Named for the famed Buffalo Bill Cody, this small town in northwest Wyoming is the place to visit for a Wild West experience full of historical family adventures. Aside from the historical aspects, Cody sits on the edge of the Bighorn Basin surrounded by four different mountain ranges. The Shoshone River runs through it and the mountain valley provides visitors with beautiful scenery and small town charm.
Dive Into the Center of the West
One of the best spots in Cody is the Buffalo Bill Center of the West. The massive complex contains five different museums: the Draper Natural History Museum, the Buffalo Bill Museum, the Plains Indians Museum, the Cody Firearms Museum and the Whitney Western Art Museum. We skipped the firearms museum, but visited all the others and each brings something significant to the center.
The Draper Natural History Museum was filled with interactive components detailing the local land and wildlife. Taxidermic animals are present throughout, offering visitors a chance to see local wildlife up close, including owls, wolves, foxes and bears. Exhibits showcase things like textured sheep horns, the sounds of various birdcalls and scents of local trees and plants. Interactive screens also give kids the chance to study the various habitats surrounding Cody and the Yellowstone area, then answer trivia questions about what they read. There is also a stamp booklet throughout the museum where kids can collect stamps based on the various ecosystems they explore. It’s a ton of fun for kids and probably the best museum the Center of the West has to offer.
At the Buffalo Bill Museum, a hologram of Buffalo Bill himself welcomes you—something that was a big hit with all the children. The museum takes you through the history of Bill Cody’s life, discussing his family, cultural significance and considerable influence on the development of the American image of the Wild West. A large version of the board game The Game of Buffalo Bill is available in the center of the museum, complete with game pieces, cards and a spinner so don’t forget to stop and play together before you leave.
The Plains Indian Museum gives you a look into the life of the nearby native tribes. It is filled with everything from artifacts and clothing to headdresses, drums and model teepees. The traditional music played throughout makes it a pretty authentic experience and there is so much for little ones to learn about the different native cultures.
Art lovers will definitely enjoy the Whitney Western Art Museum. Organized into a few different rooms, there are different places to view paintings of local scenery (including Yellowstone), wildlife and cowboys. An interactive studio has computers available so kids can learn about western art and create their own virtual painting—don’t forget to email it to yourself to keep it as a souvenir! When you leave the museum, there are two tables with different postcard designs and colored pencils so little ones can color the cards to send home to friends.
A highlight of visiting Cody is the downtown gunfight show. Held in front of the famous Irma Hotel, the Cody Gunfighters perform six nights a week in authentic, homemade costumes. They portray authentic characters, including Buffalo Bill himself, for crowds that flock to the area. The streets are closed down for the show and little ones really enjoy watching—but make sure little ones don’t get too scared by the authentic sounds of gunshots.
While you’re here, do some shopping at nearby stores. The downtown area is filled with unique spots like Rockstar Cowgirl, Legends Bookstore and Wyoming Buffalo Company, where you can try a variety of game meats and jellies.
You should also visit the painted buffalo statues that line the street corners. They’re decorated by local artists and auctioned off, but some of them are extremely beautiful and unique.
Pizza and Shakes
The best food in Cody is at Millstone Pizza Company. A large covered porch allows you to enjoy the fresh air while you munch on appetizers like the famous frickles—fried pickles. Inside, there’s an arcade for kids to play in and the menu features tons of delicious specialty pizzas like Chicken Alfredo, Cheeseburger and Peanut Pepperoni.
Afterward, head to any of the local downtown ice cream shops for authentic huckleberry milkshakes. They’re not available in many areas so it’s especially fun to enjoy them in this area and introduce your kids to this tasty berry.
A Little Bit of Nature
Although the town isn’t exactly built up, it’s hard to find a ton of natural spots close by. One great place is Beck Lake, filled with asphalt trails and picnic areas. Relax beside the water as the sun sets to end your day. There are boat ramps available for visitors to get out on the water and fishing is allowed so there is plenty to do without having to travel very far. It’s a beautiful place to end a day in the Wild, Wild West.