This post is sponsored by Visit Billings.
What can you do in Billings, MT right now? Almost everything you would normally do, just with a little twist.
We love getting away to Billings. For our family, it’s the perfect destination for shopping (our kids are always growing out of their clothes!), eating, and recreating. Even though we are in the middle of a pandemic, we found Billings to be an open and safe destination.
On our most recent trip, we visited many of the same Billings, Montana attractions as we always do. We explored outside and visited ZooMontana – both great activities for social distancing. We ate at restaurants; mostly where there was patio dining or we could get take-out. We ate inside, too, and found servers wearing masks and the tables spread out. We went to a museum and bookstore. And we did a little shopping for kids’ clothes. Some stores had curbside service and all had masked employees and allowed a limited number of people in the store at a time.
Check out the post from our first trip for more ideas for activities in Billings, MT.
Montana Travel Guidelines
Safety first, adventure second. When traveling in Montana, there are a few things to keep in mind.
- Know local public health guidelines before you arrive
- Understand locations and services could be limited
- Stay home if you are sick
What is There To Do in Billings, Montana?
We spent about three days in Billings, with a road trip through southeast Montana in the middle. You can read about that adventure here.
The following was our Billings itinerary. We kind of ate our way through the city. There are so many good restaurants, that’s it’s hard not too. Fortunately, there are plenty of places to walk outside and burn off some of those meals.
Day 1 – Billings zoo, shopping, & restaurants
- Commons 1882
- Montana Audubon Center
- Downtown Billings
- Montana Brewing Company
- The Big Dipper Ice Cream
Day 2 – National Battlefield and food
- Morning in Southeast Montana
- Little Bighorn Battlefield
- Stacked, A Montana Grill
Day 3 – History, nature, and more eats
- Bernie’s Diner
- Pictograph Cave State Park
- Four Dances Recreational Area
- The Fieldhouse
- Western Heritage Center
- Last Chance Cider Pub
Day 4 – Hiking and climbing
- The Sassy Biscuit Co.
- Dover Park
What to Do in Billings — Day 1
After driving from Livingston, we started the day at ZooMontana. I’ve written about Montana’s only zoo before. I loved to bring the kids here when they were little since there is so much open space to run around. The animal habitats are large, the play park allows the kids to climb, jump, and play, the botanical garden makes me smile, and of course, there are the animals.
Even with a tween and teen, the zoo is a hit. We love that the animals that live there are adapted to living around the 45th parallel and are comfortable in Billings’ climate.
There were some new critters since we last visited — Yuki the Badger, Sam the Otter, and Bert and Nellie, two bison. Winston the Sloth was hiding out behind the scenes and we can’t wait to come back and see him.
ZooMontana, 2100 Shiloh Road
This gastropub is on the west side of Billings, just a few minutes drive from ZooMontana. They have outdoor seating, and the indoor seating is well spaced. Their menu is scratch made and they have a full bar. This is a great post-zoo pub since it’s so close to the zoo.
The kids had nachos, I went with the avocado burger, and Henry the smoked brisket. A beer for Henry and I topped off a scrumptious meal.
Commons 1882, 115 Shiloh Road
Billings has all the shops. There are the big chains and charming boutiques. Since our boys are basically wearing capris and 3/4 length sleeves, we popped into a couple shops and got them suited out in full length clothing.
Montana Audubon Center
Filled up and dressed up, we were ready to get out and move around. We hadn’t been to the Montana Audubon Center before and were delighted to find this natural area with ponds, trees, prairie, and walking trails.
The nature play space was so inviting. Even my big kids wanted to walk on the logs and jump around. We wandered around Will’s Marsh and Shallow Mill Pond.
The Center offers a bunch of programs to the public or you can just walk the trails like we did.
Montana Audubon Center, 7026 S. Billings Boulevard
Next, we checked into our hotel in downtown Billings, the Northern. They bill themselves as “unpretentious historic luxury,” and that sounds about right. Finn and I stayed here one weekend when we came to see Irish music at the Alberta Bair Theater and I fell in love with the hotel.
We had a spacious room/suite with super comfy beds. Everything is very nice, but not over-the-top fancy. And you can’t beat the location in downtown Billings.
There are two restaurants in the Northern and we visited them both. This evening we grabbed a drink at Ten before heading out on the town.
Northern Hotel, 19 N Broadway
Stepping out of the Northern, we were in downtown. All of the shops seemed to be open and requiring masks, which made us feel good. We poked around a bit and focused on This House of Books, a member-owned, independent bookstore and tea shop. In my mind, there are few things better than books and tea.
Montana Brewing Company
We always seem to eat at Montana Brewing Company when we are in Billings and this time was no different. We were thrilled to find an outdoor, screened patio in front. I prefer eating outside most of the time anyway, and these days it just feels better. They also offer take-out.
Montana Brewing Company was the first brew pub in the state. I recommend the Baja fish tacos and a Skypoint IPA.
Montana Brewing Company, 113 N Broadway
Big Dipper Ice Cream
After a short break at the Northern to digest our food, we went back out to our favorite Montana ice cream shop — the Big Dipper. I don’t know how we fit it in to our full bellies, but we did. We can’t pass up homemade flavors like Mexican chocolate or cardamon. We sat outside after ordering and they also offer contact-free pick up.
Big Dipper Ice Cream, 100 N Broadway
What to Do in Billings — Day 2
We spent the next three days on a Southeast Montana road trip, wrapping up that portion of our trip with a visit to Little Bighorn Battlefield. Since it is less than an hour to the National Battlefield from Billings, it easily fits into a Billings trip.
Little Bighorn National Battlefield
It’s always a moving experience to visit Little Bighorn.
Little Bighorn National Battlefield “memorializes the US Army’s 7th Cavalry and the Lakotas and Cheyennes in one of the Indian’s last armed efforts to preserve their way of life. Here on June 25 and 26 of 1876, 263 soldiers, including Lt. Col. George A. Custer and attached personnel of the US Army, died fighting several thousand Lakota and Cheyenne warriors.” NPS
You might know it as “Custer’s Last Stand.”
The visitor center was closed, but we used the map-brochure handed to us at the entrance kiosk to plan our trip and get an overview of the battlefield’s history. Start at the main parking area and walk up to Last Stand Hill and the 7th Cavalry Monument. From there you can cross over to the Indian Memorial and then back to your car.
We then drove the 4.5-mile tour road to the Reno-Benteen Battlefield and walked the short loop trails there.
There are interpretive signs along the way to help you picture what took place here. Many of them have a phone number that connects to audio narration.
In addition to being a sacred and historic place, it’s also quite scenic. We spent about two hours here, but you could see it in less time, though I don’t recommend it, or take more time to soak it in.
Little Bighorn National Battlefield, 756 Battlefield Tour Road, Crow Agency
Stacked, A Montana Grill
Back in Billings, we checked in to the Northern again (did I mention how much I love this hotel?) and then got take-out from Stacked, A Montana Grill and ate in our room.
Stacked started out as a food truck but now has an upscale/casual restaurant in downtown. It’s a traditional grill in some ways, serving burgers and sandwiches, but there’s a twist to it all.
I recommend the Zoom burger (with a Beyond Burger patty): fried green tomatoes, goat cheese, honey, sharp cheddar, espresso crusted burger and topped with their own blackberry roasted jalapeño sauce. That’s what they mean by “stacked.”
Stacked, A Montana Grill, 106 N Broadway
What to Do in Billings — Day 3
We started the day with breakfast at this upscale diner. Bernie’s is known for their over-the-top sweet breakfasts, and Anders went that route, but it turns out their savory meals are really good, too. Anders recommends the banana bread French toast, Henry and I got the huevos rancheros burritos, and Finn altered his order so much that it barely resembled what was on the menu.
We left stuffed, happy, and ready to get outside.
Bernie’s Diner, Northern Hotel
Pictograph Cave State Park
We’ve been to Pictograph Cave a bunch of times, but we always find something new. It’s such a pretty little canyon with a rich history.
Prehistoric hunters left behind artifacts and more than 100 pictographs, or rock paintings. The oldest rock art in the cave is more than 2,000 years old. The park’s three main caves — Pictograph, Middle, and Ghost caves — were home to generations of prehistoric hunters.
Take a self-guided tour on the quarter-mile paved loop trail. Pick up a guide at the trailhead kiosk so you know what you are looking at. There are interpretive signs along the way, as well.
You may also explore the visitor center one group at a time, wearing masks.
Unfortunately, the pictographs are fading. Be sure to bring binoculars for the best view.
There’s a nice picnic area near the parking lot and vault toilets.
Pictograph Cave State Park, 3401 Coburn Road,
Four Dances Recreational Area
On the return from Pictograph Cave, we stopped at Four Dances. This is another site we frequent almost every time we are in Billings. The short trails lead to overlooks of the Yellowstone River and Pryor Mountains on one side and Billings on the other.
Four Dances Recreational Area, 1100 Coburn Road
I don’t know how we could have been hungry again, but we were. I’ve been wanting to try the Fieldhouse for a couple years and finally got around to it. This farm-to-table restaurant has a small but mighty menu. And the mimosas were extra yummy while we sat on the spacious back patio.
The Fieldhouse, 2601 Minnesota Avenue
Western Heritage Center
From lunch we walked over to the Western Heritage Center, a regional museum in downtown. It features exhibits and artifacts relating to the history of the Yellowstone Valley. Anders fell in love with the relief map, Finn was absorbed in the history of firefighting, and I loved both the Evelyn Cameron photography exhibit and the exhibit on ten regional women who didn’t let society’s expectations determine how they lived their lives. Henry liked it all.
Western Heritage Center, 2822 Montana Avenue
Last Chance Pub and Cider Mill
Last Chance Pub is one of my favorite Billings restaurants. The tables were widely spaced and the servers wore masks. The cider is delicious and the food is, too.
It’s one of the stops on the Billings Brew Trail and serves artisanal farm-to-table cuisine. Don’t miss the sweet potato jojos or the veggie tacos.
Last Chance Pub and Cider Mill, 2203 Montana Avenue
What to Do in Billings — Day 4
The Sassy Biscuit Co.
Whenever we know someone is going to Billings, we tell them to get breakfast at Sassy Biscuit. Their unique and fun comfort food is perfect. Biscuits are the base of most meals here — biscuit pancakes, biscuit waffles, biscuit egg sandwiches… and it’s all so good.
The Sassy Biscuit Co., 115 N 29th
Dover Memorial Park
Dover Memorial Park is one of Billings newer park and even though it isn’t quite finished, it’s a lovely spot for a walk. It is way out on the east end of town along the Yellowstone River. The suspension bridges are fun and the creek and river are so relaxing.
The plans looks great — I can’t wait to see it when it’s finished.
Dover Memorial Park, 2531 Mary Street
I think of all the things we did on this trip, our kids were most excited about climbing. SteepWorld is an indoor climbing gym with lots of routes for belayed climbing and bouldering. We rented shoes and harnesses and started climbing the walls.
One of the nice things about this gym is that many of the ropes are self-belayed. That means, no one has to be at the bottom of the rope ready to catch someone when they fall. The kids and I could clip into any of the stations and start climbing safely.
They are taking extra cleaning measures, masks are required when you aren’t on the mat or climbing, and the space is huge.
SteepWorld, 1230 S 31st Street West
That wrapped up our Billings adventure. We did a lot in three days, but it never felt rushed. We’re looking forward to another Billings getaway soon. Let me know if you have any questions or need help planning your trip to Billings, Montana.