Visit Helena Montana is the official tourism guide to the region. Please visit their web site at: www.helenamt.com
Believe it or not Helena is located very close to the Missouri River – the same Missouri River which eventually empties into the Mississippi River is not more then 15 miles east of downtown. In fact the headwaters of the Missouri River are only located about 60 miles south east of Helena.
Approaching travelers will generally will cross a large valley with mountains on all sides. It is in valleys like these that one can see why Montana is called Big Sky Country. Helena is located at the base of these mountains.
Marysville is a living ghost town located about 19 miles north west of Helena. It is called a living ghost town because it has the appearance of a ghost town with many abandoned and decrepit buildings but also several restored buildings are still being lived in. Marysville is a picturesque town – great for photographs and selfies. Several old cars contrast against brightly painted walls. Old dogs lie in the streets soaking up the sun’s rays. The road to Marysville is paved for 9 miles and then turns to dirt for the next 10. During the winter people come here for skiing at the small ski resort just above town. Apparently the dirt road leading to Marysville can be a bit icy and slippery as indicated by all the white crosses I counted lining the road.
Even in late summer I was still able to see snow capped peaks in the distance from the top of the Continental Divide.
A great place to experience the magic and beauty of outdoor Montana is on the outskirts of Marysville. Keep driving on the dirt road to the top of the Continental Divide near Mullen Pass. This is little populated country with terrain featuring wide-open plateaus as well as forested sections. Leaving Marysville and climbing higher in elevation, one will pass old mine shafts and buildings left over from mining towns. One thing that I noticed different in Montana mining towns compared to mining towns in California or other states, was that most of the buildings were still standing, even in what seemed like the middle of nowhere.
Keno is legal in the state of Montana, therefore you may see gambling at restaurants or in malls. You won’t hear coins dropping as you would in Nevada but you will see people parked in front of Keno machines.
For such a small city Missoula features a number of attractions that are well worth seeing. The following are some of Missoula’s primary attractions:
Cathedral of St. Helena is a Catholic church located at the junction of Lawrence and Warren Streets. Without checking Google Maps, I spent over an hour attempting to find this church. From my motel room I could clearly see the Gothic spires of this beautiful church but as I walked got closer I lost elevation and somehow couldn’t find it. I finally gave up and later drove here. This church was built in the early 1900’s and is modeled after the Votive Church in Vienna, Austria. Unfortunately the church closes at 4pm; I arrived at 5pm so I was not able to go inside. However, I have seen pictures of the inside – it is as impressive inside as on the outside. The interior furnishings are made of Carrara marble while the stained glass windows were made in Munich, Germany. Allow at least 30 minutes. They are open Monday through Friday from 10am until 4pm and on Saturday from 10am until 6:30pm. On Sunday they are open from 7am until noon. Phone Number (406) 442-5825. Visit: www.sthelenas.org
Last Chance Gulch Tour is a one hour tour through the past and present of Helena on the Last Chance Tour Train. Tours depart from the Montana Historical Society Museum (See below). Tours leave at 9am, 10am, 11am, 1pm, 2pm, 3pm, 4pm and 6pm. For more information call Phone Number (406) 442-1023. Visit: www.lctours.com
Montana Historical Society Museum Library and Archives is across from the impressive State Capitol (see below) at 225 North Roberts Street. This museum features highly informative displays of the history of Montana and the northwest, a large collection of C.M. Russell’s paintings and sculpture and another gallery containing photography of Jay Haynes.
Another interesting exhibit is the Montana Homeland exhibition containing more than 2000 artifacts, photographs, and documents tracing Montana’s history from the end of the last ice age through World War II. The museum is open Monday through Friday from 8am until 6pm and on Saturday and Sunday from 9am to 5pm. Admission is free, however donations are accepted. Phone Number (406) 444-2694.
The State Capitol is located at 6th and Montana Streets near a residential neighborhood. During warmer months, a large lawn contains flowers arranged with the words “Montana 2020” or written in whatever happens to be the current year. The inside of the capitol building is also quite impressive and features several intriguing murals lining the dome. Equally as impressive, is the staircase. I visited the capital building after 5pm but was still able to walk into the senate chambers. The walls in each of the chambers contain additional murals.
The building is faced with sandstone and Montana granite. The top of the dome is Montana copper. The cornerstone was first laid in 1899 and the building was dedicated in 1902. Guided tours are offered departing on the hour from Monday through Saturday 10am until 4pm. On Sunday they are open from 11am to 3pm. These tours are given from early June through Labor Day. Admission is free. For more information call Phone Number (406) 444-4789.
Governor’s Mansion was built in 1888 for a local family. In 1913 the state of Montana acquired the property. Then for nearly a century Montana’s first family lived in this quaint mansion. In 1969 the building was restored with the help of the city of Helena. The museum offers free tours from April to Memorial day from noon until 5pm. From Memorial Day through Labor day tours are given Tuesday through Sunday from noon to 5. Lastly, tours are given Labor Day through December from Tuesday through Saturday from noon to 5pm. For more information or for group reservations call Phone Number (406) 444-4789.