Epic Family Adventures
There are few places in the West that can convey the same sense of historic depth as Butte. The grand buildings of the downtown area are a marker of the bustling commerce of yesteryear. "The Richest Hill on Earth" still offers experiences worthy of the name and the whole family will enjoy an underground tour of the mines that made Butte what it is today. It doesn't get much cooler than a helmet with a built-in light, right? Everybody gets to wear one on tours that venture into the Orphan Girl Mine (part of the World Museum of Mining).
The craggy hills are alive at Ringing Rocks, where gently tapping the rocks with a hammer (make sure to bring your own) produces a chiming sound, thanks to their composition and arrangement. Don't bother trying to take one home, though. The rocks won't ring anywhere else.
Head for Bannack State Park and try panning for gold near the site of the state’s first major discovery (in 1862). The town—Montana’s first territorial capital—is now deserted. Take a guided tour of the 60 abandoned log and frame structures during summer, or visit in October for ghost walks that bring stories of former residents to life.
Sample early 1900s life behind bars at the Old Montana Prison. Go behind the 24-foot-high sandstone walls to see stark maximum-security cells and a courtyard where convicts exercised.
Helena strikes a balance between outdoor recreation and family-friendly attractions. Hike the town’s vast trail system, which connects to downtown. Don’t miss a ride on the Great Northern Carousel and its hand-carved Montana animals. Next door, find ExplorationWorks!, a science museum with hands-on exhibits for the whole family. Then head to the walking mall on Last Chance Gulch, packed with shopping, restaurants and an outdoor play area. At night, set your sights on the Milky Way and cowboy life at Helena’s Last Chance Ranch. A horse-drawn wagon drives you to a meal of prime rib and huckleberry cheesecake, followed by guitars under the stars.