Experience both the Old and New West on Yellowstone’s eastern flank.
The closest town to Yellowstone’s East Entrance, Cody is all about history—pioneer history, to be more specific, and Buffalo Bill Cody’s pioneer history, to put an even finer point on it. Home to a top-notch museum complex, an Old West replica town, and historic reenactments, Cody doesn’t disappoint on the modern front, either: There are lively rodeos, down-home cooking, and Yellowstone Country’s usual array of outdoor activities to satisfy every traveler. The closest year-round airport to Yellowstone National Park (Yellowstone Regional Airport) is here, making Cody an especially convenient launching point for trips to the park.
Things to See in Cody
Founded by Buffalo Bill Cody to serve as a hospitality center for those traveling to and from Yellowstone National Park, Cody continues to welcome visitors with its authentic Old West spirit. In fact, the folks in town like to boast that Cody is the “Wildest Way to Yellowstone,” mainly referring to the incredible wildlife you’ll see in the area from bison and bighorn sheep to bears. But there’s plenty of sightseeing to do in town as well.
Cody has the longest running outdoor rodeo in the United States, and during the summer, there is a rodeo every day. Catch the Buffalo Bill Cody Stampede near the Fourth of July holiday, which always features a big parade, live music and a crafts fair as part of the celebration. In the past the parade’s grand marshals have included astronaut and U.S. senator John Glenn, actor, film producer and martial artist Steven Seagal and even actor John Wayne. If you are in town any other time in the summer, head over to nightly competitions all summer at Cody Nite Rodeo. The Cody Nite Rodeo starts at 8 p.m.
One of Cody’s top attractions is the five-in-one museum complex at Buffalo Bill Center of the West (formerly Buffalo Bill Historical Center), where you can explore exhibits on firearms, Native Americans, natural history, art and Buffalo Bill himself. The best part is your admission is good for two days, so you can come and go as you like, taking in the sights and then taking a break to grab a bite to eat. Be sure to get your hand stamped before you leave the complex, though.
Buffalo Bill’s 1902 hotel, the Irma Hotel, is also open for tours, overnight stays and dining. Don’t miss the cherry wood bar that Queen Victoria of England gave to Bill. You’ll feel as if you stepped back in time 100 years, especially when you order a cold Buffalo Bill Beer. You also can sit out on the patio there and people-watch. At the hotel, as well as at the visitor center in town, you can buy tickets for the Cody Trolley, which runs several times a day and gives visitors a great overview of the town.
Old Trail Town preserves frontier buildings dating back to 1879 for walking tours and special events. But be sure to hit Cody’s downtown as well. You can pick up a cowboy hat while you are there at Wayne’s Boots, a third-generation-owned business, that sells much more than boots, despite its name. Or head to Boot Barn on the hill. Between the two, you are bound to find the perfect hat for you.
Outdoor Recreation in Cody
Cody is no slouch on the outdoor recreation front. Opportunities for whitewater rafting abound on the nearby Shoshone (class II-III Red Rock Canyon is a favorite) and Clarks Fork Rivers. Horseback riding is also big, either through day trips or on an extended stay at one of the nearby dude ranches. The North Fork of the Shoshone River area also offers excellent rock climbing. There is a herd of wild horses east of town – hop on a tour. And in winter, miles of groomed trails for cross-country skiing and snowmobiling take off near town.
Eat and Drink
To really experience Cody, you should visit one of the town’s venues that offers live cowboy music. There are two really family friendly places to consider. The Cody Cattle Company downtown is ultra-casual where kids can run around while adults sit at picnic tables and take in the scene. For a more formal experience, head to Dan Miller’s Cowboy Music Revue in the Buffalo Bill Center of the West’s new dining and entertainment pavilion. More than 110,000 people have seen this show, representing more than 65 countries. Your ticket includes dinner, which is served at 5:30 p.m., followed by the show that runs from 6:30-7:30 p.m. It is timed, so you can still make the Cody Nite Rodeo after the show.
For straight-up restaurants, Cassie’s has the reputation of Wyoming’s “Best Steak Houses of the West,” as seen on The Travel Channel with Samantha Brown. For something a little different, try Cody Cattle Company for all-you-can-eat chuckwagon fare served with a live cowboy band show. The Local, on 13th Street, specializes in locally sourced and organic food, including beef and meat. Because it is a small space, be sure to make reservations. The Silver Dollar Bar is known for its generous burgers. And the best dessert award goes to the Irma Hotel with its famous bread pudding with whiskey sauce.
Our Place draws locals for cheap coffee and its home-cooked breakfasts. And if you are looking for gourmet coffee, Cody has a number of places to choose from in town. Get your double latte at one of the following locally-owned coffee shops: Rawhide Coffee, Beta Coffeehouse and Rocky Mountain Mojoe’s Coffee.
Stay in Cody, Wyoming
Because Cody has been a resting spot for so many visitors to Yellowstone over the years, there’s lodging for every type of budget. Lodging and camping options include old historic inns, cabins, resorts, hotels and even a tepee resort.