I recently visited Cheyenne, Wyoming for, yes, my very first rodeo.
The capital city (the most populous in Wyoming with roughly 64,000 inhabitants as of 2016) was originally a transportation hub and is home to old saloons, vast terrain and Cheyenne Frontier Days—which is known as the largest outdoor rodeo and western celebration in the world and welcomed close to half a million guests this year.
Cheyenne may be a small town, but there are many ways to pass the time there. The rodeo, which lasts for 10 days, only comes once a year after all. Below, seven things to occupy your time in Cheyenne year-round, because there’s so more to do than just watch cowboys ride broncs.
Visit the Nagle Warren Mansion (rooms start at $175/two people per night in season)—a luxury bed & breakfast with 12 guest rooms, which may or may not be haunted. It’s owned by a gentleman who will be happy to talk to you about its history (the B&B has been open since 1888!) over a shared glass of wine. Another, possibly haunted, place to stay or just stop in for a drink is the Historic Plains Hotel. Open since 1911, this hotel is smack in the middle of Downtown Cheyenne, close to live entertainment, shopping and art galleries with works by local artists.
Take a horse-drawn carriage ride with Steve Siegel. The former public school science teacher is super knowledgeable about the city of Cheyenne and loves his team of horses as if they’re his own children. Carriage rides are free (donations are accepted) and begin in front of the historic Depot building at Lincolnway & Capitol Ave. daily.
Grab a cowboy hat and have it shaped/tailored to fit your head. If you’re headed to the rodeo and plan on going behind the chutes, you must wear a hat and long sleeves; it’s rodeo etiquette. Formerly called the Wrangler (original Wrangler signs are still fastened outside the red and white building), Boot Barn has a back room filled with hats of all colors, shapes and sizes for you to choose from.
Spend a full day in nature at the Terry Bison Ranch Resort, while getting to know the animals and learning more about Wyoming’s history. A family-friendly ranch with activities for everyone, Terry Bison boasts America’s only bison train tour, which was absolutely a Cheyenne highlight for me. Hop aboard the custom-built train for a narrated tour and the opportunity to feed gentle bison straight from your hands. Follow this with a horseback ride (a one-hour trail ride takes you across the Colorado border) and a mouthwatering bison burger, if you dare, at the Senator’s Steakhouse.
Go for a hike—or a climb, if that’s what you’re into—at Vedauwoo Recreation Area. Just 27 miles west of Cheyenne in the Medicine Bow-Routt National Forest, Vedauwoo (which means “Land of the Earthborn Spirits”) is a beautiful place that smells of cedar and greenery. Horses are allowed on most hiking trails here and camping is also an option.
Breathe in some fresh H2O at the Cheyenne Botanic Gardens (admission is free), not far from downtown. The new Grand Conservatory—which features an incredible tropical plant collection, a Baroque-style Orangerie and a third-floor bonsai house—was my favorite, but the community vegetable garden, the greenhouse and the family-friendly Paul Smith Children’s Village are worth exploring, too.
Catch a show put on by the Cheyenne Little Theatre Players at the Historic Atlas Theatre. I enjoyed the 62nd Old-Fashioned Melodrama in a cozy theater with an enthusiastic audience and a really fun cast. At the Atlas, you’re given the opportunity to interact with the show; wine, beer and snacks are available for purchase, too.
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