Face-Off: Bozeman vs. Billings

Face Off Bozeman vs. Billings

Go east, young man.

Everyone talks about the “B” towns: Bozeman, Bend, Burlington, Bellingham, Boulder... the list goes on. However, one name that never seems to pop up in the mix is Billings. Sure, it has a reputation for being a little rough around the edges, but is there really any truth to that? Perhaps it’s all just a big ploy to keep the unsavory out-of-staters and outdoorsy ne’er-do-wells from coming in and getting the goods. Think about it: portray your city as depressed and decrepit, while other nearby towns broadcast their world-class fishing, skiing, and New York Times-acclaimed restaurants from sea to shining sea. Well, we’re starting to figure out what’s going on here, and we’re going to get to the bottom of it—here and now.

As you approach Billings from the west, you’re greeted with a flaming pillar at the Par Pacific Oil Refinery, representing the city’s commitment to a future of industrious prosperity. Beyond that, there are two Walmarts, and a slot machine for nearly every person in town. Here in Bozeman, our biggest employer is a measly little state school. One town processes tens of thousands of gallons in crude oil; the other produces ski bums with expensive pieces of paper.
Edge: Billings

Sure, Bozeman might have connections to a Michelin Star restaurant or two, but who really needs a $150 steak? The cow may have been 100% grass-fed, free-range, bilingual, and proficient in Excel; but sometimes we just want a damn cheeseburger, damn straight. And when it comes to belly-filling value, Billings has eight different McGolden arches compared to our two; six Taco Bells to our two; and five Wendy’s to our two. No contest.
Edge: Billings

In Billings, there’s a convenience store on every block and a gas station on every corner. It’s an armed-robber’s Shangri-La! Plus, anything you can’t readily find for sale over the counter, you can easily get from a guy called Ferret in an alley behind the Holiday Inn—as long as it’s after the free breakfast, that is. In Bozeman, the best we’ve got is a half-stocked CVS, and definitely no one quite as reliable as ol’ F-dog.
Edge: Billings

Every once in a while, we don’t want to risk our lives skiing off cliffs, biking in bear country, or scampering along knife-edge ridgelines. But what to do? Sure, in Bozeman we can watch a boring documentary at a local theater, or maybe catch an overwrought superhero flick at the mall. But what else? Go for an anticlimactic walk on the Gallagator? Billings, meanwhile, has paintball courses, rage rooms, axe-throwing, and even a giant-screen theater where you can catch the same overwrought superhero flick, but in IMAX!
Edge: Billings

Cowboy Culture
To be a true cowboy, you’re gonna need some... no, Monsieur Bozeur, the answer isn’t $2,000 cowboy boots. Cows. You need cows. And when it comes to cows, the Billings area’s got a passel of ’em. In fact, you can smell the herd from about 20 miles out. Bozeman just can’t compete with that level of bovine brilliance. If you’re looking for the real “as seen on TV” Yellowstone cowboy experience, it’s Billings, not Bozeman.
Edge: Billings

It’s true that William Clark camped out not far from Bozeman—just down the road at what’s now Headwaters State Park. That might feel pretty special, until you remember that Billings has its own piece of Lewis & Clark memorabilia: Pompey’s Pillar, which boasts an inscription by William Clark himself. But if that’s not enough history, the Battle of Little Bighorn took place just down the road. Nothing like some mass killing to get the historical juices flowing.
Edge: Billings

Look around at the mountains surrounding Bozeman—the otherwise picturesque views are tarnished by gaudy McMansions. But around Billings, there are no foothills nearly as beautiful for said trophy-homes to despoil. Plus, there’s a constant stream of refinery smog on the horizon, obscuring the occasional aesthetic interloper. Framing the socked-in scene are rimrock cliffs to reconnect with the Earth. How idyllic!
Edge: Billings

Outdoor Activities
To say that the outdoor recreation around Billings is underrated would be well, an understatement. There are a few hiking trails here and there. There’s climbing on the cliffs right above town and an old-school ski hill an hour to the south. Bike trails and natural parks line the banks of the river for miles. Best of all, only 7% of Billings residents go outside, so you’ll have all those outdoor amenities to yourself. Enough said.
Edge: Billings

Score: 8-0
Winner: Billings
Well, there you have it... we’re onto you, Billings! Turns out you’re the better place to live, hands down. Maybe all the folks thinking about finally escaping the Bozeman bustle should consider living a couple hours to the east. It’s clearly superior, in every respect. And now that the cat’s out of the bag, maybe Bozeman can finally be taken off the Forbes, Travel & Leisure, and New York Times lists as the “Best Place to Live” and “Best Place to Eat a Hamburger Next to Kevin Costner.” After all, in Billings, the Yellowstone runs right through it—or at least, alongside it. Close enough.