By Jeff Burns
Cody Wyoming was named for its founder, Buffalo Bill Cody, the scout, hunter, and Wild West Show creator. Located about an hour from Yellowstone National Park, Cody is full of great attractions.
Whether you stay there or not, you have to visit the Hotel Irma, built by Buffalo Bill Cody and named for his daughter. The rooms are quaint and old-fashioned, but a little pricey. Have a meal in the restaurant and then walk around the lobby and gift shop. Every evening during the summer, the street in front of the hotel is closed off for a Wild West shootout show.
The biggest attraction in Cody is the Buffalo Bill Center of the West, sometimes called the “Smithsonian of the West.” It’s actually five museums in one, and you could spend a couple or three days exploring the Center alone. The museums are the Draper Museum of Natural History, the Plains Indian Museum, the Cody Firearms Museum, the Whitney Western Art Museum, and the Buffalo Bill Museum dedicated to the life of the showman.
Every third weekend of June, the Center hosts an annual Plains Indian Powwow, which brings tribal dancers and Native American artisans from throughout the West to the performance area next door to the Center. It is a fantastic experience, an auditory and visual spectacle that will stay with you for a long time. Word of Advice: Book your hotel early if you plan to be in town for the powwow, at least 6 months in advance. Rooms fill fast.
For a taste of the Old West, visit Old Trail Town, a collection of cabins and buildings from the area that have been set up for visitors. The cabins include cabins belonging to Curly, one of the Crow Indian scouts with Custer at Little Bighorn, and Jeremiah “Liver-eating” Johnson, the real life mountain man portrayed in the 1972 film Jeremiah Johnson by Robert Redford. You can also explore a cabin and saloon occupied and patronized by Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Johnson is one of several notables buried at Old Trail Town, along with Buffalo Bill himself.
About twenty minutes from Cody, you can find the Heart Mountain Relocation Center, one of 10 internment camps built during World War II for thousands of Japanese-Americans forced from their homes on the West Coast following the attack on Pearl Harbor. Not much remains of the original structures of the camp, but the Interpretive Center is excellent. This was one of the darkest moments in American history, and the Heart Mountain complex does a great job of telling this painful story.
It is Wyoming, so summertime is rodeo time in Cody. There’s an amateur rodeo every night from June through August, and a big professional rodeo is in town the first week of July. In town, there are neat shops and restaurants. Cody offers a lot to keep you occupied.