What to Expect from Helena's Walking Mall
Updated: May 18, 2018
Storytelling by Brittany Rooze
These boots are made for walking, and that’s just what they’ll do…on Helena's Walking Mall!
In 1864 four men, desperately trying not to return home empty handed, stopped for in the Prickly Pear Canyon for one last chance to find gold. Maybe there was a rainbow, or maybe it was elk that led them to the right spot, but they found their pot of gold -- $19M worth in four years, to be exact. Now, 150 years later, the only Walking Mall in the state of Montana sits right on their street of gold, creatively named Last Chance Gulch. (In case you’re as clueless as I was when trying to figure out what the heck the word ‘gulch’ means, a gulch is a deep, narrow ravine, and in the case of Last Chance Gulch, is flanked with steep mountain sides.)
Not to be confused with a strip mall, Helena’s Walking Mall is about three city blocks long, starting at the Lewis and Clark Library and ending at Big Dipper Ice Cream, and is lined with places to grab a bite to eat, sip on a fresh cup of coffee, satisfy your sweet tooth, admire breathtaking art, and shop til you drop. It’s the rich history (pun intended) of the area that’ll bring you back in time as you stroll along a brick pathway with beautiful, historic buildings greeting you on either side. Locals know this is the place to be on a warm summer evening, brisk fall afternoon, crisp spring morning, and even cozy wintry days.
In the span of a century and a half, the city of Helena thrived, expanded, and as the mining days faded into a distant memory, Last Chance Gulch was developed into a bustling business district. Now Gulch-goers can grab a bison burger, loaded mac n cheese, and a giant soft pretzel (any concession stand junkie’s dream, who’s with me?!) at The Windbag Saloon. Fish tacos for lunch from Taco Del Sol are always a good option, but if you’re looking for something fancy, stop by Lucca’s for gourmet Italian food (make sure you have a reservation – it’s hard to get into). Wash down your lunch or dinner with a flight of craft beer or Kombucha from Ten Mile Creek Brewery, sip on a glass of wine from Martin’s Wines or The Hawthorn, or spice things up with a cocktail from The Sapphire or Rialto.
Never skip desserts! Stretch the belly farther with old fashioned candies, milkshakes, and flavored sodas from The Parrot Confectionery or get a waffle cone of to-die-for Girl Scout Cookie flavored ice cream from Big Dipper Ice Cream (flavors depend on the day).
Lastly, walk it all off while exploring Copper Wheat Boutique, The Ghost Art Gallery, Birds and Beasleys, The Pan Handler Plus, Wayne Miller Coins, and so many more wonderful shops and boutiques. Stressed out and overwhelmed by all the choices? Make it simple and treat yourself to a massage and spa day from one of the many salons on the Walking Mall.
Whether you’re looking for food, libations, something to satisfy the sweet tooth, a cute new outfit, a beautiful piece of art, or to get your teeth cleaned (there are a bizarre number of dental offices along the mall), you are sure to find yourself having a great time on this pedestrian and family friendly strip (motorized vehicles aren’t allowed in the Walking Mall).
Keep in mind that Helena’s walking mall is not a one-and-done trip. Whether you’ve lived here for 40 years or 4 months, I’m willing to bet there is still unexplored territory and little gems you’ve maybe never noticed. Challenge yourself to see past your expectations. You won’t be disappointed, and the memories will last a lifetime!