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Helena may not have as high a profile as other cities in the West — or even Montana — but flying under the radar paradoxically earned the Queen City some recent publicity that can’t help but make the city better known.

The online edition of Life magazine recently ranked Helena No. 3 on its list of “Most Underrated Cities in the West.”

The magazine’s online slide show of the feature offers a photo of Mount Helena taken from the Carroll College campus, another of Spring Meadow Lake and a third of the statue of gold miners on the downtown walking mall.

The piece quotes a Sunset magazine editor who helped compile the list as saying that “Hip Missoula gets the artsy types, and Bozeman/Livingston get the Hollywood cowboys. But Montana’s capital has a charm all its own. It’s Montana the way it used to be.”

The feature mentions the area’s plentiful outdoor recreation, including fishing the Dearborn River, hiking and mountain biking the Continental Divide.

The Parrot Confectionery gets a mention, along with the Myrna Loy Center and other elements of local culture.

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“I think Helena has always been underrated,” said Cathy Burwell, president of the Helena Area Chamber of Commerce. “I thought that when I first came here in 1999. Everyone was talking about Kalispell and Missoula and Bozeman, and I thought we were prettier than all those places. Helena is such a fabulous place, but I didn’t know that until I came here, and I’ve lived in Montana my whole life.”

Helena is joined on the list of underrated cities by the top pick, Oakland, Calif.; as well as Honolulu; Portland, Ore.; Fort Collins, Colo.; Flagstaff, Ariz.; and Walla Walla, Wash.

To view the slide show, go to www.life.com and search “underrated cities.”

John Harrington: 447-4080 or john.harrington@helenair.com

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