Sunday, December 30, 2018

Carousel Critters Take
1st Vacation in Sixteen Years

Helena’s Great Northern Carousel Representative and model for their new logo, Rugged the Rocky Mountain Goat, met with local media personalities this morning. Rugged says the animals haven’t taken a vacation in sixteen years. "We really haven’t thought about it. Being at the Carousel and making memories with local families and tourists is truly the best job ever," Rugged said. That’s when the River Otter bumbled by and chattered "we’re not very good with time either!"

True, as the years passed by, the dedicated Carousel Critters immersed themselves in what they do best—give rides and share joy with guests of all ages, without regard to time nor space. But the Carousel’s longstanding manager Kathy Mortimore, can tell time, and for her, it’s now time to take a different path.

The Great Northern Carousel’s owner and developer, Alan Nicholson, is grateful for the many years Kathy has invested caring for the Carousel and treasured guests from our community and all over the world. Due to Kathy’s departure and the Carousel Critters’ vacation, Helena’s charmed Great Northern Carousel will close December 31, 2018 at 6pm after a full day of FREE RIDES!

That’s right! Rugged tells us the Carousel will be open New Year’s Eve from 12-6 with free rides for everyone—not even standers will need to pay! Beginning January 1, 2019, the carousel will remain closed for renovations and improvements through early spring.

All season passes, free ride passes, and punch cards will be fully honored upon reopening. If you have any questions about your passes or future party bookings, please contact (no phone calls please).

Helena’s charmed Great Northern Carousel will close December 31, 2018 at 6pm after a full day of FREE RIDES! It will reopen in early spring!

The Carousel is Temporarily Closed

Re-Opening Early Spring


It's Party Time at the Carousel!

Whatever your celebration—kid's birthday, family-friendly business event, anniversary party, ice cream social—make your reservation today by calling 406.457.5353.

Click here for Birthday Party Package descriptions, or call us to make your reservation!

Please note that your best chance to secure your preferred party date is to call us four weeks in advance.

Dish - cake cone - sugar cone
Pick your size, pick your flavor,
pick your style.
Fresh banana blended into
your favorite ice cream.
Peanut butter blended into
your favorite ice cream.
Design your own.
Pick an ice cream, a sauce and
a dry topping. Topped off with
whipped cream and a cherry.
Pick three ice creams and three toppings. Topped off with whipped cream and a cherry.
Check out our novelty cabinet for
ice cream sandwiches, bars and more.
The Montana Animals
of the Carousel!

We’re the only Carousel in the world where each ride is an animal native to Montana. Hand-carved and painted by master artisans, every Carousel critter becomes a living, ridable sculpture. Each one has its own distinct personality and unique carved details eagerly waiting for you to discover.

Which ones will you choose to meet?

Below, you'll find a randomized set of the animals at the Carousel. Check back to see a different set!

Northern River Otter

A long, lean and streamlined body, short legs, fully webbed feet, and a highly muscular tail makes the River Otter one highly skilled swimmer.

They’re also one of nature’s most social and playful animals—whether frolicking in the riverways or rolling on logs.

And boy are they noisy! River Otters exhibit a variety of vocalizations ranging from whistles, buzzes, twitters, to chuckles, chirps, growls and chittering.

The Carousel’s otter always has something to say and he says it loudly. Poor fella, he’s no longer allowed in the Helena Public Library.

Bighorn Sheep

Bighorn Sheep have—you guessed it—big horns! Their horns can weigh up to thirty pounds and the size can tell you their age. Horns are also a status symbol in the herd and as well as their weapons!

Female sheep are called Ewes and male sheep are called Rams.

Rams will race twenty mph into another Ram, cracking their heads against each other to establish dominance.

The Carousel Bighorn doesn’t head butt, but he’s a climber. A bad climber. Once he gets up, he can’t get himself down. We’ve had to call the Fire Department to help him down from the Big Top. Some think he should be embarrassed but, if you ask him, he’d love to share the story!

Pronghorn Antelope

Did you know pronghorn antelope aren’t really antelope, but are actually related to giraffes?

It’s the only North American big game animal with branched horns, hence its name. And their horns are made of modified, fused hair covering a bony inner core.

With speeds up to 60 mph, they’ve earned several nicknames such as "sagebrush rocket," "speed goat," and "prairie ghost." The Carousel’s Pronghorn is super speedy too, so make sure to buckle up and hang on tightly!

Gray Wolf

The Gray Wolf is the largest of the wild dogs and sure is intimidating! With a length up to 6.5 ft and a weight to 110 pounds, 42 teeth made for shredding prey, and a clocked speed of 38 mph, you certainly don’t want to sneak up on one.

Hunted to near extermination back in the 1930s, they are repopulating due to conservation efforts. Yellowstone National Park provides an ideal opportunity to spot one. If you don’t see one, you may be fortunate enough to hear a howl.

The Carousel’s Gray Wolf is the only one we know of fully tamed and docile. So don’t be shy. The worst he might do is lick the ice cream off your face!


Who says dinosaurs are extinct? We’ve got a Triceratops saddled up waiting to take you on a time trippin’ ride!

Did you know Triceratops fossils have been found in Eastern Montana? It was the most numerous of the horned cretaceous dinosaurs as well as the largest ceratopsian. It was one of the last dinosaurs to become extinct.

Its name means "three horned face."

Triceratops was an herbivore, meaning it was a vegetarian and ate plants. Ours has been viewed on the security cameras trying to use the blender. He confessed when confronted, admitting he really wants to try a banana shake. Will you share yours?

Grizzly Bear

You don’t need bear spray for our Grizzly! But definitely carry a can while hiking in Yellowstone or Glacier.

Adults can weigh up to 600 lbs. They have a characteristic hump below the neck composed of large muscular tissue and long hairs on their shoulders giving a grizzled appearance, hence their name.

With four-inch front claws, they can climb trees and and are also good swimmers. Despite their bulky size, they can run quite fast.

Grizzlies hibernate, which means they go into a deep sleep through the winter for about 5-7 months. Our grizzly never sleeps but he may try to take your ice cream.

Cutthroat Trout

First discovered by explorer William Clarke, Cutthroat Trout are easily identified by orange marks underside their jaw and gill plate.

They’re aggressive feeders and will lunge at almost any lure or fly.

Cutthroat also vary greatly in size from just a foot to almost 3ft and thirty pounds!

An anglers delight for sure—try for yourself and see how long you can hang on to our slippery swimmer!


American Bison are the largest mammal in North America, weighing up to a ton and standing six feet tall.

Given their size, they’re surprisingly nimble and can run up to 35 mph.

They have a characteristic considerably-sized shoulder hump comprised of large, thick muscles which allow them to swing their heads side to side acting as a snow plow, clearing pathways during heavy winters. Our Bison keeps the Carousel clear of snow too so you can ride anytime!

Rocky Mountain Goat

True story: Two mountain goats backpacking from Glacier National Park stopped in Helena, MT at the exact moment the Carousel mechanism was first being installed. They were mesmerized by the lights, colors, and sounds. But it was the ice cream station that stole their hearts.

We just happened to have two spaces left on the Carousel for animals and they asked to have them. We couldn’t have been prouder!

Rocky Mountain Goats are woolly, white fluffballs with beards, short tails, and long black horns. A male is called a Billy, female is a Nanny and the babies are Kids.

Did you know they’re not related to goats but actually members of the antelope family?

They’re also exceptional climbers! Due to pliable hooves and a strong muscular build, they can scale steep, rocky mountains and craggy ledges.

Rugged, one of our two Rocky Mountain Goats, is now our mascot and model for the new Carousel logo.

Come visit them today!


The Hippocampus.

Say what? Hippocampus derives from the Greek word hippokampos: hippos "horse" and kampos "sea monster."

The Hippocampus is a mythical version of a sea horse, having the powerful upper body of a horse joined by a segmented, armored lower body with a curled prehensile tail.

Who’s to say the hippocampus isn’t a Montana native? Though it’s been long considered a purely mythological creature, paleontologists claim to have a complete fossilized hippocampus skeleton found near Hauser Dam back in 1924. (Not really!)

Our hippocampus awaits a sea god brave enough to drive him around the Carousel!


Bobcats are the most common wildcat found in North America.

Weighing about 30 pounds, they’re easily distinguished by a spotted pattern on their coats, a bobbed tail, and of course those pointed tufts of hair at the ends of their ears.

Bobcats quietly sneak up on their prey—then pounce! You might be able to surprise our Bobcat and take a ride—depends on how clever and quick you are!

Sandhill Crane

The Sandhill Crane is a regal, red headed avian beauty.

Tall and elegant, sandhill cranes congregate in huge numbers during migration where they fly in V-formations—where each bird’s average wingspan is up to 7 ft! They can travel as far as 500 miles per day.

They have an unforgettable trumpeting call produced by a modified windpipe that has been likened to a French horn.

Sandhill cranes are highly social and accomplished dancers. Ours are also great listeners and never share secrets.

Montana Horses

Montana Horses, like other domesticated equine, continue to provide an integral relationship with humans from warfare and competition to agriculture and therapy.

Males are called stallions and females are known as mares. They can weigh over 1,200 pounds! And they can sleep standing up.

However, Montana Horses, as any Montanan will tell you, are just a bit more majestic than any other place’s horses. For sure, the noble steeds of the Carousel originally grazed on Wild Horse Island in Flathead Lake, Montana.

Perhaps it’s the alpenglow off of the Missions Mountains, the wild cherries from the peninsula orchards, or the fresh water from the lake, these horses are simply magical.

When asked if they’d take a special spot on the Carousel, they whinnied and neighed in delight. Next time you’re here, take one around a time or two and see who gets the most rings!

Northern Leopard Frog

Found along swamps, marshes and streams, Northern Leopard Frogs are greenish-brown colored and dotted with rounded dark spots adorning their backs and legs.

Once abundant in population, their numbers have been massively reduced due to several natural and human factors.

They’re about three to five inches long with females being slightly larger than the males.

They’ll eat almost anything they can fit in their mouths, even their own species!

Our frog wins every Carousel eating contest—last year he stuffed an entire five gallons of cotton candy ice cream down his gullet. Yes, including the bin!