Billings - Abbey Travel, Ireland

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Welcome to Billings


The leisurely city of Billings, with its central location and international airport, is the gateway to Montana and the perfect base from which to explore the many attractions of this vast, northerly US State.

The small city, founded in 1882, is situated on the Yellowstone River at the base of the Rimrocks, a set of distinctive rock formations, and was named for a former president of the Northern Pacific Railway, Frederick Billings, who piloted the railway line across Montana. Today Billings remains an economic and transport hub for the state, and also serves as its welcome mat for tourism.

The city bristles with hotels, motels and B&Bs, its modern complexes like MetraPark and the Expo Center offering facilities for rodeos, concerts, the Montana Fair and a variety of other events. Its broad, tree-lined avenues also boast a variety of attractions: museums and galleries such as the unique Yellowstone Art Museum, the renowned Alberta Bair Theater, the interactive Western Heritage Center, and preserved historic buildings like the Moss Mansion. Within a day's drive of the city are three stunning national parks, Yellowstone, Glacier and Grand Teton.

Information & Facts


Billings has a semi-arid climate, with low humidity all year round. Summers are sunny, warm and pleasant, and autumn is a particularly lovely season with spells of 'Indian summer'. The first frost usually comes at the end of September. Winter brings fairly heavy snowfalls, but snow does not accumulate. Warm 'Chinook' winds during February and March bring unseasonably warm conditions.

Getting Around

Billings' downtown area is confusing for visitors, being designed on a grid system with numbered avenues increasing numerically both to the north and south of Montana Avenue, and numbered streets crossing it from east to west. The central area is compact and can be explored on foot. Most visitors, however, prefer to rent a car to explore the city and outskirts. The city bus service is the Billings Met Transit, which is very efficient and easy to use. MET buses stop at most corners and at stops with a distinctive blue and green sign. Exact fares are required, paid to the driver. Buses run from 6.10am to 6.45pm on weekdays and from 8.10am to 5.45pm on Saturdays. There are no buses on Sundays or major public holidays.

English is the most common language but Spanish is often spoken in south-western states.

The US Dollar (USD) is the unit of currency and is divided into 100 cents. Only major banks exchange foreign currency. ATMs are widespread and credit cards and travellers cheques are widely accepted. Travellers cheques should be taken in US Dollars to avoid hassles. Banking hours are Monday to Friday 9am to 3pm.

The Custer National Forest is scattered across Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota, but the forest headquarters are in Billings, Montana, and most hiking and camping is undertaken in the part of the forest located about an hour's drive to the south of the city. The Custer is the most ecologically diverse forest in the north of the USA, renowned for its lake and stream fishing and home to mountain goats, big horn sheep, elk, muley and white-tailed deer, black bear, cougar and moose. A popular outing from Billings is to follow the spectacular Beartooth Scenic Byway. The Beartooth area is also one of the gateways to the Yellowstone National Park.

The 'Garden City' doesn't have much in the way of gardens but it is an outdoor sportsman's Eden. Situatyed right in the middle of cowboy-land, this is a liberal hub of hippies, students and outdoor nuts. Downtown is a collection of unique shops and lively bars where it is easier to walk or bike than drive. The University of Montana starts right where the hill ends and is a beautiful campus to wander, or catch a football game to see the definition of school spirit. Tourists often visit for outdoor activities of all kinds from skiing, kayaking, hiking and rock climbing to hang-gliding and mountain biking. Festivals from Ale Fest (beer) to Testy Fest (cow balls) make their home here, so come ready to celebrate and play.

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Moss Mansion was the 1903-built home of the Preston Boyd Moss family, and has been preserved to capture the family life of the well-to-do of the era. The house was designed by New York architect, Henry Janeway Hardenbergh, whose best-known work was New York's Waldorf Astoria.

Listed as a National Historic Landmark, Pictograph Cave State Park - located just six miles (about 10km) south of Billings - provides an ideal setting for a wonderfully scenic, historically fascinating day-trip. Covering an area of 93 acres, the Park is home to a complex of three caves (Ghost, Middle and Pictograph), linked by a paved walking trail. Two of these three caves contain evidence of habitation dating back over 4,500 years ago - and to date, over 30,000 historical artefacts, such as bone tools, arrow heads, and beaded jewellery, have been discovered within the park. The pictographs that give the park its name date from over 2,200 years ago, and their meaning is still being debated by archaeologists. Visitors to the park can anticipate pristine picnic areas, and interpretive signage, which provides good information about the prehistoric paintings, as well as the area's geology and vegetation.

The Western Heritage Center in downtown Billings, affiliated to the Smithsonian Institution, has a collection of more than 16,000 artefacts documenting the life, culture and history of the Yellowstone River Valley. The centre's constantly changing gallery exhibitions draw around 22,000 visitors a year.

The popular Yellowstone Art Museum exhibits contemporary and historic art of the Rocky Mountain West region. Established in 1984, the museum now contains more than 3,000 works, including the Virginia Snook Collection, the largest public display of the drawings, paintings, books and memorabilia of cowboy illustrator Will James.

The world's first national park, Yellowstone was established in 1872 and despite its popularity today, most of the park still remains an undeveloped wilderness of magnificent mountain scenery, waterfalls, alpine lakes and rivers. It is renowned for its geothermal wonders and abundance of wildlife. Spilling over into Wyoming and Idaho, the enormous park is situated on top of the Yellowstone Caldera, a collapsed volcanic crater that was formed 600,000 years ago and holds within it the greatest geothermic area in the world. This unique environment includes features such as exploding geysers, thousands of steaming fumaroles, hot springs and bubbling mud pools, and is where the park's most famous attraction, the Old Faithful Geyser is to be found, drawing thousands of tourists to witness its regular eruption of steaming water. Yellowstone is also home to the largest concentration of wildlife in lower USA, including grizzly and black bears, wolves, moose, and large herds of bison and elk. The two narrow waterfalls of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River cut a striking picture in the yellow-coloured rock that gives the park its name, with superb views and hiking trails for all abilities. The large alpine Yellowstone Lake fills the eastern part of the caldera and offers opportunities for boating and fishing expeditions in summer. All places of interest are accessible along the loop roads, but the intensity of visitors in summer, especially between July and August, means that one needs to hike away from the main paths to experience the true wilderness of Yellowstone National Park.

Montana's zoological park and botanical garden plays host to around 70,000 visitors a year and is one of the State's most popular tourist attractions, the only zoo within 600 miles (965km) of Billings. The complex covers 70 acres to the west of the city, exhibiting animals and plants native to the northern Rockies and high plains, and similar latitudes in Europe and Asia, in state-of-the-art natural habitats.

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