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To learn more about Helena's past start your outdoor tour by visiting the Benton Avenue Cemetery, Benton Ave near Carroll College. Here you will find some of the headstones of the territorial legislators, vigilantes, pioneers, and gunslingers that helped found Helena. Continue your Helena history lesson by taking a stroll along Historic Last Chance Gulch. You'll run into exhibits, fun shops, great food, and a chance to tour where it all began. If this isn't enough of the "wooly west" for you, head out to Highway 12W and McDonald Pass to Frontier Town, 406-442-4560. John Quigley built this authentic reproduction western town with the largest one piece bar in the world, a chapel, and a breathtaking 75-mile view from atop the continental divide.
For more outdoor adventure hop on the Last Chance Tour Train, 225 N Roberts, 406-442-1023, for an hour-long tour of Helena. Then head on over to the Helena National Forest, 2880 Skyway Drive, 406-449-5201 for an afternoon of hiking, fishing, or just plain resting under the trees. For more good fishing and outdoor fun, visit Lake Helena, Canyon Ferry Lake, the Spring Meadow State Recreation Area, the Little Blackfoot River, and the Smith River, which is known for its 60 mile 3-4 day float trips.
What else will you want to see in Helena? To see what started all the ruckus, stop by the Norwest Bank Gold Collection, 350 N. Last Chance Gulch, 406-447-2000, to see nuggets, wire gold, leaf, and gold dust, plus some actual gold coins. Then head over to the original governor's Mansion, 304 North Ewing, 406-444-4789. William Chessman built this mansion in 1888 during one of Helena's boom times. Bought by the state in 1913 for a governor's mansion it is now furnished to look much as it did from 1913-1921.
After you finish looking at where the governors use to live, you might enjoy seeing where they work. While taking your self guided tour of the State Capital, 1301 6th Ave, 406-444-2694, be sure and stop and enjoy the Charles M. Russel mural "Lewis and Clark Meeting Indians at Ross Hole." If you like beautiful churches, you'll want to make time for the St. Helena Cathedral, 509 North Warren St., 406-442-5825. A visit to this church, modeled after the Votive Church in Vienna, Austria, will give you a chance to see irreplaceable stain glass windows and an imported white marble altar.
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