Winter in Great Falls Montana means you’ll experience a postcard-worthy atmosphere as you’re transported into a winter wonderland with snowy mountain ranges, sparkling rivers, and roaring fireplaces in local venues. This guide will point you in the right direction on how to explore the area during the season to get the most out of your visit. Here are some of the top things to do in Great Falls this winter.
Enjoy a Scenic Drive
Spend a portion of your trip driving past stunning scenery, which means if you fly in, it’s advised to rent a car for your visit. Begin at Highway 89 that will take you through snow-capped peaks, white fields, and trickling mini waterfalls pouring down off the edges of giant boulders. Once you get to Kings Hill Pass, you’ll reach an altitude of 7,385′, giving you a spectacular view of the snow-covered land. Sun River Canyon Scenic Drive is another route to take to get a view of the gorgeous Rocky Mountains. Eventually, you’ll drive through a thick forest where you’ll find deer wandering around by the side of the road. Or go to Smith River Scenic Drive, a road less traveled, full of prairies, buttes, and mountains stretching as far as the eye can see.
Bask in Nature
Take a drive to the old Morony Town Site, and you will discover the Sulphur Springs Trail (just over 15 miles away from Great Falls), where you’ll explore a graveled pathway that stretches for 3.6 miles through the prairies and rivers. It’s believed the water from the springs cured Sacagawea who fell ill during the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Today, you can retrace the steps of the famous explorers and get a glimpse of what they saw during their expedition. Keep your eyes peeled for birds that are known to migrate to the area from Canada. Montana is known for being home to more than 430 species of birds, giving you plenty of chances to spot this majestic animals.
Hit the Slopes
Get your need for speed with skiing or snowboarding at Montana’s First Ski Hill. You’ll fall in love with the views on the ski slopes before whizzing downhill. At Showdown Ski Area, the lifts begin running at 9:30am and run until 4pm when the snow falls. Check with the facility before making your way there for special events and snow conditions. Go snowmobiling on the same Little Belt Mountains that are surrounded by Douglas firs and pine trees. The snowmobile pathway is 29 miles of snowy wilderness, and riders report seeing black bears and elk on occasion. Continue your adventure and go fat bike riding on Rivers Edge Trail, Highwoods or Little Belt Mountains. Fat bikes are bicycles with thick rubber tires that are designed to ride on snow. If you who wish to go at an easier pace, cross-country skiing or snowshoeing are wonderful alternatives to explore the great outdoors. The best location to go cross-country skiing or snowshoeing is at Silver Crest Winter Trails at Lewis and Clark National Forest near Neihart.
Meet the friendly locals of this charming city at cozy restaurants like the Roadhouse Diner, known for its juicy burgers that can be stacked up to your ears. Locals love this place for its fun menu with the PB&J Burger, Elvis Fries, Large Marge (sausage and bacon mixed with three eggs) and Hell Fries (spicy fries). The Celtic Cowboy is another great venue to get a tasty meal. The pub-slash-restaurant is known for serving authentic Irish fare like steak and frites, Irish breakfast, corned beef and cabbage, and traditional fish and chips. As night falls, the place becomes a popular destination to grab a pint of Guinness and enjoy a friendly conversation with the locals. For a comfy atmosphere to drink local craft beer and mingle, Mighty Mo Brew Co is the place to try out local flavors and enjoy live music. Sip on a craft cocktail at Enbär, or enjoy Montana’s Best Tiki Drink as you watch mermaids swim at the Sip n Dip Lounge. Enjoy coffee and more local food for breakfast at Electric City Coffee & Bistro, where their avocado toast is served on Blue Truck Bread, made locally, with locally-sourced wheat and eggs fresh from local producers.
Explore the Arts Scene
Take in the arts and culture scene in Great Falls during your stay by catching a show featuring the Great Falls Symphony. Winter is Symphony Season and shows like Passionate Passages will be performed with the talented orchestra. Great Falls is proud to be home to 17 art galleries (mostly on Central Avenue), where you can browse and admire the works of local and national artists. Some of the art galleries will cover Montana themes, depicting paintings of bison and dense woodlands, making for a great souvenir to bring home. Other art galleries will showcase homemade jewelry and potteries readily available for purchase. This is a great time to get your holiday shopping done!
Expand Your Mind
Great Falls is Montana’s Museum Capital with 10 museums that will pique your interests, including The History Museum, Children’s Museum of Montana, Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center, the Paris Gibson Square Museum of Art, and more. The History Museum is an excellent place to start if you’re curious about the area’s rich history and how it came to be the city it is today. There, you’ll find up to 10,000 artifacts, paintings and old photographs along with tours where guests can learn more about the pieces. The CM Russell Museum is the place to be if you’re into the Wild West and its history. There’s something in it for the kids as well, since the museum has various children’s activities and art workshops to participate in while you enjoy the displays in the museum. The Square, as locals refer to it, has the permanent Lee Steen exhibit featuring the artist’s variety of roadside stick people—a must-see experience.
Show Off Your Skills
You can plan ahead for your trip and participate in several competitions like the Willow Creek Ice Fishing Tournament that’s held every year near Great Falls, where competitors will battle one another for the best catch on a frozen lake. Enjoy a genuine Montana home town Christmas Stroll or go more Wild West at the Great Falls’ Pro Rodeo Circuit Finals, where you can cheer on your favorite cowboy as they tackle a wild bull or rope in cattle. Stick around to see who is crowned Miss Rodeo Montana and cheer for all the rodeo stars and pageant victories. Eat like a local during Great Falls Restaurant Week, where participating restaurants promote locally-grown food during Great Falls Montana Restaurant Week. See why Great Falls is the Western Art Capital of the World during Western Art Week where over 800 artists exhibit at 16 shows.