For nature enthusiasts who also enjoy amenities such as great food and drink, the city of Billings, Montana, seems to have it all — especially in the summertime.
Of course, the city known as the gateway to Yellowstone Park features an impressive network of hiking, biking and walking pathways overlooking seven area mountain ranges. But the historic railroad town nicknamed “Montana's Trailhead” also features outstanding accommodations, restaurants, entertainment and recreation that appeal to road-trippers and day-trippers. Among them: A walkable brewery district that makes Billings an excellent destination for groups seeking a fun, summertime excursion.
Billings’ downtown Brewery District is among the state’s many jewels. Featuring six craft breweries, a hard cider mill and two distilleries of hand-crafted liquor, the route is all in walkable proximity so the discerning can easily sample multiple products, enjoy live entertainment and evaluate the unique characteristics of each business. That community of craftsmen is one reason Billings was recently named one of the top 10 best beer cities in the nation by Livability.com; the site especially praises the virtues of specialty beer vendors Montana Brewing Co., Yellowstone Valley Brewing Co., Uberbrew, Carter’s Brewing, Angry Hank’s and Thirsty Street Brewing Co. and their liquor-crafting counterparts, Spirit of Montana and Trailhead Spirits. The newest addition to the district, Last Chance Pub & Cider Mill, features ciders made in-house, beer and wine, and amazing food — all housed in a beautiful, historic space.
Some other enjoyable ways to spend time in Billings (besides enjoying the outdoors):
* The town offers a variety of award-winning eateries and drinkeries for all tastes and budgets, ranging from casual meals at the Burger Dive and Stacked, A Montana Grill to fine dining at Ten and Walkers Grill. Those looking for a night on the town can choose from a wide range of nightlife that includes live music at the Pub Station and movies at Art House Cinema & Pub. The Alberta Bair Theater, a 1,400-seat historic downtown venue showcasing touring companies, features top-notch entertainment in music, dance and theater.
* Java enthusiasts can enjoy more than 15 area coffeehouses, each with its own ambiance and selection of special blends for you to sample. Nearly every block in downtown Billings features at least one coffee or tea shop, conveniently interspersed within strolling distance of fun shops and other points of interest.
* Seeking a taste of western culture? Visitors can check out Yellowstone Art Museum displaying some 7,400 contemporary and historic pieces related to Montana and surrounding regions; The Western Heritage Center, a Smithsonian-affiliated museum showcasing 17,000 river valley artifacts, art and memorabilia; and Yellowstone County Museum, a slice of history highlighted by an 1893-era log cabin housing memorabilia dating back to the state’s earliest pioneers.
* History buffs like to tour the Moss Mansion, a red sandstone residence built in 1903 by prominent architect Henry Janeway Hardenbergh of Waldorf Astoria and Plaza Hotel fame that’s appeared in two movies and is now featured on the National Register of Historic Places. Another local treasure is the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument, a 1.2-mile place of reflection in nearby Crow Agency, Montana, that memorializes the deadly 1876 war between the U.S. Army's 7th Cavalry and local Sioux and Cheyenne. And, Pompeys Pillar National Monument, a 150-foot sandstone rock formation above the Yellowstone River, features multiple Native American petroglyphs in addition to the authenticated signature of explorer William Clark of Lewis and Clark Expedition fame.
While the Billings area is known worldwide as a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts, the town has much more to offer before, during and in between your local experiences with Mother Nature. Start planning your next trip to Billings, Montana’s Trailhead, at visitbillings.com.