Exploring Helena, Montana
Helena, Montana is a place I never really gave thought to visit, but when one of my friends moved there last Spring I knew that sooner or later I would touch down in Big Sky Country. Fast forward to the beginning of this November and that's exactly where you could find me!
We arrived Wednesday evening after a loooong day of traveling and left early Saturday morning. Combine that with an early Thanksgiving celebration on Thursday while we were together, and you get a super packed couple of days.
If you ever find yourself in Helena for a few days, here are a few things I would definitely reccomend checking out!
Broadwater Hot Springs - These "hot springs" may look like man-made pools, but they are filled with Natural Hot Springs and Natural Cold Springs water. As the website says, "no city water in our pools!" The water is kept between 97 and 104 degrees, with a "Cold Plunge" pool that is between 60 and 70 degrees. You can buy a membership, but a daily guest pass is only $9.00 per person. Broadwater also has a bar and grill on location where you can either eat in the restaurant or order food and drinks poolside - plus, there's ton's of beer on tap with great local options! This is open year-round - meaning we were able to be in the pools while the ground was covered in snow! Please excuse the blurry pictures, the steam was so thick you sometimes couldn't see someone right in front of you!
Take in the sights - This isn't something that you really have to go out of your way to do. If you open your eyes while outside in Helena, or really even just look out a window, you will see mountains in every direction. It's amazing. Coming from a place where the NYC skyline is my usual view, seeing mountains next to small town shops is crazy in comparison. To take in some views of the mountains from up above there is a spot called the Scenic Lookout. if you head West from the center of Helena on Route 12 for about 25 minutes you will eventually come across a pull off on the side of the road where you can park and take the most beautiful pictures.
Archie Bray Foundation for the Ceramic Arts - Archie Bray has several ceramics studios on the grounds - some used for classes and some for resident artists. You can choose to take a workshop or class at the foundation, but you can also simply walk the grounds at no charge. There are over 1,000 sculptures scattered throughout the grounds to see - from a combination of well-known and departed resident artists. This is also open year-round and is a great way to spend an afternoon! They are constantly adding new pieces to the collection, so there is always something new to see.
Last Chance Gulch - This is a street in Downtown Helena where you could spend a day or night in itself. There are so many cute shops to pop in and out of, as well as restaurants, coffee shops, and even a couple of bars. The Hawthorn Bottle Shop and Tasting Room is an awesome wine bar. They have some pretty great wines on tap as well as a limited food menu. You can also try a glass of any of the bottles of wines they have for sale, which is a great way to find new local wines you like without having to buy a whole bottle first. Parrot Confectionary is another cute spot to swing by on your Tour de Gulch. This is a candy shop where that feels like you stepped back into the 50's when you walk through the door - jukebox included! If you want the best hot chocolate ever, the General Mercantile is where you should stop by next. This is a coffee shop within a super eclectic storefront. Booths are scattered throughout the store and pretty much everything you see is for sale. There's so much to do in this area you really need to check it out for yourself!
The Holter Museum of Art CAVES exhibit - This small museum is a great place to see pieces from local artists, but in the back there is an exhibit that is made up of NeuroCaves. These "caves" turn your brainwaves into sound and color. There are five caves in a dark room - each made up of thin, fiberglass-looking wires. After standing under the cave for a few seconds with a headset on your head your brainwaves start to sync up with the cave. The sounds simulate what you might hear in an actual cave (echos, water dripping, etc.) and colors are mostly primary colors, but with each person who puts on the headset, they change and morph to match what's going on in that person's head. It's pretty cool to see how your brainwaves look and sound compared to others around you. A plaque on the wall that explained some of the colors and sounds you may experience pointed out that sometimes people who are standing near each other for long enough and who are taking part in the same activity may begin to have similar brainwaves, which can be seen while in the caves. This turned out to be really relaxing and was a great break all the action of the trip. Although there is no fee to enter the museum or the exhibit, you can always make a donation to the museum to support the local artists!
I honestly enjoyed Helena so much! I would definitely consider going back for another (hopefully longer!) visit. I've been told that the area is just as amazing during the spring and summer months when it is much warmer outside.
Have you ever been to Helena? What's your favorite thing to do while there? Let me know in the comments below!