Yellowstone Wildlife Sanctuary is the only wildlife refuge in Montana to house native animals that can’t be returned to the wild. Go visit the animals and get a chance to come closer than ever to awesome Montana wildlife such as mountain lions, buffaloes, and plenty of other adorable critters. The sanctuary also holds special events throughout summer. Check out their website to look up the current events.
This will take less than an hour’s drive from the heart of Billings to the site of Custer’s Last Stand but it will be completely worth it. Drive southeast of Billings in the summer to see where Sioux, Cheyenne, and Lakota warriors fought the Army’s 7th Cavalry in an effort to preserve their way of life. If you plan the trip right, you can even catch a reenactment of the Battle of the Little Bighorn, better known as Custer’s Last Stand. If you’ve got the time and a vehicle, this trip is truly worth it. Walk the same bluffs, ravines, and ridges along the Little Bighorn River where this bloody battle took place in 1876.
Visit the zoo this summer in Billings and experience getting up close and personal with animals from all over the world. The zoo also hosts plenty of fun gatherings such as a Zootoberfest in October. They also host scavenger hunts and summer camps for younger children. But, if you are just looking for a fun and beautiful daytime event for adults, the zoo is perfect. You can even schedule a guided tour or a special “animal encounter”.
14. Have a Pint at a Local Billings Brewery
For years Billing’s residents have had a wealth of independent brewers available to them. This comes as no surprise considering the independent nature of most Montana residents that local breweries would just become part of the culture. Take a Saturday night to stroll around downtown to all the local breweries. Sample their summer seasonal and get some pretty good grub and local music while you’re at it. I suggest heading down to Yellowstone Brewing and at least sampling their homemade root-beer between pints.
If you are into more adventurous activities, then Billings has plenty to offer you. Hire a guide and go whitewater rafting in the Yellowstone River. A guide will be able to take you and your buddies down some big water rapids and past some of the most beautiful scenery in the United States. If you want more technical rapids, you can hire a guide down the Gallatin and Madison River as well. You can choose between half day or full day trips with most outfitters.
Want to catch a glimpse of five different mountain ranges, fields of wildflowers, or even some wild turkeys all in one evening? How about doing all that on horseback in true western fashion? If that sounds like your kind of fun then signing up for horseback tours right outside of Billings should be on your summer schedule. These tours will fit even the most un-experienced rider and offer them a chance to roam the west just like a true cowboy. You can even rent yourself an overnight stay in a rustic cabin!
Take a tour of the most beautiful and diverse gardens in the Billings area and visit DanWalt Garden. The garden holds swanky and artsy events during summer and all you have to do is check in to see when they are held. They also hold classes if you are interested in learning about the species that live in Montana or how to develop your own garden. Call ahead to schedule a guided tour with lunch but beware, these beautiful gardens can book up quick for summer weddings.
The Vig has become a real hotspot in Billings for their fun trivia and beer bingo nights. Every Wednesday The Vig Alehouse holds Beer Bingo which is sponsored by Red Lodge Ales (another amazing brewery close by). Beer Bingo is a very popular, winner take all game which has become super popular with the locals. Grab your friends and play this game at least once this summer.
The one hour guided tour is my favorite activity in Billings, and yes, I’ve gone more than a couple times. Moss Mansion was the home of Preston Boyd Moss family and everything in the home is original. The red sandstone home was built in 1903 by the same designer of amazing buildings such as the Waldorf Astoria in New York. Moss Mansion has been recognized in books, T.V. shows, and of course the National Register of Historic Places. Take a stroll through this home and you are able to see how the Billing’s wealthy lived over one hundred years ago.
If you enjoy being active and getting outside during summer months but also don’t feel like driving 2 or 3 hours from the city, Swords Park is a wonderful alternative. This 60 acre park includes Swords Trail which runs along the “rims” right in Billings and gives park goers an amazing view of Billings and the surrounding vistas. This trail is fairly new and won Montana’s Trail of the year award in 2012 from the Fish and Wildlife Service.
21. Drive a Motorcycle to Red Lodge, MT
Now I know this is not for everyone! But for those of you among us that enjoy a scenic ride in the fresh air, this summer activity is for you. You can rent a Harley Davidson from several businesses located in Billings and take yourself on a short ride to Red Lodge, MT. Though known to locals for a laid back ski resort atmosphere in winter, Red Lodge also holds many fun summer events. Park your bike and take a walk down their downtown area and enjoy the mountain views. Red Lodge also offers plenty of restaurants and bars to fill your time. Don’t drink and drive if you need it, Red Lodge also has many reasonably priced hotels.
Billings is a unique city that is proud to be situated by two Native American Indian Reservations, the Crow Nation and the Northern Cheyenne. Take advantage of this and visit Chief Plenty Coup State Park which is situated within the Crow Indian Reservation, about 40 miles from Billings. The park offers plenty for visitors to do and learn and enables visitors to obtain the full experience of Chief Plenty Coup’s life and the Crow Indian Culture. This activity can be especially rewarding for children, by exposing them to a culture which is so important to the area.
Everyone loves wine tasting right? Well, if not, refer back to Billing’s breweries but for everyone else head over to Yellowstone Cellars and Winery this summer. This winery offers tours and samples as well as special events and live music. Though the grapes are grown in Washington State, the wine is made here in Billings, which offers a delicious local selection in a state not usually known for their wine. YC&W offers free tastings of red and white wine daily but they also offer a “full flight” sampling for just five bucks.
24. Eat Steak and Catch Some Bull-Riding
Every Wednesday during summer The Acton Bar and Steakhouse Arena offers bull-riding events with full concession and bar service. Honestly, where else are you going to do this? Take in the western action just 12 miles north of Billings on HWY 3 and experience this hometown culture as well as great food. Call for directions Acton Bar and Steakhouse, 406-652-7535
The city of Billings offers movies in the park during the summer. These free movie events are a perfect activity if you enjoy hanging out under the stars. Full concessions are available but I suggest bringing your own. The movies take place in various parks around Billings and the shows begins as soon as the sun goes down. May I suggest a Mackenzie River pizza and a bottle of wine for the movie goers of age?
This is by no means an exhaustive list of all there is to do in Billings. So go, do, see, and experience the city. Leave a comment below and let me know some of the other fun activities you love to do in this wonderful town!
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Photo Courtesy of Ron Reiring