If you like Westworld, there’s a good chance you’ll fall in love with Cody, Wyoming. Built by the legendary William “Buffalo Bill” Cody, this Old West town is more than just a gateway to Yellowstone.
Located an hour’s drive from the East Entrance to the country’s first national park, Cody offers an authentic Western experience without the crowds. Not to mention, Teddy Roosevelt called the stretch of highway from Cody to Yellowstone the 50 most beautiful miles in America.
With a world-class museum dedicated to the history, culture and natural beauty of the region, an indoor shooting range with replica rifles, Nite Rodeo and re-enactments, you’ll get your Wild West fix. Here are just a few good reasons to consider Cody for your trip to the Cowboy State.
Check out Old Trail Town
Old Trail Town is full of Old West artifacts — Photo courtesy of iStock / Debraansky
Take a stroll through history at the Old Trail Town (open mid-May to September), a stretch of land located next to the rodeo. It’s where Buffalo Bill laid out the original townsite of Cody in 1895, and houses a collection of 27 cabins dating from 1879 to 1900.
Attempting to save these frontier buildings from being torn apart by those on the hunt for wood, they were rescued from within an 80-mile radius of the town. Cabins were transported piece by piece and put together to represent their original shape.
Decorated with actual artifacts and furnishings, the cabins showcase life as it was 120 years ago. They include a carpenter shop, school, post office, livery barn and more. An entire cabin is dedicated to the women who made their mark in the Wild West, including the sharpshooter Annie Oakley.
The boardwalk ends with Curley’s Cabin and the “Hole-in-the-Wall” hideouts of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. The former belonged to a Crow scout with the United States Army at the Battle of Little Bighorn, and he was the first to report its defeat.
Explore the Buffalo Bill Center of the West
The Buffalo Bill Center of the West is on the road to Yellowstone — Photo courtesy of Lavanya Sunkara
At the Smithsonian-affiliated Buffalo Bill Center of the West, you get five museums for the price of one. Opened in 1927 in a log cabin, the center has transformed over the years into a seven-acre building containing 260,000 photo archives, 34,977 artifacts and 20,000 books. It’s the oldest and the most comprehensive museum of the West.
Learn what makes Buffalo Bill a legend at the Buffalo Bill Museum, admire masterpieces from Remington to Russell at the Whitney Western Art Museum, and take a walk through the evolution of firearms at the Cody Firearms Museum. You can also explore the culture of Native Americans in the Plains Indians Museum.
If that’s not enough, learn about the several zones found in the Yellowstone region at the Draper Natural History Museum. On display are specimens of grizzlies, wolves, rams and elk in settings that allow you to hear the sounds and even smell the scents of these biozones.
In the afternoons, the Raptor Experience show is held outside, where guests can meet the majestic birds that soar the blue skies of Wyoming.
Learn the history of firearms
Find out what it’s like to fire a Gatling gun at Cody Firearms Experience — Photo courtesy of Lavanya Sunkara
Thrill-seekers and history lovers can have a riveting time at the Cody Firearms Experience. It provides a state-of-the-art indoor shooting range and a fascinating exhibit on the history and evolution of guns in the Wild West throughout various wars.
Here, you can shoot a reproduction of a 19th century-style flintlock, Colt revolver, or even a Gatling gun with guided instruction and historical perspective. Packages include firearms instruction, ammunition, lane rental, target and loaner hearing/eye protection.
At the Cody Dug Up Gun Museum, steps away from the Irma hotel, set your eyes on more than a thousand relic guns and other weapons from different time periods. They have literally been dug up from the earth, from battlegrounds of major wars. The small, one-room space holds an incredible amount of history, with rusted old guns and rifles from American wars, the Roaring Twenties and the world wars.
Take a deeper look at American history at Heart Mountain
See how prisoners lived at the Heart Mountain Interpretive Center — Photo courtesy of Lavanya Sunkara
The Heart Mountain Interpretive Center, located 15 minutes from downtown Cody, sits on the site of the Heart Mountain World War II incarceration camp where 14,000 Japanese-Americans were imprisoned. The Interpretive Center, housed in a former barrack, tells their stories through photographs, oral histories, artifacts and interactive exhibits.
Recreations of the barrack apartments provide visitors a look into the lives of those confined at Heart Mountain for three years. They braved harsh winters, dust storms and rattlesnakes as they spent their time farming, working in the hospitals, sending their children to school and holding onto traditions.
Walk the surrounding grounds to the war memorial dedicated to those from the internment camp who enlisted for the war and died heroes. The paved walking trail in the area has stops along the way where the former hospital, root cellars, guard tower, swimming hole and living areas are located.
The center also includes an exhibit featuring the artwork of Estelle Ishigo, a Caucasian woman who voluntarily joined her Japanese-American husband.
Dine or stay the night at the Irma Hotel
Cherrywood Bar at Irma Hotel — Photo courtesy of Lavanya Sunkara
The iconic Irma Hotel built by Buffalo Bill in 1902, still has a commanding presence in the heart of town. The hotel bar was once a gathering spot for cowboys, and even has a few bullet holes concealed in the cherrywood bar in the main dining room. This grand piece was awarded as a gift to Buffalo Bill by Queen Victoria for his show’s performance during a visit in 1887.
Enjoy buffet lunch indoors or on the expansive porch, or come for an elegant dinner. During high season, from Monday to Saturday, the road in front of the hotel is closed off for the Wild Bunch, a theater group that puts on boisterous plays about the infamous bandits of the Wild West.