The Treasure State’s meetings-friendly destinations offer all the necessary amenities to hold memorable group events, including quality hotels and convention centers, as well as some of the most scenic natural surroundings in the country. Its other nickname is Big Sky Country, after all.
Montana is also home to a vast lineup of unique venues that host off-site gatherings. From Billings to Bozeman, the options include everything from intimate to large-scale, from historic to modern.
“Billings has many remarkable alternative venues that are excellent options for getting outside of the traditional conference space and into authentic, genuine Montana,” said Stefan Cattarin, sales manager for Visit Billings.
Among them are a historic railroad depot and an independent movie theater, while elsewhere in the state planners will find event spaces that range from a ranch to a science center or a music venue to an art gallery.
Billings Depot, Billings
The historic Beaux-Arts Eclectic-style Billings Depot was built in 1909 and placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978.
Over the years, it’s welcomed a number of presidents, Hollywood celebrities and even visiting royalty, according to Michelle Williams, the venue’s executive director. It also hosts culinary events such as the Taste of Billings.
“Today, the building still hosts many of Billings’ most memorable events and is conveniently located in the heart of downtown,” she said. “The Billings Depot can fulfill all event needs in one beautiful location, making each event both memorable and convenient for planners and guests.”
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The venue accommodates everything from a 10-person business meeting to a 600-person reception (or more people, if combining indoor spaces and outdoor courtyards during warmer months).
Its two main public spaces are the Passenger Station, with vaulted ceilings, Roman columns, a terrazzo floor and high arched window, and the Baggage Room, with high ceilings and original brick walls.
“Because of the size and openness of the Baggage and Passenger rooms, these areas are ideal for corporate events and strategic planning sessions, with a large amount of wall space and flexible seating arrangements,” Williams said.
The rooms also feature a six-zone speaker system with wireless microphones and wireless music input, and the Depot also has an on-site kitchen that allows planners the freedom to choose any caterer.
“Guests are just steps away from the brewery district, five-star dining, hotels, art and entertainment facilities,” Williams said. “Another fun benefit of being downtown is access to food trucks.
“For events with over 30 people, our parking lots and loading area can accommodate food trucks for a fun and unique meal service,” she added.
Art House Cinema & Pub, Billings
If attendees have downtime, they could check out what’s playing at the Art House Cinema & Pub, an independent nonprofit theater in downtown Billings that sells popcorn, beer and wine, specialty sodas and candy to enjoy during a movie.
According to Brittany Stevens, the theater’s marketing and event coordinator, it also acts as a unique off-site event venue.
“We are an intimate setting perfect for corporate functions, local film production and nonprofit fundraisers,” she said. “We seat up to 85 guests comfortably in our theater seating, and can house standing room up to 110.”
Events that have been planned here since the space opened in 2015 include receptions and staff trainings.
“Our space is incredibly versatile, despite its specific seating and floor space,” Stevens said. “We are a small movie theater. We are able to have events with flyers and posters up, but our walls and doorways are decorated in our theater-style decor.”
While the space is currently best for groups of no more than 110 people, that is a temporary number. According to Williams, plans are underway to break ground on an expansion project by 2019, after which the Art House will have three theaters and accommodate up to 180 guests.
The Wilma and Top Hat, Missoula
Groups can check out the lineup of live music in Missoula at Top Hat and The Wilma, including performances by the likes of the Dirty Dozen Brass Band.
These two popular venues also host group events. The Wilma accommodates corporate functions, fundraisers and receptions, while the Green Room at Top Hat is well suited for small meetings and business luncheons.
“The Wilma is an ideal venue for a corporate event because it has a perfect balance of historical beauty and modern function,” said Meaghan Gateley, catering manager for Logjam Presents.
She added the space is versatile and can accommodate a variety of seating and table arrangements, including banquet-style for up to 225 people, a theater-style seated setup for up to 850 and a standing event for 1,500.
The Wilma also has full AV functionality and a theater-size screen that is ideal for corporate presentations. Its large stage, framed by a red velvet curtain, is a terrific backdrop for a general session or presentation.
The Green Room at the Top Hat is a handsome brick room on the second floor that’s decorated with leather couches, copper tables and music posters on the walls.
“This cozy space, also used for nationally touring bands to relax before and after a big show, is great for small gatherings of either casual or professional nature,” Gateley said.
Cypress Yard, Whitefish
The recently opened Cypress Yard, situated within a five-minute walk from downtown Whitefish, doubles as an art gallery and event space with indoor seating for up to 138 people and outdoor space for up to 200 people.
“Each unique space is decorated with a world-class collection of original paintings and sculptures by premier artists of the American West, stimulating and inspiring creativity in our guests,” said Morgan Cawdrey, the venue’s owner.
Cypress Yard is available to host afternoon and evening meal functions, receptions, creative brainstorming sessions, art workshops and various other events for up to 150 guests inside and 200 people outside in the garden patio, weather permitting.
Indoor spaces include the Gallery, which seats 100 people at banquet tables, and the adjoining Salon, which features a bar and performance stage and opens onto the garden patio.
“The Gallery and garden have views of the Teakettle Mountain and Glacier National Park’s Great Northern mountain range, and an outdoor 20-foot-by-40-foot tent offers additional protection from the elements,” Cawdrey said.
The venue employs an expert French- and Northern Italian-trained caterer who is available to create custom menus using seasonal local and regional ingredients such as heirloom tomatoes and dry-aged Montana beef.
“We also offer artist-guided tours of the art collection and other local art galleries, and painting classes for groups of 15 to 20,” Cawdrey added.
ExplorationWorks, a science center with interactive exhibits, is a popular attraction in Helena that also hosts meetings and other group gatherings, including banquets and receptions.
“We are a hands-on science museum, so many of our event attendees not only gather for their meetings, they also get to play with the exhibits while they’re here,” said Kari Gagner, the venue’s marketing and visitor services director.
Full museum rentals are available for larger groups of 75 or more people, and smaller groups may book the second-floor exhibit space, which features a large outdoor covered patio and an adjoining classroom with a cold kitchen.
“Our space boasts panoramic views of the Big Belt Mountains, Sleeping Giant Mountain and Mount Helena,” Gagner said.
She added interested groups could request to include a teambuilding activity or hands-on demonstration during an event.
Rockin’ TJ Ranch, Bozeman
Rockin’ TJ Ranch, situated a few miles west of Bozeman against the backdrop of the Bridger Mountains, is a rustic, picturesque setting for groups that would like to host a meeting, reception, teambuilding event or banquet away from the host hotel.
“With our wide-open skies, rejuvenating mountain scenery and babbling creekside patio, the Rockin’ TJ is a breath of fresh air for any business event,” said owner Teresa Ax.
Rockin’ TJ’s spaces include an expansive Grand Hall, which has plenty of room for staging award banquets or a reception complete with great food and dancing, an outdoor patio and bar area, and an outdoor meadow.
“The Rockin’ TJ planning team knows how to make the biggest bang for your buck, and who to choose for the finest catering,” Ax said.
The venue offers other amenities, too, including AV equipment and teambuilding events ranging from fly-casting clinics to rubber ducky races and cowboy golf.
One reason Big Sky Country attracts so many meetings and conventions each year, Ax added, is because visitors can readily enjoy Yellowstone National Park, Lewis & Clark Caverns, rafting, hiking and horseback riding.
“All are popular activities in Montana and a perfect way to unwind after a long meeting or event,” she said.
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