Billings, Montana

Magic City

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What's it like to live in Billings?

Moving to Billings

I’m a Billings native who goes back more and more. It was tough growing up there, and my relatives lead pretty boring lives, but it has improved over the years significantly and I know people who have moved there by their own choice and love it. Honestly, like anywhere else, it’s what you make of it. You can have a great time if you make an effort, or you can be miserable. It’s really your choice. And you’ll have that choice no matter where you move to.

Good luck!

Moving to Billings

I moved here from a large city in the Midwest as well;

Billings has mild winters. It's in the rain shadow of the Beartooth mountains and has island ranges all around it, and is literally in the bottom of the Yellowstone River valley. So, it's no where near as wet as Missouri or anywhere by the great lakes, and there's no prairie wind unless you try to situate yourself at elevation. The climate is high desert-esque, we got prickly pear cactus and everything.

As far as culture goes, there's a ton of people from out of state living here. Montana locals tend to hate Billings, for being too big, too busy, too cheap, too industrial, and too diverse. It's near the Crow and Northern Cheyenne reservations, which I like. People here are crazy nice but refuse to be direct, and I maintain this town has the nicest panhandlers in the world.

I don't know if I want to stay here forever, but the economy is booming, and my career is going great.

There's great outdoor opportunities everywhere (apart from swimming) and can be enjoyed as short day trips. They're bringing back $40 one way tickets to Denver, too, which is great.

As far as neighborhoods go, the heights is set up like a 50s suburb. The numeric south side and north side is part of the original town site but there is minor property crime, transients, and an oil refinery on it's east side.

North Elevation is old money and beautiful.

Southside non numeric has high crime and lotsa old buildings that are not in good shape due to the annexation policy.

Lower west end between 6th and 15th is your typical midtown. It's alright and walkable but crime is rising.

Best neighborhoods and schools

The south side really has become family friendly in recent years. My oldest kids are now 19 & 17 and we lived in a few different areas of the west end when they were really little & then moved to the south side right before they both started school & we absolutely loved it. Not only is it very family orientated in a lot of areas, most of the schools are fantastic. In fact, they're so great that when we were still struggling to find a good west end school for our 3rd child after we had moved out of the south side & were still having no luck after 3 different schools (the main things we were looking for were: one with teachers & faculty who were caring & invested in your child w/o being judgmental or outright rude at times; parents who acted like normal human beings w/ basic manners & social skills - all the time, but most notably during pick up & drop off times (I know, this one sounds odd, but I swear, at 3 different schools my son went to & another 4 I knew of because I had friends whose kids went to them, it blew my mind how inconsiderate, rude & seemingly oblivious many parents were when it came to something as simple, easy & mundane as drop offs & pick ups); and the biggest one of all - a school that didn't tolerate bullying & would take action instead of either ignoring it or punishing both kids, even if one was very clearly the bully & the other was very clearly the bullied), we actually pulled every string we had available to us to get him into a south side school (& not even the same one my older kids had gone to) & instead of a 3-5 minute drive to & from school everyday like we had been doing, we chose to drive 15-20 minutes one way just so he could attend a school we took on faith would be better than the 3 west end schools we had already tried that he (& we) had been miserable at. And it paid off greatly! We were so happy we made the choice & sacrifice to go back to south side schools. Of course, I'm not saying there aren't wonderful west end schools as I am sure there are; we just didn't have the good fortune to end up at/identify one during our ordeal, but I have no doubt there are some truly amazing west end schools with amazing teachers (& parents) as well. I am just sharing my family's personal experience.

What is it like to live in Billings, MT?

The short answer is Billings is a regional business hub, designed that way by the city council and the Chamber of Commerce. It is not a city built for much purpose for its residents.

That said, I don’t mean any disrespect to Billings or its people. There just isn’t a lot to do in the city, unless you like bars; there are plenty of those for whatever kind of scene you’re into, but mostly dives and redneck bars. Also, because of the prevelance of alcohol, we have the problems that can come with it: drunk drivers, crime, domestic abuse, etc. All of eastern MT has had a meth problem since at least the ’90s, that includes Billings, and it doesn’t seem to be getting any better.

On the plus side, there’s always something going on in the summer months. The Downtown Business Alliance (DBA) puts on events weekly, such as Alive After 5, a music and food event that introduces people to local bands and restraunts. They also do monthly Artwalks and there is a wonderful array of local microbreweries and distilleries. A Class A minor league baseball team, the Billings Mustangs ( Go Stangs!!), play at beautiful Dehler Park, an all-purpose outdoor arena, but it was specifically designed for the baseball team. The city has used it in the past for concerts (Bob Dylan, John Mellencamp) but it’s mostly baseball.

Basically, summer can be fun, winters are cold as ____, 7 months out of the year are boring and routine with nothing to really offer, cost of living is average, but wages tend to be low, restraunts outside of downtown are pretty much just run of the mill franchises because the owners are mostly inheritance brats who’ve never had to really work a day in their lives and don’t want to invest in the local community. A rather conservative community but not too aggresive about it.

To be blunt, Billings is a “Walmart” city. It has no real identity. If you were blindfolded and dropped off here you’d never be able to discern what random city you’re in.

Pros & Cons of living in Billings Montana

It’s not all sunshine and rainbows in the Big Sky country. Watch this video to hear some of the pros and cons of living in this beautiful state.