Travel like a local.

Podcast, TBEX

Burn The Point, Beartooth Highway & Montana State Fair in Billings, Montana

Best things to do in Billings Montana - Jim Markel - Beartooth Pass photo by Visit Billings

Beartooth Pass. Photo by Visit Billings

I’m really excited to interview Jim Markel of Red Oxx about Billings, Montana. Jim’s tips for the best things to do in Billings are awesome because after he got out of the military, he went to school and came to Billings to build his business. Jim says that even though Billings is a growing city, it still feels like taking a step back in time. He also loves all four seasons on the Montana prairie.

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Best things to do in Billings Montana - Jim Markel - Burn The Point photo by Visit Billings

Attend the annual Burn The Point car show to see amazing cars and trucks. Photo by Visit Billings

Billings, Montana

Billings is located on the Yellowstone River in southern Montana. It is nicknamed the “Magic City” because of its rapid growth since being founded as a railroad town in March 1882. Billings is also known as the “City Beneath the Rimrocks” (aka “Rims”), which are a 300 to 800-foot sandstone formation. It is the largest city in Montana with a population of approx 110,000.

There are numerous annual events and festivals that occur in Billings, such as the Burn the Point Car Show, Montana State Fair, Magic City Blues Festival, and the NILE Stock Show & Rodeo. Billings also has Montana’s only walkable brewery trail (which I happened to go on when I visited in 2019). Campers know Billings as the HQ for KOA Campgrounds. History buffs will be interested in learning that the nearby Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument is the place where Colonel Custer died. If you want to get out and explore in the fresh air, Billings has an extensive trail system and bike lanes around town.

We share a lot of resources and local suggestions in today’s podcast, but you should also check out Visit Billings, the local visitor’s bureau. They are a wealth of information and can help you plan an itinerary based on your time, budget, and interests.

If you’d like to learn how to travel for free using airline miles and hotel points, check out my free 7-day email course.

Best things to do in Billings Montana - Jim Markel - Montana State Fair photo by Visit Billings

The Montana State Fair offers family-friendly entertainment each year in Billings. Photo by Visit Billings.

Getting around Billings

The local airport is Billings Logan International Airport (BIL), which is only an 8-minute drive to downtown.

Jim says that it’s a good idea to rent a car when visiting because attractions can be spread out. Also, if you want to explore the natural beauty of the area, having a car makes it easier to take in the scenery and go hiking. For the best offers, visit Avis, Budget, or Hertz.

Uber and Lyft are excellent ways to get around if you’re planning on staying within the downtown area.

Best things to do in Billings Montana - Jim Markel - Magic City Blues with Tim Struck photo by Visit Billings

Magic City Blues with Tim Struck. Photo by Visit Billings.

Places we talked about on the podcast

Here is a map of all of the places we talked about on the podcast episode with Jim Markle about Billings, Montana. You can zoom into the map and click on each dot to explore the city.

  • Red dots = best places to eat in Billings, Montana
  • Green dots = best things to do in Billings, Montana
  • Yellow dots = best places to stay in Billings, Montana

Who is Jim Markel?

Jim Markel is a Marine Veteran that moved to Billings, Montana, to build Red Oxx with his Dad. Red Oxx started out crafting lifting straps and weight belts for fitness gear in 1986. As Jim took over the business from his Dad, he expanded into rifle cases and hunting gear for the local Montana sportsman market. The business soon added nylon luggage and sporting gear to its product line.

Its products are built here in America and have forged a culture and reputation of true quality. Red Oxx products are only sold directly to consumers at its Billings, Montana, factory store and through its online store. This keeps costs down and ensures that Red Oxx has a direct connection with its customers.

I had the pleasure of meeting Jim and his team during my visit to Billings during TBEX (bloggers conference) in Fall 2019. We were able to take a factory tour and see first-hand how the bags were made and see the quality with our own eyes. I love being able to support local businesses like Jim’s.

Best things to do in Billings Montana - Jim Merkel - RedOxx manufacturing

Jim at his Red Oxx Manufacturing facility

Here are a few articles about his company:

You can connect with Jim on his website and on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Big thanks to today’s affiliate partner – Acorns

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I’ve been using Acorns for years, and I love how easy it is to use. For a limited time, when you sign up at, we’ll both earn $5.

Best things to do in Billings Montana - Jim Markel - Farmer's Market photo by Visit Billings

The Billings Farmer’s Market. Photo by Visit Billings

Stay tuned for our next episode

Best things to do in Austin TX - Evan Stern - taco shop

Evan at a taco shop

Listen to the next episode when Evan Stern of Vanishing Postcards shares the best things to do in Austin, Texas. In this episode, Evan and I talk about taking a dip in Barton Springs, eating at Sam’s BBQ, and live music at Broken Spoke. We hope you’ll join us when We Travel There.

What’s your favorite part of Billings? Send us a Tweet, let us know in the comment section below, or continue the discussion in our Facebook group!

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Related episodes

To learn more about this part of the country, please listen to our other episodes:


  1. Corey

    Moved to Billings about 16 years ago from CA. Love it. Downtown is maybe a 2 minute drive from BIL. Beartooth hwy is a beautiful drive. It will be a little chaotic over the next couple weeks since the fair started yesterday but it’s a good way to wind down summer.

    • Comment by post author


      Hey Corey, congrats on the move. It’s awesome that you found a great place to move to. I moved from Southern California to Nashville 3 years ago and love it here. Thanks for sharing! I hope that you enjoyed the episode.