Cody, Wyoming: Western Heritage at its Finest
Adventurer & Photographer
This story was created in partnership with the Park County Travel Council.
There are plenty of things to do in Cody, Wyoming, and as a guest of the town, you have the West at your fingertips. But this ain’t no dude town. This is the real deal.
Founded in 1896 by the celebrated scout, tracker, showman, statesman and ultimately conservator of the American West, Buffalo Bill Cody, this city of almost 10,000 is a time warp into one of the enduring chapters of American History
A Beautiful Destination
Recently ranked “Wyoming’s Most Beautiful Town” by MSN, it’s a destination unto itself, before you even begin to explore the surrounding country and Yellowstone National Park. One of the most enduring visions of the old west is the idea of the hero sheriff and his stalwart team of loyal lawmen as they face down the villainous gang of bushwhackers who have come to spread havoc in their fair town. The enduring legacy lives on during the summer months during Cody’s Gunfight, which takes place Monday through Saturday night. Held in front of the Irma Hotel, this 40 minute skit is unabashedly unpolished and immensely fun. It’s goofy, corny and worth every minute. And while you are there, one not-to-be-missed cultural icon in the town is the Irma Hotel itself. Founded and built by Buffalo Bill and named after his daughter, Irma, it is well worth a visit, if not an overnight stay. You may even get a glimpse of Buffalo Bill Cody himself, as his ghost is said to still walk the halls of his beloved hotel, keeping an eye on things. The hotel was designed by Alfred Wilderman Woods, a Lincoln, Nebraska church architect. Certain exterior walls are made of river rock and locally quarried sandstone from Beck Lake just south of town. The massive fireplace is an assemblage of rock, ores, minerals, and fossils from the Big Horn Basin.
Old Trail Town, located a mile from downtown, Cody is another great dive into the rich frontier history of the area. Old Town Trail is proof of what a person can accomplish if they have a dream, a little bit of know how and are willing to roll up their sleeves for a bit of hard work. Bob Edgar, a native of the Wyoming Big Horn Basin, had developed an interest in archaeology and history at a young age. What he saw was that a lot of old pioneer buildings that were built when Cody, Wyoming was first founded were being left to the elements. If he didn’t act fast, a huge part of the area’s heritage would wither away. So in 1967, Edgar and a group of dedicated historians and volunteers began moving the buildings, one by one, to a small piece of property that was the first selected site of “Cody City.” The Old Trail Town collection now consists of 26 buildings, which date from 1879 to 1901, one hundred horse drawn vehicles, an extensive collection of memorabilia from the Wyoming frontier and authentic Indian artifacts.
A Museum Unlike Any Other
The western heritage in this town is unsurpassed, and it shows with the number of historical museums and events the town has to offer, but hands down, one of the most phenomenal experiences, not just in Cody, but in the whole of the Rocky Mountain West, is the unsurpassed Buffalo Bill Center of the West.
To call it a one-stop-shop of all things West, would be accurate, but certainly not complete. This museum is, simply put, the gem of our collective western heritage.
From the Whitney Western Art Museum, the Draper Natural History Museum, the Plains Indian Museum, the Cody Firearms Museum to the Buffalo Bill Museum itself, this place is not a simple walk-through. It is at least a full day of visiting some of the most intriguing and well-appointed historical experiences you can have. The curators and historians are some of the most talented people in the world, and it shows through the exquisite detail they put into both their main exhibits and their constant rotation of new displays.
Let ‘Er Buck!
Fancy a rodeo? Of course you do! Because you can’t come all the way to the West and not go to a rodeo. So don’t worry, they don’t call Cody the “Rodeo Capital of the World” for nothing.
For over the past 80 years, Cody has put on the Cody Nite Rodeo and for the past 100 years, the Cody Stampede. Held nightly starting June 1st and lasting through August 31st, the Cody Nite Rodeo is consistently one of the best rodeos in the west. Not only that, but the Cody Stampede is one of the Country’s best Independence Day celebrations held July 1st through the 4th.
Of course, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Cody’s proximity to one of the best ideas the United States ever had, the national park system and Yellowstone National Park.
Cody, Wyoming sits about 50 miles from the park’s east entrance and 80 miles from the northeast entrance, and from there you have access to everything this magical place has to offer. But do not bypass Cody to get there, because Cody and Park County has magic all its own.
More than Yellowstone
Cody is surrounded by the beauty of the Shoshone National Forest and the volcanic spires of the Absaroka Mountains. The number of scenic drives alone is staggering. Beartooth All American Highway, Chief Joseph Scenic Byway and Buffalo Bill State Park are only scratching the surface of the adventure that awaits you.
Miles and miles of hiking trails surround the town, and can take you as far away from civilization as you want. Or, you can stay right in town and float the Shoshone River through Cody for an outdoor adventure.
Cody, Wyoming sits confidently astride that crossroads where history and heritage meet modernity. It is a town rich in its cowboy history. It will take you into the past while you are there and leave you wanting more.
Which is why, as soon as the snow melts and the trees start blooming, I’m Cody bound.