By Skylar Rispens
Being born and raised in Helena, I am pretty familiar with the Last Chance Tour Train, but one thing makes me a little different, my dad is a Tour Train driver. For about nine months out of the year, my dad is a middle school principal. However, one summer when I was younger, he picked up a summer job as a tour train driver. I was so excited for him, more importantly, I was excited to ride the train fairly regularly.
I would take friends on the train in the summer and would impress them with fun facts about Helena that I had heard my dad say while practicing his script. I would frequently walk from my house to the Walking Mall in downtown Helena to eat lunch with my mom at Taco Del Sol and then hitch a ride from her dental office to the Montana Historical Society to make the walk a little easier.
As an intern for Visit Helena Montana, it is my job to help promote my great hometown. It’s safe to say that the history I learned about Helena in my childhood summers allowed me to love my town more than I already did.
This Capital City is full of rich history, and the Tour Train is one of the easiest and most entertaining ways to explore it while being both family friendly and affordable. It begins across the street from the State Capitol Building and takes its passengers past historic landmarks such as the Original Governor’s Mansion, St. Helena Cathedral, Reeder’s Alley, and the site of the first discovery of gold. Along with those landmarks the guide will explain in detail the history of mining in Last Chance Gulch, and the history of some of the beautiful mansions in town.
The Tour Train is open Monday through Saturday and has tours starting at 11am, 1pm, 3pm, and 5:30pm(starting July 1). Tickets for the tour are $9 for adults and teenagers, $8 for seniors, and children ages 4-12 are $7. Riders can purchase tickets outside of the Montana Historical Society, or pre-purchase tickets at Birds and Beasleys Monday through Saturday from 9:30am to 6pm.
This year, the Tour Train launched the “Train Friendly” program as an opportunity for train riders to explore more shops downtown. Currently, over 30 businesses offer riders free gifts or discounts with the Train Friendly initiative. Simply show your Tour Train ticket to participating businesses. To view the list of participating businesses, visit www.helenamt.com/trainfriendly or download the FREE Helena Walking App and click on the “Train Friendly” tour category. Be sure to visit us at the Reeder’s Alley Visitor Center to pick up your Train Friendly gift!
All in all, the Tour Train is a must-do when visiting Helena. The hour long tour gives you a unique perspective of Helena that highlights all of the must-see locations.