Everyone knows that Montana is “Big Sky Country,” but part of what makes it possible to appreciate the sweeping sky is the flat expanse of the Great Plains that cover part of the state. Located in the southeastern corner of Montana, Billings sits on the border between the Great Plains and the Rocky Mountains to the west – giving you a chance to enjoy the best that both geographies have to offer!
If you’re planning a trip to Billings, you might wonder what there is to do. Billings is Montana’s largest city, and home to about 110,000 people, so there’s actually plenty to do for any interest you have. Whether you love the outdoors, arts and culture, or just a surprisingly great glass of wine, there are plenty of great things to do in Billings, and here are some of the best.
In this post, I promote travel to a destination that is the traditional lands of the Apsáalooke (Crow), Tséstho’e (Cheyenne), Očhéthi Šakówiŋ, and Niitsítpiis-stahkoii ᖹᐟᒧᐧᐨᑯᐧ ᓴᐦᖾᐟ (Blackfoot / Niitsítapi ᖹᐟᒧᐧᒣᑯ) peoples. With respect, I make a formal land acknowledgment, extending my appreciation and respect to the past and present people of these lands. To learn more about the peoples who call these lands home, I invite you to explore Native Land.
1. Explore Pictograph Cave State Park
Before Billings was Billings, its lands served as home to prehistoric humans who left vestiges of their existence on the walls of caves. Pictograph Cave State Park preserves some fascinating rock art and pictographs that the first humans wrote about 10,000 years ago.
Visitors can hike the steep trail leading up to the cave that holds pictographs. There’s also a visitor center with interesting displays explaining who created the pictographs and their meaning.
The park also has stunning wildlife and shaded picnic tables to spend the day.
2. Stroll through DanWalt Gardens
DanWalt Gardens is Billings’s best-kept secret! This English-style garden is a feast for your eyes and nose. The beautiful landscaping showcases colorful blooms all around arranged meticulously and impeccably maintained.
The variety of what’s in bloom will change with the time of year, but you’ll never be disappointed. There is also a sprinkling of sculptures scattered throughout the property. Every corner is worth exploring, and there are cozy places to sit and take it all in.
3. Admire Art at Yellowstone Art Museum
Visiting Yellowstone Art Museum is one of the best things to do in Billings if you’re an art enthusiast.
Yellowstone Art Museum is Montana’s largest contemporary art museum. Its collections exhibit works from internationally-acclaimed artists like Rudy Autio, John Buck, and Isabelle Johnson.
The ‘Montana Collection’ represents the preservation of Western art relevant to today’s West and features over 3000 objects. It also hosts temporary exhibitions to showcase works of lesser-known regional artists and offers art-related classes and workshop programs for the community.
4. Take a Scenic Walk on Riverfront Park
Perched on the banks of the Yellowstone River, Riverfront Park is a scenic city park with countless activities for the outdoorsy.
The park boasts an excellent trail system running through plenty of natural areas. It also has developed lawn areas and picnic facilities if you’d like to spend the whole day – bring a repellent; otherwise, you may get swarmed with mosquitos. You can also walk around the lakes and spot dozens of goslings with the Canada geese on the water.
5. Visit the Western Heritage Center
Built in 1901, the Western Heritage Center is the perfect place to learn about the peoples and places of the Yellowstone River Valley and the northern High Plains region. It has 8 to 10 well-researched exhibits detailing complex topics, like the Yellowstone fire in 1988 and the difficult history of medical care on the reservations.
The museum sits inside the historic Parmly Billings Memorial Library and is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 am to 5 pm.
6. Enjoy a Baseball Game at Dehler Park
Locals love Dehler Park. It is their favorite park to take the family out to enjoy a ball game on a nice summer night.
There really are no bad seats in the place, and you get to be right next to the action and players. It’s also a budget-friendly alternative to do while in Billings, as tickets are affordable. So, if you’re staying in town for a few days, grab some tickets and enjoy a game of the Billings Mustangs.
7. Sip a Glass of Wine at Yellowstone Cellars & Winery
It’s wine time in Billings! Head over to Yellowstone Cellars & Winery, a wonderful venue to relax, meet your friends for a great glass of wine, and enjoy live music.
The boutique winery produces classic French and Italian style wines with the finest wine grapes from the Yakima Valley and Columbia Valley vineyards. Stop by to do one of their wine tastings and combine it with their delicious menu – the charcuterie trays are exquisite! The winery also hosts free live music every Friday and Saturday night.
8. Hike in the Pryor Mountains
The Pryor Mountains are a natural marvel of Billings. Their geology is unique as an island of mountains rising from the prairie. The landscape is fascinating, with spectacular limestone canyons, prairie to sub-alpine plateaus, and meadows. It is a crucial place for indigenous peoples and has been sacred to the Apsaalooke (Crow) people for generations.
Visitors can go for the day and hike the gorgeous trails. However, if camping is your thing, the Pryor Mountains have many campgrounds to spend the night.
9. Have a Picnic at Lake Elmo State Park
There’s nothing better to do on a summer day than having a picnic at Lake Elmo State Park.
This 64-acre Reservoir park has picnic shelters with grills to enjoy a cookout, have a BBQ, and swim at the lake. There are also swings and a playground for little ones. You can bring your furry friend – there’s a Dog Park. The park features a fishing pier, so you may want to bring your fishing rod.
10. Enjoy a Performance at Alberta Bair Theater
Catching a performance at Alberta Bair Theater is one of the top things to do in Billings. This beautiful theater has a fascinating history. It was built during the Great Depression and opened in 1931 as “the last of the Fox Corporation’s vaudeville and motion picture houses.”
It remained popular until the 1950s when the appearance of the drive-in and suburban movie theaters led to the theater’s decline. The building remained closed and unused until a local “Save the Arts” campaign purchased it. It underwent a thorough renovation, and in 1987 the theater reopened to host local and international performances.
Today, the theater is one of Billings’ most important cultural organizations, bringing international stars and events to the community.