A few summers ago, my family and I spent a weekend in Butte during the National Folk Festival. The National Folk Festival moves locations every two years, but now we can enjoy the Montana Folk Festival in Butte annually. Besides enjoying the music, crafts and activities, it gave us a chance to explore Butte. Turns out that Butte is more than the Berkeley Pit and Our Lady of the Rockies.
There are a lot of things to do and attractions to see in Butte. “The Richest Hill on Earth” is home to the largest historical district in the country. You can’t see everything in a day, but if you head west to Butte, make sure you fit a couple of historical stops into your itinerary.
Granite Mountain Memorial Overlook
This memorial is a lovely and moving tribute to miners who lost their lives in Butte’s mines. Interpretive plaques and memorial bricks commemorate the June 8, 1917 fire that took 168 lives. It was the nation’s worst hard rock mining disaster. The memorial plaza affords a view of the Continental Divide, Summit Valley and surrounding signs of more than 100 years of hard rock mining.
The Butte trail system has a trailhead just to the south and west of the Granite Mountain Memorial site. This trail connects the Top of the World trail down to the Mountain Con Park (a restored historic mine site).
Granite Mountain Memorial Overlook, Cora Terrace Road, Butte, MT 59701
Butte City Underground Tour
After our visit to the Granite Mountain Memorial we needed a little levity. And to get out of the rain. The tour of underground Butte is as colorful as it is fascinating. The walking tour is led by a costumed historian who cracks jokes and leads you through the Roarin’ 20’s Rookwood Speakeasy, the 1950s Hirbour Barber Shop (with hidden bar), and the 1890 Old City Jail (where Evel Knievel once spent the night). They also offer above ground historical tours and evening ghost walks.
Old Butte Historical Adventures, 117 North Main Street, Butte, MT 59701
Mai Wah Museum
The permanent exhibit at the Mai Wah Museum chronicles the immigration experience of thousands of Asians who came to Montana and the inland west between 1860 and 1940. They were lured to the remote inland west by the promise of wealth from mining activity and the potential for lucrative trade. The Wah Chong Tai Company and Mai Wah Noodle Parlor buildings are the most important and least altered physical remnants of Butte’s Chinese Heritage. They are also home to the Mai Wah Museum. The museum’s artifacts, images and interpretive text tell the story of the Butte Chinese Experience.
Mai Wah Museum (museum is open 11-5, Tues-Sat., June-Sept. Individuals may also visit the museum when it is closed as an add-on to the East Tour provided by Old Butte Historical Adventures): 406.723.3231
Know before you go:
Butte-Silver Bow Chamber of Commerce: 406.723.3177 1.800.735.6814, www.buttechamber.org,