Looking for a trip that has it all?
Sometimes you just want to go on an outdoor trip to nature but just close enough to still catch that city vibe.
If that sounds like a dream trip, Great Falls, Montana, would probably be one of the top places you should include in your travel list.
From hiking, fishing to museum-hopping and sightseeing, there’s a lot of activities you can do in Great Falls, whether alone, with a special someone, or with family.
Called “Great Falls” for the series of waterfalls in the northern and eastern portion of the city, it is a popular tourist destination in Montana for its natural beauty and its rich history and culture.
Great Falls is home to the most number of museums in Montana, perfect for those who want to brush up on their history or just get to know more about the local culture.
So if you’re planning a trip, here are some of the best things to do in Great Falls, Montana:
Check Out the Giant Springs State Park
As the name aptly describes, Giant Springs State Park is one of the biggest freshwater springs in the country--sprawling almost 14 miles of the Missouri River shoreline.
Here’s a trivia: the Giant Springs State Parkfirst came to public knowledge in 1805 during the Lewis and Clark expedition and, in present-day, is one of the most visited state parks in Montana.
The park has an array of activities for everyone, such as hiking, walking, biking, fishing, and bird watching.
While the park is more prevalent during warmer months since the weather is fit for hiking, fishing, and biking, visitors who choose to come during the winter are in for a treat, too, with trees covered in snow and ice.
The Giant Springs State Park is located at 4803 Giant Springs Road, Great Falls, Montana.
Go Fishing in the Missouri River
Did you know? People from different parts of the world fly all the way to Great Falls, Montana, just to fly fish.
You can catch catfish, brown and rainbow trout, and carp, among many others, in the Missouri River.
Don’t worry if you don’t have all the fishing tools you need; the Great Falls fly shop is complete with all the toys you could use.
A fishing trip in the Missouri River is also a great way to go sightseeing as the area is the perfect viewing spot for the surrounding mountains and rolling pastures.
Whether you’re a first-timer or a seasoned angler, fishing in the Missouri River is definitely an experience of a lifetime.
Beat the Heat at Electric City Water Park
Go for a dip in the pool at Electric City Water Park. With various attractions, you can ride water slides all day or simply float your way at the Lazy River.
Both kids and adults are sure to have fun at the Electric City Park, with water play areas fit for all ages.
Pump up your adrenaline with a slide down the Power Tower slides or surf on the Flow Rider.
Looking to relax? Float down the flowing river or just take a dip at the Mitchell Pool.
The good news is that the water park offers different packages to make sure you get the most out of your buck.
You’re also sure that safety is a priority with U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jackets provided for free in pool areas.
Electric City Water Park is located at 100 River Drive South, Great Falls, Montana.
Admire the Great Falls
Of course, what's a visit to Great Falls without actually seeing the “Great Falls”?
The biggest of the five waterfalls in Montana, the Great Falls towers at 87 feet and is more than 900 feet wide.
While water flows throughout the year, it’s best to visit during Spring since this is when the Great Falls is at its fullest.
To get a glimpse of the Falls’ beauty, Captain Meriwether Lewis, during his expedition in the 1800s, called it “the grandest sight I ever beheld.”
Here’s a fun fact: you can visit the back of the falls without getting wet and of course, don’t forget to snap a photo.
To get the best view of the Great Falls, go to the highest peak at Ryan Island Park by accessing the suspension bridge across the Missouri River.
While the Great Falls is the biggest, Montana is also home to four more waterfalls, namely the Rainbow Falls, the Crooked Falls, the Black Eagle Falls, and the Colter Falls.
If you have the time, it would be a visual treat to visit all five waterfalls.
The viewing point of the Great Falls is located at 160 Ryan Dam Road.
Visit the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center
Immerse yourself in the rich history of the 8,000-mile Lewis and Clark Expedition at the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center.
Built into the cliffside overlooking the Missouri River, the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center is a tribute to the feats of human discovery achieved with the expedition in the 1800s.
Visitors can see several hands-on exhibits coupled with a free audio guide.
The 25,000-square-foot center includes an exhibit hall, a theater, an education room, and a store. Service animals such as guide dogs and signal dogs are also available within the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center.
If you have the time, the center also has a trail that goes straight to the nearby Giant Springs State Park.
The Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center is located at 4201 Giant Springs Rd, Great Falls, Montana. It is open daily except on Mondays, and admissions are free of charge for those aged 15 and younger.
For those aged 16 and up, the center charges an $8 fee. Discounts are available for group tours too.
Go Biking at the River’s Edge Trail
Admire nature with a bike ride at the River’s Edge Trail, which boasts scenic views on both sides and links to many attractions such as the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center and the Gibson Park.
The trail stretches up to almost 60 miles of the Missouri River and is a perfect place for bike rides and jogging, running, or taking a walk.
You can view the city and surrounding mountains through the telescope near the Warden Park Gazebo.
Long day outdoors? Don’t worry.
The River’s Edge Trail is lined up with picnic tables and benches if you need to take a quick snack while admiring the view.
Take Instagram-Worthy Photos at the Gibson Park
You know what they say, photos or it didn’t happen. Take Instagram-worthy photos at Gibson Park that are sure to get the attention of your friends on social media.
Known as the jewel of the park system, Gibson Park is located along Park Drive between Central Avenue and 6th Street.
The park features a duck pond that’s home to different wildlife and serves as the perfect view for picnics.
It is also home to a variety of flower gardens that are perfect for a walk alone or with a special someone.
Got kids? Gibson Park also has playgrounds and a basketball court to keep young ones occupied and having fun.
Awaken Your Creative Side at the Paris Gibson Square Museum of Art
Take a bit of a trip down art history at the Paris Gibson Square Museum of Art.
The museum is open to both children and adults, hosting around 15 to 20 art exhibits per year as well as workshops and classes for those who want to dive into arts.
With a permanent collection of over 800 pieces, the museum is home to several Northwest regional contemporary art and American Indian contemporary art such as paintings and sculptures.
The Paris Gibson Square Museum of Art is located at 1400 First Avenue North Great Falls, Montana; the museum gallery and gift shop are open daily except Sundays and holidays.
Take a Bite at Tracy’s Family Restaurant
Of course, what’s an out-of-town trip without a classic stop at an American diner?
The restaurant’s retro diner vibe is like a nostalgia trip to the 70s.
Looking for a hearty breakfast?
Try the “Old Smelter Smack” which features hand-breaded chicken strips with two fluffy pecan waffles, served with a side of butter and syrup, or the country-favorite “Chicken Fried Steak & Eggs” which are deep-fried sirloin smothered in Tracy’s homemade country gravy and served with two eggs, hash browns, and toast.
Craving for burgers? Give their “Bold City Burger” a try with its juicy 1/2 pound patty, bacon, stewed onions & BBQ sauce on a toasted bun, you’re sure to be craving for more.
In Tracy’s Family Restaurant, it doesn’t matter if you’re eating for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or just stopping by for drinks--their delicious offerings are sure to keep your tummy satisfied (and happy) at any time of the day.
Reflect on Western History at the C.M. Russell Museum
Named after famous American Old West artist Charles Marion Russell, the C.M. Russell Museum boasts an extensive art collection enough to cover an entire city block.
With 16 permanent exhibits, view Western history from the eyes of Russell with his paintings of cowboys, Native Americans, and landscapes in the United States.
With over 3,000 art pieces, the museum showcases Russell’s works on Western history and those of his colleagues such as O.C. Seltzer, Winold Reiss, and Joseph H. Sharp.
“The museum holds a large collection of Russell’s art and memorabilia that spans an entire lifetime.
Nowhere else can visitors immerse themselves so completely in the magic of Russell’s West,” the museum’s website says.
To this day, Russell’s original studio and house remain preserved by the C.M. Russell Museum.
The C.M. Russell Museum is located at 400 13th Street North, Great Falls, Montana.
You can visit the museum every day except on Tuesdays and holidays.
Children five and under can visit the museum for free, while adults have to pay $14.
Meet ‘Mermaids’ and Have a Drink (or Two) at the Sip ‘N Dip Lounge
Do mermaids really exist? Well, if you’d go to Sip ‘N Dip, you can meet one.
Ranked as the “number one bar worth flying for” by GQ Magazine in 2003, Sip ‘N Dip is famous for “mermaids” swimming in an indoor pool that visitors can view through a window in the bar.
And no, the mermaids are not just floating in the water. They really swim underwater like a fish in a tank.
The legendary bar, which first opened in 1962, has survived the test of time and earned its own share of celebrity patrons, such as Nick Nolte and Daryl Hannah.
Located inside the O’Haire Motor Inn, Sip ‘N Dip is a tiki-themed bar featuring live music and delicious drinks.
Pro-tip: try their Mimosas when you drop by for a visit.
Observe the Exhibits at the History Museum
The Museum gathers artifacts and discoverable information illuminating the distinct narrative of Cascade County and the North Central area.
It is committed to preserving and remembering the legacy and the area's history.
The History Museum's displays are made up of historical collections and seasonal exhibitions, such as a series of Josef Dvorak's figurines or a set of items from the earlier years of the city center.
Through the Research & Reading Room, the community has access to 4,500 square feet of closed-shelf artifacts kept by the History Museum Archives & Research Center.
Among the Museum's permanent displays, The Ozark Club recalls the tales of the band that used music to reduce racial barriers in the area.
Go Shopping and Snacking at Holiday Village Mall
The popular Holiday Village Mall, first opened to the public at 1959, is a two-story shopping complex with more than Sixty businesses and a few anchor establishments, notably Hobby Lobby, Bed Bath & Beyond, and PetSmart.
The Holiday Village Mall Community Room is suitable for short conferences, interviews, training courses, and corporate meetings.
Customers can relax and grab a snack at one of the five Snack & Refreshment Centers conveniently located throughout Holiday Village Mall.
Free Wi-Fi is accessible throughout the whole mall during business hours, and wheelchairs are provided upon request.
It's a fantastic stop if you need to do some shopping!
Prepare for a Fun-Filled Day at Electric City Water Park
The Electric City Water Park is a gorgeous complex with numerous trees and shade sprinkled throughout and sizable stretches of grassland to have a picnic and sit on.
It is a great family entertainment facility featuring slides, a river, a pool, a play area for children, and delicious food.
Enjoy large meadow grounds, shady trees, and a celebration deck can be at Electric City Water Park.
Lay out your blanket, unwind in the shade, or converse with friends while enjoying the beautiful weather.
Visitors to the park can go down the heart-pounding Power Tower slides, surf to their hearts' desire on the Flow Rider, or take a leisurely glide along the Flow River.
Visitors who want to splash about in the water may go to the Mitchell Pool, and kids will love running around Montana's biggest water play area.
Concession stands offer tasty treats, including hot dogs, beer barons, hamburgers, candies, drinks, and much more.
Bring Your Kids to Explore the Children's Museum of Montana
The Children's Museum of Montana is Montana's biggest and oldest children's Museum.
It has been helping Great Falls and the surrounding areas for more than 25 years by providing people of any age a place to explore their imagination and expertise.
The Museum, which offers exhibits for children aged 0 to 12, also keeps adding Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math or STEAM camps and after-school programs to its education section.
They have collaborated to conduct various activities, including the yearly preschool screening, Head Start enrollment, Easter egg, treasure hunts, and more!
The Small Falls Parkour display has multiple rolling mats, a wonderful little swinging obstacle course, and other equipment for advancing motor skills and a confidence boost.
Tour around Ursuline Center
Since it opened in 1912 under the name Ursuline Academy, the Ursuline Center has a long history of providing education.
At the time of its founding, the facility was a residential school for females, offering instruction from kindergarten through secondary education.
The Ursuline Sisters, who gave the school its name, moved to Montana as missionaries in 1884, and their journey is told at the Ursuline Heritage Museum.
The Collegiate Gothic-styled structure, added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1991, is currently used as a historical center, a spiritual ministry, and a museum.
Uncover all there is to learn about this stunning historical place; tours of the center may be scheduled in advance.
Other Things to Do Nearby
Go Hiking and Camping at Sluice Boxes State Park
In need of more outdoor adventures? Go hiking and camping at the Sluice Boxes State Park, just a 40-minute drive southeast of the city.
Enjoy easy access to Belt Creek at Sluice Boxes and marvel at the beautiful canyon carved in limestone, remains of mines, and historic cabins. A note of caution, though, as the trail is mainly rugged.
Among the many activities, visitors can try aside from hiking and camping are fishing, bird watching, swimming, wildlife viewing, and picnicking.
The Sluice Boxes State Park is located at 38 Evans Riceville Road, Belt, Montana, and is open to visitors all year round.
For tourists, the park management charges $8 per day for the entrance fee with a vehicle.
For those riding bicycles or walk-in tourists, fees are lower at $4.
Non-residents with entrance passes, however, can enter for free.
Campsite fees meanwhile range from $4 to $34 a night, depending on the season and available amenities such as tents and boat slip campsites.
With picturesque scenery and a bustling cultural (and food) scene, it’s no surprise that over a million people visit Great Falls yearly.
Whether you’re looking for a good hike, an escape from the hustle and bustle, or just looking to relax, Great Falls is a top choice.