Free and Moderately Priced Experiences in Buffalo Bill’s Cody/Yellowstone Country
CODY, Wyo., July 5, 2011 – With the high price of gasoline this summer, vacationers are naturally keeping an eye on the contents of their wallets. Yellowstone Country, comprised of the northwestern Wyoming towns of Cody, Meteetse and Powell and parts of Yellowstone National Park, offers a wide array of affordable experiences, including many that are free.
“The price of gas is unfortunate, but based on advance bookings, vacationers are still choosing to enjoy travel adventures this summer,” said Claudia Wade, executive director of the Park County Travel Council, the region’s marketing arm. “Yellowstone Country has always been a destination that offers incredible value, and many of our most memorable experiences – like watching our nightly Cody Gunfighters or spotting a bear along the road outside of town – are free.”
Wade offers the following ideas for free and moderately priced Cody experiences:
- Find “Snoopy the Dog” or “Laughing Pig Rock.” The 52-mile road between Cody and the east entrance to Yellowstone National park has abundant rock formations and lava flows that have been named by imaginative locals. The road travels along the north fork of the Shoshone River and traverses the Wapiti Valley through the Shoshone Forest. Don’t forget your binoculars. “Wapiti” is an Indian word meaning white tail, or elk, and the region is known for its abundance of deer, elk, pronghorn, bighorn sheep, grizzly bears and moose.
- Visit Heart Mountain Internment Camp, home to some 11,000 Japanese-American citizens – mostly from California – who were interned there following Japan’s bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941. A new visitor center operated by the Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation will open in August 2011. An interpretive walking tour at the site showcases the history of the camp and its residents. This free site is a must-visit for students of American history, young and old.
- Watch a gunfight. The place to be at 6 p.m. on summer evenings is outside the Irma Hotel to watch the supremely entertaining Cody Gunfighters engage in Western skits that always end up in a gunfight (often prompted by a damsel in distress). Kids learn a bit about gun safety, and parents enjoy a classic Cody experience without opening their wallets. This fun-loving and slightly wacky group of locals has been performing nightly in the summer for 15 years. The show is free, but dinner at the Irma Hotel – highly recommended for its prime rib and aged steak – is extra. The Irma Hotel was built by Buffalo Bill Cody and named after his daughter, Irma.
- What started as simply a way to fill a ranch house with functional furniture has turned into an art form in Cody. Today, some 25 local artisans create high-quality Western furniture and accessories for display and sale. Cody has long been a center of Western design. The most famous designer and builder was Thomas Molesworth, owner of the Shoshone Furniture Company in Cody from 1931 to 1961. Molesworth combined the basic furniture designs that local cowboys used in their ranch homes with elements such as leather, horsehide and elk antlers. His work eventually became known by Easterners, and he became the best-known furniture-maker in the Western genre.
- See a diorama that will knock your socks off – and give your children ideas for their next social studies project. Tecumseh’s Old West Miniature Village and Museum is a room-sized, glass-enclosed diorama of miniature trains, bison, soldiers, cabins and more. The display illustrates the history of the West by depicting important battles like the Battle of Little Bighorn, a buffalo jump and a fort under Sioux Indian attack. Hundreds of American Indian artifacts are on display, including clothing, weapons and a hand-made wooden canoe.
- Pahaska Tepee. This is where Buffalo Bill went to relax with friends such as Teddy Roosevelt and the Prince of Monaco. Built in 1904, this hunting lodge sits just outside the East Gate of Yellowstone National Park. It was called Pahaska after the nickname given to him by the local Indians; it means “long hair.” The rustic log lodge displays many gifts given to Cody by guests. An excellent restaurant and gift shop are housed in an adjacent building.
- If there’s someone in the group who likes to see how things work, they will thoroughly enjoy a visit to the Buffalo Bill Dam Visitor Center. Water was as much a concern in the days of Buffalo Bill Cody as it is in the West today. Cody foresaw that and convinced the U.S. government to build a dam here to help conserve that precious resource. Today, agriculture thrives in this naturally arid area due to his foresight. See the dam and learn all about its construction and benefits. The dam is located six miles west of Cody.
- For chocoholics, a “must-visit” is The Meeteetse Chocolatier. See the creations of cowboy and dedicated chocolatier Tim Kellogg. We’re talking chocolate-dipped Oreo cookies. Caramel-dipped pretzels. And, for the adults, maybe a champagne truffle or two. Located in Meeteetse, it’s not far from Cody. This stop is only free if you have the willpower to look but not taste.
- View fine Western art created by local artists at the Cody Country Art League, which shares a historic building – the original Buffalo Bill Museum – with the Cody Visitor Center. Artists with ties to the community display photography, oil and watercolor paintings, sculptures and more.
- Strap on your walking shoes and hike, stroll and explore downtown Cody and some of the hundreds of hiking trails that surround the town.
- A terrific introduction to the destination is the Cody Trolley Tour. This informative one-hour tour covers 22 miles and helps orient visitors to where things are and what they might like to go back to see. Offered only in the summer, the tour introduces the history, attractions, geology, wildlife and scenery for further exploration. Some fun audio clips are interspersed with the skills of entertaining live narrators. Admission: adults, $24; seniors (65 and older), $22; children (ages 6-17), $12; ages 5 and younger, free with adult. Visitors who are planning to take the Cody Trolley Tour and explore the Buffalo Bill Historical Center should consider the “Experience Cody: Inside and Out” package which includes tickets to both attractions. Package price: adults: $37; youth: $20.
- Western history buffs will appreciate a visit to Old Trail Town/Museum of the Old West, an enclave of 26 authentic frontier buildings (one used by Butch Cassidy and his gang). Old Trail Town includes several gravesites, including that of the infamous Jeremiah “Liver Eating” Johnston – portrayed by actor Robert Redford in the 1972 self-titled film. There is a built-in teaching moment – astonished youngsters visiting Old Trail Town are often heard commenting about how really small the houses were back then. Admission: adults, $8; children 12 and younger, $4; seniors, $7 and groups of eight or more people, $6 per person.
- The Cody Nite Rodeo has been entertaining visitors for decades, and it is often travelers’ first rodeo experience. Open nightly from June 1 through August 31, the audience will see riders, ropers, bull riders and bronc busters from all over the country. Admission: adults and teens, $18; children 7-12, $8; ages 6 and younger, free.
- Try your hand at Cody’s blue-ribbon trout fishing in one of Cody’s many streams, lakes and rivers. Local guides can be hired to take anglers to their own favorite spots. Fishing licenses: $14 daily for non-residents.
- Cody is home to several musical attractions including the immensely popular Dan Miller’s Cowboy Music Revue. Hailing from Nashville, local singer Dan Miller entertains crowds six days a week with cowboy songs, poetry and laugh-out-loud jokes. This is a fun evening (Mondays-Saturdays, May-September) for visitors of all ages. Admission: $15. New this year is a dinner and show package including a dinner at the Irma Hotel Dining Room and one ticket to the show. Adult prices start at $26.95 for the Chuck Wagon dinner; kids rates start at $10.95
- Some visitors can’t quite believe that the little town of Cody is home to the massive, world-renowned Buffalo Bill Historical Center (BBHC). Plan to spend at least a day to explore the BBHC’s five museums – The Whitney Museum of Western Art, Cody Firearms Museum, Draper Museum of Natural History, Plains Indians Museum and, of course, the Buffalo Bill Museum. This family-friendly museum is designed to be interesting to youngsters as well as adults. One day isn’t really enough to do justice to exploring this museum, so all tickets are good for admission on two consecutive days. Admission: adults, $18; seniors 65 or older, $16; students (13 and older, including college kids with IDs), $13; youth (ages 6-17), $10; children younger than 5, free.
- Cody is home to several outfitters offering float and whitewater raft trips that last from just a couple of hours to a half day. Floating on the Shoshone River with a knowledgeable guide is a terrific way to learn more about Cody’s most colorful characters, its geology and wildlife.Wyoming River Trips offers a two-hour tour that passes through breathtaking red rock canyons and passes though white-water rapids with names like “Hole in the Wall,” and “Sundance Kid.” Admission: adults, $27; children (under 13), $25.
Yellowstone Country is comprised of the towns of Cody, Powell and Meeteetse as well as the valley east of Yellowstone National Park.
The area of Park County is called “Buffalo Bill’s Cody/Yellowstone Country because it was the playground of Buffalo Bill Cody himself. Buffalo Bill founded the town of Cody in 1896, and the entire region was driven and is still heavily influenced by the vision of the Colonel. Today its broad streets, world-class museum Buffalo Bill Historical Center and thriving western culture host nearly 1 million visitors annually.
The Park County Travel Council website (www.codyyellowstone.org) lists information about vacation packages, special events, guide services, weather and more. Travelers wishing to arrange vacation can also call the Park County Travel Council at 1-800-393-2639.
Mesereau Public Relations