Hello Helena (that’d be in Montana ;)…
Growing up in an area, one often takes for granted the unusual and interesting destinations and activities of the locale. We often don’t take advantage of and enjoy the sites and sounds that are right in our backyard, but reserve such tourist-y behavior for when we are on the road.
Such was the case with us.
Until this summer.
We have been on the road for 3 years, and while we spend our winters playing tourist in some much warmer states than our beloved Montana, we come home for the summers and find we fall right back into the everyday routine, forgetting that there were/are fabulous things to do right here at home too! Recently, I vowed to take a day each week and DO something. It didn’t have to be big, but it did have to be something special – something that ‘visitors’ do – something that my kidlets would think was fun and unusual. At first, we would find ourselves traveling out of town for our Tribe Trips as we call them, but then it hit me that there are things right here in Helena (Montana) that we have missed out on doing!
One of those fun activities is the local Last Chance Tour Train. A locally owned business, the LCTT is a cute little train that pulls 4 ‘passenger cars’; each car can hold approximately 16 people. The train drives through the historic district of our capitol city, and the guide/driver tells the guests all about the history of Helena. How this used to just be a rugged area with a stream running through it. A small group of gold seekers had passed through on their way out to the promise of rich gold fields to the west. When they didn’t find gold at their destination, they decided to return home. On their way back east, they again camped for the night in the area, and one of the men told the others that he was going to try to pan the stream, that it was his ‘last chance’ to find gold before heading home. Well, he struck it rich, along with his buddies, and the area has since been know as Last Chance Gulch. There is no longer a stream here, but there are remnants of the great wealth that came from those first gold claims and the people and business that followed.
Our original Governor’s Mansion
photo credit:Marina Mulac
The Last Chance Tour Train takes you on an hour long tour through the historic residential district and tells a little about many of the homes in the area – homes that were built with gold money, or from the business wealth that the gold brought in. The tour takes you past the old governors mansion and tells a little about the free tours you can take of the mansion (take one – they are interesting – especially the hidden passage), and the tour drives you down our quaint little Walking Mall. The Walking Mall is 2 blocks of Last Chance Gulch that are closed to vehicle travel – but the tour train gets to drive down it, and you get a peek at the businesses along the mall. Make sure to note The Parrot (wonderful onsite-handmade chocolates) and it’s nearby The Big Dipper (super yummy ice cream shop featuring huckleberry ice cream and root beer sherbet among other flavors, and unique sundaes) for future reference as must-stops. The LCTT is a great way to get a feel for the southern part of town, and to learn some fun and interesting facts about the area. It starts in front of our Historical Society museum, and takes you past our nearby state capital.
our capital building
photo credit:Marina Mulac
If you are just visiting our beautiful city, I would suggest that you do the tour train as one of your very first stops: that is because (and I didn’t know this until we did it about 2 weeks ago), your tour train ticket gives you some great discounts/gifts at local businesses! Printed on your ticket are some really great discounts/freebies, like a free carousel ride for everyone that went on the tour, and a free soda at a local taco place (most of these places are on the walking mall). The ticket freebies are good for a week after your tour, so plan on visiting the downtown area of the city during your stay too!
If you are visiting the area, I would encourage you to consider staying at the Lincoln Road RV Park
. The campground is well kept, and the employees are nice and friendly. And, while we have never stayed there (we are a little over their site limit! ROFL!), it’s where we send our friends; and we’ve heard only good things.
It’s less than 10 minutes out of town, and located right off of I-15 so it’s easy to get back and forth to town (and some other Helena, MT destinations I’ll be highlighting over my next few posts.
The Last Chance Tour Train
is a fun and interesting way to check out the Montana state capitol city! So hop aboard, and enjoy the ride!
Last 5 posts by Dana Ticknor