When you think of Montana you typically think of majestic mountains and abundant wildlife. However, Billings is not your stereotypical Montana city. Located in the plains of Montana, the Beartooth mountains are visible about 60 miles west of the city, but for the most part, it’s relatively flat and not comparable to the movies and pictures that have made Montana famous. The exception is that Billings is nestled beneath the Rimrocks, or the Rims, which are geological sandstone formations that outcrop portions of the city. They lend a uniqueness and topographical contradiction that make Billings beautiful, and the welcoming feel of the local population makes it a great place to live and visit. While visiting, or on a day with the kiddos, here are some ideas in and around Billings to have some fun and maybe even learn something!
10 Family-Friendly Things to Do in Billings, Montana
Wise Wonders Children’s Museum | Yellowstone Art Museum
Wise Wonders and the Yellowstone Art Museum are educational staples in downtown Billings. Wise Wonders provides hands-on STEM learning in a fun environment, and the museum strives to create family-friendly educational experiences that will encourage a lifetime of learning.
The Yellowstone Art Museum (YAM) was founded in 1964 and has been a cultural destination in Billings ever since. While providing an emphasis on local Montana artists, they’ve also had exhibits from world-renowned artists, most recently having a Picasso print worth $89k up for auction at the annual museum fundraiser.
Zoo Montana is a 70-acre park loaded with local and not-so-local wildlife. Stroll through the exhibits to view bears, otters, red pandas and even tigers. You can also visit the Homestead house to feed goats, ducks and chickens and view the large horses that live at the zoo. The Zoo also provides a great venue for local concerts and the annual Renaissance festival, as well as holiday attractions for Halloween and a drive-in Christmas light display.
Hiking and the Great Outdoors
Billings isn’t located in the heart of the mountains, but there are still a number of local trails that offer a getaway from the city. Phipps Park, Norms Island, Four Dances and Two Moon Park are all dog-friendly trails that offer a respite from the daily grind. If you’re feeling more adventurous, there are multiple trails into the mountains or to scenic lakes just an hour or two away from town.
Western Heritage Center
The Western Heritage Center is located in downtown Billings in what used to be the local library. They’re known for providing educational and outreach programs regarding the history of the people of the Yellowstone River Valley and local Native American Tribes. Recent exhibits included a collection of silk-screen color reproductions of Blackfeet tribal tipis and the stories that are associated to them and a history of the 1988 Yellowstone National Park fire.
Pictograph State Park
Pictograph State park is located 5 miles south of Billings. The Pictograph, Middle and Ghost caves were home to prehistoric hunters, with over 100 pictographs, or rock paintings, left behind. Visitors can still view the drawings of animals, warriors and even rifles that are still visible from the ¼ loop trail. Over the years, approximately 30,000 artifacts were excavated from the site, providing an insight into the people that inhabited the cave and an estimate of the time that they were there.
Located in the Big Horn Resort, the Reef indoor water park provides year-round access to a variety of indoor water fun. Take a ride on one of two water slides (height restrictions apply) or ride the waves in the giant wave pool. Parents can relax in an oversized hot tub while the kids play, there are plenty of lifeguards present so you can feel safe while enjoying a day at the pool.
Steep World is an indoor climbing gym featuring 40+-foot climbing walls for beginner, moderate and expert climbers. They also feature a bouldering wall and provide fitness classes and exercise equipment. This is an ideal location for a day of family fun or a birthday party, or the opportunity to get in a nice workout or work on your climbing skills while the harsh winter weather prevents outdoor climbing.
Get Air is a national trampoline park chain with a location in Billings. It offers a number of fun activities, from foam pits to a ninja-style obstacle course to long trampolines that allow jumpers to perform tricks. There is an area specifically designed for younger children so they can safely enjoy themselves. For the adults, there are several massage chairs located throughout the facility so they can relax while the kids burn some energy.
Centennial Ice Arena is open for a portion of the year and is Billings’ home for ice hockey, figure skating, curling, and the Billings Bulls hockey team. Centennial is a 550-seat arena that provides a great opportunity to play a new sport, learn to skate, hold a birthday party, or cheer on the amateur hockey team.
Located just an hour away from Billings, Red Lodge is close enough for an afternoon or weekend getaway. Nestled at the base of the Beartooth mountains, the town main street offers a number of local shopping and dining options. Just outside of town are numerous campsites and fishing spots, and in the winter Red Lodge Mountain offers skiing and snowboarding that is close enough for a day trip from Billings. The town is also at the start (or end, depending on how you’re traveling) of the Bear Tooth pass, offering a scenic trip to Yellowstone Park during a portion of the year.