Cody, Wyoming is a gateway city, and each year thousands of visitors come through the city headed to Yellowstone National Park. In 1872, Yellowstone became the first National Park in the United States. Today it is still glorious, and gives visitors the opportunity to see amazing scenery, and a diverse group of wild animals (including deer, elk, buffalo, and wolves). Cody is is a frequent starting point for moving into the Park, but it’s also a picture of the modern West.
The Yellowstone Regional Airport (COD) is in Cody, and both United Airlines and Delta fly routes to the city. Delta frequently suspends service during the winter months, so it may take a bit more planning ahead if you want to get to this part of Wyoming in the Fall or Winter.
The main things to do in Cody include:
- Get all cowboy at The Buffalo Bill Centre of the West
- Keep your cowboy boots on and check out the Old Trail Town
- If you’re into historic guns check out the Cody Firearms Museum or the Cody Dug up Gun Museum
- If you’ve had enough cowboys try the Indians at Plains Indian Museum
- For something non Cowboys and Indians spend some time in the Draper Natural History Museum
- Enjoy the great outdoors at the Shoshone National Forest or The Buffalo Bill State Park on the way to Yellowstone National Park.
The absolute “must do” in Cody is the Buffalo Bill Center of the West. This museum is actually five different museums:
- The Buffalo Bill Museum: here you can explore the life of the man the museum is named after. It paints a detailed picture of how the West was, and the men and women made it what it is today.
- Plains Indian Museum: contains an extensive collection of artifacts from the Plains Indians. You can learn about their culture, and tradition from earliest records to today.
- Whitney Western Art Museum: what’s a museum without art? And this is THE place for western art. You’ll see classic works from Remington, Moran and more. It’s also a showcase for current western artists.
- Draper Natural History Museum: here you can take a close look at the ecosystems of Yellowstone. Want to know about the Super Volcano? You’re nearly standing in it. Fortunately, geologists don’t believe it’s going to explode any time soon.
- Cody Firearms Museum: This is the largest firearms museum in the United States, and was completely renovated in 2019. Those interested in weapons can easily spend an entire day here. Even if you’re not a firearms “connoisseur,” there are enough unique weapons on display to keep you busy for hours.
What is the Best Part of Cody?
Cody embraces the West, and it’s one of those places where you’ll really get to see real cowboys and cowgirls. During the summer, there are two daily rodeos. The Cody Nite Rode has been running since 1938, and the Cody Stampede Rodeo hit 101 years in 2020. You’ll see everything from bull riding, to cattle roping, to barrel racing. If you’re a fan, you’ll love every minute. If you’re new to the sport, you’ll definitely leave with stories to tell about cowboys flying from bulls. You’ll have a new appreciation for this very different type of athlete. Check schedules for parades and other events during the summer.
Best Walk in Cody
While you can easily wander around downtown on Sheridan Ave., Wyoming is all about nature. The best “walk” is actually a hike: Bridal Veil Falls. It’s rated easy to moderate, and is just under 4 miles. During the Spring, melting snow causes the falls to surge, and you’ll see an impressive amount of water. Spring and Summer are the best time to make the trek, but if you have the time in the Winter, you can see a very different snow covered landscape.
Best Restaurants in Cody
Cody is about cowboys, and you can get a great sample of western food at The Local. The food is all locally sourced from farms and ranches nearby. That means you can get a taste of wild boar, or dig in to a buffalo burger. It’s not fancy: most of the cowboy world isn’t.
The Proud Cut Saloon is another great choice. Here you feel like you’re stepping back in time. It’s straight out of an old western movie, with a beautiful bar and buffalo and elk mounted on the wall. No kids are allowed at the bar, but there is table seating.
For some good old fashioned cowboy music, try out the Cody Cattle Company. They serve dinner, but also have nightly shows and music by Ryan Martin and the Triple C and Cowboys band.
It’s good clean fun for both adults and kids. While the “chuckwagon show” can be silly, the music can’t be beat.
Best Day Trip Out of the City
The reason you’re probably here is for Yellowstone, and you’ll likely spend a fair amount of time in the Park. The size of the Park is mind-boggling, so much so that the actual number of square miles isn’t exactly known. It’s at least 3,400 square miles (5,471km).
If you are just making that one day trip, you need to visit Old Faithful. It’s about a 2 1/2 hour drive from Cody. Fun fact: Wyoming locals often don’t tell you how many miles away something is: they tell you how long it will take you to get there. It comes from the size of the state, and the vast open tracts of land. Old Faithful was “discovered” in the 1870’s by the Washburn Expedition.
They made some of the first maps of Yellowstone. Native American, of course, had been in the area much longer (at least back to the 1400s). Old Faithful is a geyser that erupts and shoots water into the air every hour or so. Wait, what? Old Faithful isn’t exactly “faithful?” Well, it is faithful, but it’s a little more complicated than what most people expect. It has to do with when the last eruption was, and how long it lasted, etc.. Still, the National Park System has a beautiful visitor’s center, and there are plenty of places to get a good look at the geyser.
What Most Travelers Don’t Know about Cody
Wild Mustangs live fairly near the city. These absolutely beautiful horses roam free in herds, and with a little luck, you can get pretty close. This isn’t something that you want to do on your own: the horses live on over 109,000 acres of land.
There are several tour companies that will take you out to view the horses. It’s best if you can get there on horseback. The Mustangs are naturally curious, and sometimes venture very close. Again, this is not something you want to do on your own. You are in rough wilderness, and you should never explore without a knowledgeable guide.