The city of adventurers and fortune seekers – Helena has been a beacon to wayfarers for many, many years. From the wild west to the modern-day, the city has a fascinating history.
Whether you’re visiting to enjoy the beautiful architecture or the natural beauty that surrounds it, you will need to know which district is best suited to you to truly enjoy your stay.
This is a guide to Helena’s best neighborhoods.
- Mansion District (Upper West Side)
- Downtown & South Central
- North Central
- Upper East Side
- North East
The best areas to stay in Helena:
- Best neighborhood for things to do: Downtown is the most exciting part of Helena; it’s where most of the town’s most interesting shops and restaurants are concentrated. You can wander down the pedestrian mall of Last Chance Gulch or the historic Reeder’s Alley, browsing boutiques and learning about the city’s history. The Holter Museum of Art and Lewis & Clark Library are also well worth a visit.
- Best for a quick stopover: The North East area of Helena is the most well-connected district in the city. It follows the Interstate up through the town, and is the closest neighborhood to the Helena Regional Airport. With a good selection of shops and restaurants and all the facilities you could possibly need, this district is ideal for a quick overnight stay.
- The best area for families: The Mansion District is particularly quiet and lovely, but most areas of Helena are suitable for families. If you’re an outgoing family that would like to spend most of their time out on trails, the Upper East Side is ideal. If you just want the convenience of being close to useful shops and utilities, North East Helena is a better choice.
- The best area for nature lovers: The Upper East Side is Helena’s unofficial neighborhood of natural beauty. With stunning views over the valley and dozens of trailheads leading into the surrounding countryside, there’s no better district for people who are most at home in the great outdoors. For those wishing to explore the Gates of the Wilderness, North Central and North East Helena are a better bet.
Best Neighbourhoods To Stay In Helena, MT
1. Mansion District (Upper West Side) – for beautiful historic architecture
Helena is famous for its historic ornate mansions, and most of them are congregated in the aptly named Mansion District in the Upper West Side.
Left over from a time when Helena was the wealthiest city per capita in the world, the elegant mansions offer a colorful insight into the town’s storied history. The Montana Gold Rush had a huge impact on the town – in fact, it wouldn’t exist without it. The founding of Helena was really the result of a mixture of pure luck and happenstance.
In 1864, when the gold rush was in full swing, four Georgian miners arrived in the area, deciding that after a series of failed attempts, this would be their final chance to strike gold. The discovery of gold in a creek – in what is now Last Chance Gulch road – led to the town materializing around it. As thousands of hopeful miners flocked to the area and millions of dollars worth of gold was pulled from the gulch, the inevitable increase in wealth and community transformed the town into a flourishing city.
The town’s historic success is evident in the array of beautiful 19th Century mansions around the gulch. The Mansion District is the perfect neighborhood to wander aimlessly around, just admiring the magnificent architecture. You will find some of the finest examples of the Italianate, Queen Anne and Revival styles in the whole of the United States here.
But even the parts of the Upper West Side that aren’t filled to the brim with ornate mansions are still homely and picturesque. Neighborhoods of quaint cottages and charming houses lining leafy boulevards make up a huge portion of the district. It’s a lovely area for families and is conveniently close to all the attractions of downtown.
The Upper West Side is also situated right at the foot of Mount Helena and is close to Spring Meadow Lake State Park, making it a good base to get out and explore the trails.
Best Hotels near the Upper West Side:
($$$) • Odd Fellow Inn & Farm • 1.4 miles from Spring Meadow Lake State Park
Best Airbnbs in the Upper West Side:
($$$) • Historic Helena Home Mins from DT w/ Mtn. Views! • 3 miles from downtown Helena
($$) • Mountainside Recreation Getaway • A 6 minute drive from Broadwater Hot Springs
($) • Mount Helena Cottage: Trailhead and Lake • 4 miles from the Montana State Capitol building
2. Downtown & South Central – for an upbeat and fun stay
Much of the area surrounding downtown is a continuation of Helena’s beautiful historic mansion district. The buildings are equally lovely, and built during the 19th Century.
But downtown has a trendy and vibrant atmosphere that sets it apart from the rest of Helena. The town is often described as a place where the Old West meets the modern-day, and you can really sense that contradiction here. Saloons beckon you inside with glowing neon signs, while stylish boutiques are housed in historic 19th Century buildings. It’s a fun and exciting neighborhood in a charming historic location.
For the coolest bars and boutiques in town, take a stroll down Last Chance Gulch. The pedestrian mall is a relaxed and laid-back space, with restaurants that give you the chance to dine al fresco in the warmer summer months.
You will find art studios, craft stores and vintage clothing stores all around downtown. There’s a fantastic creative scene in Helena, and this district is the heart of it. Even outside the pedestrian mall, there are dozens of lovely shops and restaurants.
The Ten Mile Creek Brewery, Blackfoot River Brewing, the Rialto and the Windbag Saloon are a few great evening options with classic Montanan hospitality. There’s plenty to see and do in this part of the city.
You can get a taste of history in the quaint and winding Reeder’s Alley, or visit the Lewis & Clark Library to experience the oldest library in Montana.
The Original Governor’s Mansion is another historic – and beautiful – building that will give you some fascinating insight into the history of the town. If you like contemporary art and want to support local artists, visit the Holter Museum of Art.
Younger visitors will love the Last Chance Tour Train, which takes you through the streets of Helena while listening to stories of its founders. Many of the places to visit in downtown are educational as well as fun – they’re particularly good for families.
You can’t discuss the downtown & South Central area without mentioning the imposing Cathedral of Saint Helena. The neo-Gothic design was modeled after the Votivkirche in Vienna, Austria. It has cut a striking image on the Helena skyline since 1908, and is perhaps even more impressive inside than it is on the outside.
Best Hotels in Downtown & South Central:
($$$) • Best Western Premier Helena Great Northern Hotel • A 12-minute walk away from Carroll College
($$) • Doubletree By Hilton Helena Downtown • 3.1 miles from Helena Regional Airport
($) • Budget Inn Express Helena • 1 mile away from the Montana Historical Society & Museum
Best Airbnbs in Downtown & South Central:
($$$) • A beautiful downtown condominium • A 15 minute walk away from Carroll College
($$) • Carriage House 311 7th Avenue • Close to trailheads
($) • Benton House – 2nd-floor guest suite • Downtown within easy walking distance
3. North Central – for parks and Carroll College
The private liberal arts institution of Carroll College is the centerpiece of North Central Helena – you can catch a football game in the Nelson Stadium and see the Carroll Fighting Saints college team play.
Despite being in the center of town, North Central Helena has a number of fantastic parks and outdoor spaces. The Last Chance Splash Waterpark, with its large pool and colorful slides, is open all summer, and is popular with families.
But for just a breath of that fresh Montana air, head to Centennial Park. It’s one of the largest parks in Helena, complete with a skate park, baseball fields and playgrounds. The Bill Roberts championship golf course is another of Helena’s fantastic outdoor open spaces, and an unmissable experience for anyone who loves to play.
For people who prefer a glass of cold beer to the putting green, North Central is home to some of Helena’s best breweries. Hap’s Beer Parlor, the Lewis & Clark Tap Room and the Headwaters Crafthouse are only a few of the mouthwatering offerings to be found in the area. W Lyndale Avenue cuts right through town and has restaurants and cafes on either side, while downtown is close enough to stop by for a bite to eat.
Just over W Lyndale Avenue from North Central is the Great Northern Carousel, featuring 37 painstakingly hand-carved animals from around Montana. It’s a beautiful piece of art, and great entertainment for “kids of all ages”.
If you want to get out of the city completely, travel 20 miles north from this neighborhood to the Gates of the Mountains Wilderness. This designated wild area is an example of simply sublime natural beauty.
You can follow in the footsteps of the Lewis & Clark Expedition and travel up the Missouri River, with towering cliffs of white limestone on either side.
Best Hotels in North Central:
($$$) • Best Western Premier Helena Great Northern Hotel • A 12-minute walk away from Carroll College
Best Airbnbs in North Central:
($$$) • Downtown Helena Getaway • Close to the Civic Center
($$) • Gateway to the Great Northern • Only a few minutes walk from downtown Helena
($) • Comfortable family home and centrally located! • Less than a mile from Carroll College
4. Upper East Side – to explore Montana’s wilderness
The Upper East Side is a neighborhood for nature lovers. Escape into the wilderness of Montana’s vast valleys and untouched countryside for a stay that is guaranteed to get you back in touch with the natural world.
Trailheads can be found here in abundance, and the sweeping views over the valley are especially spectacular. The Upper East Side is on the doorstep of Mount Ascension Park – the South Hills Trail System leads all the way from the city to the park, and starts in this district.
There’s nowhere in Helena with better options for outdoor adventurous types – or for fantastic views, for that matter. It works particularly well as a base for people hoping to enjoy outdoor activities while still being close to downtown and useful facilities. St. Peter’s Hospital is located in the area – if you find yourself in need of accessing the hospital, this is the neighborhood most convenient for you.
Aside from the natural beauty the district boasts, the urban beauty of the Upper East Side is pretty phenomenal as well. The Montana State Capitol building’s great dome looms over Helena, and is one of the most impressive structures in the city. You can tour the capitol building to get a sense of the state’s history, as well as admire the architecture and artwork inside.
The most popular museum in Helena can also be found in the Upper East Side: the Montana Historical Society Museum. You can learn all about the history of Montana and enjoy the work of famous artists like Charles Russell; there are enough exhibits to provide hours of entertainment for the thorough visitor, or around an hour for a quick browse.
As for shopping, this part of the city is a bit limited. But downtown is only a few minutes away by car, and there are some interesting exceptions – like the Capitol Hill Farmers Market.
Best Hotels in the Upper East Side:
($$$) • Delta Hotels by Marriott Helena Colonial • Less than 10 minutes drive from the Great Northern Carousel
($$) • La Quinta by Wyndham Helena • Approximately 2 miles from downtown Helena
($) • Baymont by Wyndham Helena • 3.7 miles from Mount Helena Park
Best Airbnbs in the Upper East Side:
($$$) • A beautiful place to relax • Near St. Peter’s Hospital
($$) • Updated single level house • Easy access to Interstate 15
($) • Newly renovated, family friendly, mountain views • Close to the Montana Historical Society Museum
5. North East – for an overnight pitstop
North East Helena is a neighborhood of complete convenience.
If you’re just passing through on the way to one of either Yellowstone or the Glacier National Park, it works well as a quick base. The area has fantastic transport links, with Interstate 15 running through the neighborhood and the Helena Regional Airport only a stone’s throw away.
The district has all the usual utilities you might need during a short stay, with plenty of gyms, grocery stores and restaurants.
You can find everything from classic 1950s diner-style restaurants in Hwy 55 Burgers Shakes & Fries, to the Japanese fare at Nagoya. If you enjoy a bit of nightlife close to where you’re staying, North East Helena does have the odd bar or microbrewery to visit; Copper Furrow Brewing is one of the best in town.
You can also find the likes of Target and Costco in this part of the city. The shops in the area tend to veer on the side of useful rather than interesting, but the Good Samaritan thrift store is a popular exception.
The Nature Park is a nice space to escape the town and see some wildlife, and there are a few other smaller parks used for a mixture of sports and leisure.
North East Helena makes for a good all-rounder location in the city: it doesn’t have the same appeal as downtown or the Mansion District, but it is nice, convenient and has plenty of accommodation options.
Best Hotels in North East Helena:
($$$) • Residence Inn by Marriott Helena • 1.8 miles from Helena College
($$) • Home2 Suites By Hilton Helena • 1.9 miles from Helena Regional Airport
($) • Wingate by Wyndham Helena • 1.5 miles from Carroll College
Best Airbnbs in North East Helena:
($$$) • Zen! Tranquility and Calm in this one level home • Quiet neighborhood close to shops
($$) • Capital City Get Away • A 20-minute drive from Broadwater Hot Springs
($) • Spacious Private Lower Level • Close to Helena Regional Airport
Accomodations Under Consideration
A quick roundup of the best places to stay in Helena
- Best Budget Hotel in Helena – Budget Inn Express Helena
- Best Luxury Hotel in Helena – Odd Fellow Inn & Farm
- Best Airbnb for large groups in Helena – Downtown Helena Getaway
- Best Airbnb for families in Helena – Newly renovated, family-friendly, mountain views