Billings, established in 1882, was named for Frederick Billings, president of the Northern Paciﬁc Railroad, and is Montana's largest and perhaps most economically diverse city. Here you'll ﬁnd the warm hospitality and rugged beauty of the West blended with the modern conveniences and opportunities of a dynamic, vigorous and progressive community.
Native Americans ventured throughout this area over 10,000 years ago, leaving their traces behind through different pictographs and petroglyphs. Due to the abundance of wildlife and the ﬂowing Yellowstone River, the area was later inhabited by the Sioux, Shoshone, Crow, and Blackfeet tribes, all at different times throughout history.
The ﬁrst white inhabitants came to this area in 1877, setting up the ﬁrst trade center and McAndows store, and they called the town Coulson. Coulson was the largest early settlement on the Upper Yellowstone at that time. They set up a ferry crossing across the Yellowstone River which made the passing from the army base of Fort Custer to Bozeman possible. They made a prosperous living selling food, grain, and goods to soldiers passing through.
The city is nicknamed “The Magic City,” as it developed “like magic” during the railroad's westward expansion. From its humble beginnings as a railhead for the Northern Paciﬁc, Billings has blossomed into a sophisticated city whose population doubles nearly every 30 years.
Billings's primary trading area, in excess of 125,000 square miles, is one of the largest in the United States. In addition to its roles as a regional trade, energy, and service center, Billings is the educational and medical center for the region. With two state-of-the-art hospitals, sixteen clinics, and hundreds of physicians, the area offers every major medical specialty, along with a complete range of surgical services and emergency care. The area is also home to MSU-Eastern Montana College, Rocky Mountain College, and Billings Vocational Center.
Recreational opportunities in the area are abundant. A short drive takes you to the Little Bighorn Battleﬁeld where General Custer took his “Last Stand.” Yellowstone Park is also only a brief distance away. The drive there takes you onto the scenic Beartooth Highway referred to by Charles Kuralt as “the most beautiful road in America.” Though an engineering triumph as it teeters up switchbacks and hairpin curves with names like “Mae West” and “Frozen Man,” it can be very tedious driving and should not be undertaken if you want to get to Yellowstone Park quickly. The highway can close without notice due to snow in this high country. The alternate route on I90, though not as exciting or scenically beautiful, is much safer and better suited for one who is short on time.
The Billings area is surrounded by seven mountain ranges: the Pryors, Big Horns, Bulls, Snowys, Crazys, Absarokas, and Beartooths. Standing on the north rim of the city, the splendor of Montana is visible all around. The city itself is home to Lake Elmo, one of Montana's state parks. Other nearby natural attractions include Pompey's Pillar and the Pictograph Caves.
In addition to the outdoor recreational opportunities, Billings is host to hoards of entertainment. Year-round theaters host nationally known entertainers, concerts, dramatic and musical productions, as well as symphony performances. Located in the heart of downtown Billings, the 5.12 million dollar Alberta Bair Theater serves as the hub of cultural entertainment in the city, as it is home to the Billings Community Concert Association and the Billings Symphony.
Metra, Yellowstone County's 12,000 seat arena and civic center, is located at MetraPark, the area's county fairgrounds. The arena hosts major entertainment events, as well as indoor sports events such as rodeos, ice hockey, and tractor pulls. MetraPark itself contains a 7,000 seat grandstand and horse racing track. Races run during August and September.
Billings is also equipped with a plethora of museums for those wanting to relax. The Yellowstone Art Center, The Western Heritage Center, and the Peter Yegen Jr. Museum is three of the top choices. There are also more historic sites in town that can be seen in a day. The Moss Mansion is one highlight that shouldn't be missed. Built at the turn of the century for Preston Moss, one of Montana's wealthiest men, the mansion is maintained as it was originally furnished and decorated. It cost $105,000 in 1903, a time when the average house cost was about $3,000.
Whatever your pleasure, Billings has it! From fun entertainment to exciting recreation, ﬁne dining to excellent shopping, you will ﬁnd it here.
Photo Gallery Billings Area