What’s so special about Great Falls, Montana? It’s unlike any place you’ve ever been. From mermaids and authentic Irish brunches, a thriving arts scene to wide-open spaces brilliantly captured by cowboy artist CM Russell, Great Falls specializes in the unexpected.
The stunning western town is the best of two worlds, combining all the unspoiled land, open space and outdoor adventures you’d expect from Montana with an impressive roster of arts and cultural diversions to keep creative people inspired.
If you’re hoping to get back in touch with your inner outdoorsman while you’re in Great Falls, you’ll be pleased to find both the longest river in America (the Missouri River), the shortest river in the world (the Roe River), and the World’s Largest freshwater Spring (Giant Springs) running through this gorgeous land and all in one spot. Explore them both as well as a slew of other lakes and waterways by boat, canoe, kayak or paddleboard. Many of the town’s lakes and rivers are known as world-class fishing destinations; the Missouri and Smith Rivers have international reputations as blue-ribbon trout streams.
Montana’s First Ski Hill, Showdown, is a beautiful drive from Great Falls and offers natural snow and 3 chairlifts, 1 learning conveyor, 36 runs, 8,200 summit elevation, etc. Next to Showdown, you’ll find the Silver Crest cross-country skiing and snow shoeing area. And if that’s not enough trail miles, you can follow more or make your own throughout the Little Belt Mountains—fat tire biking, snowmobiling and more is available for your inner adventurer! If you prefer to spectate, cheer on the home team during a Great Falls Americans hockey game at Great Falls Ice Plex.
The Local Food Scene
If you’re lucky enough to find yourself at the doorway of the Celtic Cowboy, then you are fortunate indeed. While you’re in Great Falls, make a stop (or two!) at this award-winning Irish pub. The pub is named for Robert Vaughn (nicknamed the “Celtic Cowboy” after emigrating from Wales and becoming a community leader). The pub serves authentic Irish fare (hello, Scotch eggs, bread pudding, bangers and corned beef hash) all day, every day. Wash it all down with a pint, dram or pour of your choice. And for Sunday brunch, partake in the weekly Celtic Music extravaganza, which takes brunching to a new level of entertainment. The Celtic’s hummus is made from local ingredients and the pub’s atmosphere has been as the best sports experience in North America.
The Sip ‘n Dip Lounge is the Great Falls’ world famous tiki lounge; it’s been named the No. 1 bar on earth worth flying for by GQ Magazine. Of course, no tiki bar visit is complete without large drinks in quirky glasses (Montana’s Best Tiki drink) with plenty of accouterments. At the Sip ‘n Dip, sample a Fishbowl while watching “real” mermaids and mermen swim behind the bar. Merpeople aside, the true celebrity in the lounge is Piano Pat. Pat has been holding court and singing her tunes at Sip n’ Dip for more than 40 years!
The Roadhouse Diner is earning local and national attention, by serving fries, burger, buns and desserts with only Montana ingredients inspired by pop culture icons from Darth Vader to AC/DC. You may even recognize co-owner Tara from a little show called Guy’s Grocery Games—she won it with her amazing skills in the kitchen.
Mighty Mo Brew Co has a menu full of local fare as well—not just local beer, but local pizza!
Enbär is always serving up local spirits and unique small plates in its sophisticated cocktail lounge interior.
The people in Great Falls will deliver time and again on genuine hospitality. You’ll be welcomed as a local when you stop into KellerGesit Pub Theatre (quite possibly the world’s smallest bar) for a quality handcrafted cocktail, The Blue Rose to shop for classic clothing pieces, enjoy live music at The Do, stroll through Winston Gallery, try a few routes at the Hi-Line Climbing Center, take a ride on the Historic Great Falls Trolley, cheer on the Great Falls Voyagers, or renew your spirit with a craft Jeremiah Johnson Brewing Company brew.
A Heart For The Arts
Great Falls is home to 10 museums, a symphony and numerous art installations; culture is alive and thriving in the heart of Montana. The CM Russell Museum, voted Montana’s best museum worth traveling for, is dedicated to the famed cowboy artist. With more than 2,000 pieces of Russell’s art and artifacts and the works of other great Western artists, the museum is also the home of Russell’s log art studio, which you can tour.
Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center has the most extensive collection of the Corps of Discovery expedition, which spent more time in Great Falls than any other location on their westward journey (and we can’t blame them). Or stroll along downtown and snap selfies in front of the many murals peppered around town. The river is also a great place to find amazing art installations: the River’s Edge Trail includes 24 outdoor works of art along its length.
Make plans to visit Great Falls March 18 – 21, 2021 during Western Art Week. The city becomes the Western art capital of the world. For five days, mingle with art lovers from across the globe as you experience shows featuring more than 800 artists in an unforgettable celebration of Western culture. Expect live music performances, auctions, educational sessions, and one-of-a-kind works from every medium (oil paintings, watercolors, pastels, bronzes, jewelry and photography).
If it’s the performing arts you crave, the 1,782-seat historic Mansfield Center is home to the Great Falls Symphony, and where you can enjoy a wide variety of performances all year long. The orchestra is a true feather in Montana’s cap, including nine professional musicians who comprise the core Cascade Quartet and Chinook Winds, along with 141 other talented musicians for a 150-piece orchestra. The orchestra performs a full concert symphony series and a chamber music series each season, so there are always options to hear inspiring music by gifted musicians while you’re in town.
Notable events this year at the theater include Moscow Ballet’s “Great Russian Nutcracker” and “Mannheim Steamroller Christmas,” both at the Mansfield Theater.