Are you the type of person who’s a sucker for cowboy hats and boots? Do you dig things that have something to do about the wild, wild west? Then you should schedule a trip to the sleepy city of Cody in Wyoming. The cowboy town Cody, Wyoming has generated a lot of buzz from people who have a deep interest and fascination with the American west. Cody, Wyoming is a city with less than 10,000 residents as of the 2010 Census. This small town serves as a gateway to the eastern side of the Yellowstone National Park, a 3,500 square mile wilderness recreational area that is located in Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho. The town was named after Colonel William Cody, or Buffalo Bill. He was a bison hunter, scout and showman who went on to become one of the most influential figures of the American Old West. He is best known for Buffalo Bill’s Wild West, a circus-like attraction which displayed cowboy themed shows and episodes. Buffalo Bill, a native of Wyoming, had traveled extensively in the area starting in the 1870s. He was impressed with the potential of the place and its proximity to Yellowstone which was declared a national park by then US President Ulysses Grant in 1882. He also fell in love with the scenic views, fertile soil and the hunting possibilities in the region.
During breaks from his Wild West tours in Europe, Buffalo Bill would often go back to his home state. He started to build a town in the area in the mid-1890s. In fact, many of the streets in the town were named after Buffalo Bill’s associates—Bleinstein, Salsbury, Rumsey, Alger, and Beck. In 1901, the town was formally incorporated. A year later, Buffalo Bill built the Irma Hotel which was named after his daughter. The hotel stood in today’s city center. He also completed the construction of the Pahaska Tepee and Wapiti Inn to accommodate travelers. Eventually, Buffalo Bill would establish the TE Ranch about 30 miles from Cody. He then bought more land to increase the size of his ranch. Before he died, the showman had more than 8,000 acres of private land which hosted around 1,000 head of cattle. Cody’s reputation as a cowboy town is not only due to the contributions of Buffalo Bill. Its environment can also be credited as a reason why the cowboy culture thrives in this city. For instance, check out the road that connects the town to the eastern side of the Yellowstone National Park—the Buffalo Bill Scenic Byway. Hands down one of the most picturesque drives in the country, the byway winds through an awe-inspiring scene featuring rock formations and mountain vistas. There are also lots of spots along the way where you can pause to spot local wildlife, ride horses, hike, or fish.
Today, there are several structures around the city that would give you the impression that cowboy culture really thrives in Cody. These structures prove that Buffalo Bill left a legacy in the town he built. Despite its proximity to Yellowstone National Park and hip Jackson Hole, Cody, Wyoming remains grounded as an authentic cowboy town in the heart of ranching country. While it sports its share of souvenir shops, visitors are more likely to find camping gear, cowboy hats, and pocket knives for sale than expensive outdoor gear or trendy vacation t-shirts. Hometown coffee shops intermingle with world-class museums on the American West, and the car you’re most likely to spot is a pick-up truck, loose straw fluttering out of the bed as it picks up speed after the light. Here’s Cody, Wyoming as we saw it on an early summer day in June.
Buffalo Bill Village
The Buffalo Bill Village is historic because it was here where the construction crew that built the city stayed in the early 1900s. Today, it has 83 individual cabins. Guests would surely be impressed with the nostalgic interiors of the village, which looks like a structure straight out of an Old West movie. The village is open from the month of May through September. The village has kept its Old West exterior. The cabins differ from single units with king-size beds to family suites with two bedrooms. The rooms are what you would expect from a lodging option in a typical American western town— with wood paneling, rodeo-patterned curtains and bedspreads, and basic amenities. The historic hotel building, built in the 1920s, serves as the hotel’s main front desk.
The village is also a great place for families to stay because it is only a few meters from the Cody downtown area. Just a mile away from the village is the Buffalo Bill Center of the West which features five museums and a research library that houses artifacts of the American West. Meanwhile the Cody Nite Rodeo is less than two miles away from the village.
Nightly Cody Nite Rodeo
If being housed at the Buffalo Bill Village fails to put you in a cowboy vibe then taking part in the Cody Nite Rodeo should do that to you. The Cody Nite Rodeo held nightly is proof that this city is the Rodeo Capital of the World. It is the longest running rodeo in the world, apart from being the only one held every night. It was started in 1938 and is currently being produced by the Mo Betta Rodeo Company and Tate Family. It runs every night from June 1 to August 31.
There’s also the Cody Stampede Rodeo which takes place from July 1 to July 4, which is part of the town’s celebration of Independence Day.
Gates usually open at 7 in the evening, with the rodeo action starting an hour later. Tickets are sold online, as well as at restaurants, hotels and at the rodeo grounds. Tickets sell for $20 for adults, $10 for children aged seven to 12 years old. Children who are under six years old are admitted to the event for free. The Cody Stampede Rodeo, which is the bigger event, has tickets that sell between $20 and $25.
Organizers even tap a bus that goes around town every night to collect rodeo spectators, transporting them to the event for a small fee per individual. The event is fun and entertaining, to say the least. Cowboys from various parts of the country take part in games and competitions like bulldogging, calf roping, calf scrambling, among others. There are even games for big children.
Plains Indians Museum
If you want a more in-depth look at the history of America, particularly the Native American history, then you should drop by the Plains Indians Museum. This is one of the five museums of the Buffalo Bill Center of the West which was mentioned earlier. Located along Sheridan Avenue in downtown Cody, the Buffalo Bill Center of the West has four other museums—the Buffalo Bill Museum, Cody Firearms Museum, Draper Natural History Museum, and Whitney Western Arm Museum.
The Plains Indian Museum showcases the lives of the Plain Indians, particularly their history, culture and traditions. The collection of the museum came from clothing and accouterments of Native American performers who took part in the Wild West shows of Buffalo Bill from 1883 to 1913. In recent years, the museum’s collection was boosted by major private art collectors and contemporary Plains Native artists.
An interesting activity that happens every June is the annual Powwow, or a gathering of North American people. Every year, more than 300 dancers and 28 tribes are represented in the annual Powwow.
Cody Wyoming Old Trail Town
Lastly, stepping into the Cody Wyoming Old Trail Town is like being transported back in time, when the cowboys and American Indians were the ones running the show, so to speak. In fact, you’ll mistake the old trail town as a Hollywood set. But the truth is that this is the original townsite of Cody. This is the same site where Buffalo Bill, in 1895, laid down the foundation of what is now the city of Cody, Wyoming.
Cody’s old trail town is akin to a living museum. After all, there are 26 historic buildings that go back to the late 19th century that remain standing up to this day in the said place. You can have photos taken before atmospheric saloons and trapper cabins, or inspect some covered wagons. You can even say a prayer or two to some of the early settlers whose remains are buried at a historic cemetery. In fact, one of those whose remains are in the said cemetery is that of mountain man John Johnson. He was memorably portrayed by Robert Redford in the movie “Jeremiah Johnson” in the 70s.
Some of the structures and furnishings were actually imported from remote locations in nearby Montana. Western historian Bob Edgar and some of his friends were responsible for disassembling, transporting, and reassembling those structures at Old Trail Town. The old town trail also has some of the original cabins of outlaws Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. The saloon in Wyoming that was often visited by Cassidy’s notorious Hole in the Wall gang is also on this site. Also on the area is a log cabin of a Crow Indian army scout who assisted Col. George Custer and the 7th U.S. Cavalry during the Little Big Horn battle in 1876. Indeed, the town of Cody in Wyoming is in a class of its own. It has pretty much preserved the legacy of Buffalo Bill as shown by the number of historic structures that remain in the city, as well as the different activities regularly conducted. The cowboy town of Cody, Wyoming is one place you should visit.