Family Fun in Idaho and Montana: Helena (Part 4)

This is the fourth post about our family's 2021 travels to Idaho and Montana. If you haven't already, start by reading the first, second, and third posts about this trip. Because I blog about educational travel, some locations provided me with complimentary admission tickets, discounts, media rates, and similar benefits. Other attractions are free to everyone. I paid full price for the rest. This has no bearing on my reviews, as everything that I share here is something that I fully recommend.


Family Fun in Helena

We started our first full day in Helena, Montana taking photos in front of the Capitol building. I absolutely LOVE the Montana 2021 landscaping! A quick Google search reveals that the design changes each year and not just the single digit. 

Montana is the 35th state our family has visited and this is our 27th Capitol building. We've visited two capital cities (Honolulu and Boston) where we didn't go to the actual Capitol building. There are six capital cities we haven't visited at all, despite having been to the state (Olympia, Springfield, Albany, Augusta, Richmond, and Tallahassee). We'll visit those eventually, though not necessarily before Trevor's 18th birthday. The pandemic put us behind a bit with our 50 states goal

Here we are at Montana's Liberty Bell

You may wonder why there are no photos of the inside of the Capitol. There will be! We didn't go inside right away because it was time to board our train. 

If you only do one thing in Helena, it should be the Last Chance Train Tour. In one hour, our entertaining and knowledgable guide introduced us to all the highlights of Helena. 

We saw the Cathedral of St. Helena, the mansion district, the governor's homes, Last Chance Gulch, the Old Fire Tower, and much more.

The train was a great way to learn the history of Helena, get the lay of land, and figure out must-visit places for the rest of our time in town. It was awesome. 

The train tour starts and ends at the Montana Historical Society Museum, which was next on our day's agenda. Before we went in, we enjoyed the display out front. 

Much of the museum tells the story of the people living in Montana during and after of the Lewis and Clark expedition. 

As usual, I was drawn to the native beading like a moth to light. Gorgeous!

During this trip, we saw different museums deal with COVID concerns in different ways. Some blocked off or removed hands-on exhibits, while others left them fully accessible. Montana's Museum posted signs asking us not to touch interactive displays. 

With the hands-on stuff hands-off, we still found plenty to enjoy at this interesting museum. For example, this tea brick. 

And this display about Montana's state symbols. 

And this collection of Montana military memorabilia. 

And the artwork by Montana's "Cowboy Artist" Charles M. Russell.

After the Montana Museum, we popped into the Capitol. The first order of business was stamping the Capitol Collection

Then we spent some time poking around. 

One of my favorite things about the Capitol was the flag display out front. While most states fly just their own state flag and the US flag, Montana now flies the flags of its eight tribal nations. 

We had lunch at the highly-recommended Bert & Ernie's. It was excellent. 


We popped in to Barnes Jewelry next door, because the people at the Montana Museum told us that they have the only pressed penny machine in Helena (Trevor collects pressed pennies). If not for the name, I wouldn't have known it was a jewelry store, as every single surface was covered in clocks, not jewelry. It was cool. 

Next, the Holter Museum of Art. It's small, perfect for a quick visit. 

Another quick visit, this time inside the Cathedral of St. Helena we'd seen from the outside during the train tour. It's stunning. I don't know if there's always someone there, but when we arrived there was a man there who was able to tell us all about the building and the gorgeous, incredibly detailed stained glass. 


We walked along Last Chance Gulch, which is lined with lots of shops and restaurants and all sorts of interesting artwork. 

As we walked, we looked for marked spots on the ground where you can use an app that takes you back in time. By that, I mean that you hold your phone up and it shows a photograph of the exact same location many years ago. It's really cool. 

We continued on until we reached Reeder's Alley, the oldest intact part of Helena. It's neat.

After exploring the Alley, we headed back the way we'd came. We'd had a surprising amount of elevation change and the heat was feeling oppressive. Cones from Big Dipper Ice Cream really hit the spot. I had tangerine sorbet and it was incredible. 

Along the way, we passed this interesting sidewalk display of the history Pride flags. We were very pleasantly surprised to see how LGBTQ+ friendly Helena is.

We went back to the hotel to watch Olympics and rest, then had a late dinner in the lounge at the amazing Silver Star Steak Company downstairs. As before, we ordered one entree, one appetizer, and one soup to share. Everything was incredible. 

It was a fantastic, albeit busy, day. We still had one full day in Helena remaining. I'll tell you all about it tomorrow. 

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