Welcome to Great Falls, Montana, a picturesque city situated along the Missouri River and known for its natural beauty, rich history, and vibrant arts scene. Often referred to as the “Electric City” due to its numerous hydroelectric dams, Great Falls offers a range of attractions and activities for visitors to enjoy. This travel guide will help you plan your visit and make the most of your time in Great Falls.
Discover Great Falls’ Attractions:
Great Falls, Montana, is a city with a rich history and beautiful natural surroundings, offering visitors numerous attractions to explore. Here are some of the top attractions in Great Falls:
- C.M. Russell Museum: Dedicated to the life and work of renowned Western artist Charles Marion Russell, this museum features a vast collection of his paintings, sculptures, and personal artifacts, as well as works by other prominent Western artists.
- Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail Interpretive Center: This interactive museum offers a fascinating look at the Lewis and Clark expedition, with exhibits, displays, and hands-on activities. The center is situated along the Missouri River, providing picturesque views and access to outdoor trails.
- Giant Springs State Park: Home to one of the largest freshwater springs in the country, this park offers scenic walking trails, picnic areas, and a fish hatchery. The park also features the Roe River, which is recognized as one of the shortest rivers in the world.
- Ryan Dam: Visit this impressive hydroelectric dam on the Missouri River and enjoy the stunning views of the Great Falls and surrounding landscapes from the observation deck.
- The History Museum: Learn about the rich history of Great Falls and the surrounding region, from its early Native American inhabitants to the development of the city as a prominent railway hub.
- Malmstrom Air Force Base Museum and Air Park: This museum showcases the history of Malmstrom Air Force Base and features a collection of aircraft, missiles, and artifacts related to the base’s role in national defense.
- Paris Gibson Square Museum of Art: Housed in a historic former school building, this art museum features rotating exhibitions of contemporary art, as well as educational programs and events.
- Great Falls Symphony: If you’re visiting during the symphony season, consider attending a performance by the Great Falls Symphony, which offers a mix of classical, pop, and chamber music concerts throughout the year.
- River’s Edge Trail: This extensive trail system stretches for over 60 miles along the Missouri River, providing opportunities for walking, biking, and birdwatching, as well as access to several parks and attractions.
By discovering the diverse attractions that Great Falls has to offer, visitors can gain a deeper appreciation for the city’s history, natural beauty, and cultural offerings.
Experience Great Falls’ Parks and Outdoor Spaces:
Great Falls, Montana, is blessed with an abundance of beautiful parks and outdoor spaces that cater to nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts. Here are some of the top parks and outdoor spaces to experience in Great Falls:
- Giant Springs State Park: This picturesque park is home to one of the largest freshwater springs in the country and the short Roe River. Enjoy scenic walking trails, picnic areas, a fish hatchery, and opportunities for birdwatching.
- River’s Edge Trail: This expansive trail system extends over 60 miles along the Missouri River, offering beautiful views, opportunities for walking, biking, and birdwatching, and access to several parks and attractions.
- Great Falls Park: Located near the city’s downtown area, this park features walking trails, picnic areas, playgrounds, and tennis courts. It is also home to the Great Falls Municipal Band’s summer concert series.
- Warden Park: This park is perfect for families and offers a playground, picnic areas, basketball courts, and open green spaces for recreational activities.
- Gibson Park: A popular spot for locals and visitors alike, Gibson Park features a picturesque duck pond, walking paths, picnic areas, playgrounds, and sports facilities.
- West Bank Park: Situated along the Missouri River, West Bank Park provides beautiful river views, walking trails, fishing access, and picnic areas for visitors to enjoy.
- First Peoples Buffalo Jump State Park: Just a short drive from Great Falls, this state park is home to one of the largest buffalo jump sites in North America. Visitors can learn about Native American history, hike the trails, and enjoy panoramic views of the surrounding landscape.
- Benton Lake National Wildlife Refuge: Located about 15 miles north of Great Falls, this wildlife refuge is a haven for birdwatching and wildlife viewing. The refuge features a variety of habitats, including wetlands, grasslands, and lakes, that support a diverse array of species.
- Highwood Mountains Recreation Area: Offering hiking, biking, and horseback riding trails, this recreation area is perfect for those looking to explore Montana’s beautiful landscapes. The Highwood Mountains also provide opportunities for wildlife viewing, picnicking, and photography.
By experiencing the parks and outdoor spaces in and around Great Falls, visitors can fully appreciate the natural beauty of the region and enjoy a variety of recreational activities suited to different interests and skill levels.
Savor Great Falls’ Food and Dining:
Great Falls, Montana, offers a diverse range of food and dining options for visitors to savor. From local favorites to international cuisine, here are some popular restaurants and eateries in Great Falls:
- Dante’s Creative Cuisine: This upscale restaurant offers a fine dining experience with a menu that features a mix of Italian and American cuisine. Their dishes are crafted using fresh, local ingredients, and the restaurant also offers an extensive wine list.
- Roadhouse Diner: For a classic American dining experience, head to the Roadhouse Diner. This locally-owned establishment is known for its delicious burgers, hand-cut fries, and homemade desserts.
- 3D International: Enjoy authentic Eastern European cuisine at this family-owned restaurant. Their menu includes traditional dishes from countries such as Hungary, Bulgaria, and Serbia, offering a unique dining experience in Great Falls.
- Teriyaki Madness: This fast-casual eatery specializes in Japanese-inspired teriyaki dishes, with options like chicken, beef, and tofu served over rice or noodles with a variety of vegetables.
- Enbär Craft Cocktail Lounge: Located in downtown Great Falls, Enbär is a stylish cocktail lounge that offers a selection of handcrafted cocktails and a menu of small plates, perfect for sharing with friends.
- Maple Garden: If you’re in the mood for Chinese cuisine, Maple Garden offers a wide variety of dishes, including classics like Kung Pao Chicken, Orange Beef, and Vegetable Lo Mein.
- 5th and Wine: This cozy wine bar and bistro serves a diverse selection of wines, craft beers, and a menu of small plates, sandwiches, and salads. It’s an ideal spot for a relaxed evening with friends or a romantic date night.
- Crooked Tree Coffee & Cakes: Satisfy your sweet tooth at this charming bakery and coffee shop, offering a variety of homemade cakes, pastries, and specialty coffee drinks.
- Taco Treat: For a quick and delicious Mexican meal, head to Taco Treat. This local favorite serves up tasty tacos, burritos, and other Mexican dishes at affordable prices.
By exploring the diverse food and dining options in Great Falls, visitors can savor a range of flavors and experiences, from casual eateries to fine dining establishments.
Shop in Great Falls and Enjoy Local Services:
Great Falls, Montana, offers a variety of shopping opportunities and local services for visitors to enjoy. From unique boutiques to larger shopping centers, here are some popular places to shop and access local services in Great Falls:
- Downtown Great Falls: The city’s downtown area is home to an assortment of unique shops, galleries, and boutiques offering everything from clothing and accessories to local artwork and souvenirs.
- Holiday Village Mall: This shopping center features a range of popular retail stores, including JCPenney, Ross, and PetSmart, as well as various dining options and a movie theater.
- West Bank Landing: Located along the Missouri River, this mixed-use development offers shopping, dining, and entertainment options, including Scheels, a large sporting goods store, and local businesses like True Brew Espresso and Mackenzie River Pizza.
- Marketplace Shopping Center: This shopping complex features a variety of stores, such as Target, Hobby Lobby, and Ulta Beauty, providing a convenient location for visitors to find essentials and more.
- Electric City Coffee & Bistro: This local coffee shop not only offers delicious coffee and baked goods but also features a selection of unique gifts and products from local artisans.
- Dragonfly Dry Goods: Visit this charming boutique for a variety of clothing, accessories, and gifts, with a focus on items from local and regional designers and artists.
- Amazing Toys: A favorite among kids and kids-at-heart, this locally-owned toy store offers a wide selection of toys, games, and puzzles for all ages.
- Cassiopeia Books: This independent bookstore is the perfect place to find your next read, with a curated selection of new and used books, as well as author events and book clubs.
- Great Falls Farmers Market: Depending on the season, the Great Falls Farmers Market offers an array of locally-grown produce, handmade crafts, and specialty food items from local vendors.
By shopping in Great Falls and enjoying the local services, visitors can find unique items, support local businesses, and take home a piece of their Montana experience.
Explore Great Falls’ Outdoor Activities:
Great Falls, Montana, is surrounded by beautiful landscapes and natural wonders, offering a variety of outdoor activities for visitors to enjoy. Here are some popular outdoor activities to explore in and around Great Falls:
- River’s Edge Trail: This extensive trail system stretches over 60 miles along the Missouri River, providing opportunities for walking, biking, and birdwatching, as well as access to several parks and attractions.
- Hiking and Biking: The Great Falls area has numerous trails for hiking and biking, including those in Giant Springs State Park and the Highwood Mountains Recreation Area. Enjoy the beautiful scenery, spot local wildlife, and take in panoramic views of the region.
- Fishing: The Missouri River and its tributaries offer excellent fishing opportunities for anglers, with species like rainbow trout, brown trout, and walleye. Local outfitters and guides can help you find the best fishing spots and provide the necessary equipment.
- Canoeing and Kayaking: Paddle along the Missouri River or explore the region’s many lakes and reservoirs by canoe or kayak. Local outfitters can provide rentals and guided tours for a memorable water-based adventure.
- Golfing: Great Falls has several golf courses, including Eagle Falls Golf Club, Meadow Lark Country Club, and Anaconda Hills Golf Course. These courses offer varying levels of difficulty and beautiful views of the surrounding landscapes.
- Birdwatching: The Benton Lake National Wildlife Refuge, Giant Springs State Park, and the River’s Edge Trail are just a few of the locations in the Great Falls area where birdwatchers can spot a diverse array of avian species.
- First Peoples Buffalo Jump State Park: Visit this historical site to learn about the Native American hunting techniques and hike the trails for stunning views of the surrounding landscape.
- Snow Sports: In the winter months, the nearby Showdown Montana ski area offers downhill skiing, snowboarding, and snowshoeing opportunities for visitors to enjoy.
- Scenic Drives: Take a scenic drive through the surrounding countryside to explore the beauty of Montana’s landscapes. Some popular routes include the Kings Hill Scenic Byway and the Missouri River Scenic Byway.
By exploring the wide range of outdoor activities available in Great Falls and the surrounding region, visitors can truly immerse themselves in the natural beauty of Montana and create lasting memories of their adventures.
Navigate Great Falls’ Transportation:
Navigating Great Falls, Montana is relatively easy thanks to the city’s transportation options. Here are some ways to get around Great Falls and explore the surrounding areas:
- Great Falls Transit: The city’s public transportation system operates several bus routes throughout Great Falls, providing a convenient and affordable way to explore the city. The bus service covers major attractions, shopping centers, and residential areas.
- Taxi Services: Several taxi companies operate in Great Falls, offering a convenient way to get around the city, especially if you’re not familiar with the area or prefer not to drive.
- Rideshare Services: Popular rideshare services like Uber and Lyft are available in Great Falls, providing another convenient transportation option for getting around the city.
- Bicycle Rentals: Great Falls is a bike-friendly city with numerous bike lanes and trails. You can rent bicycles from local outfitters or bike shops and explore the city at your own pace.
- Car Rentals: Renting a car is a popular option for visitors who want the flexibility to explore Great Falls and the surrounding region at their own pace. Several car rental agencies operate in the city, including at the Great Falls International Airport.
- Great Falls International Airport (GTF): Located just a few miles southwest of the city, the airport connects Great Falls to major destinations across the United States. Shuttle services, taxis, and car rentals are available at the airport for transportation to and from the city.
- Driving: Great Falls has a straightforward street layout, making it relatively easy to navigate by car. Parking is generally available in downtown areas, shopping centers, and near major attractions.
By utilizing the various transportation options available in Great Falls, visitors can efficiently explore the city and the surrounding region, ensuring a memorable experience.
Find Great Falls Accommodations:
Great Falls, Montana, offers a range of accommodations to suit various preferences and budgets. From budget-friendly motels to upscale hotels and cozy bed & breakfasts, visitors can find lodging options that meet their needs. Here are some popular accommodation choices in Great Falls:
- Holiday Inn Express & Suites Great Falls: This comfortable hotel offers modern amenities, including an indoor pool, fitness center, and complimentary breakfast. It’s located close to several shopping centers and attractions.
- Staybridge Suites Great Falls: Ideal for extended stays, this hotel offers spacious suites with fully-equipped kitchens, an indoor pool, a fitness center, and a complimentary hot breakfast buffet.
- Best Western Plus Riverfront Hotel & Suites: This hotel boasts a picturesque riverside location, offering easy access to the River’s Edge Trail. Guests can enjoy an indoor pool, fitness center, and complimentary breakfast.
- Comfort Inn & Suites Market – Airport: Located near the Great Falls International Airport, this hotel offers a complimentary airport shuttle service, an indoor pool, a fitness center, and a free hot breakfast.
- O’Haire Motor Inn: This historic hotel in downtown Great Falls features a unique indoor courtyard and an on-site restaurant and lounge, the legendary Sip ‘n Dip, known for its mermaid shows.
- La Quinta Inn & Suites by Wyndham Great Falls: This pet-friendly hotel offers an indoor pool, fitness center, and complimentary breakfast, making it a convenient choice for visitors traveling with their furry friends.
- The Hotel Arvon: Located in the historic downtown area, this boutique hotel offers uniquely decorated rooms, blending modern amenities with historic charm.
- Crystal Inn Hotel & Suites: This affordable hotel offers spacious rooms, an indoor pool, a fitness center, and complimentary breakfast, providing great value for travelers on a budget.
- Bed & Breakfasts: Great Falls has several charming bed & breakfasts, offering a more intimate and personalized lodging experience. Some options include the Grand Union Hotel in nearby Fort Benton and the Benton Street Inn Bed & Breakfast in Great Falls.
By considering the variety of accommodations available in Great Falls, visitors can find lodging options that cater to their preferences and budget, ensuring a comfortable and enjoyable stay.