A Surprising Gem in Helena Montana


Another unfinished post that I came across when moving my blog. The trip is from a few years ago but the carousel still remains.

Who would have thought that a trip to Helena Montana to do a little cross-border shopping could have turned into a fun-filled Family Day weekend getaway? Upon deciding that we didn’t have time to go far away for the long-weekend to any of our favorite spots we set our sites closer to home. Helena is an easy seven-hour drive from Calgary and while it does not boast the selection of stores that a larger center would have it does cover the basics.

Jo-Ann Fabrics is one of my favorite craft stores and the location in Helena does not disappoint. As luck would have it, the U.S. President’s Day lined up with Family Day this year and I was able to take advantage of great sale prices on fabric for my stash (that trunk containing many beautiful colors of calicos and florals that my poor husband doubts will ever become a quilt).

After lunch at Panda Express (we didn’t have one in Calgary yet so this was a treat), we ventured into the old downtown for some antique hunting. I always find it interesting to see how different the selection is depending on where you are in North America. It appears that a lot of home canning was done in Helena as we were able to pick up some real “gems” there. Eli lucked out with a 1960’s stretch limousine complete with a sunroof that opens. He was pretty pleased with himself over his find.

Now for the fun part of the day. Did you know Helena has a beautifully carved carousel? It is quite unique with animals that represent the local area. There was a constant flow of children and parents climbing aboard for the ride and a chance to grab the brass ring. The buffalo seems one of the most popular choices (Papa had to hang onto his tail so he didn’t get away) followed closely by the billy goat (I just love all of his mining gear.)

The world-class, hand-carved Great Northern Carousel was the dream of carousel loving Alan Nicholson that he made a reality in 2002. The entire thing is a work of art with local animal figures carved by the renowned Ed Roth who has also carved figures for Disney (as a family of Disney fans this was a fun fact!) I enjoyed watching the animals go by and was fascinated by the detail Mr. Roth had included in his work.

In these days of go, go, go, it was nice to step back into the past a bit and enjoy an afternoon in such a family-friendly space. Where kids can be kids as the saying goes. And the fun doesn’t end with the carousel, no there is more. Ice Cream! Yes, one of my favorite treats on our road trips and this is some of the best. They serve generous portions of Montana’s own Wilcoxson’s Ice Cream in a good variety of flavors (I think there were 24 on the day we visited so sure to be something for everyone.)

Having a look through our pictures from that day makes me think we need a return visit soon.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.