Walk with Us Through the Buffalo Bill Center of the West
Cody’s Buffalo Bill Center of the West (BBCW) keeps getting national attention and earning awards, and there are likely more on the horizon. With five museums under one huge roof exploring a range of Western topics, many top publications have recently lauded the facility, and it has won an array of awards for its exhibits and other offerings.
For example, BBCW has received the TripAdvisor “Traveler’s Choice” award for the past several years, with an overall rating of five out of five. You can’t do much better than that.
Each of the five museums (Plains Indian Museum, Whitney Western Art Museum, Cody Firearms Museum, Draper Natural History Museum, and Buffalo Bill Museum) has a cool backstory. And like everywhere in the destination of Cody Yellowstone, the 300,000 square-foot museum focuses on making a visit a true adventure, with interactive displays, rare artifact collections, and family fun like a daily Live Raptor Experience and chuckwagon dinner during the summer season. There’s so much to experience, in fact, that the museum offers a digital planning tool to help visitors make the most of their time at this special destination.
To help you get a better sense of what the Center of the West has to offer, we’d like to take you on a little tour of our own through each of the museums you can explore here when you visit Cody Yellowstone.
Plains Indian Museum
The awards continue to roll in for the Plains Indian Museum, which reveals how the art, history, traditions, and contemporary lives of Plains Indian peoples helped shape the character of the American West. Opened in 1979, this spacious museum was honored by “True West” magazine for the “Best American Indian Collection” in the West. In the same story, Cody was named the Number One Western Town of 2024.
And in other exciting news, the Plains Indian Museum is currently in the running for “Top Small Town Museum” in a USA Today 10Best Readers’ Choice contest that runs through February 15. Readers can vote online here.
Pro tip: Don’t miss the Adversity and Renewal gallery, which takes a thoughtful look at the past and reflects upon the future of the Plains people since being forced to live in reservations beginning in the late 1800s. The centerpiece of the gallery is a reproduction of the 1911 log house that belonged to Standing Bear, an Oglala Lakota in the Wounded Knee District of Pine Ridge, S.D.
Whitney Western Art Museum
Opened in 1959, the Whitney Western Art Museum is one of the reasons Cody was lauded by USA Today for its Top Small Town Arts Scene last year.
The museum presents masterworks of Western American art with more than 300 paintings and sculptures in the main gallery as well as throughout the rest of the museum and its gardens. The collection includes massive and famous pieces by artists such as Bierstadt, Remington, Russell, and many others.
Pro tip: Be sure to walk outside and marvel at The Scout, a massive bronze sculpture of Buffalo Bill Cody on his steed that is located just outside this museum. The sculpture was created by sculptress and heiress Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney 100 years ago. If the weather is inclement, BBCW visitors can also view the sculpture from a huge picture window in the Whitney, which is named in honor of the sculptress.
Cody Firearms Museum
With the most comprehensive collection of American firearms in the world, this museum examines the people and culture of the American West. The collection includes more than 4,000 American-made firearms and thousands of other related artifacts. The heart of the museum, which opened in 1976, is the Winchester Arms Collection. Virtually every other significant firearms manufacturer in the world is also represented. The museum was completely renovated in 2019. Exhibit themes explore the Evolution of Firearms, Military History, the Story of the West, and more.
Pro tip: History fans should check out two other Cody attractions exploring firearms’s history. With a safety-focused indoor shooting range, the Cody Firearms Experience features replicas of guns throughout history. Visitors can shoot replicas of guns like an 1873 Winchester rifle and an 1862 Gatling Gun. Or visit the Cody Dug Up Gun Museum, which has more than 1,000 guns collected from locations throughout the world.
Buffalo Bill Museum
The original museum of the five, the Buffalo Bill Museum opened in a log cabin in downtown Cody in 1927. In the late 1960s, the museum moved to the new Buffalo Bill Historical Center Complex — later named the Buffalo Bill Center of the West — joining the Whitney Western Art Museum in the centrally located complex.
The museum explores the complex life and adventures of Buffalo Bill Cody, who founded the town of Cody and was known worldwide for the Buffalo Bill Wild West Show. Exhibits include original treasures such as Buffalo Bill’s saddles and his famous buckskin jackets. A life-sized hologram depicting Buffalo Bill Cody welcomes visitors to the museum.
Pro tip: Buffalo Bill Cody fans can book an Exclusive Tour for an in-depth look at the famous adventurer’s life and legends.
Draper Natural History Museum
The most modern of the five museums, the Draper Natural History Museum opened in 2002. This innovative museum explores the Greater Yellowstone ecosystem — especially its wildlife — with family-pleasing interactive exhibits. Exhibits are presented as a Greater Yellowstone Adventure, including three interconnected galleries: the Expedition Trailhead, Alpine-to-Plains Trail, and an exhibition called Monarch of the Skies, which explores the Golden Eagle, a raptor that you can find throughout the region.
We recommend that travelers visit the Draper Natural History Museum before venturing into nearby Yellowstone National Park so they will have the knowledge and insights to view park wildlife and other sights with an educated eye.
Pro tip: If visiting in the summer, be sure to experience the Draper Museum Raptor Experience and see the live raptors of the region up close.
Five Museums — All Part of One Unforgettable Adventure
Now that you’ve explored the Buffalo Bill Center of the West online, it’s time to explore in person. Start planning your visit to Cody Yellowstone today!