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Helena, MT : Travel Guide

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The State Capitol Building in Helena
The State Capitol Building in Helena
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Helena, for those who aren’t fully up on their geography, is the state capitol of Montana. As Helena is the state capitol, the town is of a different nature than other cities and towns in Montana. Unlike many other Montana cities, Helena isn’t really a destination tourist spot. While Helena does receive quite a bit of tourism, most of the tourists in Helena generally are “passing through” on their way to other parts of Montana or are taking advantage of the many nearby outdoor recreational activities (particularly fishing on the Missouri River below Holter Dam or on Holter Lake).

Additionally, the steady employment provided by the government has allowed Helena to avoid, for the most part, the boom and bust cycles that have been common in most other Montana towns and cities. The steady government employment has also allowed Helena to remain quite prosperous by Montana standards.

Historic Blue House and Firetower in Helena
The Historic Blue House & Helena Firetower
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Helena, like every other city in Montana, is small. It is also very small in population in comparison to other US state capitols. The population of Helena in the 2010 census was about 30,000 people. Factoring in the handful of surrounding communities boosts the “Helena Metropolis” to around 45,000 people – not exactly large. Helena, in case you are wondering, lies in Lewis and Clark County.

Helena tends not to be overrun by tourists like many other Montana towns are. Part of the reason is because Helena just isn’t a tourist destination spot, like Glacier National Park is. Instead, most tourism Helena receives is from motorists passing through town to other parts of Montana. Additionally, the historic sections of Helena are also rather difficult to find – tourists aren’t likely to just “stumble” across it by accident.

Admittedly, first impressions of Helena for someone coming in on the Interstate may not be the greatest, as the historic downtown area is nowhere to be found and the state capitol, while visible, is rather far away and not especially obvious. Instead, first impression will be of shopping centers, strip malls, fast food restaurants and other typical things one encounters in “newer” parts of town.

However, for those people willing to venture away from the Interstate (and who isn’t driving an RV – the roads aren’t really RV friendly in downtown Helena), a person will be rewarded by numerous historic buildings, in a scenic setting, with more than enough activities to easily pass a day away. In short, Helena is well worth taking the time to spend exploring if you are passing through.

Next Page : History of Helena, Montana

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