Billings at a Glance
Location: Southeast Montana
Access: Interstates 90 and 94, Billings Logan International Airport
Hotel rooms: 4,500
Yellowstone Conference Center
Projected Completion Date: Late summer/early fall 2020
Exhibit Space: 15,000 square feet
Billings Hotel and Convention Center
Guest rooms: 236
Meeting Space: 28,000 square feet
Doubletree by Hilton Hotel Billings
Guest rooms: 289
Meeting Space: 16,000 square feet
Horn Resort and Conference Center
Guest rooms: 108
Meeting Space: 16,000 square feet
Guest rooms: 160
Meeting Space: 12,000 square feet
Who’s Meeting in Billings
Healthcare Credit Unions Association
Marine Corps League National Convention
Gold Wing Road Riders Association
Known as Montana’s Trailhead, Billings is a hip urban destination perched on the edge of Montana’s wild frontier. “The Treasure State,” so named because of the gold and silver found there by early settlers, ranks high in the nation as a bucket-list stop. That well-deserved honor comes thanks to its horizons that stretch as far as the eye can see, its numerous national monuments that reflect America’s Western heritage and culture, its small towns and immense ranches dotted through craggy mountains and wide valleys, and the romantic appeal of the Old West.
Groups meeting in Billings can embrace Western culture from a seat in the rodeo stands and can scout trails once used by warriors and dinosaurs.
Rife with Western hospitality, Billings is surrounded by rimrocks, great sandstone formations highly suited for rappelling or trail biking, with awesome views of the city. The Yellowstone River winds through this outdoor-adventure mecca, where real cowboys still ride the range and test their mettle at rodeos and rappelers scale unfathomable rock surfaces at national parks. Numerous scenic routes snake through and around this multifaceted city. Longtime journalist Charles Kuralt, of CBS’s “On the Road” fame, called one of those, the Beartooth Highway, “the most beautiful drive in America.”
Yellowstone National Park, Mount Rushmore, the Badlands and Black Hills, and the Little Bighorn Battlefield are all an easy drive for attendees.
“What surprises people about Billings is that whole Montana experience,” said Alex Tyson, executive director of Visit Billings. “We have pre- and post-conference FAMs. You come early, bring your family, stay late. You wander through our galleries of Western art, taste local brews and enjoy Montana food. You go to Yellowstone National Park and explore Native American culture at the Western Heritage Center.”
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Western Heritage Center houses a private collection of 35,000 Western artifacts in a splendid, 1901 Romanesque sandstone structure with twin towers. In addition to changing interactive exhibits and 400-plus oral histories, the center hosts walking tours and has event space for 200.
“People look you in the eye here and are gracious,” said Tyson. “You can breathe and really get the Big Sky experience.”
Designed by the chief engineer of the Northern Pacific Railroad in 1909, the Billings Depot witnessed history when 10,000 homesteaders hopped trains to claim land here. Now the once-busy rail hub’s 450-capacity event space includes the stunning passenger station, with vaulted ceilings, Roman columns, a terrazzo floor and a high-arched window, a spacious baggage room with original brick walls, two outdoor courtyards and a patio.
Montana’s only zoo and botanical garden, 70-acre ZooMontana can bring animal ambassadors to your company presentation. Handlers will either mingle with the crowd as people come and go, like at a company picnic, or present critters one at a time and speak about their habitat, status in the wild and conservation issues. Another option is to rent the entire zoo or any of five varied venues with capacities of 10 to 2,500.
Home to Montana’s largest concerts, rodeo and motorsports events, MetraPark is a multifacility event venue that includes a 30,000-square-foot, 10,000-seat arena with a 50,000-square-foot exhibit hall and a half-mile dirt track, plus an expo center and pavilion. A three-acre outdoor plaza handles events for up to 300.
When attendees need reenergizing, the serene ponds and rolling hills of Camelot Ranch will do the job. Not far from Billings, this handsome property combines modern facilities and amenities with rustic charm and beautifully groomed landscaping to create a great getaway year-round. Its 8,400-square-foot event barn holds up to 300, with 500 at full ranch capacity.
Some 400 guests can enjoy concerts and a taphouse at the Pub Station, a renovated Greyhound bus station.
Major Meeting Spaces
A hefty 200,000 square feet of flexible meeting space in Billings includes five primary conference hotels. Among those is the Billings Hotel and Convention Center, which is scheduled to complete a major renovation this month.
“We have the largest full-service convention center under one roof in Montana,” said Ron Spence, general manager. “Now it has 28,000 square feet of meeting space.”
Amenities include a casino, an indoor swimming pool and a sizable courtyard where 500 to 600 can chow down at its barbecue pit.
A downtown landmark surrounded by eateries and breweries, the Doubletree by Hilton Hotel Billings, has a 20th-floor restaurant and a 500-person Grand Ballroom, all five minutes from Montana State University and two miles from the airport.
And with 13,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor meeting space, the Big Horn Resort and Conference Center sports a casino and the state’s largest water park.
“Billings is in that sweet spot of either 400 attendees or fewer, or major citywide meetings that use many properties,” Tyson said. “We have a lot of overflow properties that can meet the needs of many attendees and budgets.”
The big meetings news for this Western destination is that its first dedicated convention facility, tentatively named the Yellowstone Conference Center, is slated to open late summer or early fall this year, depending upon the current health crisis.
“The center will open up the city’s walkable West End with its restaurants, shops and hotels to larger meetings, events and conferences,” said Amy Barnhart, general manager of the Residence Inn Billings.
After the Meeting
Family-operated Bitter Creek Ranch hosts horseback-riding excursions on a 7,000-acre cattle ranch in the Yellowstone Valley six miles from downtown. Small groups learn about local flora and fauna, history and culture. Options include picnic or wine-and-cheese rides, but the scenery is still the star. Guests ride atop distinctive rimrocks, through ponderosa pines and fields of vivid wildflowers, spy wild turkeys and mule deer, and gaze at breathtaking views of five different mountain ranges.
The property borders the Crow Indian Reservation; Lewis and Clark once floated past on the Yellowstone River.
At SteepWorld Climbing and Fitness, experiential teambuilding for attendees of all levels of fitness, courage and experience features a diagnostic understanding of a team’s strengths and weaknesses. Based on this info, members take a Rocky Mountain Team Expedition facilitated by a former Disney executive, with challenges such as fire, raging rivers and tall walls.
In the heart of downtown, the Billings Brew Trail is a self-guided tour of six breweries, two distilleries and one cider house that covers 1.5 miles. The trail brings a whole new meaning to the term breakout session.
Billings Trolley riders can get off their feet on a lighthearted, informative tour of the city’s landmark destinations. Groups can clip-clop in a horse-drawn carriage around the 1903 Moss Mansion, the historic district, downtown and Riverfront Park.
Hardcore outdoor-gear shoppers can hit destination sporting goods store Scheels at Shiloh Crossing. The 220,000-square-foot retail giant features a 65-foot Ferris wheel and a 16,000-gallon aquarium.