Budget-Friendly Winter Ideas in Helena, MT

Father with young daughter pointing excitedly at bird exhibit.

By Chelsea Paschall

It’s easy to be savvy when adventuring in Helena. Having fun and saving cash is a cinch when you know where to look. Many of Helena’s attractions offer free or budget-friendly admission. You can also enjoy live music at many of our unique local venues free of charge.

Outdoor Recreation

One of the best ways to make the most of winter is to go play outside, with no to minimal cost.

Whether just needing a quick hike from downtown or looking for a more extensive workout, strap on your spikes and explore the South Hills Trail System, including Mt. Ascension and Mt. Helena. Enjoy the views, which always have something new to offer. Check with the Prickly Pear Land Trust for digital & paper maps.

Find your glide at the Memorial Park Warming House & Ice Rink with cheap skate rentals and special events such as Neon Night. Every year Play it Again Sports partners with Helena Ice Arena to offer a Free Skate Night, including free rentals, as a thank you to the community. If you have your own gear, you can also skate the unattended rinks at Cunningham Park, Lincoln Park and Canyon Ferry Lake.

Looking for nearby snowshoe or cross-country ski access? In town, the Bill Roberts Golf Course offers groomed trails. Or within 30 minutes you can be up MacDonald Pass with access for both. As a part of the Continental Divide Trail, there are a multitude of trailheads including the Cromwell Dixon trail at the summit of the pass.  For additional trail recommendations and economical rentals, visit Base Camp and Capital Sports.

For more outdoor recreation within Helena city limits, check out the Helena Parks & Recreation Guide.

Family Fun

When you need an indoor family adventure, these budget-friendly options offer both entertainment and education.

Learn about Montana’s nature at the Montana Wild Education Center. This free exhibit hall and education center has over 100 wildlife mounts on site and frequent public programs for children and adults. Montana Wild is also a rehabilitation center for Montana wildlife. Catch the bird walk feeding time M-F 9:00 AM – 10:30 AM.

ExplorationWorks offers a multitude of interactive activities and alternating exhibits focusing on all things science, technology, engineering and math. Checkout their workshops and TinkerLabs for educational craft opportunities.

Then head next door to the Great Northern Carousel that remains open through the winter. Leave your worries at the door as you decide which one of the 37 hand carved animals to ride.

Art Beat

Add some artistic inspiration to the season by discovering Helena’s multiple of free galleries.

The Holter Museum of Art displays an eclectic array of contemporary artists, and also has a venue space that hosts events and classes. Entrance to the gallery is always free.

The Jailhouse Gallery at the Myrna Loy is a hub for eclectic artists, performers and independent film; stepping into this art gallery and performance space is always an intriguing experience. They also have a great happy hour.

The Myrna Loy is a part of the Rodney Street Arts District, where you can head out on a mural treasure hunt. Be sure not to miss the Allen Livery & Stables Building, featuring storytelling portraiture of prominent contributors to Helena’s artistic character.

Local artist Kelly Rathbone Rebo showcases many of Helena’s prominent influencers.

The Archie Bray Foundation for the Ceramic Arts has drawn internationally renowned ceramic artists in residents since 1951. Visitors are able to do a self-guided walking tour through the grounds where a story of ceramic talent over the decades unfolds. There is always something new to discover, and it’s a fantastic place to watch the sunset any time of year.

After getting inspired, visit the Painted Pot, where they offer several pottery items to be decorated for under $20 (including paint supplies).

History Trail

We take pride in our history here, with a multitude of historical and architectural gems that invite you back to the Gold Boom Days.

The Helena Walking Tour App is a great way to explore Helena’s historic neighborhoods. This free walking tour tells the hidden stories behind Helena’s architecture.

The Original Governor’s Mansion has been maintained to showcase the influence of Montana’s First Families 1913-1959. In the winter, you can visit the mansion on Saturdays, look for extended days starting May 15. Admission is free!

Step into The Cathedral of St. Helena and experience the feel of a European cathedral in Montana. The Cathedral is always open for people to visit; please note Mass schedule on the website.

The Montana State Capitol is open to the general public. The halls are adorned with murals depicting Helena’s history. Every two years (including 2023) the legislative session occurs, so you can experience the bustle of lawmaking in action.

The Montana Historical Society is continuing free public programs at the Lewis and Clark Library, while the Museum is being remodeled (anticipated reopening in 2025). The programs include historical accounts from seminal characters in Montana history.

The Montana Military Museum located on Fort Harrison offers free admission and tours. Learn about the Army’s First Special Service Force that originated in Helena, Montana. There is also a detailed Lewis and Clark Corps of Discovery exhibit.

Learn about the sledding dog training center Camp Rimini, one of the many fascinating exhibits at the Montana Military Museum.

Music Scene

Helena’s big secret, our town loves live music! Discover a fun mix of venues with opportunities to enjoy free live music every day of the week. Follow our Events Page for all the latest experiences around town.

Some of the featured venues include: Lewis & Clark Tap Room, Ten Mile Creek Brewery, Mt Ascension Brewery, Lakeside on Hauser, Speakeasy 41, Headwaters Crafthouse, Gold & Western Bar, Miller’s Crossing, Jesters, On Broadway, Silver Star Steak Company, The Broadwater.