Whether you are a hiker, historian, or simply looking for a family getaway, Cody, Wyoming has something for you. Founded in 1896 by its namesake, Buffalo Bill Cody, the city has long welcomed travelers to its many attractions.
Known as a gateway to Yellowstone National Park, Cody is just a little over 60 miles from the East Entrance. Cody enchants every visitor with its natural beauty, but there is more to the city than that. Steeped in history, culture, and adventure, this hidden gem in Wyoming has something for everyone.
Don’t miss out on any of these fantastic things to do in Cody, WY!
COOLEST PLACES TO STAY IN CODY WY
Top Pick. The Cody Hotel is known for luxury lodging in the Heart of the American West. Located just under an hour’s drive from Yellowstone National Park’s East Entrance gate, it’s also central to all of our Cody activities featured.
Best Vacation Home. Yellowstone House of the Three Bears is a 4-bedroom home only 2 blocks (a 5 minute walk) from downtown Cody, and sleeps 9 comfortably. It’s about 52 miles to the Yellowstone Easy Gate. Check out the pics of this gorgeous property.
Best Couples Option. Well-equipped Cody Cottage is another house rental but recommended when traveling as a couple on a budget. It’s only a half mile from downtown Cody and 2 miles from the rodeo. It’s priced well because of the size, but extremely inviting all the same.
SHOSHONE NATIONAL FOREST
Nature lovers will fall in love with the majestic beauty of the Shoshone National Forest. Hidden away in Northern Wyoming, this spectacular forest hides countless rushing rivers, backcountry hiking trails, and wildlife to inspire city dwellers and outdoorsy people alike.
The sheer abundance of activities available to visitors at the park makes it one of the best locations to visit in Cody. Hiking, fly fishing, mountain biking, and camping are just a few popular pastimes guests enjoy in the park. You can even enjoy the forest’s alpine beauty in the wintertime, when skiing and snowshoeing take over the trails.
To get the best out of the National Forest on your vacation, visitors can take a guided tour and go whitewater rafting through parts of the Shoshone River. Rafting is one of the best ways to see hidden and less traveled parts of the forest. You might even see a bobcat or elk through the trees on your trip downriver.
Visitors to the Shoshone National Forest can also explore a piece of Cody’s history while there. On the southern edge of the park are the remains of a ghost town named Kirwin. Once, Kirwin was home to gold and silver miners and even hosted Amelia Earhart on a visit to Wyoming! Now, the ghost town silently greets visitors as an entryway into the awe-inspiring peaks and canyons of the Shoshone National Forest.
OLD TRAIL TOWN
Take a trip to the past and discover the original site of Cody City at Old Trail Town. Founded by Wyoming native Bob Edgar, Old Trail Town breathes new life into the Old West. Kids and adults alike will love strolling the streets and exploring the centuries-old buildings.
As you wander the Wild West streets, take the time to “mosey” through some of the historic buildings. You can visit an Old West original cabin once home to Butch Cassidy and Sundance Kid, or check out the saloon once frequented by Cassidy’s outlaw band on your tour through Wyoming’s past.
One unique feature found at Old Trail Town is their Mountain Man memorials. Mountain Men helped discover the American West, and many legendary Mountain Men have a bronze statue commemorating their life at Old Trail Town. Some, like Jim Bridger and John Colter, helped discover the wilds of Wyoming in their lifetime!
Fans of ghost stories can take a turn around the old gravesites nestled in the prairie of Old Trail Town. You might recognize the names of John “Liver Eatin” Johnston and Jim “Buffalo Hunter” White, who have graves there.
BUFFALO BILL DAM
Since 1910, the Buffalo Bill Dam has wowed visitors to Cody with its sweeping views of the Shoshone River and the Buffalo Bill Reservoir. The dam sits in the scenic Buffalo Cody State Park and is a “must-see” attraction. Bonus, the dam’s visitor center has a shuttle service to and from the parking lot.
But why should you visit a dam, of all places? The site likes to say that they are “the dam best at Cody hospital.” Aside from the incredible views, the Buffalo Bill Dam sports an impressive history to explore. The dam was once the tallest in the world, and it holds the title of “National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark.”
While visiting the dam, you can find more than just concrete and water. Inside the visitor’s center, you’ll discover dioramas on local wildlife, the dam’s creation, and the vital role it plays in providing water to the surrounding area. Take a seat in their mini-theater to get an immersive take on the history of the dam and grab a bite to eat at Fat Racks BBQ afterward; it’s so worth it!
The dam recommends all customers do some “dam shopping” while visiting. Their gift shop includes unique coins, mugs, and memorabilia, plus tickets for the Cody rodeo. (More on that attraction later!)
BUFFALO BILL RESERVOIR
While you’re at the Buffalo Bill Dam’s visitor center, take some time to swing by the reservoir before heading home. Initially, Colonel Bill Cody owned the land. He often guided hunting tours through the area for tourists to his pioneer town. The wildlife and scenery that wowed visitors in the 1800s still thrive around today’s reservoir. You might even catch glimpses of majestic Bald Eagle at the reservoir!
The Buffalo Bill Reservoir is the product of Colonel Bill Cody’s desire to irrigate and cultivate the land of “Cody country.” Because of the reservoir, the arid desert of the Great Basin into more hospitable ground. It’s because of the reservoir that Cody can exist today.
However, the reservoir is more than just a history hub. It’s also one of the best outdoor recreational areas near Cody. The reservoir sits within Buffalo Bill National Park and provides opportunities for visitors to hunt, boat, fish, and hike around the area.
The more adventurous tourist can even sleep on the shores of the reservoir. The site has several campgrounds popular with visitors who want to experience the rugged outdoors. Don’t worry; shower and bathroom facilities are available for folks who want to give the outdoors a go without missing out on indoor plumbing.
HEART MOUNTAIN RELOCATION CENTER
The Heart Mountain Relocation Center, located between the cities of Powell and Cody, was one of 10 relocation camps built to house people of Japanese descent forcibly relocated from the West Coast of the United States during World War II. Also known as the Heart Mountain World War II Japanese American Confinement Site, the Heart Mountain Relocation Center is one of the few relocation centers with buildings still standing today.
Today, the site is a National Historic Landmark.
Visitors to the site can tour the barracks, hospital, and root cellar. The Interpretive Center features photos, interactive exhibits, and artifacts, so you can try to imagine what life was like for the Japanese and Japanese Americans who were held here. There are also walking trails on site, including a trail to a replica guard tower.
BUFFALO BILL CENTER OF THE WEST
The Buffalo Bill Center of the West is home to the largest collection of museums near Yellowstone National Park. The center consists of five museums (several of which I’ll cover in detail on this list).
The museums detail the history, nature, and culture of the Great Plains Native American tribes and the American Old West. While planning your trip, keep in mind that a ticket to the center includes all five museums. So during your visit, you’ll want to take advantage of everything the Center of the West has to offer!
BUFFALO BILL MUSEUM AND DRAPER NATURAL HISTORY MUSEUM
First and foremost, you’ll want to stop by the Buffalo Bill Museum. The museum (and the Center) carries the name of the town founder, Buffalo Bill Cody. It explores William Cody’s life and his adventures running the Wild West Show. The museum even houses some of Buffalo Bill’s favorite performing clothes! While you’re there, you’ll meet the likes of sharpshooter Annie Oakley and Chief Sitting Bull, who joined Bill in his adventures. Be sure to book a private guided tour to get special access to artifacts not available to the general visitor!
The Buffalo Bill Center of the West is also the perfect stop for nature lovers. You can also take the family to the Draper Natural History Museum, where Yellowstone’s unique ecosystems and animals come to life. You’ll want to make time to visit the Draper museum during one of their outdoor Raptor Experiences when kids will get up close and personal with live birds of prey!
Speaking of kids, families with young kids will find plenty to do at the center, too. Most museums have interactive displays dedicated to getting kids interested in Wyoming history and culture. The Center also provides workshops and Family Fun Days throughout the year that explore everything from horseback riding to arts and crafts!
While at the museum, you can give your tastebuds a real taste of the Old West. Check out one of the Buffalo Bill Center’s bi-weekly Chuckwagon dinners, where you can enjoy a delicious array of bison, brats, and plenty of down-home sides. Yum!
PLAINS INDIAN MUSEUM
Discover the living tradition and rich history of the Great Plains Native Americans at the Plains Indian Museum. The Plains Indian Museum is part of the Buffalo Bill Center of the West’s offerings.
The Plains Indian Museum opened its doors in 1973 to preserve the stories of the Shoshoni, Sioux, and other Great Plains tribes. Inside its doors, artifacts such as the famous tipi, buffalo horns, headdresses, and drums are just a few you will explore during your visit.
The museum has five main exhibits built around specific themes. One unique offering is the Land of Many Gifts exhibit, which showcases the contributions of women in the Great Plains Indian society. The presentations on beadwork, economics, and the social importance of women will inspire every young girl who walks through the museum’s doors.
The museum strives to use the past to better the future through its culturally significant exhibits. While there, you’ll discover how the tribes have kept their traditions alive in the modern world. Make sure to check out the museum’s gift shops to find reproductions of the beautiful needlework and beading found in the Plains Indian Museum.
CODY FIREARMS MUSEUM
Yet another offering of the Buffalo Bill Center of the West, the Cody Firearms Museum, exhibits the world’s most extensive firearms collection. The impressive array of firearms first opened in 1975 as the Winchester Arms Museum. However, it changed ownership in 1991, reopening as the Cody Firearms Museum.
The star attraction of the Cody Firearms Museum is the Winchester Arms Collection. The museum originally received the collection on loan from the Olin Corporation, also known as Winchester Ammunition. But part of why the Cody Firearms Museum underwent a rebranding in 1991 was that it hosts virtually every major gun manufacturer globally, including products from Sturm, Ruger, & Co. Savage, and Smith. During your visit, you’ll explore the seemingly endless array of firearms, plus 30,000 fire-arm-related artifacts!
The Cody Firearms Museum shows off more than just artifacts from the Old West. In its halls, you’ll find guns and fire-arm paraphernalia from Hollywood movies, sporting history, and the military dating back to the 1400s! In addition, kids and adults alike will love visiting the recreation of Joseph Browning’s workshop, where they can learn all about how firearms get made. You can even book a private tour led by a firearm expert, during which you get to see guns not visible to the general public.
But don’t stop your exploration at the Cody Firearms Museum! After your tour, you have to check out the Cody Firearms Experience. The interactive experience allows shooters of all levels to try their hand at reproductions of weapons seen at the museum. From the Gatling gun to flintlock rifles, even brand-new shooters can give them a “shot.”
Both the Firearms Museum and the Firearms Experience are kid-friendly. The Firearms Experience provides a Kids Arcade for younger children, while older kids can try their hand at most calibers, though only adults can shoot the automatic machine guns. You’ll definitely want to grab an “I Shot A…” commemorative t-shirt on your way out; this experience is one you won’t forget!
(If you like relic guns and weapons, you can also try the Cody Dug Up Gun Museum! You’ll find over a thousand weapons from prominent time periods — from the Gold Rush through WWII.)
WHITNEY WESTERN ART MUSEUM
The final Buffalo Bill Center museum on the list is the Whitney Art Museum. First opening in 1959, the Whitney Art Museum boasts a surprising array of traditional and contemporary art. While at the museum, you’ll find displays featuring Native Americans, folkloric legends of the Old West, and scenes from history.
The Whitney Art Museum illustrates several themes in its exhibits, including Native Identity and Representation, Yellowstone Through Artists’ Eye, and the Contemporary West. Pieces of note include the deeply emotional “The Last Buffalo” painting, and the contemporary art on the “Today’s West” wall that rethinks outdated stereotypes and worldviews with modern art.
The museum focuses on telling the stories the artists of the west tell. You can dive into the world of one of the most renowned artists of the American-West, Frederic Remington. Several of Remington’s pieces line the museum’s walls, but it’s the walk-thru recreation of his New York art studio that steals the show.
BILL CODY RANCH
No visit to the Wild West is complete without horseback riding, nights spent in a log cabin, and homemade cooking! You’ll find all that and more at the Bill Cody Ranch.
The ranch first opened as the Lazy Bar H Ranch in 1925 under the ownership of Hollywood star Leonard Morris. Morris wanted to bring the Dude Ranch lifestyle to the East coasters. However, it wasn’t until 1971 that Buffalo Bill Cody’s great-grandson (also named Bill Cody) bought the ranch and renamed it the Bill Cody Ranch.
Since then, the ranch has welcomed visitors from all walks of life to enjoy a taste of the Old West. Horseback riding adventures will take you and the family deep into the Wapiti Valley, where world-class fly fishing and a delicious campfire cookout await you.
Families will find plenty to do at the ranch for the kids, no matter their age! Pony rides introduce younger children to horses, giving them the cowboy experience they’ve been looking forward to. Kids can also learn to rope like a rodeo star or throw horseshoes like a pro while at the ranch.
Last but certainly not least, the Bill Cody Ranch also provides plenty of opportunities for rest and relaxation. The kids can enjoy a marshmallow roast and stories at night while mom and dad wind down with a glass of wine (or whiskey for a more realistic experience) at the Saddlesore Saloon.
ATTEND A RODEO
Aside from being the home to Buffalo Bill, Cody is best known as the Rodeo Capital of the World. Buffalo Bill started the tradition with his Wild West Shows held in Cody that hosted the likes of the Prince of Monaco. Over the years, rodeo has evolved into a lifestyle for the residents of Cody.
Today, the Cody Stampede and Cody Nite Rodeo have seen the stars of rodeo earn their spurs at one of the best outdoor rodeos in the world. Cowboys from all over the world arrive to compete for $400,000 and fame. The whole town lights up to celebrate the sport from June through August each year.
You’ll want to make sure and visit sometime in the summer to attend the Cody Nite Rodeo, which happens to be the only nightly rodeo in the world. Show up early, and the kids can learn to rope like a cowpoke and get their faces painted by rodeo clowns!
The Cody Stampede happens during the first week of July, culminating in a massive celebration of independence and rodeo. Head to Sheridan Street on the 4th of July to watch one of the best parades in the country before hitting up the rodeo for a day of bull riding and bucking broncos.
If attending a rodeo is on your bucket list, there’s no better place to do it than Cody. But, you’ll want to make sure and plan ahead; the Stampede is one of the most famous rodeos in the world, and tickets sell fast.
CODY WYOMING ADVENTURES
If you’re looking for some fun tours and adventures to really experience Cody, Wyoming, then look no further than Cody Wyoming Adventures.
Go on the popular Red Canyon Wild Mustang Tour that will take you to see the wild mustangs in the McCullough Peaks. Or see Yellowstone National Park from the comfort of their specialized open-air bus, and experience its stunning beauty firsthand!
You’ll also find ghost town tours, wild mustang safari tours, eco tours and luxury tours. No matter what you’re looking for, Cody Wyoming Adventures is sure to have it.
CODY WYOMING FAQ
Is Cody, Wyoming worth visiting?
Cody, Wyoming is definitely worth a visit! You’ll find plenty of history, great museums, awesome scenery, and plenty of things to do in Cody.
What is Cody, Wyoming best known for?
Cody, Wyoming is best known for its proximity to Yellowstone National Park, its great scenery, and for being home to The Buffalo Bill Center of the West.
Can you enter Yellowstone from Cody?
The East Gate of Yellowstone National Park is about an hour west of Cody. The road from Cody to Yellowstone is super scenic, and even President Teddy Roosevelt called it u0022the most beautiful 50 miles in America.”
MORE INFORMATION FOR YOUR TRIP TO WYOMING
- YOUR WYOMING VACATION
- SKI RESORTS: Wyoming Ski Resorts, Including the One Regulars Want Kept Secret
- CHEYENNE: 15 Things To Do In Cheyenne Wyoming You’ve Got To Experience
- YELLOWSTONE GLAMPING: 7 Yellowstone Glamping Experiences You’ll Never Forget
- YELLOWSTONE NPS: 38 Best Things To Do In Yellowstone National Park
WHERE TO STAY IN CODY
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