Top 10 Things to Do in Butte Montana
Once the largest city found west of the Mississippi, Butte is one of America’s historic mining towns. It has witnessed every stage of the mining industry, starting off as a simple camp and ending as a historic preservation site. If you have a chance to visit this architecturally diverse city, here are 10 things to do when you get there.
Take the Butte Trolley Tour – Website
The Butte Trolley Tour is a fun and unique way to learn about the city. The tour takes about 2 hours, during which you will learn about the Butte’s colorful history that includes celebrities, scoundrels, and a multitude of miners. Starting at the end of the Butte Chamber of Commerce, you will pass by a number of memorable sites including the Charles W. Clark Chateau, Copper King Mansion, Dumas Brothel Museum, and Mai Wah Museum. There is only one stop in the tour and that is at the Berkeley Pit Viewing Stand. It only runs during the summer, from Memorial Day to Labor Day, Sunday through Friday.
Our Lady of the Rockies Statue – Website
Dedicated to women everywhere, Our Lady of the Rockies is a 90-foot statue that sits on top of Continental Divide. It is second only to another well-known lady, The Statue of Liberty, as one of the tallest statues in the United States. Its construction was a project of love. Local resident Bob O’Bill promised the Virgin Mary that he would create a statue in her image if his cancer-stricken wife recovered from her illness. When she got better, O’Bill and many others built the statue in 1979 using materials donated by the community. Since the statue was built 3,500 feet above town and is lit at the base, it can be seen at night from almost anywhere in the city.
The Copper King Mansion Tour - Website
Built by William Andrews Clark, one of three people to help Butte develop into a flourishing city, the Copper King Mansion is a privately-owned mansion that is accessible to the public. This piece of historical real estate is owned by the Cote family, who has managed it for four generations. In addition to guided tours, visitors can stay overnight in the bed and breakfast portion of the home. They Cote family also allows catered events to be hosted there. Tours start May 1 and end September 30. They are offered every hour from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and costs about $7.50. Guests who stay overnight can take a tour of the home for free.
The Mineral Museum - Website
Lovers of geology and those who just like colorful rocks will enjoy taking a tour of the Mineral Museum. The facility contains over 1,300 specimens that have been culled from locations in Butte and around the world. You can also learn about seismology and see active recordings of earthquakes at the Montana Bureau of Mines and Geology Earthquake Studies Office which is located inside the museum. In addition to tours, visitors can participate in workshops, lectures, and informative field trips into the surrounding area. The museum is opened year round starting at 9 a.m. Though admission is free, a donation to help support the facility is appreciated.
Mai Wah Museum - Website
The Mai Wah Museum serves to document the history of Asians in Butte, Montana and the Rocky Mountains. When Butte was a mining boom town, Chinese immigrants would come to the city to work. After the decline of the industry, they had to find employment where they could which was typically in laundries, noodle parlors, and as domestic servants. The museum contains numerous artifacts and exhibits documenting the lives of Asian pioneers who settled in this part of America including The Butte Chinese Experience and items from a new archeological dig. They conduct tours and have a gift shop where visitors can purchase a souvenir of their trip. The museum also hosts a parade every Chinese New Year.
Dumas Brothel - Website
This historical building is the longest running brothel in America. It was opened in 1890 and remained active up until 1982. It is also the last remaining building in the city’s historic Redlight district. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places as an active bordello in the 1970’s, visitors to this unique museum can tour the facility and learn about the interesting characters that used to frequent the establishment. There are three levels containing an assortment of rooms, parlors and suites. You may even find one or two local townspeople who remember when the brothel was in full operation. In fact, there are rumors that one of the girls that used to work there haunts the hotel to this day! Call to for information about tours.
Headframe Spirits - Website
Built in 2010 by John and Courtney McKee to celebrate the spirit and history of Butte, Headframe Spirits is a distillery that makes a number of different liquors including whiskey, bourbon, and vodka that are named after famous mines or quotes related to the city. It is located in the historic Schumacher Building and offers distillery tours. In addition to that, visitors can swing by the tasting room to sample some of the company’s products, learn the history of Butte, and purchase a couple of bottles of fine handcrafted liquor to take home. The distillery also hosts several events such as weekly live music throughout the year.
World Museum of Mining - Website
The World Museum of Mining contains a collection of exhibits that tell the story of Butte’s mining history. Their Remembering a Fallen Miner exhibit contains a memorial for the people that lost their lives in mining accidents, concentrator, or railroad accidents. There are approximately 2,500 names on four memorials walls made from black granite. Another exhibit, the Orphan Girl Mine, is home to the 100-foot high headframe, Hoist House, and the cages miners used to take their daily trip into the depths of the Earth. There is also a gift shop, summer education camps for children, and field trips that include fun scavenger hunts.
Granite Mountain Memorial Overlook - Website
This Butte site serves as a viewpoint and a memorial. At the Granite Mountain Memorial Overlook, visitors will get a beautiful view of the Continental Divide, Summit Valley, and the remnants of over 100 years of mining. They will also learn of the terrible fire that took the lives of over 168 people in 1917. In addition to reading of the stories of heroism of the people involved – such as the story of Manus Duggan who led 29 people out of the fire to safety – visitors can “buy” a brick to help support the memorial. It is best to call the memorial office for information about visiting times.
Berkeley Pit - Website
A former copper mine, this open pit is approximately one mile long, half a mile wide, and over 1,700 feet deep. Though rich in minerals, the mine represents an environment hazard. It is filled with about 900 feet of water that is highly acidic. This causes heavy metals and chemicals such as arsenic, sulfuric acid, and zinc to be leached from the surrounding rocks. It is currently one of the largest Superfund sites. Visitors can go out onto the viewing platform and look down into the dark abyss. There is also an adjacent gift shop. The cost of visiting the attraction is $2.