A former gold camp during the Montana gold rush, Helena is a vibrant state capital with beautiful Victorian architecture and a relaxed atmosphere that you'll be hard-pressed to find in any other seat of state government.
While the gold rush is long gone, there's plenty to do in Helena today besides take in the history. An internationally renowned ceramics center, the Archie Bray Foundation for the Ceramic Arts, calls Helena home, and many amazing natural areas surround the town. These offer unique opportunities for hunting, mountain biking, and skiing.
Helena is an underrated gem. All seasons offer fantastic adventure in Helena. Come and be surprised by one of the most storied cities west of the Mississippi.
Helena was once the wealthiest city in the world thanks to the gold rush, and its historic inhabitants invested heavily in beautiful buildings for private and public enjoyment. The city has many sites on the National Register of Historic Places, and abounds with fine examples of Victorian architecture. The Gothic Cathedral of St. Helena is especially popular with visitors.
Helena sits at the bottom of Mount Helena, which provides plenty of sporting opportunities in both summer and winter months. People come from all over the world to take advantage of world-class skiing, mountain biking, hiking, and horseback riding in the area.
While Helena has the architecture of a state capital, it's got the population of a town, allowing guests to make the most of their stay without the stress of traffic. In fact, nearly 1 in 10 Helena residents walks to work each day, well above the national average.
As the state capital, Helena is home to a number of fascinating museums, many of which depict the city's beginnings in the gold rush days. Art and handicraft museums also earn top reviews from satisfied guests. Top museums include the Holter Museum of Art, ExplorationWorks, and the Montana Historical Society.
The Last Chance Gulch was the source of much of Helena's historic wealth, and today, the area is home to fascinating shops, museums, and jewelry stores.
Helena's climate varies from the mid-80s in July to below freezing in January. But, both winter and summer can be great times to visit if you come prepared. The most comfortable weather can be found in May, June, and September. Those hoping to get some skiing done should plan for severe cold, and those hoping to explore the region in summer should stay hydrated.
Helena Regional Airport (HLN) sits just three miles from downtown. Flights connect to Salt Like City, Minneapolis, Denver, and Seattle. There is no airport shuttle, but many hotels offer free transportation, and taxis can be called as well. The cost of a taxi depends on the destination, but will usually cost around $15.
Helena sits at the confluence of the Interstate 15 and the US-12. Additionally, the US-12/287 runs southeast from Helena.
There is a Greyhound station in central Helena on Montana Avenue, not far from the High School. Popular routes include Boise, Idaho from $147.50, and Billings, Montana from $80.
Helena has many hotels, ranging from budget accommodation to luxury resorts. The Barrister Bed & Breakfast is known for its historic ambiance, while Jorgenson's Inn & Suites has an on-site bar and casino. There are also a number of hostels in town for budget-conscious travelers.
Last Chance Gulch - famed for its role in the Helena gold rush, Last Chance Gulch is a unique and historic area with many interesting shops and restaurants. Lovers of gems, as well as antiques, will find this area especially alluring.
Reeder's Alley - another historic region, Reeder's Alley features original brick buildings from the late 19th century, which now house restaurants, an antique shop, and the Montana Heritage Commission. The area is on the National Register of Historic Places.
Treasure State - this neighborhood is a must during Christmas time. It is known as the best area of town to see Christmas lights, and the city's historic architecture complements the twinkling displays beautifully.
Helena is served by the Capital Transit System, which features two bus lines, red and blue. Fares are affordable, running at $0.85 one-way or $2.60 for an all-day pass.
Two taxi services can be found in town, and it is generally easy to find a ride. Expect to pay between $10 and $14 for a three-mile trip.
Helena is very easy to navigate by car. The city streets are mostly laid out in a grid, with some exceptions around the golf course and airport areas. You can expect to rent a compact car for about $45 dollars per day, and Avis and Europcar outlets can be found in town.
Helena is generally an affordable city to visit, especially for a state capital. Shopping areas include the Last Chance Gulch streets, which have many gem stores and souvenir shops. Additionally, there is a Macy's, and several other big-name retail centers can be found in town.
Helena has a number of local and national grocery stores spread throughout town, including Safeway, Thriftway, Pan Handler, and Real Food Market & Deli. Prices will vary depending on where you shop, but average costs run about $2 for a pound of apples, and about $2.13 for a loaf of white bread.
Helena has many restaurants serving both locals and visitors. The region is known for foods such as steaks, chili, and Mexican food. However, you'll find cosmopolitan cuisine in Helena as well, with Creole, Mediterranean, and Japanese restaurants spread throughout town. Some of the most popular restaurants in town include Bullman's Wood Fired Pizza, Staggering Ox, Lucca's, and Toi's Thai Cuisine. The average price for a meal for two at an inexpensive restaurant in Helena is $30.