Best Things to See in Billings MT

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Greetings Internet Stranger and welcome to the best things to see in Billings MT. Montana’s nickname is Big Sky Country for a reason. And even in Billings, which is the largest city in Montana, you’ll have an opportunity to experience how large the sky can get. Especially if you’re from a big city, like I am, it’s a wonderful chance to experience the majesty of nature.

But perhaps you are a hardened soul who thinks the majesty of nature is literally only for the birds. Then you can still enjoy the other amazing things to see in Billings MT! There’s freaky contemporary art, freaky craft beer, and freaky obscure cinema. Let’s all get freaky, Montana-style!

best things to see in billings mt

Best Things to See 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 See 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 see in billings mt

Best Things to See in Billings MT

Morning: Swords Parks

Montana is famous for its sweeping vistas, and I promise you can appreciate them from Billings. You can appreciate them even if, like me, you don’t know how to drive! Just head on over to Swords Park! You can go for a hike or ride your bike around here. (I also don’t know how to ride a bike, so I speak not from experience here. However, I promise I do know how to walk. Sort of.)

Swords Park is acres of the craggiest nature you’ll ever see. That’s because it’s located on top of the Rimrocks. I promise I’ll tell you all about the Rimrocks as well as…

Three Fun Facts: Swords Park

best things to see in billings mt
1) Where Should I Fuel Up Before Swords Park?

The Northern Hotel doesn’t give free breakfast, but fortunately, they have a yummy retro-style diner called Bernie’s where you can carbo-load before our hike! You’ll feel like you’re being sweet-talked by the cutest beau in school while you’re here. Maybe he’ll even pin you before breakfast is over.

Bernie’s does a tasty traditional breakfast, but I suggest getting the elk sausage with your eggs. It has a rich flavor that will bring that special Montana zazzle to your breakfast. You’ll almost feel ready to go hunt down some elk yourself, so you can make your own artisanal sausage.

best things to billings mt
2) What are the Rimrocks?

The Rimrocks are majestic limestone formations that surround Billings like a ring of fire. I mean they are literally reddish rocks, but it sounds more poetic to say they are a ring of fire. Johnny Cash would agree with me. Swords Park is on top of the Rimrocks, so it’s one of the best places to go to get sick nasty views of Billings MT.

These rocks are over 85 million years old, which is probably older than my grandmother. They go back to dinosaur times, so if you want to amuse yourself, stroll around the Rimrocks and make velociraptor noises at imaginary enemies. There probably won’t be anyone else around, since it’s such a large area and there aren’t that many people in Billings.

best things to see in billings mt

OK, I lied. This bunny might be there. But she won’t stick around for long if you make dino noises at her,

best things to see in billings mt

That’s right, bunny! You better run!

Best Things to See in Billings MT 2
3) How Do I Get to Swords Park?

Learn from my terrible mistakes, Internet Stranger! Google seemed to tell me that it was possible to walk from downtown Billings to Swords Park. Yet I could not figure out how to do it. I got to the Rimrocks and tried to walk up to Swords Park, but the path was not where Google said it would be.

I did see one young lady jogging ahead of me until she vanished into thin air. I could not see which path she followed. It’s possible she was a ghost. Eventually, I totally gave up on walking to Swords Park and decided to head down to the bottom and call an Uber to the park. But some of the paths were too steep to walk down, so I had to slide down on my butt. This is why I say I only sort of know how to walk.

best things to do see in billings mt

Some of you might wonder if it’s worth it to go to the Rimrocks or Swords Park if it’s so tough and you might run into a ghost. I say it is worth it because you get views like this. Cower before the might of the Big Sky!

best things to see in billings mt

Best Things to See in Billings MT

Afternoon: Explore Billings

Billings is a small city relative to other US metropolii, but it’s still the largest city in Montana. That makes it a hub for all of Montana’s cultural activities. So some of the best things to see in Billings MT include fantastic movie theaters, museums, restaurants, and public art. I’m going to take you to all of it! But first, lunch!

best things to see in billings mt
1) Lunch at Uberbrew

Like many US cities, Billings has become a great place to taste craft beer. But Uberbrew is the only place I saw in Billings that serves both craft beer and yummy eats. I like that you can get two half servings of different beers.

I started with their Playa del Montana Milkshake IPA. (It’s funny because there are no beaches in Montana!) This is a fruity IPA, so I think it would be a good choice for someone who thought most IPAs were too bitter. Then I got a Japanese saison beer that had Japanese hot pepper and green tea. Who knew a beer could be spicy? Where does he get these wonderful toys?

For food, I recommend the sausage with grilled onions because it’s a simple and delicious pairing with the creative beers. I couldn’t resist the beer cheese soup. Hell yeah, you can get beer cheese soup in America! USA, USA, USA!

best things to see in billings mt
2) Big Dipper Ice Cream

Big Dipper is as Montana as it gets. (They have two other locations in Missoula and Helena.) I love the name because what better place to see the Big Dipper than Big Sky Country? Big Dipper has won tons of awards, and it’s even been featured on Good Morning America. So don’t pass up the chance to try some. I personally plan on sampling every award-winning ice cream in these United States. Such is my dedication to science.

They have many creative flavors from Mexican Chocolate to Espresso Heath, but I recommend the Huckleberry. It’s the most local flavor. There’s nothing that makes me think of Montana as much as the huckleberry, unless it’s sliding down some 85 million year rocks on my backside.

best things to do see in billings mt
3) Yellowstone Art Museum

The Yellowstone Art Museum was surprising to me in many ways. First of all, it’s located in a former prison. (They literally have a sign outside that saying “From Captives to Captivating”, which is a good joke that I’m sure the ex-convicts would laugh at.) Don’t be too weirded out by the fact that you’re enjoying fine art in a former prison. The sign assured me that only one execution took place in the prison. (OMG, MAYBE IT WAS THE GHOST JOGGER?)

best things to see in billings mt

The Yellowstone Art Museum also surprised me because I think of Montana as being kind of a conservative state, so I wasn’t expecting to find a museum entirely dedicated to abstract art. But there was abstract yarn art.

best things to see in billings mt

An abstract sculpture garden…

best things to see in billings mt

And what looks like an abstract portrait of Stanley Tucci as a child. Keep in mind that the art on display changes frequently, so except for the sculpture garden, the works you see will probably be different. But I’m sure it will be just as fascinating.

best things to see in billings mt
4) Art House Cinema and Pub

The Art House Cinema and Pub is a crazy cool place to catch obscure films and documentaries. When I was there, I saw a film called Framing John Delorean which was part documentary and part reenactment of real events with Alec Baldwin and other actors playing John DeLorean and himself. If you’ve ever wanted to know the bonkers backstory behind the car in Back to the Future, check the film out. Spoiler alert! It involves a lot of cocaine.

The Art House Cinema also sells adult beverages, so feel free to indulge. I saw one lady in her 70s buy an entire bottle of Chardonnay at the concession stand to split with her man-panion, and I want to be her when I grow up.

best things to see in billings mt
5) Wander and Enjoy Life!

Before you head back to your hotel to freshen up, stroll around Downtown Billings and enjoy the beauty of this former railroad town. There aren’t many cities in the US that have this many early 20th century buildings for your enjoyment. You can use this map of a self-guided Billings walking tour to help you get started.

best things to see in billings

Look at this gorgeous building from 1919! Was it a luxury hotel? An office building for a railroad baron? No, it was a warehouse! Just a warehouse for storing goods! This warehouse is about a jillion times prettier than my apartment, and unlike the goods stored in the warehouse, I actually pay rent.

Best Things to See in Billings MT 3

And here’s the Carlin hotel, which was where a sting operation was located. This operation wasn’t for just any penny-ante criminal. It was for the actual mayor of Billings and he was busted for violating Prohibition. I would totally watch a show about the Treasury Department tracking down Prohibition violators in Billings. It could be called Billings Billings.

best things to see in billings mt

Finally, one of the best things to see in Billings MT is definitely the painted signal boxes. Some of them look like the Rimrocks…

best things to see in billings mt

Whereas some look like psychedelic cats. Which will be your favorite? I can’t wait to hear about it!

Best Things to See in Billings MT

Evening: Dinner at Lilac

Just because Billings used to be a railroad town doesn’t mean the only food in town is some smushed cheese sandwiches. There are plenty of options for fine dining. I strongly recommend Lilac, which is as chic and lavender as the name suggests. You’ll feast on fresh local produce prepared without a lot of froo froo nonsense so the flavors can shine through.

best things to do in billings mt

I knew I was having a heavier main course, so I balanced with a lighter appetizer. (Hey, I eat out 16 weeks a year, so I need a few tricks to stay healthy!) This is a red pepper soup with sweet pea and carrots, feta cheese, and herb oil. Soup can sometimes be bland and texture-less, so I appreciated the kick from the herb oil and the crunch from the carrots.

best things to see in billings mt

For the main course, I suggest going decadent with fresh gnocchi and a braised short rib as soft as the tail of a bunny running away from an insane girl pretending to be a velociraptor. I’ve heard plenty of people call them “guh-nokki”, so don’t be embarrassed if you have too! But they’re pronounced nyo-key and they’re just little dumpling-esque pastas usually made from potato dough. That’s right friends, they are as carby as it gets.

best things to see in billings mt

Speaking of carbs, for dessert I had the pretzels and popcorn which was my favorite dish of the night. It’s got that sweet-salty thing with the pretzels, the caramel sauce, and the popcorn ice cream that I can never resist. Plus the ice cream did actually taste like popcorn so color me impressed. This would be a good choice for someone who doesn’t like a super sweet dessert.

best things to see in billings mt

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

What do you think are the best things to see in Billings MT? Is that 70-year old lady living her best life by spending her afternoon day-drinking at the movies? And was that jogger really a ghost? 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 see in Billings MT. If you have another 24 hours, try this itinerary. And if you have time for a trip to Idaho, try this itinerary or this itinerary.

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