Helena (Montana)

Travel Guide North America USA Western United States Montana Helena

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Introduction

Helena is the capital of Montana, USA, in the Western Central part of the state. Helena was founded as a gold camp during the Montana gold rush, and was established in 1864. Over $3.6 billion of gold was extracted in the city limits over a duration of two decades, making it one of the wealthiest cities in the United States by the late nineteenth century. The concentration of wealth contributed to the city's prominent, elaborate Victorian architecture.

At the 2010 census Helena's population was 28,190, making it the fifth least populous state capital in the United States and the sixth most populous city in Montana. It is the principal city of the Helena Micropolitan Statistical Area, which includes all of Lewis and Clark and Jefferson counties; its population is 77,414 according to the 2015 Census Estimate.

The local daily newspaper is the Independent Record. Professional sports teams include the Helena Bighorns Tier III Junior A hockey team.

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Sights and Activities

  • Cathedral of St. Helena, 530 N. Ewing, ☎ +1 406 442-5825. Daily except during services; Summer tours on Tues, Weds, Thurs..
  • The Great Northern Carousel and Ice Cream Parlour is a must do when visiting the historic town of Helena. A hand carved Carousel was built in 2002 with a wide variety of native Montanan animals. They also feature delicious homemade ice cream with flavors like Missouri River Mud, Frog Mint, and Buffalo Jump.
  • Montana State Capitol, 1301 E. 6th Ave. Summer, Mon-Sat 9:00, 10:00, 11:00, noon, 1:00 and 2:00, Sun noon, 1:00, 2:00, and 3:00; Winter,Sat only 9:00, 10:00, 11:00, noon, 1:00 and 2:00; Self guided tours Self-guided tours Mon-Sat 8AM-5PM. Free.

Gates of the Mountains, ☎ +1 406 458-5241, e-mail: tours@gatesofthemountains.com. Hours:Can vary monthly, check website for schedule.

  • Reeder's Alley historic mining district, Reeder's Alley.
  • Old Fire Tower. An Old Fire Tower built in 1876.

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Events and Festivals

Holidays

  • New Year’s Eve - The US celebrates the outgoing of the old year and incoming of the New Year quite dramatically. Every state boasts its own parties to ring in the New Year, but none is more extravagant than New York’s Time Square, which sees people overflowing into the neighboring restaurants, bars, parks, beaches, and neighborhoods.
  • Martin Luther King Jr. Day (officially Birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr. and sometimes referred to as MLK Day) is an American federal holiday marking the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr. It is observed on the third Monday of January each year, which is around King's birthday, January 15. The holiday is similar to holidays set under the Uniform Monday Holiday Act. The earliest Monday for this holiday is January 15 and the latest is January 21. King was the chief spokesperson for nonviolent activism in the Civil Rights Movement, which successfully protested racial discrimination in federal and state law.
  • St Patrick’s Day - March 17 celebrates the US’s large Irish population. Many cities around the country boast boisterous parades and Irish-themed parties, especially New York and Chicago, where the river is dyed green. Be wary of the drunkenness that dominates as this is definitely a party-day.
  • Memorial Day - Memorial Day is an important holiday throughout the United States, but not for crazy festivities. Parades commemorating wartime heroes are often held and the day is also the ‘unofficial’ start of summer. Most visitors follow the crowds to parks and beaches, which are capped off with informal BBQs.
  • Independence Day - Also known as the Fourth of July, Independence Day celebrates the US’s break from the British during the 18th century. Barbecues, street parties, beach trips, and weekend getaways are commonplace to appreciate freedom.
  • Labor Day is a public holiday celebrated on the first Monday in September. It honors the American labor movement and the contributions that workers have made to the strength, prosperity, laws, and well-being of the country. It is the Monday of the long weekend known as Labor Day Weekend. It is recognized as a federal holiday. Beginning in the late 19th century, as the trade union and labor movements grew, trade unionists proposed that a day be set aside to celebrate labor.
  • Halloween - Halloween is a fun holiday on October 31 for all generations to dress up in costumes and relive their youth. Children walk around the neighborhood trick-or-treating for candy, while adults attend parties. Other seasonal events include haunted houses, pumpkin farms and carving, and corn mazes.
  • Thanksgiving - On the fourth Thursday in November, Thanksgiving is held in almost every home in the US. Tourists will have a hard time finding anything to do as the country essentially shuts down in observation. A typical Thanksgiving meal consists of turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie commemorating the original Pilgrim’s feast at Plymouth Rock.
  • Christmas - On December 25, Christians celebrate Christmas as the pinnacle of their calendar by attending church and opening gifts from Santa Claus. Almost everything shuts down to promote family togetherness. The northern regions hope to experience a “white Christmas,” with trees and festive lights blanketed by snow.

Sport

  • Super Bowl Sunday - the world’s most watched sporting event and one of the highest grossing TV days of the year, Superbowl Sunday is a spectacular extravaganza. Held the first Sunday in February, the Superbowl is the final playoff game between the NFL’s top two teams. The venue rotates every year around America, yet the local parties seem to remain. Pubs, bars and restaurants are great places to enjoy the Superbowl or locals throw their own parties with different variations of betting.
  • The World Series is the annual championship series of Major League Baseball (MLB) in North America, contested since 1903 between the American League (AL) champion team and the National League (NL) champion team. The winner of the World Series championship is determined through a best-of-seven playoff, and the winning team is awarded the Commissioner's Trophy. As the series is played during the fall season in North America, it is sometimes referred to as the Fall Classic.

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Weather

Helena has a semi-arid climate (Köppen BSk), with long, cold and moderately snowy winters, hot and dry summers, and short springs and autumns in between. The monthly daily average temperature ranges from -5.7 °C in December to 21.1 °C in July, with average diurnal temperature variation exceeding 17 °C in summer, due to the aridity and elevation. Having December colder than January is a trait shared with much of the Pacific Northwest. Snowfall has been observed in every month but July, but is usually absent from May to September, and normally accumulates in only light amounts. Winters have periods of moderation, partly due to warming influence from chinooks. Precipitation mostly falls in the spring and is generally sparse, averaging only 287 mm) annually.

Subzero (below -18 °C) cold is observed 23 nights per year, but is rarely extended, as is 32 °C heat, which occurs on 19 days annually. Extremes range from -41 °C to 41 °C, occurring as recently as February 2, 1996 and July 12, 2002, respectively.

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Getting There

By Plane

Helena Regional Airport (HLN IATA) (located roughly 3 mi (4.8 km) northeast of downtown Helena and is accessed via Cedar St from I-15 at Exit #193.). The following airlines serve Helena with some connecting through Great Falls: Horizon Air as Alaska Airlines (Seattle), Skywest as Delta Connection, Minneapolis-St Paul and Salt Lake City), Skywest as United Express (Denver).
Currently there are no public transportation available from the airport into town. It's either by taxi, ride sharing or rental car.

By Car

Interstate 15 runs north and south through Helena's eastern edge. US-12 runs east-west, and is the quickest connection from the Missoula area; US-12/287 leaves Helena to the southeast, towards Townsend and eastbound I-90 and Billings.

By Bus

The main bus station for the 'Blue Line' route of the local public transportation and intercity buses is at the Helena Area Transit Center/Depot on N Montana Ave (SR-229) & Bozeman Street.

  • Salt Lake Express, 1415 N Montana Ave, ☎ +1 208 656-8824. Travels primarily on Interstate 15 from Salt Lake City through Idaho Falls to Great Falls via Dillon, Butte, Basin, Boulder, Helena, and Craig in Montana. Passengers transfer in Butte, Idaho Falls and Salt Lake City to get to additional destinations. Transfer to Jefferson Lines in Butte.

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Getting Around

By Car

Many international rental companies have a wide selection of rental cars and these include Hertz, Avis, Dollar, Thrifty, Enterprise, Budget and Alamo/National. Most companies will require you are at least 25 years of age, although younger people might be able to rent cars at slightly higher rates and with some insurance differences as well. A national driver's license is usually enough, but an additional international one is recommended. Also note that it usually costs more to include lots of other extra things. For example extra drivers, GPS, the first full tank, SLI (Supplemental Liability Insurance), PAI (Personal Accident Insurance, usually covered already at home), road assistance/service plan, and drop-off costs for one-way rentals.
If you want to book a car, it is recommended that you book your car before arriving in the USA. This is almost always (much) cheaper compared to just showing up. Also, try and book with a so-called 'broker', which usually works together with a few or many car rental companies and can offer the best deal. Some examples include Holidayautos, Holidaycars and Sunny Cars. Some of the cheapest deals to book from Europe, includes Drive-USA, which also has a German version.

For more information and tips about renting cars and campers, additional costs, insurance, traffic rules, scenic routes and getting maps and fuel it is advised to check the USA Getting Around section.

By Public Transport

A small bus network is provided by Capital Area Transit Service, fares cost $1.50. Also, there's a free shuttle between Capitol Hill Mall and the Capitol Building.

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Eat

  • Silver Star Steak Company, 833 Great Northern Blvd, ☎ +1 406 495-0677. 6 categories of main courses. 5 types of steaks with different portion size options. Extensive wine list.

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Drink

  • Blackfoot River Brewery, 66 South Park Ave, ☎ +1 406 449-3005, e-mail: brewers@blackfootriverbrewing.com. 2–8PM, seven days a week.
  • The Hawthorn Bottle Shop and Tasting Room, 46 N Last Chance Gulch, ☎ +1 406-282-0111. Bottle shop with a tasting room, fine wines with a down to earth touch.
  • Lewis and Clark Brewing, 1517 Dodge Ave, ☎ +1 406-442-5960, e-mail: max@lewisandclarkbrewing.com. 2-8PM, seven days a week. Local brewery, makes ales and lagers
  • Rialto, 52 N Last Chance Gulch, ☎ +1 406-442-1890. Popular downtown bar, with live music and DJs.

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Sleep

  • Elk View Bed and Breakfast, 88 Howard Beer Rd, Clancey (12 mi south of the city, along I-15), ☎ +1 406 442-1224. Check-in: 4PM-7PM, check-out: 11AM. A four room guest room lodge built with logs and set on 450 acres that feels like a park. The lodge has three large fireplaces, a hot tub and sauna. The breakfasts are recommended. $100-$125.
  • Jorgenson's Inn & Suites, 1714 11th Ave (between 11th Ave and Prospect Avenue at Lamborn Street (next to Capital Hill Mall)), ☎ +1 406-442-1770. Check-in: 2PM, check-out: 12n. Jorgenson's Inn & Suites is a friendly hotel in the city center. Highlights of the property include free breakfast with every room, a fun bar and casino, an indoor pool, business center and Free Wifi in the main building, free on-site parking, round-trip airport shuttle, laundry facilities, coffee in the lobby, a microwave in the lobby, complimentary newspapers in the lobby and air conditioning in all rooms and public areas. 69.00.
  • The Sanders - Helena's Bed & Breakfast, 328 N Ewing St, ☎ +1 406-442-3309.

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Keep Connected

Internet

There is a very small internet bar/cafe culture in the USA. Even then most of the internet bars/cafes tend be located in major urban centers. Accessible WiFi networks, however, are common. The most generally useful WiFi spots are in coffee shops, fast-food chains, and bookshops, but also restaurants and hotels more and more have a network to connect on. Some of them might require you to buy something and you might need a password too, especially in hotels.

Phone

See also International Telephone Calls

The general emergency phone number is 911. The USA has a great landline phone system that is easy to use. The country code for the U.S. is +1. The rest of the telephone number consists of 10 digits: a 3-digit area code, and a 7-digit number. Any small grocery store or pharmacy has pre paid domestic or international phone cards. These phone cards are very cheap and offer good rates. The once ubiquitous pay phone is now much harder to find. Likely locations include in or near stores and restaurants, and near bus stops. The cellphone network in the states is slowly getting better but is still not as good when compared to other western countries. Cell phones tend to operate using different frequencies (850 MHz and 1900 MHz) from those used elsewhere in the world (2100 MHz). This used to prevent most foreign phones from working in America. Phones must be tri- or quad-band to work in the U.S. Fortunately, technology has meant that most phones should now be able to pick up one of the U.S. networks. Prepaid phones and top-up cards can be purchased at mobile phone boutiques and at many discount, electronics, office supply and convenience stores. A very basic handset with some credit can be had for under $40.

Post

The US Postal Service is a very good and well priced mail system. There are post offices in every small and large town for sending packages internationally or domestically. Although some might keep longer hours, most are open at least between 9:00am and 5:00pm. If wanting to send a letter or postcard it is best just to leave it in a blue mail box with the proper postage. First-class international airmail postcards and letters (up 28.5 grams) cost $1.10. There are also private postal services like FedEx, UPS, TNT and DHL, which might be better value sometimes and are generally very quick and reliable too.

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This is version 6. Last edited at 9:48 on Jun 14, 19 by Utrecht. 1 article links to this page.

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