As the Montana capital, Helena is never short of a top event or two in and around the downtown regions. In fact, you can guarantee there’ll be plenty of community-tinged local events in the peak summer months and beyond.
Many of the passing visitors who use the city as a stopgap between Yellowstone National Park and Glacier National Park are pleased to find all the main traditional events and festivals in full flow, along with many more lower-key events that span the entire year.
In this article, we will look at the top events in Helena, Montana that you won’t want to miss out on in your travels into Big Sky Country.
Top Events in Helena, Montana
Beyond the Big Sky – June-August
From June through August, the Montana Learning Center (MLC) opens its observatories for some public stargazing sessions for one evening per month. This is done as part of the center’s annual astronomy expo and typically occurs on June 24, July 23, and August 5.
The campus is located along the banks of Canyon Ferry Lake, and the observatory is made available at sunset following various presentations from astronomy experts.
After this, the event attendees have the opportunity to put some of the tips in the presentation to practical use and gain more understanding of the night skies—with the help of the MLC’s state-of-the-art telescopic equipment which includes Montana’s largest telescope.
Symphony Under the Stars – July
July 16 means it’s time for the Helena Symphony—AKA the Annual Intrepid Credit Union Symphony. This free event is held outdoors under the stars between 8.00 pm and 10.00 pm, on Helena’s Carroll College campus.
Indeed the symphony is one of the city’s major summer events and typically attracts over 10,000 attendees. Watch the blankets and picnics come out as the symphonic sounds present a popular mix of tunes—while the sun sets in the big Montana sky over Helena.
The event finishes up big-style with a dazzling fireworks extravaganza.
Prickly Pear Land Trust Block Party – July 21
What, another Block Party so soon? As it turns out the Prickly Pear Land Trust will also be having its annual Block Party at the Walking Mall in Helena’s Last Chance Gulch. This event is operated along with the enlisted help of the local Ten Mile Creek Brewery and Big Dipper Ice Cream.
Here’s another free, family-friendly event and another summer opportunity to grab lawn chairs and blankets—and maybe a picnic. There’s plenty of live music to enjoy from local acts at this community celebration of the beloved surrounding trails and open lands of the city.
Lewis & Clark Block Party – July
Not so much of a lesson in history as an Open House at the local brewery—July 22-23 means it’s time for the annual Block Party and Brewery Open House. This is an event established and hosted annually by the Lewis and Clark Brewing Co. which celebrated its 20th Anniversary with this year’s bigger-than-usual event.
The brewery throws an open house-style party with free live music, and this year the event moved outside into the brewery’s new outdoor event space off Montana Avenue. There are usually plenty of on-tap beers, as well as seltzer, wine slushies, and a few other options beverage-wise. Local food trucks supply the cuisine, and the music kicks off at 5 pm on Friday.
The music starts again on Saturday at 1 pm and alongside the open house, self-guided tours of the brewery will also be in operation between 1 pm and 5 pm.
This is a free event but you can reserve your free pass for this annual event HERE.
Wake the Giant Music Festival – August 27
West Mont Farm & Gardens hosts this summer event in tandem with local favorites the Lewis & Clark Brewery. The festival is part fund-raiser for local disabled people and features local music as well as a variety of farm-themed activities.
The proceedings kick off at 3 pm and finish up around 10 pm. This year saw the second of this now annual festival, located on 34 acres of the farm’s land in the Helena Valley.
General Admission prices are $35 ($70 for VIPs), and kids 13 and under get free entrance.
Last Chance Stampede & Fair – August
Many of the locals will largely be looking forward to the city’s summer fair and this event—the local rodeo. The Last Chance Stampede and Fair is always a focal point in Helena over the summer.
Attendees can expect horse rodeos and a country concert, with various activities including a Saturday stampede parade in downtown Helena. The stock for the rodeo is world-class, as is the action that takes place within the arena.
Northstar Carnival comprises part of the proceedings every year, rides, games, and concessions. There’ll be exhibit halls featuring community-related displays, local 4-H projects, and a Saturday morning live auction.
Montana Brewer’s Summer Rendezvous – August
This is your chance to taste the best selection of locally-made beer from across the entire state. The event features live music, collectible glasses, and plenty of samples of Montana craft beer.
This is an all-inclusive ticket event that donates some of the proceeds to various charitable causes such as flood relief. Of course, the ticket also means none of the usual queues for beer tokens—just great beer, music, and atmosphere!
Helena Ales for Trails – September
Now more than a decade old, the Helena Ales for Trails is another local beer festival with a difference that occurs in September, this year on the 9th.
The good cause behind this event combining beer and hiking is to raise funds for the Helena trail system. In beer terms, this is something of a tasting festival with more than 60 different beverages on offer from 20 breweries.
There is usually a limited number of VIP experience tickets for a 3:30 pm start. This entails an unlimited number of beer tastings and interaction with brewers.
There’ll also be a few complementary artisan appetizers before the main kick-off when the beer, cider, kombucha, and wine start to flow properly.
Helena Farmers’ Market – May-October
Typically occurring on Saturdays between May and October, this is the oldest farmers market in the entire state, now close to half a century old.
Once fully up and running, the market covers two full blocks in Helena’s downtown regions and features more than 300 vendors.
Local farmers, food vendors, and arts and crafts merchants bring a variety of locally-produced wares for the Helena community to check out. This is a lively and friendly event on Saturdays between 9:00 am and 1:00 pm.
Intermountain Festival of Trees – November 30-Dec 4th
Held at the Civic Center, this annual Helena festival is now halfway through its fourth decade of operation. The Intermountain Festival of Trees for many marks the official kick-off to the holiday season in the city, with its five days of community-tinged holiday events.
Every year sees local designers expertly decorate the trees in the Civic Center and the surrounding downtown regions to add to the holiday vibes.
The local Intermountain Service is the host who presents a different theme every year geared towards the families served through the center’s programs and community efforts.
Winterfest – December
The Lewis & Clark Tap Room once again features in this festive-tinged event in December. Santa Claus himself even makes an appearance and there’ll be live music from some of the best local acts, usually between 1:00 pm and 3:00 pm.
Christmas trees are also sold at the festival along with wreaths, tree stands, and typical holiday-season gifts, food, and beverages. There’ll also be onsite raffles for various prizes donated by local businesses, organizations, and institutions including goodies like Alpine Ski Rental Packages donated by Capital Sports.
This is another opportunity to get into the holiday spirit in Helena and support adults with disabilities at the same time who receive some of the proceeds from the event.