With its contagious attitude of living life to the fullest, Helena MT is certainly one of the most livable cities in the West. Considering all the amenities it offers, it's not surprising that "Queen City" is listed as one of the “Best Places to Live” by Money Magazine. Located at the crossroads of the majestic Rocky Mountains and the Great Plains, Helena is one of the most scenic metro areas in the US. Between the craft beer scene, nightlife, great shops and fine dining, there's never a dull moment in Montana's capital city. Helena is home to just over 29,000 residents, which makes it the sixth largest city in Montana by population size. Along with people, the city is also populated by a variety of businesses that draw visitors and create jobs. Walking downtown, I'm always amazed at the amount of activity going on, and I'm constantly reminded of how vibrant the city is. But standing there looking at its modern attractions, it's easy to forget that Montana's capital city has such a rich and distinguished past.
A Brief History Of Helena
Like many towns in the area, Helena was founded during the gold rush. It was officially established as a camp for miners in 1864, and its population quickly swelled. Despite the lack of social media, word still spread rapidly that the area was full of gold. By the mid-1880s, miners extracted over $3 billion in gold! The unprecedented wealth in Helena gave rise to large, ornately decorated Victorian homes, which you can still admire as you're walking through the city's neighborhoods today.
Along with distinguished residences, grand hotels and luxurious inns started to spring up as the city's wealth grew. In the late 1880s, the famous Hotel Broadwater opened its doors for business. In addition to its stunning guest rooms and beautiful architecture, the hotel earned a name for itself by having the first indoor swimming pool. The hotel was destroyed by a devastating earthquake in 1935, but today the site is home to a much-loved outdoor swimming pool with a natural spring.
Due to its stunning landscapes and prosperous residents, Helena also developed a reputation for its outdoor activities, which were (and still are) a product of the city's proximity to the Rocky Mountains. Water sports, hiking, fishing, and other forms of recreational activities emerged in the city, and a nearby town was converted into a popular local ski center.
Things To Do And Places To Go
Whether you already live here or you're just staying for a short time, you'll find that there's always something to do! On a beautiful day, I enjoy almost nothing more than taking a scenic hike, which is a great way to see the city from a new perspective. Some must-try places are Mount Ascension, (which is a popular hiking spot for families), Mount Baldy, and Elkhorn Peak. If you're into mountain biking, I recommend trying a local trail, as Helena is well-known for its exceptional mountain biking opportunities. In 2013, the city was proud to join the International Mountain Bicycling Association for its challenging trails.
Throughout the year, there is always an exciting lineup of events to enjoy across the city. In the wintertime, Helena becomes bright and festive with holiday lights and holiday-themed activities. In the warm summer months, you're guaranteed to find a concert, dance, or other outdoor activity on any given day. One event that residents look forward to is called “Alive at Five,” which is a summer concert series that takes place downtown on Wednesday evenings from June through August. Along with live music, the concert hosts local vendors selling homemade foods and products.
Helena's Finest Food And Drinks
On a hot day, nothing beats going to a local brewery. Considering Montana has the second highest number of craft breweries per capita, you'd be missing out by not sampling a local beer! As of 2018, there are nearly a half-dozen breweries located around Helena MT. You can try one, two, or all of them. Either way, you can't go wrong, as they all have equally delicious options. On the subject of food and drink, rest assured that there are many wonderful eateries to check out, too. As you might expect in a progressive city, there is quite a bit of diversity in Helena's culinary scene. You'll find everything from casual family-style restaurants serving hearty portions of steak and potatoes to fine dining establishments serving farm-to-table and authentic international cuisine. While you can try a few when you're visiting, an advantage of living here is that you can try them all! Another can't-miss opportunity for great food is the giant Farmer's Market, which is a two-block long summertime specialty. The popular market, which opens up in April, features local and sustainable products. What makes this farmer's market unique is the fact that vendors are constantly rotating, and over 350 come through each season!
If you're looking for something to satisfy your sweet tooth, I suggest going to one of Helena's cafes or bakeries. One standout establishment, which is loved by residents and visitors, is the Parrot Confectionery. Nicknamed “The Parrot,” it is a family-owned operation that has existed for nearly 100 years. Legend has it that the store's fame began with its first chocolate sale. Today, it's especially known for its marvelous hand-dipped chocolates, of which there are over 100 kinds to choose from. With chocolate sales averaging 10 tons each year, you get a sense of how popular it is!
Shop 'Til You Drop
After indulging in fine food and drinks downtown, I recommend checking out the city's shops. There are many different kinds of shops to explore, including clothing stores, antique stores, sporting good stores, and shops with handmade products. In keeping with its strong tradition of gems and minerals, there are of course many jewelry shops in the city, too. Along with its signature gold products, you'll also find jewelry made of silver and sapphire. Bet you didn't know that nearly half of the world's sapphires come from Montana! If you've been searching for diamond-studded earrings, a sapphire ring, or a gold necklace, now's the perfect time to make that investment.
Where To Stay While You're Visiting
If you're visiting Helena on vacation, or perhaps scoping out a place to live, you will need to find a place to stay while in town. Fortunately, our city has always been a mecca for short-term and long-term travelers, which means that there's a variety of lodging establishments to choose from. Whether you're traveling with children, coming for a weekend wedding, in town for a business meeting or just passing through, there's a comfortable and welcoming place to spend the night.
If you're a history buff, or if you want to experience a taste of the city's glorious Gold Rush past, I recommend staying at a historic inn or bed and breakfast. There are a few establishments conveniently situated within walking distance of the city's attractions, which is ideal if you're coming to see all that Helena has to offer. For a more modern and conventional experience, Helena has a number of chain hotels and motels to choose from, too. This type of lodging is perfect for business travelers, as many are equipped with amenities that cater to business needs, such as conference rooms, gyms, and access to transportation. Resorts are another possibility for lodging in Helena. This includes RV parks, which are a perfect spot to be if you want to park your camper and stay in the city for a couple days. Finally, if you want an authentic taste of the American West, you can always stay at a dude ranch! There are several wonderful lodging options in this category, including the Wallis K Bar L Ranch, which is situated less than 10 miles from the city center and accepts just 20 guests at once, ensuring an intimate experience. You can also stay at the Feathered Pipe Ranch, which is one of the oldest and most respected retreat centers in the country. Historically, the ranch has been a destination for yoga and wellness retreats. More recently, it's become a desirable accommodation for corporate retreats, destination weddings, and private events.
Year-Round Recreational Opportunities
Summer or winter, rain or shine, there's never a lack of things to do around Helena! One of the most popular options is outdoor recreation, which is readily available and comes in many forms. If you want a taste of true Montana culture, don't miss going to a rodeo, which is guaranteed to be action-packed. If you want to get into the beautiful wilderness areas surrounding the city, there are a variety of fine options. A close destination is Mount Helena, which is over 5,000 feet high and contains a 600-plus acre park. After climbing to the summit, you can enjoy a bird's eye view of the city. Also nearby is the mesmerizing National Forest, which has over 700 miles of recreational trails where you can go hiking, running, and mountain biking. The forest also has a campground where you can park an RV or set up a tent. While the recreational areas are used mainly for hiking and biking in the summer, they are prime areas for hunting and fly-fishing in fall.
When the weather turns cold, the landscape around Helena MT turns into a winter wonderland. When the rivers and lakes freeze, they are transformed into outdoor skating rinks and sledding spots. Ice fishing is a very popular wintertime activity. Salmon, rainbow trout, and perch are some of the most commonly caught fish species. If skiing and snowboarding are more your scene, there is a fantastic mountain called the Great Divide Snowsports Area located about 20 miles away in the town of Marysville, which was once a ghost town. Here you'll find a variety of trails and terrain to tackle.
Settling Down In Helena
If you're looking to move to Helena, I look forward to welcoming you as a neighbor! Unlike in other places, being a newcomer here is not hard. The local population is known for their friendliness and welcoming attitudes, which means it won't take long to make friends! As of 2018, the median home price in Helena is just under $235,000. There are a variety of options to choose from when you're searching for real estate, including homes in the city and in more rural settings just beyond the city's borders. In keeping with Helena's architectural tradition, you will find urban real estate in the form of beautiful old Victorian homes in the town center. There are also more contemporary housing styles to choose from too, including wood-frame homes and log cabins. If you're seeking a place to live that has land, you'll be able to find working farms and ranches in the city's vicinity. Or, you can grab a parcel of land where you envision living and build your own special custom home.
Working In Helena
Just as Helena is a fine place to live, it's a place with job opportunities in all sectors. In 2018, the projected job growth rate hovers around 6%. There are many types of jobs available in Helena, which range from traditional corporate and commercial jobs to employment opportunities working outside on a ranch, farm, or in one of the nearby recreational areas. The hospitality industry is a large source of employment in Helena, and there are always opportunities for small business owners, too. Considering the state's history of producing quality craft beers, you can always try your hand at becoming a skilled distiller. Since Helena draws a large number of visitors, the tourism industry is a big source of employment, too. The tourism industry is ideal for many people, because it offers the flexibility of part-time work and seasonal work.
Now that you know what to do in Helena, where to stay, places to live, and jobs you might be able to find, it's time to call the city home. I welcome the opportunity to share Helena's beauty and history with you, and it won't take long for you to see why residents are so proud of their city. If you are seeking a place that's rich in history, culture, and caters to the outdoor lifestyle, Helena might be just the right place. With a vibrant downtown center, vast wilderness areas just minutes away, and activities around the clock and throughout the year, Helena really has it all.