to spend tons of time driving to Great Falls. The city is also home to the Great Falls International Airport, albeit a much smaller one and one which is usually more expensive to fly into than Billings or Bozeman.
If you’re traveling to or from Great Falls to one of Montana’s National Parks, it’s 222 miles to Glacier National Park and 217 miles to Yellowstone National Park.
You’ll want to rent a car to get there if you’re not road tripping to Montana since public transportation can be sporadic and you’ll likely want flexibility to stop at viewpoints and other Montana attractions along the way.