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Cody, Wyoming, is No. 1. At least according to the enthusiastic, traveling-loving readers of USA Today. Cody topped the Best Western Small Towns list in a recent USA Today 10Best Reader’s Choice poll

Surprised? You shouldn’t be, and town founder Col. William F “Buffalo Bill” Cody probably wouldn’t be either. The town’s Western pedigree begins — and continues — with authenticity. 

The town’s Western vibe is evident everywhere you look — from the rugged landscape to the charming shops that line Sheridan Avenue, and that’s just the way Buffalo Bill would have wanted it. Founded in 1896, the town of Cody was always meant to be a tourist destination. Buffalo Bill, whose Wild West Show had made him the most famous man in the world, chose the town site because it was rich in resources and close to Yellowstone National Park. 

There’s very little that is contrived here in this idyllic corner of northwestern Wyoming. 

Unless you count the zany summertime performances of the Wild Bunch Gunfighters. Comprised of enthusiastic locals who are admittedly not quite ready for prime time, these campy nightly skits performed on the street in front of the Irma Hotel are loose reenactments of Wild West scenes. The performances are interjected with corny Dad jokes that will make even the grumpiest members of the audience crack a smile.

An actor in the Wild Bunch Gunslingers performs for a crowd

Here are some of Cody’s best and most authentic Western attractions: 

Cody Nite Rodeo

A bullrider at the Cody Nite Rodeo

As the Rodeo Capital of the World, Cody is the only destination in the U.S. that stages a nightly summer-season rodeo. The Cody Nite Rodeo’s roots are deeply planted in the West. Early rodeo performances were staged by cowboys and ranchers seeking to improve their skills and entertain their colleagues during those rare occasions they had time off from cowboying and ranching.

Old Trail Town & Museum of the West

Buildings and wagons at Old Trail Town in Cody Yellowstone

With 27 historic buildings, including school rooms, general stores, and even Butch Cassidy’s hideout – the Hole in the Wall Cabin – visiting Old Trail Town & Museum of the West feels like taking a step back in time. 

Outdoor Recreation 

A woman fishes near Cody Yellowstone

Fishing, hiking, and horseback riding, oh my!. With millions of acres of wilderness, hundreds of miles of trails outside and inside the park, and endless streams, lakes, and rivers, Cody Yellowstone is a feast for outdoor recreation enthusiasts. 

Dude and Guest Ranches

Dude and guest ranches started right here in Wyoming when West-curious Easterners signed up to vacation by working on the region’s ranches. Those enthusiastic Easterners were called “dudes” by the owners of the ranchers. Cody Yellowstone is home to more than 15 ranches where guests can spend their days enjoying horseback riding, fishing, hiking, and enjoying the Western vibe.

Buffalo Bill Center of the West

Buffalo Bill Center of the West 1

There are five museums under one roof at Buffalo Bill Center of the West in downtown Cody. Here, you can see paintings by the Western artist Charles Russell, a famous sculpture of Buffalo Bill Cody astride his steed, artifacts from Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show, exhibits of wildlife that wander the region, Winchester rifles, and collectibles and artifacts showing the lives of Plains Indians who have lived in the region for thousands of years. 

The Irma Hotel

The Irma Hotel with motorcycles parked out front

Located in the center of town, The Irma Hotel was built by Buffalo Bill Cody in 1902. Buffalo Bill named the hotel after his daughter Irma. The hotel’s classic Western décor has been maintained, so guests feel as if they’ve entered another era. Visitors can even enjoy a beverage at a room-long bar that was gifted to Buffalo Bill by England’s Queen Victoria after he performed his Wild West show for the queen and an entourage. 

Chamberlin Inn 

The lovely boutique Chamberlin Inn was developed and operated by Agnes Chamberlin, once an employee at Buffalo Bill’s Cody Enterprise newspaper. Beautifully restored and operated today with Cody’s most discerning travelers in mind, the Chamberlin Inn has hosted famous guests like Ernest Hemingway and Prince Albert of Monaco. 

Explore the Best Western Small Town in the US

These are just a few examples of attractions that prove Cody is indeed the best Western town in the U.S. Want to plan your own Wild West vacation in Cody Yellowstone? Order the free Cody Yellowstone vacation guide for more tips and ideas.