"Colorful Helena in the Heart of Montana" Top 5 Page for this destination Helena by TooTallFinn24

Helena Travel Guide: 50 reviews and 72 photos

Colorful History

Helena's history, as with many other Western cities, was tied to the discovery of precious minerals. In the case of Helena it was the discovery of gold in 1864. Rewind to July of 1864 when four miners from Georgia who had little success finding gold made a big find. It was literally their last chance before returning home and they struck it rich. The area outside of town became known as Last Chance Gulch, The amount of the gold found in the area was so great that by 1888, Helena had more millionaires per capita than any where in the world.

This is clear in the buildings that make up the downtown and the lower hills in town. Magnificent buildings and homes are peppered through this surprisingly small city of just 29,000 people.

Evidence of the city's history are found throughout the town and surrounding area from abandoned mining equipment to statues and sculptures commerating the City's past.

Colorful Downtown

Downtown Helena is one of the prettiest and best kept up downtowns in the Western United States. The only pedestrian mall in Montana, referred to as Last Chance Gulch, it stretches for several streets. Each street is called out by wayfinding signs for its significance in the history of Helena. Statues, monuments, restaurants and shops make up the downtown area. All of it done in good taste and remarkably clean.

However as pretty as it looks much of Helena's historic fabric was lost during the urban renewal times of the 1970's. During this time over 240 buildings in the historic district were demolished to make way for renewal. The losses of historic buildings in Helena became to be a community issue which peaked after the loss of the beautiful old Marlow Theater. However since that time things have changed and a very active Downtown Helena association and wonderful groups such as helenaonline.com have realized the financial good sense of saving many of the remaining historic buildings downtown.

We walked the area early on a Sunday morning in October. Few people were out and the ones that were could be found in one of the many restaurants open for Sunday brunch or breakfast. What we did find however was a very well kept up pedestrian mall full of surprises on every block. Definitely worth a trip to see.

Surprising Churches and Municipal Buildings

For a small city Helena has an array of public buildings and churches that would be the envy of a city several times its size. The magnificent Helena Cathedral juts over 240 feet with its towers and was designed after the Cologne Cathedral. The Civic Center from a distance looks like a mosque. However this interesting building holds the offices of the City of Helena as well as many arts and recreation functions for its residents. Other public buildings in the central business district for Lewis and Clark County and other churches are designed with the same architectural detail that is rare in a city as small as Helena.

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:Pretty, well kept up city with many dining choices
  • Cons:Winters are brutally cold
  • Last visit to Helena: Oct 2013
  • Intro Updated Oct 9, 2013
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Reviews (11)

Comments (2)

  • TooTallFinn24's Profile Photo
    Oct 10, 2013 at 8:25 PM

    Not in this area of Montana I think. Thanks for the reviews. Many of the Helena tips need to be rewritten to add directions.

  • GentleSpirit's Profile Photo
    Oct 10, 2013 at 6:00 PM

    Didnt they discover a lot of dinosour remains in that part of the country fairly recently?


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