One Perfect Day in Cody, WY
Why go in summer: Take a break from Yellowstone just when this Wild West town is at its wildest–in the height of rodeo season.
Back then: The town’s 1896 founder and namesake, William Cody (aka Buffalo Bill), was a Pony Express rider made famous with his Wild West show.
Nowadays: Cody’s hung on to its western roots, becoming the rodeo capital of the world.
Main drag: The six bustling blocks of Sheridan Avenue is Cody’s downtown.
Where to get the look: Wayne’s Boot Shop (closed Sun; 1250 Sheridan; 307/587-5234).
Dinner date: At Geysers on the Terrace, buffalo meat loaf comes with views of the Shoshone River Canyon. $$; closed Sun; 525 W. Yellowstone Ave.; 307/587-5868.
Best joe in town: Beta Coffeehouse owned by local rock-climbing experts, where you’ll see more Patagonia than cowboy wear. $; 1132 12th St.; 307/587-7707.
Royal connection: Stop for a shot of whiskey at the Irma Hotel. The 1902 cherrywood bar was a gift from Queen Victoria. 1192 Sheridan; irmahotel.com
Cowboy Christmas: The cream of the cowboy crop competes in the Buffalo Bill Cody Stampede Rodeo (Jul 1-4; $18; codystampederodeo.com), one of nine stops on the Million Dollar Gold Tour Series. Or hang out with the locals every night through August to cheer on riders, ropers, and barrel racers at the Cody Nite Rodeo (gates open at 7, events at 8; $18; 519 Yellowstone Ave.; codynightrodeo.com).
Giddyup: See the plains the way the frontiersmen did, in a tall saddle. The quarter horses at Cedar Mountain Trail Rides head out every day, climbing 1,000 to 2,000 feet. Rabbits hop around the prickly pear cactus as the Bighorn Mountains tower in the distance. Rides from $35 for an hour; 12 Spirit Mountain Rd.; 307/527-4966.
Smithsonian of the West: Think of it as five museums in one at the Buffalo Bill Historical Center’s 7-acre campus. The huge collection of around 50,000 artifacts includes video footage from Buffalo Bill’s show, gunslinger pistols, and the cast of an Ice Age saber-toothed cat. $18; 720 Sheridan Ave.; bbhc.org
Go wild–in the water: Not into bull riding? Wyoming River Trips tackles Class III/IV rapids on the scenic Shoshone with picnics before the ride back ($70; wyomingrivertrips.com). Or try River Runners of Wyoming Class II/III trips from just outside downtown ($30; riverrunnersofwyoming.com).
Make it an overnight: Ernest Hemingway finished Death in the Afternoon while stying downtown at the Chamberlin Inn. We’d rather relax in the garden, plunk out a tune on the sunroom’s antique upright, or soak in a claw-foot bathtub. From $165; chamberlininn.com
Can’t get enough cowboy? Even more Wild West spirit in town
Grub: Real cowboys rarely eat as well as the chow line at Cody Cattle Company would have you believe. But even better than the platters of beef brisket is the guitar and mandolin playing by Ryan Martin and the Everywhere West Band. $24; 1910 Demaris St.; 307/272-5770.
Gunplay: Buffalo Bill held auditions for his Wild West show at the Irma Hotel. Today, the Cody Gunfighters keep the tradition alive with free staged gunfights out front. Mon-Sat; 1192 Sheridan; codygunfighters.com
Goods: In the market for a fringed deerskin frontiersman coat or Sioux pottery? Tecumseh’s Trading Post is your place. There’s also an Old West Miniature Village and Museum inside. 142 W. Yellowstone Ave.; 307/587-5362.