Best Things to Do in Billings MT

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Greetings Internet Stranger and welcome to 24 hours of the best things to do in Billings MT. Have you ever wanted to be a hipster who’s always on the cutting edge? Then don’t bother traveling to places like Paris and London where everyone wants to go. Instead, hit up the wonders of Big Sky Country and see Montana’s Big City: Billings.

On these 24 hours of the best things to do in Billings MT we’re going to dive into some amazing local food, see fine art, and get cultured with stunning mansions and Shakespeare. Billings: it’s just like Paris only way cheaper, less crowded, and with fewer French people!

best things to do in billings mt

Best Things to Do in Billings MT

Where to Stay?

One of the best reasons to visit a smaller city like Billings is that you can live like a princess on a secretary’s budget. My most recommended hotel in Billings is the uber-classy Northern Hotel. It was built back at the turn of the century to be the most modern hotel in Billings. Of course it burned down because old buildings tend to do that, but it was rebuilt in 1940 and it has stood in Billings ever since as “the most luxurious hotel in Montana”.

A hotel of this caliber would cost about twice the price in my hometown of NYC. After all, But at the Northern you get fresh free coffee every morning, an insanely helpful staff, and a free ride to the airport even at 4:30 in the morning on the 4th of July. (I know this because I did need a ride to the Billings airport at 4:30 in the morning on the 4th of July.)

If you’re looking to dive into a great price on the Northern Hotel, click here! And if it’s out of your budget, but you still want to experience the budget-friendly wonders of Billings, explore amazing deals on cheaper hotels in Billings by clicking here.

Best Things to Do in Billings MT

What to Pack?

The weather in Montana can be…unpredictable. I don’t recommend visiting Billings in the winter, so I’m not going to suggest you need a winter coat. But you will need an umbrella. My favorite travel umbrella is the Repel Teflon Waterproof Umbrella. It is strong enough to stand up to the sometimes-quite-strong winds of Montana. You know what they say: big sky, big wind.

If the weather is rainy or snowy, which definitely happened during my time in Billings, I recommend the Asgard Rain Boots. They are comfy/cozy and keep my feet dry all day. Plus they’re cute enough that I can wear them out without feeling like some gauche tourist with gross feet.

Finally, since we’re going to be out all day, you’ll want a battery for your cell phone. I always use the Anker charger. It’s light enough to fit in even a small purse. Plus the Anker lasts for several full charges of a phone, so I’ll never run out of juice!

best things to do in billings mt

Best Things to Do in Billings MT

Morning: Western Heritage Center

One of the most interesting things about visiting a western state like Montana is getting to learn about the unique history of the region. I’ve met people who think that all Americans have a similar history, but as a New Yorker, I can swear that the history of Montana is extremely different from the history of my home state.

That’s why I recommend starting your 24 hours of the best things to do in Billings MT at the Western Heritage Center. You’ll learn about the nature and people of Montana in a fun and entertaining way. The docents, like pretty much everyone else in Billings, will be excited that you wanted to vacation in their fair city. They’ll be happy to tell you anything you need to know. But I’ll get you started with…

Approximately Top 5: Western Heritage Center

best things to do in billings mt
1) Stella’s Kitchen and Bakery

Before we go to the Western Heritage Center, we’re going to need some breakfast. I was so excited when I learned that Stella’s Kitchen and Bakery is one of the most popular places to get breakfast in Billings. After all, my name is Stella! So anything with my name on it has to be good.

But in reality, Stella’s is named after a local woman named Stella who ran the bakery with her husband Ziggy. They sold it last year, but based on the lines to get in for breakfast, it is still going strong. Don’t let the lines deter you from visiting because they move pretty fast. And pro tip: please ask the staff about Stella and Ziggy! Everyone who works there still knows and loves them.

I went a little light with my breakfast order–just two eggs and some fruit. That’s because I wanted to save stomach room for the main event…

best things to do in billings mt

This insanely delicious cinnamon roll the size of a pterodactyl. And I gots to love the genius who thought of putting a dollop of whipped butter on top of the frosting. The only thing better than fat is fat with fat on top!

You will probably not be able to finish the roll. Just ask for it to go, and you can finish for breakfast the next day. Problem solved!

best things to do in billings mt
2) Meet the Founder

Before you go inside the Western Heritage Center, be sure to say hello to this statue of the founder of Billings, lurking just outside the museum. His name is Frederick Billings, and his story is one of the oddest founding stories I’ve ever heard.

Billings was the president of the Northern Pacific Railway, which meant he was simply mad for westward expansion. So naturally, his railroad thought it would be a good idea to create a city to be a hub for the railroad running through Montana. And thus Billings was born!

But Frederick Billings never actually set foot in Billings, Montana. So why does the statue say he is the founder? Pick a founder who actually loved you and visited you, Billings! Show some self-respect!

best things to do in billings mt
3) The Bears of Montana

In my last post, I discussed my trip to Yellowstone National Park, which I did as a day trip from Jackson, Wyoming. But don’t forget that Yellowstone is in Montana too! So it makes sense that the Western Heritage Center would have an exhibit on the bears of Yellowstone.

Most of the exhibit is on bear safety. Apparently, after watching one too many Yogi Bear cartoons, people started to think bears were friendly creatures and tried to pet them and feed them. As you can imagine, this led to death, both of people and of bears. (Technically Yogi Bear takes place in Jellystone Park, but I can see why people would be confused.)

Anyway, as long as you remain 100 feet away from bears at all times and never try to feed them, you should be safe, right?

best things to do in billings mt


best things to do in billings mt
4) Montana Art

The local artist being featured at the Western Heritage Center when I visited was a Montanan painter and art teacher named Ben Steele. Mr. Steele, who had passed away not long before the exhibit opened, was a World War II veteran. He had been captured while fighting in the Pacific theater, and he had suffered greatly in the Japanese POW camps. Many of his works depict the suffering that he and his fellow prisoners experienced.

best things to do in billings mt

But Mr. Steele’s story isn’t all depressing. The exhibit portrayed the growing friendship between Mr. Steele and one of his students, a Japanese-American named Harry Koyama. This friendship helped Mr. Steele move past his anger against his Japanese captors.

Mr. Koyama became a professional fine artist, and he now has a lovely studio in downtown Billings. Please check it out when you are there! They displayed some of Mr. Koyama’s works in the Ben Steele exhibit, but there are lots more in his studio.

best things to do in billings mt
5) Lunch at the Burger Dive

I think one of the best things to do in Billings MT is eating! Of course, I think that’s one of the best things to do anywhere. But eating is especially fine when you have an award-winning burger to chomp down on.

Burger Dive, which looks exactly what the name sounds like, has won Burger Champion at the World Food Championships. Plus it’s been on Man vs. Food. So you definitely don’t want to pass it by when you’re in Billings.

I recommend ordering the I’m Your Huckleberry burger, which is the one that won the championship. It comes with Huckleberry hatch chili barbecue sauce, goat cheese, bacon, and red pepper mayo. It was sweet and spicy and cheesy and carby, which is basically everything I like. I also like the plain fries which are properly thick and taste of authentic potato.

Best Things to Do in Billings MT 2

Best Things to Do in Billings MT

Afternoon: Moss Mansion

After the Western Heritage Center, one of the best things to do in Billings MT is touring the Moss Mansion. Unlike Frederick Billings, Mr. Preston Moss actually lived in Billings, and I personally think he should be considered the true founder. He was a local entrepreneur responsible for many of the best buildings in Billings, including the Northern Hotel, where I hope you are staying.

If you head over to the Moss Mansion, you’ll be able to tour the home and beautiful gardens. There wasn’t an official docent tour when I was there, but there was a docent inside the home who was able to teach me loads of fun facts about the Moss Mansion and Moss family. So I’m now able to share with you…

Three Fun Facts: Moss Mansion

best things to do in billings mt
1) Why is this archway in Billings MT?

Great question! The Moss family loved to travel so they designed each room to look like a different country that they loved. This arch was modeled after the Alhambra in Spain, and it’s decorated with Moorish rugs–again to go with the Muslim Spain theme. (Mr. Moss was apparently extremely interested in Moroccan culture in part because he was a Shriner and wore a fez.)

best things to do in billings mt

This library has more of an English vibe. After all, look who that is with his bald head lighting up the window.

best things to do in billings mt

It’s Billy Shakes! He’s looking kind of sexy and Joseph Fiennes-esque in this window. The docent was surprised when I pointed out it was Shakespeare. She said that most guests don’t recognize him. What are they even teaching in schools these days?

best things to do in billings mt
2) When was the Mansion Built?

It was built between 1901 and 1903. Back then it was the last word in modern living! Just look at this stunning turn of the century Art Moderne kitchen! The docent explained that the tiles on the floor are not original because the originals needed to be replaced, but the ones on the walls are original. But don’t steal the tiles and sell them on the Old Tile Black Market. That would be rude.

best things to do in billings mt

And look at this GQ icebox! At the turn of the century, even Richie Riches like the Mosses wouldn’t have had electricity in the home. They had a wood-burning stove and an icebox that kept things cool using actual ice.

PS. I don’t believe that chicken actually dates back to 1903. In fact, I’m not even sure it’s a real chicken. More investigation is needed.

best things to do in billings mt
3) What About Mrs. Moss?

I could do a whole blog post just about Mrs. Moss! She caused a Big Scandal when she got married because she wore a sleeveless dress. OH NO! WHAT A SCANDAL! Someone should do a reboot of the TV show Scandal set in the 19th century. Olivia Pope could help people deal with the fallout from scandals like showing an ankle in public or something.

Mrs. Moss also played the harp, and she and her music-loving friends even started the organization that became the Billings Philharmonic. But my favorite fact about her is that she had a whole bunch of pet chicks, and she used to keep them in the conservatory. I hope if she ever had a rude guest, she could just send them into the conservatory and set the baby chickens on them. That’s what I’d do, if I were a rich girl.

Best Things to Do in Billings MT 3

After the tour, be sure to check out the lovely garden behind the Moss Mansion. If you visit Billings in early July as I did, the flowers will be in stunning bloom!

best things to do in billings mt

Best Things to Do in Billings MT

Late Afternoon: Angry Hank’s Brewery

Before dinner, stop in for a pint at local craft microbrewery Angry Hank’s. This adorable place, which is located in an old gas station, is a great hangout spot for single gals and grizzled old truckers alike. And despite the name, I didn’t meet even one mildly cranky person, let alone an angry one.

I recommend their yummy and highly drinkable Street Fight Irish Red Ale. If I had red hair, I’d definitely make everyone call me Street Fight Irish Red. But Street Fight Irish Brown doesn’t have the same ring.

Best Things to Do in Billings MT

Evening: Dinner at The Fieldhouse

Best Things to Do in Billings MT 4

Farm to table cuisine is truly the craze that’s sweeping the nation and Billings is no exception. So if you’re looking for amazing local produce and protein, stop in for dinner at The Fieldhouse. I recommend starting with the Brussels sprouts sprinkled with cashew and bottomed with aioli. Some people don’t like Brussels sprouts, but these people are wrong. Their bitterness combined with the salty cashews and rich aioli made this the perfect snack.

best things to do in billings mt

I’d been eating a lot of red meat in my trip out west, so I chose the roast chicken for my main course. It came with fresh asparagus and tomato risotto. I know it’s a cliche, but sometimes there’s nothing better than a simple roast chicken. If you have high-quality ingredients, you don’t need to throw a whole bunch of sauce on them for them to taste good.

best things to do in billings mt

That’s the Best Things to Do in Billings MT!

What would you say are the best things to do in Billings MT? Should we change Billings’s name to Moss City in honor of its true founder? And why is that bear following me? Please leave your thoughts below!

Note: If you want to know how I put my travel itineraries together, just click here. Keep in mind that while each article is about how to spend 24 hours in a place, that doesn’t mean you should ONLY spend 24 hours with the best things to do in Billings MT. If you have extra time in Billings, try this itinerary. And if you would like to add a trip to Idaho, try this itinerary or this itinerary.

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