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Here in Cody Yellowstone, we can be sneaky, and parents visiting us with their kids think that’s just fine. What do we mean, exactly? Well, we like to sneak a little education in with all the fun and adventure here in the Wild West. For example, that dam just outside of town holds back a lot of water, but it also tells stories of flood control, engineering, political maneuvering, and irrigation for agriculture. And those old cabins near the rodeo grounds? Those were the homes of the region’s settlers, saloon keepers, blacksmiths, and some of the best-known outlaws of the 19th century. These attractions and many more have been delighting visitors for several generations while quietly teaching lessons about human survival and interactions. 

Like we said, sneaky.

Looking for a few more learning opportunities in disguise? You’ve come to the right place! Here are a few of our favorites. 

The Buffalo Bill Center of the West

Pointing to a sculpture at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West(Photo: Buffalo Bill Center of the West)

The Buffalo Bill Center of the West (BBCW) is a world-renowned museum – actually five museums – affiliated with the Smithsonian Institute. The Buffalo Bill Museum features wall-sized displays and interactive exhibits spotlighting the showman’s life and times, including his legendary Wild West Show. The Draper Museum of Natural History inspires youthful adventurers with displays that showcase the sights, sounds, and even the smells of the region. The Center also includes the Plains Indian MuseumCody Firearms Museum, and Whitney Western Art Museum

Heart Mountain WWII Interpretive Center

Children may still not fully understand why thousands of Japanese-Americans lived in internment camps during World War II, but they will remember how they lived after visiting Heart Mountain WWII Interpretive Center — a powerful, award-winning museum situated at the site of the Heart Mountain Internment Camp. Designed to resemble the typical barracks-style accommodations that housed its 14,000 internees, the Center depicts how families lived in poorly lit rectangular buildings, slept on cots, and endured a harsh climate and lack of privacy. There are also displays highlighting poignant stories of friendship, endurance, and patriotism. 

Old Trail Town

Old Trail Town/Museum of the Old West Buggy
(Photo: @njrappa)

Old Trail Town/Museum of the Old West is an enclave of 27 authentic frontier buildings, including the hideout of Butch Cassidy and his infamous Hole-in-the-Wall Gang. One of the town’s many gravesites belongs to Jeremiah “Liver Eating” Johnston – portrayed by actor Robert Redford in the 1972 film. There is a built-in teaching moment too, as young visitors are often heard commenting about how small the cabins were back then. 

The Irma Hotel

Irma Hotel Signage

The Irma Hotel was built by Buffalo Bill and named for his daughter. The hotel’s famous room-long cherry wood bar – still in use today in what is now the hotel dining room – was presented to Buffalo Bill by England’s Queen Victoria. 

Buffalo Bill Dam & Visitor Center

Buffalo Bill Dam & Visitor Center Exterior

Completed in 1910, the Buffalo Bill Dam was once the tallest concrete arch dam in the world, and its Visitor Center showcases not only the dam’s masterful engineering but also emphasizes its impact on tourism and agriculture in the valley. Kids with a penchant for science will learn how water was as much a concern in the days of Buffalo Bill Cody as it is in the West today. 

Pahaska Tepee

Children whose imagination is sparked by stories of the American West will love stepping inside Buffalo Bill’s hunting lodge, Pahaska Tepee. Buffalo Bill brought his hunting pals – including Theodore Roosevelt and the Prince of Monaco – to this rustic lodge just outside of the East entrance to Yellowstone National Park. Cody was nicknamed “Long Hair” by American Indians in the region, which in their tongue was pronounced “Pahaska.” 

Cody Dug Up Gun Museum

Relic guns at Cody Dug Up Gun Museum

Opened in 2009, the Cody Dug Up Gun Museum displays hundreds of relic guns and weapons used throughout American history. The museum is located right in the center of town and is a fun and family-friendly stop.

Are You Ready To Learn a Thing or Two?

Family standing on a world projection at Buffalo Bill Center of the West
(Photo: Buffalo Bill Center of the West)

Just because you’re on vacation doesn’t mean you can’t learn something new. Start planning your Cody Yellowstone getaway today, and be sure to include a few of these educational stops along the way.