Two of the more distinctive lodging options in Helena include the Helena Great Northern Hotel, as grand and historic as its name suggests, and Jorgenson’s Inn and Suites, a moderately priced inn with a homey personal touch. For bed and breakfast fans, two of the best are The Carolina Bed and Breakfast and Sander’s-Helena’s Bed and Breakfast. If you prefer to stay outside the city, you might consider staying at the modesty priced Creek Front Cabin, the more upscale Historic Log Cabin at Canyon Ferry Lake, or the deluxe Spacious Log Cabin at Ferry Lake. Another attractive option is the Alta Vista Lodge, which also serves as a favorite venue for weddings and receptions.
The ultimate Montana experience, though, is to go glamping (glamour camping) at the Resort at Paws Up, where you can camp out in luxury safari setting with stunning views. In addition to the two-bedroom luxe family tents, Paw’s Up even includes three secluded one-bedroom ‘honeymoon tents’ at Pinnacle Camp and Cliffside Camp, featuring claw-foot bathtubs for two, The Last Best Bed, and amazing views. You can follow up a gourmet dinner with fine wine in the dining pavilion with catered s’mores around the campfire. If you’re traveling with a number of friends and family members, you might consider reserving the whole camp, which includes six tents, the dining pavilion and a butler. Other amenities include sprawling decks, hot tubs and wi fi. The Resort at Paws up was recently used as the backdrop for a Ralph Lauren holiday campaign.
If you would like a guided tour for your visit to downtown Helena, consider Last Chance Tours. The same company also offers Last Chance Wagonride Dinners, where you ride a horse-drawn wagon from the city out to the Lastchance Ranch, where you are fed a gourmet meal, accompanied by live music, around the campfire. The ranch also serves as a unique venue for weddings, ferrying in the bride by buggy.
In downtown Helena, no visit to Helena would be complete without a visit to the lavish red-and-gold Cathedral of St. Helena, modeled on a European cathedral and dedicated in 1914. The Montana Historical Society Museum covers all of the state’s history and culture; one highlight is the collection of works by Charles M. Russell, Montana’s cowboy artist (1864-1926). In the domed state capitol across the street from the museum, hang an enormous painting by Russell entitled “Lewis and Clark Meeting Indians at Ross’ Hole.” Three additional attractions that should top every visitor’s list are the Great Northern Carousel, the Montana Blue Jewel Mine, and the original governor’s mansion. Kids—and the young at heart–will be delighted with the Great Northern Carousel, which features homemade ice cream and old-fashioned décor, including big-horned rams and bison, along with the usual carousel horses.
If you’re interested in art, the small but select selection of art works on view at the Archie Bray Foundation for the Ceramic Arts, located in a former brickyard, is well worth a visit. For a broader but less cutting edge selection, check out the Holter Museum of Art. If you’re lucky enough to be in town in mid-August, you should stop by the Sieben Ranch, a working cattle ranch, for the annual four-day ‘Quick Draw Event,’ where visitors enjoy an elaborate catered lunch, while the 47 members of the Northwest Rendezvous of Artists paint amid the trees and offer their works for sale, to benefit the Montana Historical Society. The open-air art festival also includes performances by cowboy poets. For fly fishing enthusiasts, you might want to take along a fishing pole, since world-class fishing can be had on the Missouri River near the Sieben Ranch.
In between strolls and visits to museums and civic monuments, you may want to try some of the best restaurants in the city, from the informal Steve’s Café and Karmadillo’s Southwestern Café (located in Last Chance Gulch, a small restored walking mall in downtown) to the somewhat more formal Mediterranean Grill, to the romantic and more formal Lucca’s.