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Old 12-12-2008, 09:09 PM
180 posts, read 453,532 times
Reputation: 87


I have been considering several cities in Montana to transfer to from South Dakota. I have visited some of the cities already, but I wanted to get your opinions on Helena and if it might be a good fit.

Helena appears to be rather compact and walkable. It was ranked 3rd behind Bozeman and Missoula for walkable cities in Montana in an online magazine ad I found. I cannot drive, so being to walk to things is important. Bozeman is too expensive and I think I am too conservative for Missoula. Billings is more spread out and I would need to rely more on public transit. Their transit system is not very good. Do you agree that Helena is walkable? Are most streets lined with sidewalks? I know winter weather will be an issue at times, but I am used to cold, wind, and snow in the Dakotas.

I do not need a lot of entertainment, so lack of cultural activites is not an issue. One thing I hear people complain about in Helena is the lack of shopping. I am not in need of a lot of fancy stores; just a grocier, Target/Wal-Mart, and an occasional JC Penney or Sears. A lot of people seem to go to Great Falls to shop. I have been there. Just curious, what big name retailers does Great Falls have that Helena does not?

Finally, how would you describe the people of Helena? I am wondering if I am too "low class". Wages appear to be higher (for Montana), and that is probably connected to the government jobs there. I am not wealthy. I know my budget and know I have to stick to it. I would be renting. Rents appear to be slightly higher than what I pay now, but still withing my means. Is Helena full of wealthy folks from the West Coast like some other parts? Do good, simple natives still hold the majority, or is it becoming another Bozeman.

Thanks for your opinions in advance.
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Old 12-18-2008, 08:24 AM
Location: In The Outland
6,023 posts, read 11,916,090 times
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Bump ! I hate to see a reasonable post go un-answered. Do you have an independent income source, or do you need to have a job ?
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Old 12-18-2008, 09:23 AM
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Helena can be cliqueish. One thing I notice during the campaign was one street would be all for Obama and the next street would all be for McCain. I don't think neighbors were going for a one color scheme there lol. There is Capital Mall and the walking mall for shopping also. Lots of sidewalks. Rent is alot higher compared to Great Falls. I live in Lincoln but have friends in Helena. Two of them are moving to Great Falls because construction is down in Helena with the exception of the huge subdivisions being built and the cost of rent. Great Falls is walker friendly. Lots of walking trails also. Great transit system, lower rent, shopping. Both places have good and bad but if I had to choose, I would choose Great Falls.
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Old 12-19-2008, 11:43 PM
180 posts, read 453,532 times
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Originally Posted by rickers View Post
Bump ! I hate to see a reasonable post go un-answered. Do you have an independent income source, or do you need to have a job ?
I would be transferring with my job, and so I would have one when I arrive.

I also am considering Great Falls. I already was there in October and it has been the best city in Montana I hae visited. I have not been to Helena, and am just trying to decide if it is worth considering.
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Old 12-20-2008, 09:07 AM
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Helena is very walkable. I've been walking to my job in Helena for the past 25 years. There are also over 40 miles of hiking/mountain biking trails in the south hills, thanks to the city's intelligent vision to purchase park land with their open space initiative. You can get on the trails from many entry points right in town.

No problem with shopping...Helena has Shopko, Target, Kmart, Walmart, Cosco, etc.

Housing certainly isn't cheap, but I don't think is too much different from most other comparable size cities in Montana. That was an interesting comment about incomes being higher possibly because of the government jobs. I cut my pay in half when I took a government job in Helena, but it was worth it to live in such a nice place.

I really like the people. Helena is not overrun with wealthy imports, there are plenty of natives who I have found to be very friendly. Personally, I think Great Falls is flatter, windier, colder. And I think Helena is in a good central location with a wealth of outdoor activities available nearby. So if any of that interests you, Helena is worth a visit.
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Old 12-20-2008, 05:34 PM
Location: Helena, MT
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I've lived in Helena, Great Falls, Missoula, and Bozeman. I currently live in Helena and don't know anyone who goes shopping in Great Falls; in fact, I often see lots of Great Falls plates in our parking lots. If we do go out of town, we usually go to Missoula or Bozeman to see a game, eat at a nice restaurant, and experience some different stores.

Helena can be walker friendly to a point. I would suggest living downtown-ish if you'd like to walk. I can walk to a corner market, a bunch of restaurants, my work, a laundromat, some taverns, the walking mall, the trail system, etc. from where I live, all within 1/2 hour. I can even walk to the main grocery store within 1/2 hour. But, it's kind of sprawl-y in some parts of town so you would need transportation to get you to the north side of town vs. downtown, etc.

I have no idea how Great Falls could be considered walker-friendly. I found it too windy to walk most of the time and although I like Great Falls quite a bit, I found that to be a downfall.

I really like Bozeman and Missoula. I think Missoula is also very walkable and it also has public transportation. I would definitely check Helena out--stable economy, etc. I've posted in on it many times.
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Old 12-20-2008, 07:27 PM
180 posts, read 453,532 times
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Thanks for the thorough replies. They are very helpful and definitely make it sound like Helena is worth a look.

The only reason I mentioned the whole "going to Great Falls to shop" thing is because I have seen it said more than once in these threads. I, personally, can maybe see Helena having less places to shop compared to what some are used to in a big city, but compared to Great Falls, I didin't think there was much difference.

Even though Missoula is fairly walkable and has public transit, I have ruled it out for some of the reasons listed in my opening post. I feel I am too conservative, and do not want to live a midst a ton of wealthy transplants. I also do not want to live in a town dominated by a university.
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Old 12-20-2008, 08:58 PM
Location: Helena, MT
373 posts, read 1,705,931 times
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Also, Helena doesn't really have nearly the influx of rich out of staters. Yes, we do have new people moving in but they don't seem to be uber-rich. It's a very middle class town, but there's also a lot of skilled blue collar workers.
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Old 12-21-2008, 03:31 PM
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Helena is a wonderful place to live. The traffic is getting a bit bad but its not near as bad as Zootown or Bozeman. I'm in Bozeman right now so my wife can do some shopping. The nice thing about coming here is it makes one appreciate Helena all the more.
As far as a walking town, I think Helena fits the bill.
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Old 12-22-2008, 11:02 AM
Location: Larkspur, CO
189 posts, read 716,694 times
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If you find a place in the Upper Eastside, South Central or Upper Westside, it will be very easy for you to walk to downtown, the library and other places of interest. You won't really be able to walk to Wal-Mart with much practicality though. You'll still need to drive to get to some places, but the commute here is very short to any part of town. There are "rush-hours" when traffic isn't the best, but by big city standards we are really spoiled here.
What part of town is your job going to be in? That might help dictate where you want to be house shopping.
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