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Billings, MT : Travel Guide

Downtown Billings, Montana
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Billings, MT, admittedly, doesn’t make the greatest first impressions to people visiting or passing through town for the first time. Most likely, people visiting Billings see it for the first time from the Interstate. While Interstate highways are notorious for providing bad views, the view from Billings is especially dreary – with oil refineries and other industrial activities sprawled all over the place. At least, that was my impression when I first passed through Billings many years ago.

All this industrial “blight” along the Interstate is especially unfortunate because, once you break away from this industrialized section of town, Billings itself is quite nice. I discovered this when I ended up spending more than a few days in Billings when compiling the information for bigskyfishing in 2002 and again in 2003.

Billings is the largest city in Montana, with a “metropolitan” population (which includes all of Yellowstone County) of around 130000 people. The city of Billings itself has a population of 92,000.

Befitting the largest city in Montana, Billings is home to really the only high-rise office building in the state. The First Interstate Building in Billings soars all of 20 stories into the sky. While not exactly on par with buildings in other states, at least Montana does have a skyscraper – sort of.

Billings is located on the eastern edge of the south-central region of Montana, smack dab out in the middle of the prairie. Billings also sits along the scenic if somewhat muddy Yellowstone River. While Billings is located in the prairie of Montana, the mountains aren’t too terribly far away – the Absaroka-Beartooth Mountains are about 60 miles or so away. Additionally, smaller hills and mesas are found all along the Yellowstone River and other nearby areas to town. Overall, the location of Billings, while not the most scenic in Montana, isn’t really that bad either – especially once you get out of town about 5-10 miles or so.

First Interstate Tower in Billings, Montana
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Billings, as it is located out in the middle of the prairie, has a semi-arid climate. This means that once you step away from town or away from the rivers and lakes, trees are in rather short supply. As Billings is located out in the flatlands, wind is pretty much a constant – although not nearly as strong or severe as is found in Great Falls. Temperatures during the summer can really soar – occasionally reaching triple digits, but generally staying in the 80’s and 90’s. Winter temperatures, on the other hand, fluctuate quite wildly – with temperatures anywhere from 45 degrees or more down to minus 30 or more.

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