I am a big proponent of parking the car and simply wandering through a town’s downtown (or in the case of Butte, uptown) district, impulsively buying snacks along the way. In Montana, where even the biggest downtowns are only a few blocks square, this works out quite well. Even so, it is nice to have an orientation to the town before you begin your wanderings. This is why I like tours. A tour will never replace semi-aimless wandering, but when added to a long wandering session, can produce amazing results. Butte offers not one but three ways to orient yourself in the city.
The cheapest and probably most common option is the Old No. 1 Trolley. This two hour tour takes you around the uptown, pointing out important landmarks such as the Berkley Pit, The World Museum of Mining, and Joe’s Pasty Shop. The driver/guides are well versed in Butte lore, and provide an excellent overview of the city’s history. In addition, the tour provides a good overview of the city’s geography, which can be extremely helpful and prevent you from driving around for forty five minutes looking for a place to eat a pasty. The tour includes a stop at the Berkley Pit viewing stand.
For a more detailed and intimate look at Butte, two private companies also operate in the town. Founded by Butte’s former Historic Preservation Officer, Butte Urban Safari Tours (B.U.S.T.) offers custom tours for up to 10 people at a time. B.U.S.T.’s guides come with a wealth of information about the town, but no scripted tour, instead each tour is fluid and dynamic, adapting to the tour takers. B.U.S.T.’s use of six person electric golf carts allows the tours to access places-like Butte’s many colorful alleyways-inaccessible to buses.
For those who would rather stretch their legs, Old Butte Walking Tours offer hour and a half long walking tours of the mining city. The company has a number of standard tours but also gladly customizes, offering ghostwalks, evening, and underground tours. Many of the company’s guides also take part in Butte’s annual historical recreations, and all have a deep passion for the city.