With a population of 110,000, Billings is the largest city in Montana. It is sometimes referred to as the Magic City because it grew so rapidly after its founding as a railroad town in 1882. I think every state has a city with that nickname, for many different reasons. Billings is the largest city for a retail area that includes Montana, western North Dakota, western South Dakota, and Wyoming.
We spent two days in Billings checking it out and exploring with Johnny and Val Johnson. In many ways, Billings is just like any city of its size. It has all the usual retail stores and we took the opportunity to visit several of them. We went to Albertsons looking for Boars Head deli meats. Tom and I picked up prescription refills at Walgreens. We spent some time browsing at Barnes and Noble. Tom needed some new socks and he likes the ones from Costco. Fortunately Johnny and Val have a membership to Costco so we shopped there as well and got Tom’s socks.
Billings has a small downtown and sprawling outer area. It is, however, surprisingly easy to get around. We stayed at Days Inn on the southern edge of town, close to I-90. Tom did most of the driving because we have the gas-efficient Prius. He soon knew all the major roads and could get most places with only minor directions.
The first store we went to was the Yarn Bar downtown. I kept wanting to make the name the Yarn Barn, but – no – it was the Yarn Bar. Of course I had to check out the local yarn shop and Val is always ready to look at beautiful yarns. We spent quite a while browsing while Johnny and Tom walked around downtown. Val got yarn to make a bag and I got some yarn for a summer top. The store had a great selection of yarn in a good price range, so it was delightful shopping there. The sales ladies were very helpful.
We also ate at two restaurants during our time in Billings. After Pompeys Pillar and the Yarn Bar, we were all hungry so I looked up restaurants on TripAdvisor. The top rated restaurant in Billings was The Burger Dive, which was also downtown, so we headed over.
The Burger Dive looked just like you would expect inside and out. But it certainly deserved its top rating. We all ordered different burgers and everyone thought their burger was the best. I had a Juicy Lucy, which I’ve heard is a thing in this part of the world. It was a burger cooked with the cheese inside. They recommend that you poke it with a knife before you eat it or the juices will burn your mouth. It was so good with the cheese all melty and dripping out the center of the burger. If you ever see one on a menu, I recommend it!
We headed to the second restaurant the next morning for a late breakfast. This restaurant was away from downtown in a shopping area. The Red Rooster Café advertises homemade goodness, pies, rolls and treats. Johnny and Val had eaten there before and they recommended the breakfast burrito. Tom and I decided to share and it is a good thing we did. Half was plenty and it came smothered with delicious sausage gravy. Johnny and Val split an omelet, which Johnny thought might not be enough food, but turned out to be plenty. All of us tried a few bites of excellent chocolate cream pie.
We wanted to see a movie together but the only movies we wanted to see came out on Friday. We were in Billings on Monday and Tuesday.
In case you are wondering why we didn’t do more hiking or outdoor things (our usual style) it was 103 on Monday and 106 on Tuesday. Frankly, we were doing good to be outside at all. It was fun to have indoor things to do and to be in a city that had all the usual shopping places and some new things to explore. Billings looked like a good place to live and I’ve heard it isn’t usually that hot.