Ripple background

Now that it’s mid-June school is pretty much out. Sure, there are a few places that get creative and look for ways to maximize the use of their classrooms by instituting year-round schedules, but the traditional calendar still rules.

I can tell just by looking out my window that more families are in town. The miniature golf course at the corner of 9th and Sheridan definitely sees more play, and the nightly gunfighter show is increasingly popular.

The campground managers have their own semi-scientific methods as well. One counts the number of kids’ bicycles in the racks while another tracks the inventory of s’mores kits she sells in her camp store. Those numbers go straight up about now and stay that way until late August.

My favorite tracking technique, however, was developed by my friend at our visitor’s center. She keeps a running tab of the hair of people seeking information. When dark (and thick) hair prevails she knows that parents and children are on vacation. Lighter (and thinner) hair means the empty nesters are in town.

When parents ask me for recommendations for kid-friendly activities I tell them to keep an open mind, don’t over plan and let the kids take the lead.

One of the best ideas I ever heard came many years ago from parents that instituted a rule that everyone got to choose a vacation activity that the rest of the family had to do.

Here’s how their two-day visit to town went:

Son #1 decided he wanted to go river rafting. This was easy to accomplish as there are several outfitters in town who take visitors down the Shoshone River for short or long trips. The parents are still trying to figure out if the son was being a troublemaker or if he really did not know that his mother was afraid of the water.

Letting the Kids Take the Lead

Several outfitters offer rafting trips on the Shoshone River.

Daughter wanted to ride horses. Since we are talking rodeo-capitol, kids-receive-cowboy-boots-before-they-can-walk-Cody, the biggest obstacle was choosing which ranch. We have some 13 dude and guest ranches as well as multiple outfitters offering day trips in the area. Cody is home to the Dude Ranchers Association and even has claim to the birthplace of the term “dude” used to describe an Easterner who would come to the West to pay good money to work on a ranch.

Letting the Kids Take the Lead 1

Cody Yellowstone is known for its dude ranches and horseback riding.

Son #2 had fished from a boat, but he had never waded a river or fly fished. This was another easy one as the region is home to world-class fly fishing as well as some of the most knowledgeable and friendly guides you will find. Some have appeared on television and are practically celebrities around here. This was my favorite choice of this family because it sparked a passion for fly fishing that Son #2 still has today.

Letting the Kids Take the Lead 2

The region offers world-class fly fishing.

Mom decided that she needed some laid back indoor time and told everyone they would be going to a museum. She was still suspicious of Son #1’s motives and thought he would be bored after 15 minutes. Son #1 walked into the Cody Firearms Museum at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West and was fascinated by the design and workmanship. Last I heard he was graduating college with a degree in mechanical engineering.

Letting the Kids Take the Lead 3

The Cody Firearms Museum is one of five museums in the Buffalo Bill Center of the West.

Dad decided he wanted an ice cream cone, and the whole family sat on the porch of the Irma Hotel watching the gunfighter show.

Until next week, I am lovin’ life – and remembering one of my favorite families – in Cody Yellowstone.