OK, real quick! Name the first city that comes to mind when I say destination city. What city do you think of? New York? New Orleans? Austin? San Diego? Anyway, how far down the list do you go before you get to Billings Montana? I know it never crossed my mind. However, now that I have seen what this city in Eastern Montana has to offer, the only thing I ask myself is: how did I missed this for so long? This town has everything I could ask for. Restaurants, breweries, great outdoor activities, and scenic views are all at one’s fingertips. Plus, the city is very easy to get around and you don’t feel like there are just crowds of people at every turn. Even though, it’s the largest city in the state, it just doesn’t feel that way, but it does have a lot to offer.
Naturally, I wanted to stay in the downtown area, and I was fortunate to book a great room right downtown. One of the first things I noticed was the number of craft breweries and craft distilleries close by. As someone that enjoys craft beer and the charm of the small brewer, this was just the perfect opportunity for me. Within a half-mile radius, there are six craft brewers and two craft distillers. I have never seen a city that has such a concentration like that in the downtown area. It really gives you the chance to sample a lot of different selections without having to adventure all over town to find them.
The next thing that I saw when I walked around was the great variety of restaurants, some of which were toward the higher end. Which I think is great! I’m not always going to be eating a $50 steak, but it is nice to have the option, the one or two times a year I will. So obviously, I didn’t get the chance to experience all of them, but one that I did try was Ciao Mambo, and it was just amazing. Ciao Mambo, is a small, Italian restaurant that has an open kitchen. When you walk in, immediately, you here the cooks calling out orders and the clang of pots and pans. It gives you the feel that you could be in your own home being served. And the food itself is just as good as it gets. Now, I do have to give a tip of the cap to the young lady working at Trailhead Spirits that recommended the place, because it was spot on. I never would have even known about the place if she didn’t say anything. I’m really glad I did. If there is one thing that I can stress to everyone, when you go to a new place, ask the locals where to go for dinner or drinks. Yelp is fine, but I’ll trust a bartender or hotel valet working downtown to give me the scoop on where to go. Most of the time, they have lived there all of their lives, so they know.
Finally, the last thing that Billings has that is worth the trip is just the natural beauty. The Yellowstone River flows through the city and snow capped Rocky Mountains lay in the distance. If you feel like venturing a little out of town, the Bighorn National Recreation Area is just a couple hours away. So the opportunities for hiking, biking, and sightseeing are plentiful.
So while I have been to many cities that have been great experiences, I cannot think of any that has been such a pleasant surprise as this one. If you want to venture off the beaten path a little bit and try something a little different, Billings Montana might just be thing you are looking for.