Yellowstone National Park, our first national park, is one of the most spectacular places in America with natural wonders like Old Faithful and the Grand Prismatic Spring, but if you’re headed there from the east, you have to go through the cowboy town of Cody, WY first. Lucky for you, this little town and the Buffalo Bill Cody Scenic Byway that connects it to Yellowstone are both pretty fantastic…
Before hitting the Buffalo Bill Cody Scenic Byway, spend some time getting in the cowboy spirit in the town that bears his name. Here are some things you won’t want to miss in the “Rodeo Capital of the World”:
Catch a rodeo
With performances every night through the summer (June 1-August 31), Cody Nite Rodeo is the perfect place to get your cowboy on. Buy tickets at their downtown ticket office or from pretty much every other business in town. The rodeos themselves will keep you entertained for about 2 hours with bronc and bull riding as well as special events like “calf scramble” where kids from the audience get to be part of the action.
If you happen to be passing through town around the 4th of July, check out the Cody Stampede Rodeo’s “Cody Stampede” where “over 800 of the top contestants via for a purse over $400,000 entitling it the PRCA's Largest One Header Rodeo! “
Grab a drink at the Irma Hotel
Built by Bill Cody himself in 1902 and named after his daughter, the Irma Hotel might be one of the most iconic hotels of the west. More than one famous gunslinger has spent the night here including Annie Oakley, Frederic Remington, and Calamity Jane. For the full experience, stay in Buffalo Bill’s own private suite and grab a drink at the cherrywood bar given to Bill by Queen Victoria.
After grabbing a drink or enjoying some of the best food in Cody, step out to the front porch where you can catch the Cody Gunfighters shoot it out in the street every Monday through Saturday at 6pm in the summers.
Step back in time at the Old Trail Town
If you want old west history, this is the place for you. Old Trail Town sits where Bill Cody originally laid out the town of Cody, and today it features several old west buildings, rare Indian artifacts, and more. Tour the original cabins used by Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and a saloon where Cassidy’s “Hole-in-the-Wall Gang” used to hide out and hear the tales of the men and women who tamed the wild west.
Explore the Buffalo Bill Center of the West
The town of Cody may be small, but it boasts one of the most impressive and comprehensive history centers in America: the Buffalo Bill Center of the West. At the Buffalo Bill Center of the West you’ll find not 1, but 5 excellent museums featuring everything from historic firearms to rare Native American artifacts. Plan on spending at least a day exploring the 5 museums and research library. (Descriptions and photos below from the Buffalo Bill Center of the West unless otherwise noted.)
Buffalo Bill Museum: Witness the spectacle he created and explore the West he loved.
Cody Firearms Museum: Discover how firearms shaped the history of the American West.
Draper Natural History Museum: Marvel at the power and beauty of the Yellowstone region.
Whitney Western Art Museum: Picture the West through the eyes of its most famous artists.
Plains Indian Museum: Experience the lives and legends of the Plains Indian people.
McCracken Research Library: Dig deeper into our collections of stories, photos, and documents.
Buffalo Bill Cody Scenic Byway
Following the North Fork of the Shoshone River (US 14/16/20), the Buffalo Bill Cody Scenic Byway travels through the heart of the Buffalo Bill State Park and Shoshone National Forest with nearly 6 miles of the byway hugging the Buffalo Bill Reservoir, a perfect place for trout fishing. Eventually you’ll come to Sylvan Pass and the eastern entrance to Yellowstone, but here’s what you’ll see along the way:
On the National Register of Historic Places, Colter's Hell is the first location in WY to be explored and recorded by a white man. Unfortunately, the geysers Colter wrote about have been less active over the years, but it’s still a fun and historic spot to see.
Buffalo Bill Dam
A predecessor to the Hoover Dam, the The Buffalo Bill Dam was the tallest dam in the world when completed in 1910, and it’s still pretty darn impressive today. Learn about how and why it was built as well as take a walk across the old dam road for stunning views and photo ops.
We put the Smith Mansion on this list because we’re hoping you can join us in helping them make the mansion safe enough to tour. For now, people take pictures from afar, but with your help we can open this bizarre, hand-built mansion to the public. We got special permission for a sneak peek in and around the mansion. See our video of The Smith Mansion Smith Mansion and learn how you can help the cause.
If you’re going to stay in a lodge, might as well stay in the one Buffalo Bill Cody built himself. From Pahaska Tepee Resort:
Pahaska Tepee, Buffalo Bill's spectacular historic lodge, is nestled amongst the pines just East of Yellowstone at the foot of majestic Cody Peak. With THE best location just outside the Park's East Entrance, your memories will be filled with spectacular mountain scenery, abundant wildlife, and our friendly hospitality.
Oh, and take a trail ride with this guy: