10 Best Things to Do in Helena Montana with Kids
If you’re planning a trip to Montana, you won’t want to miss these best things to do in Helena, Montana. There’s everything from the state capitol building to amazing outdoor adventures. We’re sure you’ll want to stay awhile!
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There are so many reasons to love the Big Sky State, and its capital city is the perfect destination for families!
Montana is known best for being home to both Glacier National Park and Yellowstone National Park (although Yellowstone covers more ground in Wyoming, it’s most popular entrances are in Montana), and I am a firm believer that families should visit both parks!
If you are planning a trip to Montana, Helena is the perfect halfway point for traveling between the national park sites, and it has so much natural beauty, and intriguing old west history, to offer to its guests. Children especially love the rugged nature and the abundant wildlife that is prevalent throughout the state.
What to Do in Helena Montana with Kids
1. Montana WILD Complex
This was built with kids in mind! The complex is one of the best free things to do in Helena MT. At Montana WILD kids will learn about Montana wildlife while viewing native animals, completing scavenger hunts, and participating in hands-on activities.
This is a great hour to two hour long stop that will give the kids an overall view of what to watch out for, and hope to see, as they get out and about and explore Montana!
2. Last Chance Tour Train
We love to take guided tours to get a feel for a new stop, and Helena is no different. The Last Chance Tour Train is an entertaining, narrated tour on a faux train that takes you through the historic parts of this capital city.
Giving interesting insight into the rich history of this gold mining town of the old west, guests are sure to enjoy the open air ride, the knowledgeable tour guides, and the overview of the city.
Tours are an hour long and are very kid friendly. Don’t forget to save your tour tickets as there are coupons on the back for other fun Helena MT kid activities
3. The Montana Historical Society
This is a small 67,000 sq ft museum that hosts a plethora of Old West memorabilia and art exhibits.
The Montana Historical Society is an intriguing historical museum which focuses on expansion history, including a gallery of over 200 works by famed Montana cowboy artist Charlie Russell.
The museum is very inexpensive to tour and offers a combo rate with the Original Governor’s Mansion tour.
4. Capitol Building Tours
These are guided, one hour tours of the Montana State Capitol Building; you can also self-guide if preferred. The building features a massive rotunda that showcases intricate artwork, and a large and priceless Charlie Russell cowboy painting hangs in the House of Representatives.
This stop is a great half hour add-on to the Last Chance Train Tour and a visit to the Historical Society Museum as all are located next to one another.
5. Great Northen Carousel
Downtown Helena offers a fun stop for kids at the world-class Great Northern Carousel! Mount your choice of local wildlife, from cut-throat trout to bison to grizzly bear, and spin off into a stampede of hand-carved animals created by a Disney renowned carver.
An incredible location for fun photos, once the animals have been tamed, it is time to check out the over 2 dozen flavors of decadent Montana-made ice cream!
Neighboring the Great Northern Carousel is Montana’s best children’s science museum, ExplorationWorks. Two levels of hands-on activities are geared for ages 1 to 12, with a variety of exhibits and venues. A fun stop for a couple of hours, this museum is an ASTC member, so if you have an ASTC museum membership, entrance is free.
7. The Gates of the Mountains Boat Tour
This is a unique and entertaining method of exploring part of the Lewis & Clark trail that is otherwise unreachable. This 2 hour boat ride down the Missouri River traces the same route that Lewis & Clark took through the area over 200 years ago.
With limestone cliffs towering 1200 feet on either side of the river, and the illusion that the river simply dead-ended into the cliffs, Meriwether Lewis named this section of the river The Gates of the Mountains as the cliffs seemed to open before him as their boats approached.
Your open-air boat will take you though the 5 mile long scenic canyon where you will learn about the terrain of the area, view the wildlife that inhabits the gates, and even learn about events that have happened since this area was plotted by the expedition.
Great for kids and adults alike, we recommend giving the kids their own cameras for this tour, then expect some great wildlife shots! This is one of our favorite things to do in Helena with kids.
Until just a few years ago, I didn’t realize that geocaching was so popular in Helena. Recently it was named the #1 Geocaching city in the US by Rand McNally!
Geocaching in Helena is quite popular; so huge in fact, that the local tourism board has a fun GeoTour geocache scavenger hunt that includes 38 cache sites located in nearby historic areas – collect the secret password from 25 of the caches, and turn them in for your special geocoin, and be entered in to win a return trip to Helena!
Super fun hunt, and a great way to discover the Helena area!
9. Mount Helena
Towering over downtown Helena, Mount Helena provides a beautiful and mountainous backdrop for the city. Whether you enjoy hiking or mountain biking, Mt. Helena is a popular destination for all ages.
With multiple trails of varying difficulty levels, hiking the mountain is a fun way to get out, exercise, and enjoy stunning views of Helena and the valley.
You can find a list of the best trails on Mount Helena here. While in Helena, be sure to look beyond the valley and find the ‘Sleeping Giant’ in the mountains – he is a big of a mascot in Helena; if you cannot find him, ask any resident to point him out and you’ll wonder how you missed his slumbering figure!
10. Blue Jewel Mine
One of our favorite outdoor activities in southwest Montana is sapphire mining! Yes, you can find your own, and kids tend to be even better at ferreting out the blue-hued beauties than adults!
I’m not sure if it’s because they are closer to the stones, their eyes are younger, or their energy is endless, but our kids love to take long tweezers and dig through the wet and dirty gravel hoping for transparent stones to rise to the top of their shaken and flipped finds.
The Blue Jewel Mine is a favorite with tourists for its friendly and informative owners, mountain location, and gem saturation. A bit of a drive from town, but mining sapphires is sure to be a memorable activity! Bring sunhats, sunscreen, lunch and drinks, and a strike-it-rich attitude!
Where to eat in Helena, Montana
Helena offers an eclectic assortment of eateries sure to tempt the palate. Bullman’s Wood Fired Pizza offers thin crust pizza, including child-sized pizzas, ranging from traditional recipes to more modern fare including toppings such as pine nuts, spinach, and feta cheese. Be sure to save a bit of room for dessert though.
After you finish at Bullman’s, head across the street to The Frozen Moose! The frozen yogurt bar is complete with 8 flavors of self-serve frozen yogurt and dozens of toppings – it is a memorable stop that is sure to be requested again!
Nagoya Japanese Steakhouse and Sushi has taken the town by storm as Helena’s newest fine dining establishment; be sure to sit on the hibachi side, and interact with your neighbors and chef as he cooks your food immediately in front of you!
Where to Stay in Helena
The Great Northern Best Western is located just a block from the Great Northern Carousel and ExplorationWorks.
With a reputation for cleanliness, and boasting a pool, high-speed internet, complimentary breakfasts, and an onsite restaurant, this location has it all.
The Residence Inn by Marriott is located on the outskirts of town and is the perfect setup for families that are staying more than a day or two.
Near the Helena Costco, fine dining (including Nagoya), and multiple shopping areas, this hotel is also right off the interstate, making it easy to get to and from your destinations!
With a pool, children’s splash pads, full kitchens, breakfast buffets, and sleeper sofas, the whole family will find this home-like setting relaxing.
Helena is an excellent destination for families and offers a variety of venues for differing interests. Come check it out – the beauty and atmosphere of the Big Sky Country is sure to provide many fond memories to take home with you!
Looking for other Montana posts? Don’t miss these day trips from Bozeman!
Book Your Flights – You can find discounted fares using sites like Momondo or Skyscanner. If you want to keep an eye on discount fares, we suggest signing up for Going, a daily newsletter with flight sales around the world.
If you travel frequently, consider investing in a Priority Pass for airport lounge access. It’s nice to have a space where you can relax before your flight.
Book Your Accommodation
We regularly use Expedia.com and Hotels.com to find lodging when we travel. It’s a great way to compare vacation rentals, hotels, and resorts.
If your family knows they want to stay in a vacation rental, we recommend looking at VRBO and Plum Guide.
Book Your Transportation
For rental car agencies, try Rentalcars.com. We tend to use Hertz simply for the quality of service.
Book Your Tours and Travel Photos
We regularly used companies like Viator and GetYourGuide to book tours when we travel. Both have great communication and a large variety of activities that work for all ages.
If you’re visiting a city with multiple attractions, be sure to check out a discount pass, such as CityPASS or Go City. Both are worthwhile investments.
Context Travel is another option and they offer more educational-based activities. The former teacher in me loves their tours.
One of our favorite things to do annually is taking photos with Flytographer. They have photographers around the world and we’ve used them on four separate occasions. This is our favorite travel souvenir.
Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
With the state of travel these days, it’s important to have some type of travel insurance to cover any unforeseen accidents, illnesses, threats, or cancellations. We always travel with insurance and would recommend SquareMouth, Travelex, or Medjet as good options. And if you want to compare different insurance options, use Travel Insurance Master to find the best policy for your group.
What cool spots to visit and it looks like a lot of fun. I’ve never had the opportunity to visit Montana but if I do, I’m going to check out all of your suggestions. The kids would have a blast. Your photos are awesome BTW.
I’ve always wanted to travel to Montana! Omg those mountains and views! I would die! It looks so beautiful! I will have to check out Helena if we ever go!
Thanks Terri. On this post all the photos were Dana’s or from Creative Commons, but I do try to pick some good ones to capture what I’m trying to share. I haven’t been to Montana either, but I definitely want to go.
Logan, doesn’t it look amazing! I’ve always wanted to go too. I’m so glad Dana shared this with my readers. So many great things in Montana!
I personally have never been to these places but my aunt & uncle used to live out there & they loved it.
One of my high school friends made the move to Helena and she just raves about it! It looks like she does so with good reason 🙂
This would be a great post for the Photo Friday link-up that I host – I’d love it if you considered joining us this week!
Stopping by from Sharefest!
Sapphire mining. That sounds like such fun. Especially since my birthstone is sapphire.
I love visiting Montana! From Glacier Park to the Salmon River – Charles Russell Museum to the fish hatchery – there is soooo much to see in this state!
Wow looks like no shortage of stuff to see and do. I’ve never been to Montana, I’m in Canada so I don’t travel much. Looks like a great stop to visit!
Montana is just one of the 6 states I still need to visit in the US so I am definitely bookmarking this list for my trip there!!! And what an awesome adventure to travel in a RV!
The photos are beautiful. Looks like your family had a great time. I have never thought to visit Montana, your post changed my mind.
It does look gorgeous doesn’t it? I’ve always wanted to go too! One day…
Laura, it does look pretty fantastic doesn’t it?
Thanks Jen! I will check it out!
Oh Sarah, I think it’s calling your name. ?
Oh Stacey! You are making me want to visit! Definitely on my places to see!
It does look like a great place, doesn’t it Jeanine. If we had a RV like my guest author Dana, we could go anywhere right?
Julie add it to your list! I want you to go in a RV so I can read about your adventure!
They weren’t my pictures, but thanks to my guest poster, it does look amazing! Glad Dana could help change your mind!
These are all fabulous ideas, definitely makes me want to visit. And the sapphire mine—seriously? That’s so awesome!
I would love to visit the art gallery the architecture looks exquisite and Yellowstone is on my bucket list too.
Thats on my to get list aside from my to do list, buy an RV and travel.
Love the ideas! I could definitely use some for here where I live!
This looks so fun! I’ll have to visit someday!
Who wouldn’t want to do a sapphire mine, right Jenn? Right up my alley!
Ana, Yellowstone is on my bucket list too. I really want to see more National Parks because I sadly haven’t visited most of them!
Really Nicole? I might want to rent a RV first. I don’t know if I could live in one, but I would certainly like to try!
Lexie, where are you?
Bonnie, it does look amazing doesn’t it. Another stop to add to the bucket list!
Looks like a lot of fun. Now if only I had a couple of kids to ferret out some sapphires.
Ha! Michelle you almost made me spit out my coffee on this one. I can loan you some kids to dig sapphires if you want. Lol
Thank you for the awesome list of activities. We hope to travel to Montana in the next few years.
Oh good. Happy to help!
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