Are we there yet?
Want a great photo of your child on the back of a bison? Then head to Helena. There youll find a bison (and other animals native to Montana) circling round and round just outside an ice cream parlor.
Its the Great Northern Carousel, of course. From buffalo, bighorn sheep and grizzly bears to rabbits, fish, horses and even a dinosaur, the Great Northern Carousel is as fun for you as it is for your kids.
The 40-foot diameter, hand-carved carousel is complete with bright flashing lights and grand-sounding organ music. It consists of 37 hand-carved animals, one chariot and a spinning tub. Custom stained glass running boards depict Helena area landmarks and many Montana-native animals.
The Great Northern Ice Cream Company is connected to the carousel and serves homemade ice cream and fudge.
When you are done spinning and eating, follow the Lewis and Clark interpretive sidewalk to ExplorationWorks!. The path represents the journey of Lewis and Clark on the Missouri and Yellowstone Rivers, with renditions of many landmarks they encountered on their expedition. Running water, climbable rocks and cute creatures make for a fun way to learn about the expedition.
Just past the carousel is ExplorationWorks! museum of science and culture. Everything can be touched here, from a real sheeps eye to a moving skateboard kids try to ride as it tips from side to side. Exhibits change often. Weather You Like it or Not: The Science of Weather will be replaced by Tech City around June 1.
This interactive learning center appeals to a broad range of ages. Early childhood programming is designed especially for children ages 0 5, and Little Sky Country has mountains to climb, discoveries to make, a slide to speed down as well as a pond and theater. Older kids can test their building skills with KEVA planks or interact with one of the many science and humanities exhibits. Check the website for Science Saturdays and other activities.
If you have time leftover your family can participate in an Alive @ 5 festival that takes place every Wednesday night from 5-9pm starting in May and continuing through September, where local venders, bands and participants take to the streets and join in on a unique downtown block party.
What you need to know before you go
Great Northern Town Center (all attractions)
406.457.5460, located between Getchell St and Lyndale Ave. East
Great Northern Carousel
Hours: through June 11 (call for summer hours) Sun (11am-6pm), Mon/Wed/Thur (11am-7pm), Fri (11am-8pm), Sat (10am-9pm)
Fee: $1.50 or buy10 tokens and get 2 rides free (parents can stand with kids who need assistance for free)
Hours: TuesSat (10am-5pm), Sun (12-5pm)
Fee: adults ($8), seniors 65+ ($6.50), kids under 18 ($5.50), kids under 2 (free)