Family Fun in Idaho and Montana: Helena (Part 5)

This is the fifth post about our family's 2021 travels to Idaho and Montana. I suggest starting with the first, second, third, and fourth posts about this trip. Because I blog about educational travel, some businesses gave me 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. Everything that I share is something that I fully recommend.


Family Fun in Helena

We started our final full day in Helena with a short drive to Gates of the Mountains.

We boarded a boat for a 2-hour tour along the Missouri River, where we learned about the history, wildlife, and native plants of the area. Our guide was outstanding and kept us entertained and well-informed throughout. 

The time flew by. Everything was so pretty and each animal sighting was so exciting. 

The smoke was bad enough that we wore N95 masks, but it was still absolutely gorgeous. I can only imagine how much prettier the area would have been with crystal-clear skies. 

Here, we are about to "shut" the Gates of the Mountains. It's a fun optical illusion. 

We had lunch at Bad Betty's Barbecue, walking distance from our hotel. Their Wednesday special is brisket burnt ends, which is Steve's favorite. Everything was delicious. On our walk back, we stopped for a closer look at Helena Bike Tower


Then we went to ExplorationWorks. It's a hands-on science and discovery museum for young children. 

The Montana-themed water play area is neat.

Although ExplorationWorks is most suitable for kids under 7, we each found things we enjoyed. I really liked this musical bridge. As you pass over it, each laser beam that your body breaks plays a note. By holding my arm out, I was able to play a lot of notes at once. I've been to a lot of science museums, but this was new to me. 

Trevor liked this air maze best. 

And we all loved the temporary exhibit about bats. They were sleeping when we visited. 

The Great Northern Carousel is right next to ExplorationWorks. Carousels don't excite 15-year old Trevor quite they way they did 5-year old Trevor, but all three of us really enjoyed looking at this unusually beautiful carousel. While there are some horses, many of the animals are not typically seen on a carousel. Have you ever ridden a cutthroat trout? Didn't think so. 

Each hand-carved animal represents a species found in Montana, including a bobcat, grey wolf, antelope, and river otter. 

We stood there watching through four full rides, trying to spot all the tiny details. We didn't want to take photos of other people's kids, so when they got off, we would each run over and photograph our favorite animals. (Thus making us look crazy, as opposed to creepy.) Anyway.... did you notice that each animal has other animals hidden on and around the saddle? See the hummingbird?

As if the animals weren't enough to admire, this gorgeous carousel features 14 carved and stained glass panels depicting scenes from Helena. 

For our final Helena destination, we ate dinner at the famed Windbag Saloon and Grill. It's along Last Chance Gulch. 

The food was just as good as everyone said it would be. 

We loved our time in Helena. The city has earned a place on my list of Unexpectedly Awesome Cities for Family Vacations! I'm so glad we were able to spend the time to explore the Helena as much as we did. While we were sad to say goodbye to Helena, we were looking forward to our next destination. I'll tell you all about it tomorrow. 

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