With about 60,000 residents, Great Falls is one of Montana’s largest cities and home to marvelous museums, parks, and (obviously) waterfalls. For our family, Great Falls was a welcome stop on one of our US road trips. Traveling from Yellowstone to Glacier National Park, we added Great Falls to our itinerary and spent two days in this lovely Montana town. There was quite a lot to see and do, and we haven't covered everything, so it's definitely on our radar for a future trip in the Treasure State.
With that in mind, we created this list of things to do and see in Great Falls. We've done some of these - and others will probably be incorporated into a future trip. Here's our list -
- Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center
- C. M. Russell Museum
- Malmstrom Museum & Air Park
- Paris Gibson Square Museum of Art
- The History Museum
- Children’s Museum Of Montana
- St. Ann Cathedral
- Ryan Dam & Big Falls
- Giant Springs State Park
- River’s Edge Trail
- Gibson Park
- West Bank Park
- First Peoples Buffalo Jump State Park
- Sluice Boxes State Park
- Helena National Forest
- Glacier National Park
If you’d like to learn more about things to do in Great Falls, then please keep reading. Below, we’ll go over each of these spots in greater detail.
Why You Should Visit Great Falls, Montana
The primary reason many people come to Great Falls has nothing to do with Great Falls itself. You see, Great Falls is one of Montana’s most populated cities in the north, which makes it a convenient stop for those visiting the world-renowned Glacier National Park. We’re not denying Glacier Park is spectacular, but please don’t neglect all the beauty Great Falls has to offer. Visitors are often impressed by this city’s gorgeous parks, world-class museums, and nearby natural wonders.
FYI, the two biggest cities near Great Falls are Helena and Missoula. You can reach both of these cities in about a 1.5-hour drive.
Awesome Things To Do In Great Falls, Montana
In this list, we’ve placed our Great Falls attractions into three convenient categories:
- Great Falls Museums & Historical Places
- Great Falls Nature & Scenery
- Things To Do Around Great Falls
All you have to do is scroll to whatever group most interests you and plan your Great Falls getaway.
Great Falls Museums & Historical Places
1. Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center
Measuring 25,000 square feet, the Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center is a fitting tribute to two of America’s most iconic explorers. Learn more about the struggles these 19th-century adventurers faced in the Interpretive Center’s ultra-modern movie theatre, interactive exhibit spaces, and hiking trails. If you're traveling in the US anywhere along the Lewis and Clark trail, you'll come across some mention of the famous explorers. This isn't the only visitors center that we've visited that focused on the L&C expedition and we thought it was probably the best one though. Even if you're not a history buff, or not an American, if't well worth a visit.
Usually, this center is open between 9 AM – 5 PM on weekdays. Everyone over the age of 16 must pay an $8 entrance fee, but check the Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center’s website for discount info.
2. C. M. Russell Museum
Born in 1864, Charles Marion Russell was a significant American artist who helped popularize the mythos of the American West. The best place to appreciate Russell’s life and work is in Great Falls’ highly acclaimed C. M. Russell Museum. In addition to hundreds of Russell’s original paintings, the C. M. Russell Museum houses a plethora of works from other artists that helped shape our notion of the Wild West.
Tickets to the C. M. Russell Museum cost $14 per adult and $4 per student. Hours vary depending on the season, so check out the C. M. Russell Museum’s website to better plan your trip.
3. Malmstrom Museum and Air Park
The Malmstrom Museum gives visitors a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to step onto a historically-rich Air Force Base. On your tour of the Malmstrom Museum, you’ll get to see a WWII barracks room, old uniforms, and an impressive outdoor display of authentic aircraft.
Admission to the Malmstrom Museum is free, and it’s usually open between 10 AM – 4 PM Mondays through Fridays. For more details, you could always visit the Malmstrom Museum’s Facebook page.
4. Paris Gibson Square Museum of Art
Anyone interested in cutting-edge contemporary art will be at home in the Paris Gibson Square Museum of Art (PGSMA). Located in a beautiful late 19th-century building, the PGSMA is Great Falls’ premier center for 21st-century art with a particular emphasis on local artists.
The PGSMA doesn’t charge an admission fee, and weekday hours are generally between 10 AM – 5 PM. For more info on special exhibits and opening hours, don’t forget to visit the PGSMA’s website.
5. The History Museum
The aptly named History Museum showcases thousands of artifacts from Montana’s past inside a 1930s-era building. After exploring all the fascinating historical exhibits, be sure to browse the museum’s gift shop for locally produced treasures like tea and honey.
Great Falls’ History Museum is free to visit and usually open between 10 AM – 5 PM Tuesdays through Fridays. Click on this link to the History Museum’s main webpage to better plan your trip.
6. Children’s Museum of Montana
Families traveling to Great Falls should put the Children’s Museum of Montana high on their to-do list. This museum is sure to ignite your child’s curiosity with plenty of hands-on exhibits dedicated to the arts and sciences.
The Children’s Museum of Montana is open between 9:30 AM – 5 PM Mondays through Saturdays. General admission tickets cost $5 per person.
7. St. Ann Cathedral
While you’re in Downtown Great Falls, take a few moments to admire the Gothic-inspired St. Ann Cathedral. Amazingly, early 20th-century architects used stones quarried from nearby Stockett to build this Catholic church.
No matter what your religion, you will enjoy a few moments of serenity touring this historic structure.
Great Falls Nature & Scenery
8. Ryan Dam & Big Falls
If you only have time to visit one of Great Falls waterfalls, then take a trip northeast of downtown to the 900-foot-wide “Big Falls.” Visitors who make it to Big Falls will also get to see one of Montana’s engineering marvels: the Ryan Dam.
The main thing to do there is view the dam and falls. A sign mentions that this is where Captain Lewis first saw the great falls. It is a nice stop and our kids thought that crossing a bridge with a "do not sway" warning and a weight limit was kind of exciting too.
9. Giant Springs State Park
First documented by Lewis & Clark, Giant Springs remains one of Montana’s largest sources of spring water. Today, this central spring is a part of the Great Springs State Park, which includes various trailheads, outlooks, and dams along the Missouri River. Don’t forget to pay a visit to the Visitor’s Center and Fish Hatchery while you’re here. It makes for a lovely stroll, and you can purchase fish food at the machines there and feed the fish in the pond.
You can visit Giant Springs State Park any day of the week between 8 AM and sunset, but you cannot camp overnight.
10. River’s Edge Trail
A lovely way to experience the majesty of Great Falls is to walk, jog, or bike along River’s Edge Trail. Located on both sides of the Missouri River, River’s Edge is a paved trail that measures almost 60 miles. This trail begins in Warden Park in the south and travels up to Sulphur Spring. Along the way, there are plenty of rest areas, parks, and picnic tables, so don’t forget to pack a snack! The trail does go by the Lewis and Clark visitors center and takes you all the way to Giant Springs park. We really enjoyed the walk.
It’s a good idea to look at River’s Edge Trail’s website and take a peek at an interactive map of the area.
11. Gibson Park
Locals often refer to Gibson Park as the “crown jewel” of Great Falls’ public park system. With a beautiful riverfront location, Gibson Park dazzles guests with its magnificently manicured flower gardens, impressive statues, and stained glass art display.
Those who visit in the summer can enjoy picnicking with friends and live events. Wintertime guests might get a chance to skate on Gibson Park’s pond. So you know, Gibson Park is open from dawn till dusk.
12. West Bank Park
West Bank Park isn’t as elaborate as Gibson, but it’s a beautiful place to relax on your trip along River’s Edge Trail. Guests at West Bank Park will find plenty of picnic tables for snacking as well as a restroom facility, disc golf course, and kayaking opportunities.
You can learn more about the amenities at West Bank Park on this website.
Things To Do Around Great Falls, MT
13. First Peoples Buffalo Jump State Park
A 20-minute drive west of Great Falls, First Peoples Buffalo Jump State Park is one of the best places in Montana to learn about local Native American history.
Without a doubt, the top attraction in this state park is the large sandstone cliff Ulm Pishkun, which Native Americans once used to hunt bison. You can find out more about the legacy of the tribes that once lived here in the park’s interactive Visitor’s Center.
If you’re a non-resident entering Buffalo Jump State Park in a vehicle, then you will have to pay $8 to visit. That fee is cut in half if you walk into the park. Hours vary depending on the season, so it’s best to check the First Peoples Buffalo Jump State Park’s website before visiting.
14. Sluice Boxes State Park
Visitors interested in Montana’s Gold Rush heritage will find a lot to see at Sluice Boxes State Park. Remnants of railroad tracks and old mining caves can be found throughout this rugged park.
You can camp at Sluice Boxes State Park, provided you have a valid Backcountry Campsite Permit. To get to Sluice Boxes from Great Falls, travel for about 30 miles along US-89 S. If you need more information, then click on this link to Sluice Boxes State Park’s website.
15. Helena National Forest
Measuring over 950,000 acres, Helena National Forest is another pristine protected area within a 2-hour drive of Great Falls. The most popular attraction in this protected forest has to be the soaring limestone cliffs known as the Gates of the Mountains Wilderness. From hiking and biking to skiing and snowmobiling, there are plenty of activities to enjoy in this forest.
Don’t forget to look into Helena National Forest’s website put together by the USDA.
16. Glacier National Park
Last, but not least, the jewel in the crown of the Rocky Mountains. About a 2-hour drive northwest of Great Falls, Glacier National Park is a popular day-trip attraction. Measuring over 1,500 square miles, the park is home to the famous 50-mile scenic drive Going-to-the-Sun Road. Outdoor enthusiasts will find over 700 miles of hiking and biking trails as they explore this immense park.
Now, while you can get from Great Falls to Glacier in a couple of hours, we would suggest limiting your day trip to exploring either the Mani Glacier area, the eastern end of the Going To The Sun road, or possibly the Two Medicine area. If at all possible, try to stay the night at the park, so you can have another day to enjoy there before heading back to Great Falls. If you want to travel the entire Going To The Sun Road, and spend some time in the western area of the park, 2-3 nights in the park would be even better. Check our post “Three Days In Glacier National Park” for a sample itinerary.
Where To Stay In Great Falls, Montana
Although Great Falls isn’t Montana’s largest city, it has plenty of hotels to choose from near the airport and downtown. Below are two high-quality hotels in different areas of Great Falls.
Holiday Inn Express & Suites Great Falls
Great Falls’ Holiday Inn Express & Suites is a two-star hotel with easy access to the city’s airport. About a 10-minute drive from downtown, this Holiday Inn Express offers free parking, continental breakfast, and an indoor pool.
La Quinta Inn & Suites by Wyndham Great Falls
Visitors who want to stay in the heart of Downtown Great Falls should look into La Quinta Inn & Suites. A few pros of staying at Great Falls’ La Quinta include an airport shuttle, free breakfast, and easy access to the Holiday Village Mall.
A top contender for our favorite US state to visit, Montana has so much to see and do. And just hanging around and soaking in the atmosphere works well for us. If you've visited Great Falls, let us know what you think about this list. I'd love to hear what your recommendations are!