Taste of the Old West in Cody Wyoming

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I recently had the privilege of being the guest of the Park County Travel Council in Cody, Wyoming. I was not compensated for this post and all opinions expressed are my own and reflect my experiences.

The Old West. Many of us who live in large cities, like us in Chicago, wonder what it would be like to experience the west and its unique cultural experiences. If you’re interested in doing some exploring in the west you must check out Cody, Wyoming.

Many people plan a visit to Yellowstone National Park not realizing that there are 5 distinct entrances to the over two million acre park. It takes a lot of research to be sure that you see what you want to see and don’t waste time driving in circles. The entrances are many miles and hours apart and he park is in three different states, Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho.

One of the best places to start your Yellowstone National Park journey is in the northwest city of  Cody.

Cody, Wyoming via Google Maps

Cody, Wyoming via Google Maps

 

Many people who are touring the western United States by car and who have visited Mount Rushmore in South Dakota also make the trip to Yellowstone National Park. Cody is easily accessible on this route and makes for an entertaining and tasty stop. Located just one hour from Yellowstone it’s a perfect place to visit along the way.

The City That Buffalo Bill Built

When you arrive in Cody the width of their streets will immediately strike you. Although it’s a relatively small town most of the main streets are very wide. Why? The streets were originally built to accommodate horses and carriages and the wide streets allowed these “vehicles” to turn around easily.

Named after the infamous Colonel William Federick “Buffalo Bill”, the city of Cody was largely created by Buffalo Bill. He saw Cody as a natural stop for travelers on their way to Yellowstone National Park. To learn more about this legend and his important influence on the western world you need to visit the Buffalo Bill Center of the West in Cody. Here you’ll learn about the vision Buffalo Bill had not only for Cody but for the world to experience the west and visit beautiful Yellowstone National Park.

Buffalo Bill Center of the West, Cody, Wyoming

Buffalo Bill Center of the West, Cody, Wyoming

 

The center is five separate museums under one roof. I spent the majority of an afternoon there and didn’t even begin to scratch the surface. You could easily spend two full days exploring the museums and taking in all the activities they have to offer. The Buffalo Bill Museum, Plains Indian Museum, Whitney Gallery of Western Art, Cody Firearms Museum and the Draper Museum of Natural History all are worth a visit.

As an art-lover, I adored the Whitney Gallery which includes magnificent renderings both traditional and modern from Yellowstone National Park. There are also interactive stations to draw your own postcards and many videos to keep even the most distracted kids busy and interested.

Buffalo Bill Center of the West Whitney Western Art Museum

Buffalo Bill Center of the West Whitney Western Art Museum

 

Spend some time getting to know more about Buffalo Bill. You might be surprised, as I was, that he was an unlikely feminist who supported the rights of women. He also had much respect for Native Americans and employed in his famous Wild West Show and paid them well.

Another project he spearheaded was the development and finance of the irrigation and reclamation project in Cody by constructing the Shoshone Dam which at the time was the tallest dam in the world. It was later renamed Buffalo Bill Dam by an act of congress.

While you’re at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West be sure to check the schedule for activities. While we were visiting the annual Pow Wow was taking place. Native Americans from the area came together to celebrate their culture and history.

Pow Wow at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West

Pow Wow at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West

 

Dancing, drum groups, and authentic Indian arts & crafts were all available for purchase. Fresh Indian fry bread had a busy line the entire time we were visiting.

Indian Fry Bread Pow Wow Cody Wyoming

Indian Fry Bread Pow Wow Cody Wyoming

 

And don’t miss Dan Miller’s Cowboy Music Review while visiting the Buffalo Bill Center of the West. It’s a fun family music show that’s been entertaining visitors and locals for over 13 seasons. The music ranges from cowboy, bluegrass, gospel, and crowd pleasing patriotic themed numbers. Simple good old fashioned entertainment accompanies a buffet dinner meal featuring prime tenderloin, organic BBQ chicken, and all the fixings. For the best value purchase a combo ticket which includes admission to the Center of the West.

Dinner at Dan Miller's Cowboy Music Review in Cody Wyoming

Dinner at Dan Miller’s Cowboy Music Review in Cody Wyoming

 

Western Main Street

Once you’ve soaked in the history of Buffalo Bill, you’ll need to spend time on the main street. One way to get a great overview of Cody is to take one of the Cody Trolley Tours. Here your humorous tour guide will provide more insiders details on Cody. Once you’ve got the lay of the land you can begin your walk around town.

Cody Trolley Tour

Cody Trolley Tour

 

One of the must-visit spots in Cody is the Irma Hotel built by Buffalo Bill to honor his daughter, Irma. This historic hotel built in 1902 has housed some famous western personalities like Annie Oakley, Calamity Jane, and Frederic Remington.

On the National Register of Historic Places by the National Park Service, the Irma Hotel received recognition of its cultural contribution to America. One of the unique things about the Irma is the cherrywood bar, which was a gift from Queen Victoria. Legend has it (there are a million legends you’ll hear about the prolific Buffalo Bill) that the Queen was quite taken with Bill after she saw his Wild West show in London and sent along this gift.

 

Bar from Queen Elizabeth at the Irma Bar Cody

Bar from Queen Elizabeth at the Irma Bar Cody

Another historic spot in town is the Chamberlin Inn where other luminaries stayed like one of my favorites Ernest Hemingway. It’s a beautiful boutique hotel in downtown Cody. The relaxing courtyard is a perfect spot for relaxing, have a drink or coffee and listening to live music on the weekends.

Irma Hotel Cody Ernest Hemingway Signature

Chamberlin Inn Ernest Hemingway Signature on the guest register.

 

Tasty Food In A Western Town

With all the walking around town and learning about the west, you’re bound to work up an appetite. Don’t worry Cody has you covered. You won’t even need to leave the Irma Hotel to get one of the biggest buffets in town. It wouldn’t be polite to visit and not try their world famous prime rib. The west has some of the best beef in the U.S. so be sure to try it and help yourself to the generous salad bar while you’re at it.

Prime rib at the Irma Hotel

Steaming Prime Rib at the Irma Hotel

 

You can also sidle up to the bar and try a Buffalo Bill beer. A light and refreshing pilsner that really hits the spot.

Cody Irma Bar and Restaurant Buffalo Bill Beer

Cody Irma Bar and Restaurant Buffalo Bill Beer

 

One of my favorite eating spots in Cody was The Local. As you might suspect they feature local food purveyors. They source their food from purveyors that use sustainable agricultural practices and humanely raise animals. This Ishawooa Mesa beef burger with white cheddar cheese, butter lettuce, pickled shallot and aioli on the homemade brioche roll is absolutely unforgettable. And you know I’m a burger lover so that’s saying something. Just looking at it again makes me want it right now. Locals pack this place so be sure you get there early to get a seat.

The Local in Cody, Wyoming Food Travelist

The Local in Cody, Wyoming Food Travelist

 

If you’re looking for more southwestern food Zapata’s will be to your taste. Open for lunch and dinner they have many traditional Mexican dishes to choose from.

Zapatas in Cody Wyoming

Zapatas in Cody Wyoming

 

Another spot for more tasty meat choices is the Rib and Chop House. Whether you try their Angus Beef New York Strip, hand-cut rib eye or the giant Tomahawk Steak you can’t go wrong. I opted for the more lady-like famous filet and it was delicious. You don’t like meat? No worries, they have plenty of chicken, fish and veggie options too. They also have a gluten-free menu as well.

The Famous Filet at the Rib and Chop House Cody Wyoming

The Famous Filet at the Rib and Chop House Cody Wyoming

 

Leave a little room for dessert they have several options that you won’t want to say no to.

Pecan Meltaway at the Rib and Chop House Cody WY

Pecan Meltaway at the Rib and Chop House Cody WY

 

History We Can’t Forget

There are many parts of American history we’d like to forget. We think it’s important not to forget these events in order to ensure they don’t ever happen again. A powerful example of this is the Heart Mountain Interpretive Center located just 14 miles outside of Cody, Wyoming.

A collection of photographs, videos, interactive exhibits and meticulously curated artifacts brings every visitor into the day-to-day lives of Japanese Americans who were relocated and confined here during World War II.

Heart Mountain Interpretive Center Cody Wyoming Monument

Heart Mountain Interpretive Center Cody Wyoming Monument

 

The center provides an experience that is chilling yet insightful and respectful of the Japanese culture. Most noteworthy, it explores the indignities, civil rights issues and hatred that is a grim reminder that our current society must never forget and never repeat.

Heart Mountain Interpretive Center Cody Montana

Heart Mountain Interpretive Center Cody Montana

The Wild, Wild West

For a real feel of what an old Western town might have looked like a visit to the Old Trail Town in Cody will be like stepping into the way back machine. The collection of over 26 authentic structures dating from 1879 to 1901, assembled there along with furnishings, photographs, and memorabilia. All moved from parts of Wyoming and Montana by historian and archaeologist, Bob Edgar.

Some of the highlights include the original cabins used by the outlaws Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and a famous Wyoming saloon that was patronized by the famous “Hole-in-the-Wall Gang”.

Old Trail Town in Cody Food Travelist

Old Trail Town in Cody

 

Guns are an important part of western culture. While I’m not a gun owner I have to say that I had a new appreciation for guns, their owners and their place in American culture after spending some time at the Cody Firearms Experience.

More than just a shooting range, they offer instruction in firearm education and provide an education on gun history. They have guns that were used in the old west and you can learn to shoot them with one-on-one instructors. They also display a large array of guns and explain the historical part they played in building the Old West. You can view a wildlife display of Wyoming creatures and try your hand at an animated laser rifle and pistol arcade.

History of Firearms

History of Firearms

 

In the west, people used guns for protection and for survival because hunting was the main source of food and sustenance. That’s something most of us city slickers can’t really comprehend until we hear the stories.

I had never shot a gun in my life and to say I was a little apprehensive is an understatement. Wanting to learn I took a deep breath and listened closely to my NRA Range Certified Safety Officer instructor and general manager Paul Brock.

They fully enclose the range area and keep the sound to a minimum with headphones and double-walled concrete so the folks in the main room can safely watch behind ballistic glass. Additionally, you can choose guns from the old west or more modern day semi-automatic pistols or rifles. And, there’s even a Gatling gun which fires off 20 rounds before you know it.

I tried a single action Colt revolver and a Winchester shotgun both from the mid-1800’s. Although the target was only 25 yards away, it may as well have been 100 yards. I couldn’t get my aim on the pistol quite figured out although I did at least hit the paper a couple times. The shotgun was a different story. Right out of the box I was hitting near the bulls-eye. It was much easier to control and adjust my aim.

So what did I learn? Guns are loud and very powerful. I can understand the appeal. I’m glad I had the opportunity to learn about them the how they fit into the Western lifestyle.

 

Learning gun safety at the Cody Firearms Experience

Learning gun safety on a 1866 Winchester at the Cody Firearms Experience

 

You Gotta Go To The Rodeo

Another unexpectedly fun experience was the Cody Stampede Rodeo. I’d never been to a rodeo before, so I had no idea what to expect. It starts like every other sporting event in America. Singing the national anthem. One thing you can’t escape in the west is the sense of civic pride. I really liked it.

 

Cody Rodeo

Cody Rodeo

 

I laughed, sang along with the silly 70’s and 80’s songs and oohed and ahhed at the Cowboys trying to rope the cows, ride the bucks and do horse tricks. Kids try to catch tossed t-shirts and will run around the ring after the baby calves to win prizes at this family-friendly experience.

Cody Rodeo

Cody Rodeo

 

Our entire section in the stands was rooting for a little girl we never even met. It was adorable. The kids, the parents, everybody had a great time, myself included. They run the rodeo every night June 1st through August 31st. Be sure to get there early to get a good seat in the Buzzard Roost (the seats near the bulls) to see all the action.

Easy Travels To The West

You can easily fly to Cody on one of United’s convenient flights if you’re not doing a summer road trip. Folks from Denver, Chicago, Portland, Columbus, and Syracuse can take advantage of United’s direct flights from mid-June through mid-October.

United Express to Cody from Chicago

United Express to Cody from Chicago

 

If you’re looking for clean, modern accommodations with a full breakfast buffet check out the Holiday Inn-At Buffalo Bill Village. Don’t let the name fool you. The kids will enjoy the pool and the grownups will love the newly renovated and super comfortable rooms. Located on the main drag you can walk every where from this hotel.

As a result, if you’re looking for a real western style experience loaded with history, adventure and good eating head to Cody, Wyoming. For all the 4-1-1 check out yellowstonecountry.org for trip planning and more!

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Pinterest Graphic for Cody Post

 

23 Responses to Taste of the Old West in Cody Wyoming

  1. Kathleen Reply

    September 11, 2017 at 8:48 pm

    Thanks for all the recommendations. I’ve never been to Wyoming before. Looking forward to visiting and trying all those food as well. I’ve never been to a rodeo and I want to ride that trolley, looks like a lot of fun.

  2. Annemarie LeBlanc Reply

    September 9, 2017 at 11:50 am

    I haven’t been to Wyoming yet but I sure would want to! I just love how you described Cody. It does offer that rustic Old West charm that draws people to visit. Love the food! So mouth watering.

  3. Rachel Heller Reply

    September 9, 2017 at 4:51 am

    I visited Cody, Wyoming on a road trip way back in 1989. It sounds like it’s much more set up for tourists now than it was then. I’d love to visit the museums you mention, particularly Heart Mountain. It sounds fascinating.

  4. Suzanne Fluhr Reply

    September 8, 2017 at 10:29 pm

    I had to start a new Pinterest Board so I could pin this post that is chock-a-block full of enticing information about visiting Cody, Wyoming. When I was learning to read, one of the first “chapter” books I read was one of those little orange covered biographies about Buffalo Bill, so I’m sure I could happily fill a few days in Cody. PS: I don’t think I’ve ever actually written the word “chock-a-block” before, so thank you for affording me that opportunity.

  5. Our Family World Reply

    September 7, 2017 at 2:09 pm

    Oh goodness. What a time to view these photos of food. Now my tummy is grumbling! It would be so nice to have a vacation in the old west. There’s so much to experience, not only the food but the museums, the way of life, the history and culture.

  6. Jenn @ EngineerMommy Reply

    September 7, 2017 at 1:02 pm

    This sounds like such a fun destination to visit. I would really love to take the family here on a vacation one day. It would be a lot of fun to explore the sights here.

  7. Anosa Reply

    September 7, 2017 at 10:35 am

    The place looks interesting. You get to go out of the building views and great civilization. Feeling like traveling over time. The foods looks amazing and deliciously prepared too!

  8. Cheryl Reply

    September 7, 2017 at 8:48 am

    I’ve never been to Wyoming, but that country is on my list. Cody seems like a lot of fun. My grandpa owned horses and seemed like a bit of a cowboy himself. It would be fun to go here with him.

  9. valmg @ Mom Knows It All Reply

    September 6, 2017 at 11:07 pm

    I’ve never been to Wyoming but do hope to have the opportunity to go there one day. The fry bread sounds interesting and the burger looks good.

  10. april brumm Reply

    September 6, 2017 at 7:50 pm

    now my mouth is watering!!! those were amazing looking dinners! great job.

  11. Jacqui S Reply

    September 6, 2017 at 6:31 pm

    Looks like a great place to visit! Love that the hotel had Hemingway’s signature, how cool is that??? I’ll have to add this to my list of places to visit when I become a full-time RVer!

  12. Lisa Reply

    September 6, 2017 at 3:00 pm

    Cody sounds like it is full of great things to see and do. My husband just went to Montana for a weekend trip with his brother.

  13. Amber Myers Reply

    September 6, 2017 at 12:53 pm

    I love history, so I’d love to check this place out. I lived in Cheyenne, Wyoming for about 5 years but we never made it out here. I wish we had!

  14. candy Reply

    September 6, 2017 at 12:48 pm

    We have never been to the wonderful state of Wyoming. Heck the food alone is a good reason to visit. We enjoy doing the same things you did.

  15. Nancy at Whispered Inspirations Reply

    September 6, 2017 at 11:14 am

    This sounds like such a wonderful place to visit! I would love to learn more about the Old West, There are so many things I had no idea about. I am so hungry now after those delicious looking images! YUM!

  16. Joanna @ Everyday Made Fresh Reply

    September 6, 2017 at 10:25 am

    Such a beautiful state! I would love to visit Wyoming and learn more about the old west. We love visiting places with lots of history!

  17. Tomi C Reply

    September 6, 2017 at 10:13 am

    I’ve NEVER been to Wyoming but tried Indian Fry Bread in Colorado and it was amazing! Also, I never knew Buffalo Bill built a hotel. I will definitely have to add Cody, WY to my travel list.

  18. Jeanette Reply

    September 6, 2017 at 10:01 am

    I have driven through Cody wants that I did not realize they had all the stuff there. I will definitely check it out the next time I drive out that way.

  19. robin rue Reply

    September 6, 2017 at 9:02 am

    I would love to visit there SO bad!!! I love this kind of historical stuff. I do trolley tours when I travel a lot, too – they are a great way to have fun and learn 🙂

  20. Alli Smith Reply

    September 6, 2017 at 9:00 am

    The Indian Fry Bread looks delicious! My parents have visited Yellowstone and Cody, Wyoming. They loved that place and I’d like to visit too.

  21. Doreen Pendgracs Reply

    September 5, 2017 at 7:23 am

    What a delicious post, Sue! Beef, beer, and chocolate. I’m in! It’s been a long while since I was last in Wyoming, but Remember loving it as I love the cowboy lifestyle and country music. Thx for this super post about Cody.

  22. Jackie Smith Reply

    September 4, 2017 at 3:33 pm

    Oh my mouth is watering – those food shots are spectacular and I absolutely love the old West. I must add Cody to the road trip list!!

  23. Donna Janke Reply

    September 4, 2017 at 2:38 pm

    Cody sounds like an fun place to visit and learn more about the Old West. I didn’t know those things about Buffalo Bill. And it certainly looks as if one won’t go hungry there. My mouth is watering after seeing your photos.

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