Last Updated on May 30, 2022 by Jim Ferri
We found many interesting things to do in Cody, WY. Ironically, we hadn’t even planned to go there…
Estimated reading time: 8 minutes
Driving to Yellowstone National Park after a road trip across southern South Dakota, we had planned to overnight in Sheridan, Wyoming. But we also wanted to see the dinosaur dig in Thermopolis, a small town to the south, so we decided instead to spend a few nights in Cody, WY on the way.
It turned out to be a surprisingly good decision. We discovered that Cody epitomizes the Old West more than most other places in America. In fact, it was exceptional.
Cody, WY, Home of “Buffalo Bill”
Cody was named for its founder, the legendary William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody. He was one of the most colorful characters in the history of the American West. In fact, Cody was an Army scout, Pony Express rider, buffalo hunter and prospector.
But he was best known as a showman for his Buffalo Bill’s Wild West shows. Those shows toured the USA and Europe, entertaining huge audiences including presidents, Queen Victoria of the UK, and even Pope Leo XIII.
Today, the city of Cody’s original population has grown ten-fold to about 9,800. But the city, however, has kept a firm hold on its historical roots.
There are many things to do in Cody, WY. In fact, it’s one of the most memorable small cities you’ll find anywhere, with good restaurants and shopping, and comfortable hotels. It’s also a good stepping-off point for a visit to Yellowstone National Park and a drive along the Beartooth Highway. The Beartooth is spectacular, and was once acclaimed as “the most beautiful drive in America” by CBS-TV.
See Cody’s Exceptional Museums
If you had to pick a focal point of Cody, it would be the Buffalo Bill Center of the West. In fact, you’d be hard put to find anything else quite like it anywhere in America. This is the top attraction of all the things to do in Cody, WY.
It’s a spectacularly interesting place that’s dedicated to the American West. It’s also affiliated with the Smithsonian in Washington, DC and the prestigious Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City.
The complex is not one museum, but five fascinating complexes under one roof: the Draper Natural History Museum, the Buffalo Bill Museum, the Plains Indian Museum, the Cody Firearms Museum and the Whitney Western Art Museum. Accordingly, the moment you walk in the door you understand why critics rave about the place.
But the Buffalo Bill Center doesn’t just celebrate its namesake. It also celebrates the American West in its entirety, including its peoples, art, landscape, culture and history. It’s so diverse, entertaining, and educational that some exhibits mesmerize you. Plan to spend at least a half-day inside. Also, keep in mind that your admission is for all five museums.
Buffalo Bill Center of the West
720 Sheridan Avenue
Cody, WY 82414
Tel: (307) 587-4771
Open: Varies by date
Admission: Adults $22 / Senior $21 / Students $20 / Children 6-17 $15 (under 5 years free)
Rodeos and Cowboy Music
As you might expect, since Cody is cowboy country that means rodeo. In fact, Cody proclaims itself as the “Rodeo Capital of the World.” And every night from June 1 through August 31 you can enjoy Cody Night Rodeo. The rodeo is a grand event with everything from calf roping and steer wrestling to saddle-bronc and steer riding.
Although we missed the rodeo by a few weeks, we were right on the money, at least date wise, for Dan Miller’s Cowboy Music Revue.
Originally, I thought it would be a bit hokey, and had second thoughts about seeing it, but was pleasantly surprised.
Dan Miller, our singing cowboy, gave us a very entertaining Branson-style musical revue, complete with those cowboy songs you knew from childhood (and beyond). In addition, the repertoire sprinkled with bits of humor throughout.
The revue is located next door to the Irma Hotel, built by Cody and named for his youngest daughter Irma. Cody also stayed in the hotel frequently after his Wild West Show tours, which ensured the hotel’s popularity. In its restaurant you’ll still see the cherrywood backbar given to Cody by Queen Victoria following a command performance he gave her.
The Cowboy Music Revue and the Irma have a dinner/show package that’s $39.99 per person (tax included). Since tickets for the revue alone are $20 each, it’s a good value…especially since the prime rib is said to be legendary. Put it on your list of things to do in Cody, WY.
Cody Night Rodeo
519 W Yellowstone Avenue
Cody, WY 82414
Open: daily 8-10pm
Tel: (307) 587-5155
Admission: June-August: Adults $23 / Children $11.50. Special events (Cody Stampede, etc. $30 per person)
Dan Miller’s Cowboy Music Revue
Walk Through Old Trail Town
The morning after our arrival we stopped at the Old Trail Town. It’s one of the most fascinating places of western memorabilia I’ve seen in a long time. Although it’s located right in the middle of town near the Buffalo Bill Center, you could pass it by if you didn’t know what to look for.
26 historic cabins and buildings were moved here, on the spot where Buffalo Bill helped design the town of Cody. One of them is the hideout of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, and their Hole in the Wall gang.
In fact, it’s an actual treasure trove of historic western structures, authentic right down to the bullet holes in the door of the 1888 Rivers Saloon. Furthermore, the saloon was frequented by cowboys, gold miners and outlaws, including Butch Cassidy and others. It originally stood at the mouth of Wood River about a half-hour away near Meeteetse, WY. There is also at a historical cemetery adjacent to the old town.
Old Trail Town & Museum of the Old West
1831 Demaris Drive
Cody, WY 82414
Tel: (307) 587-5302
Open: May 15 – Sept. 30 | 8:00am – 6:00pm
Admission: Adults $10.00 / 65+ $9 / Children 6-12 $5 (under 5 years free) Active U.S. Military free
Visit Heart-Breaking Heart Mountain
There’s more history, albeit infamous, about a 20-minute drive outside Cody. It’s Heart Mountain, a Japanese-American internment camp from World War II. Many find Heart Mountain heart-breaking, but it’s a National Historical Landmark that’s well worth a visit. It’s among the most interesting things to do in Cody.
With a wonderful interpretive center containing photographs, oral histories, etc., it explains exactly what Japanese-Americans endured during World War II. Up the road, perhaps two-hundred yards from the visitor center there are still a few of the old barracks standing. Now, however, they look more like remnants of a ghost town than anything else.
Heart Mountain is both mind- and eye-opening about a lamentable period in American history. Despite its melancholy nature you don’t want to miss it.
1539 Road 19
Powell, WY 82435
Tel: (307) 754-8000
Open: May 16 to October 2, daily 10:00 am – 5:00 pm and, additionally, October 3 to May 15, Wednesday – Saturday: 10:00 am – 5:00 pm / other visitations by appointment
Admission: Adults $12 / 65+ and Students $10 / under 12 free / group rates available
Where to Stay in Cody, WY
At night cowboys may bed down on the prairie, but the rest of us welcome the comforts of a good hotel and you’ll find several scattered about town. We stayed at The Cody Hotel, a very comfortable and popular hotel on the west side of town. In addition, it’s only about five minutes from the Buffalo Hill Cody Museum, it was well located and had a very helpful and amicable staff. There is also, of course, the historical Irma Hotel.
The Cody Hotel
232 West Yellowstone Avenue
Cody, Wyoming 82414
Tel: (307) 587-5915
How to Get to Cody, WY
Cody is only a two-hour drive from Billings, MT; three hours from Yellowstone National Park; six hours from the state capital in Cheyenne, or from Rapid City, SD; and a nine-hour drive from Denver.
Cody’s airport is Yellowstone Regional Airport, only about three miles from downtown. It is served year-round by United Express via Denver, and, additionally, in the summer months by Delta Connection via Salt Lake City
If You Go:
Buffalo Bill’s Cody / Yellowstone Country
P.O. Box 2454
Cody, Wyoming 82414
Tel: (307) 587-2297