photo by Seth Kroft
Inside the Pages: '100 Things to Do in Billings Before You Die'
by rebecca stewart
If you are from the 406, you probably have big feelings about this place. It is our home; it is beautiful and massive, and as more and more people discover it, we find ourselves feeling protective of it. If people are going to be coming here (and they most definitely are), then we want them to get it right (see and experience all the great things) and treat it right, to boot. A touchstone of the www.travelmontananow.com blog, which launched pre-pandemic with the tagline, “Travel Montana Now…Before Everyone Else Does” and feels a responsibility to educate visitors ahead of arriving about respecting the land and communities, recreating responsibly, and leaving no trace, explains Gina Tarnacki.
Gina’s brainchild, she created this website with her mom (Nancy Icopini) and sister (Jackie), which ultimately led to them being approached by Reedy Press to write the Billings guidebook, 100 Things to Do in Billings Before You Die, which Gina and Nancy co-authored. Though the book proudly proclaims 100 things, you’ll be pleased to know that Nancy and Gina managed to sneak in some extras as accompanying sidebars on many pages.
Perhaps because – despite the size of the Magic City (we are the biggest in Montana) – we all still feel like we operate with a small-town vibe; it might have you thinking, are there even a hundred things to do here?? With understanding, Gina shares that they, too, initially worried that they would have trouble getting to 100 things, but she says, “We actually had trouble choosing ONLY 100 things to do in Billings.” Once the ball got rolling and they began visiting places they had not yet been, “we discovered so many wonderful places that help make Billings special.” Then, they proceeded to tuck as many bonus activities and businesses to check out in the sidebars as possible, noting that the restaurants and museums were incredibly challenging to narrow down.
If you’re going to snag a copy of this book, and you should, there are various ways for you to consume the information nestled within the pages. Of course, you have the table of contents leading the way, and you absolutely could just read it from start to finish. Still, at the back of the book, ahead of the actual index, there are roadmaps, so to speak, where you will find activity ideas by season and four pages of suggested itineraries with everything from Take the Kids in the Summer to Day Trips from Billings and Western Way of Life .
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What do the authors most want people to know about Billings? Gina and Nancy share…
- Billings has such a variety of things to do, both in the city center and within an easy day trip.
- Billings is truly special in the way it straddles the mountain activities like skiing and alpine hiking to the west and the sprawling plains and vast farmland to the east.
- The history! Montana wouldn’t be what it is today without Billings, which you can learn about firsthand at the many museums and historical sites listed in the book.
While researching, Nancy checked out the Yellowstone County Museum for the first time despite having driven past it countless times. She was surprised to discover just how much there was to see in that (free admission!) museum.
- Billings may be the most populated city in Montana, but it still has a small-town vibe with so many local businesses and a “help your neighbor” mentality that we think is so special about Billings.
When we asked the authors what their top five favorite things from the book would be, they said that it often changes by season or mood, but…
- Boating at Bighorn Canyon- Nancy, a huge boat lover, and Gina, loves being on the water.
- Pompeys Pillar and its modern visitor center make it interesting and inspiring.
- So, too, is a visit to Chief Plenty Coups State Park south of Billings.
- On the food front, Gina loves coffee at Black Dog or breakfast at Sassy Biscuit, while Nancy is always up for a drive to Red Lodge to eat dinner at Piccola Cucina at Ox Pasture.
- Despite neither being a cowgirl, each woman “covet[s] hats from Rand’s Hat Shop.” Beyond that, they love browsing the home and fashion finds at Joy of Living or Liberty and Vine.
Okay, friends, what’s on your Billings Bucket List?