Calling All Wanderers; 21 Reasons to Wander to Cody Yellowstone in 2021
Wanderers are a special breed of traveler. Some call them aimless; drifters without a purpose. But here in Cody Yellowstone, we call them our kind of people! After all, the town of Cody was founded nearly 125 years ago by one of the most famous wanderers ever — Buffalo Bill Cody.
Buffalo Bill certainly wasn’t the only wanderer to explore the region though. The 1872 creation of the world’s first national park – Yellowstone – was prompted by reports from professional wanderers who joined expeditions of fellow explorers to discover the wonders of the American West.
Buffalo Bill Cody first wandered through the Bighorn Basin region of northwestern Wyoming in the late 1870s, just a few years after Yellowstone was founded. Ever the trailblazer — and inspired by its mountains, rivers, and abundant wildlife — Buffalo Bill founded the town that bears his name in 1896. Five years later, Cody was incorporated, and wanderers have been making their way here ever since.
With next year’s 125th anniversary – and the 150th anniversary of Yellowstone National Park in 2022 – there’s never been a better time to wander to Cody Yellowstone. Although transportation by stagecoaches and horse-drawn wagons has long been replaced by Subarus and Winnebagos, today’s wanderers will find many incredible experiences that reflect the region’s remarkable history.
In honor of 2021, here are 21 of them.
1. Hear a Tale of Star-Crossed Lovers at Old Trail Town
Old Trail Town is full of history and a little bit of old-fashioned scandal! Here, you can learn about the tragic conclusion of one of Wyoming’s most famous love triangles, and even visit the graves of the three people tangled up in love’s web — Belle Drewry, and cowboys William Gallagher and Bill Wheaton.
2. Saddle Up at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West
Home to five museums under one roof, the Buffalo Bill Center of the West is home to a wealth of knowledge. But it’s more than that, it’s also a place where you can catch a glimpse of authentic makers at work. Stop by the authentic saddle shop and watch a master saddler as they create fully functional saddles. These stunning works of art are carefully constructed, and you’ll be surprised to discover just how much work goes into making them.
3. Explore the Heart Mountain WWII Interpretive Center
The Heart Mountain WWII Interpretive Center is a place to find both inspiration and empathy as you learn the harrowing story of the hardships faced by thousands of Japanese-Americans in the years surrounding World War II. While you’re here, be sure to visit the Military Honor Roll. Consisting of a monument and interpretive trail, the Honor Roll lists the names of Japanese-American men who courageously served the United States while their friends and family were held beyond barbed wire here at home.
4. Visit a memorial dedicated to John Colter, the original Mountain Man
John Colter’s story is one of legend. He made his way to northwestern Wyoming as part of the Lewis and Clark expedition in the early 1800s and decided to stay (not the first person to be taken by the beauty of this neck of the woods, and certainly not the last!). Living as a trapper, he faced plenty of challenges. And over the years, these stories took on lives of their own. You can learn more about him at the monument celebrating his remarkable life at Old Trail Town.
5. Take an audio walking tour of Cody’s historic Sheridan Avenue
There’s nothing quite like taking a stroll down Cody’s charming main street, Sheridan Avenue. But beyond the shops and restaurants, there’s a lot of history here! You can learn all about it on a free Sheridan Avenue walking tour from TravelStorys. Along your walk, you’ll learn the fascinating stories behind historic buildings like Buffalo Bill’s Hotel in the Rockies, the Irma, the Carnegie Library, and more!
6. Savor an Old-Fashioned Chuckwagon Dinner
(Photo: Center of the West)
The Buffalo Bill Center of the West is more than just five museums under one roof. Every Tuesday and Saturday in the summer, the Center welcomes guests for a delicious chuckwagon dinner! What is a chuckwagon dinner, you ask? Well, it’s a dinner of steak, trail beans, salad, sourdough biscuits, and fresh cobbler — all prepared by cowboy cooks in a Dutch-oven. Yum!
7. Meditate in a Japanese-inspired Victory Garden
Heart mountain, while beautiful, is challenging terrain. It’s windswept, cold, and often unforgiving. So you can imagine the challenges it posed to the many Japanese-Americans confined there. One of these people was named James Ito. And he, along with many other people, worked to improve conditions at the Heart Mountain camps by planting a garden in the high Wyoming desert. It wasn’t easy, but he converted the tough soil into fertile farmland — eventually growing vegetables that were a hit with his fellow Japanese-Americans. Today, at the Heart Mountain WWII Interpretive Center, a different type of garden remains —the inviting James O. and Toshiko Joy Nagamori Ito Victory Garden. This small garden is a place for visitors to quietly reflect upon the lessons you’ll learn while visiting the Interpretive Center.
8. Hit the road on the “Most Beautiful Drive in America”
They say life’s a journey, and there’s none better than the Beartooth Highway. At least, that’s what the iconic travel commentator Charles Kuralt thought. He called this stretch of road situated in northern Wyoming and parts of southern Montana “Most Beautiful Drive in America”. And we’re inclined to agree. This scenic byway winds its way through historic towns, breathtaking canyons, glaciers, and more. Oh, and along the way, you’ll reach an elevation of 10,947 — the highest point of elevated highway in all of Wyoming!
9. Experience the authenticity and excitement of the Cody Nite Rodeo
There’s a reason Cody is known as the Rodeo Capital of the World — the Cody Nite Rodeo! This Rodeo is a staple of Cody summers! There are nightly performances where cowboys show off their skills, thrills are had, and legends are born! No doubt about it, if you’re craving an authentic Western experience you’ll remember forever, this is the place for you.
10. Learn About the Lasting Impact of Thomas Molesworth
“Thomas who?” You may say. And while the name might not be familiar, his work certainly is. Molesworth is a giant in the world of Western Design, and he got his start making Western-inspired furniture right here in Cody, Wyoming. You can learn all about him at By Western Hands Museum & Gallery. And, while you’re here, explore the ingenuity that inspired hundreds of artists to explore the traditions of Western art.
11. Take Aim at the Cody Firearms Experience
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to shoot a Gatling gun? Wonder no longer! You’ll have a chance at the Cody Firearms Experience. When you visit this indoor shooting range, you’ll shoot a wide variety of replica guns from throughout history, all while under the supervision of expert instructors who are happy to offer insight and tips.
12. Let Your Love of Raptors Take Flight
(Photo: Center of the West)
No, we’re not talking about the dinosaurs, but we could be talking about their ancestors! You’ll be awed by our region’s magnificent raptors at the Draper Natural History Museum’s raptor education program. This program allows you to get up close with several birds of prey, including Amelia the short-eared owl, Kateri the golden eagle, and Salem the American kestrel. Perhaps best of all, this program takes place in the great outdoors, with plenty of room for everybody to enjoy.
13. See Artifacts that Belonged to Buffalo Bill Cody Himself
(Photo: Center of the West)
If you’re fascinated by Buffalo Bill Cody, you’ll learn so much about him at the Buffalo Bill Museum. But beyond that, you’ll also see many of his personal items, including his famous hide coat. Made of bison hide and trimmed with beaver fur, Buffalo Bill wore this coat while serving as a civilian scout for the U.S. Army. The coat continued to play a role in his life after becoming a world-famous showman, as he continued to wear it on stage during theatrical performances.
14. View an authentic Nez Perce Tipi
(Photo: Center of the West)
The Plains Indian Museum brings history to life here in Cody, Wyoming by exploring the rich history of Native American culture. While you’re here, you can also see a rare Nez Perce Tipi. This rare bison hide Tipi was created from at least 13 bison hides. It was sewn by women and is adorned with colorful natural pigments.
15. Go Fish!
Fishing is a favorite activity for locals and visitors alike here in Cody. And if you ask us, there’s no better place to cast for trout than in our streams and lakes. And with and plenty of local outfitters around to show you the ropes (as well as their favorite fishing holes), you’re sure to land the catch of the day in no time.
16. Hike the Howard Eaton Trail
Sure, there are hundreds of trails in and around Yellowstone National Park, but the Howard Eaton Trail is undoubtedly one of our favorites. After all, this trail passes meanders through lush forests, meadows, and marshes and passes several bodies of water before arriving at the beautiful Ice Lake. Be sure to pack a lunch when you take this hike, it’s 10.7 miles to your destination!
17. Park Your RV and Explore Buffalo Bill State Park
If you’re on an RVing adventure, be sure to pay a visit to Buffalo Bill State Park. Not only is the park home to exceptional outdoor pleasures like boating and fishing, it also offers easy access to Cody, as well as Yellowstone National Park. Oh, and while you’re here, be sure to visit the Buffalo Bill Dam. Once the tallest concrete dam in the world, this towering engineering marvel is just as impressive today.
18. Sing along with cowboy singer Dan Miller
When you think of Cody, Wyoming, who’s the first musician that comes to mind? For us, it’s the legendary Dan Miller. As talented as he is popular, no summer in Cody is complete without spending an evening watching Dan and his band perform. Taking the stage six nights a week from May through September, Dan Miller is certainly the musical sheriff of this town!
19. Take a Trolley Tour
Looking for an accessible overview of our region that’s entertaining and informative? Hop aboard an interactive Cody Trolley Tour! Over the course of an hour, the trolley will take you to landmarks like the Buffalo Bill Dam and the Irma Hotel, all while your guide shares expert knowledge about the history of our beautiful region.
20. Visit Buffalo Bill’s Hunting Lodge
Ever wonder where Buffalo Bill went to “get away from it all”? The answer is Pahaska Tepee. Built in 1904, this hunting lodge is located just outside the East Gate of Yellowstone National Park. This is where Buffalo Bill would bring his friends and important traveling dignitaries to hunt, fish, and experience the Wyoming way of life. Of course, he’d also entertain them with plenty of stories from his travels and adventures. Be sure to keep your eyes peeled when you visit — there are plenty of opportunities to see local wildlife like moose, bison, wolves, and even bears!
21. Zip Above the Tree Line at the Sleeping Giant Zipline
If you think Cody Yellowstone looks great from the ground, you should see it from way up above! And you can when you take a ride on the Sleeping Giant Zipline. Located in the Sleeping Giant Ski Area, these ziplines offer fantastic bird’s-eye views of the Bighorn Basin. And while you’re here, you can also race your friends along dual ziplines and hit speeds of up to 45-miles per hour. There’s truly nothing like taking flight at Sleeping Giant!
Wow! 21 amazing adventures, and it still feels like we’ve only scratched the surface! That’s because there’s just so much to see and do for everyone here in Cody Yellowstone! 2021 is shaping up to be a great year here, and we hope you’ll join in on the fun. Start planning your upcoming vacation today. We can’t wait to see you soon!