Buffalo Bill Center of the West, Smithsonian-Affiliated 5-Museum Complex

By Tori Peglar ,

He rode for the Pony Express. He knew Queen Victoria. He called Mark Twain a friend. And he entertained thousands with his Wild West shows.

But Buffalo Bill Cody, whose Wild West shows brought him tremendous fame, came from humble beginnings, growing up largely in Kansas. His unlikely rise to international fame seemed to prove that even on the rugged frontier the American Dream was possible. Honoring him, along with the history of firearms, western art, Plains Indian history and natural history is the Buffalo Bill Center of the West in Cody, Wyo.

With five separate museums, the Smithsonian-affiliated complex spans 300,000 square feet, which is equal to five football fields. Your pass is good for two consecutive days, and you may need just that to see everything.

Displays include a lock of Buffalo Bill’s hair, a costume worn by Annie Oakley in the Wild West Show, Bear 104 (a grizzly often seen on U.S. Highway 14 between Cody and Yellowstone that was eventually killed by a car), paintings by Charles M. Russell, 16th-century dueling pistols and the Draper Museum Raptor Experience, which allows guests to see real-life birds of prey including a golden eagle, bald eagle, great horned owl and more.

Meet Amelia and Her Raptor Friends

Amelia the owl. See her at the Raptor Experience where visitors get an up-close-and-personal view of some of Wyoming’s most recognized birds of prey.

Opened in 2002, the Draper Museum of Natural History portrays the natural world as it appeared to early inhabitants and explorers. Trailing down a circular walkway from the alpine tundra to the plains, one hears the far-off cry of the wolf, the crackle of a forest fire, or a gust of wind whisking the pine trees. Along the way, one develops a keen understanding of the ways humans interact with their environment, especially in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. This first natural history museum of the 21st century employs high-tech and interactive audio and visual display panels and open spaces for hands-on entertainment and education for the whole family.

The Draper Museum Raptor Experience is a live raptor education program that allows us to share some of our area’s most spectacular wild animals with visitors. Get an up-close-and-personal view of some of Wyoming’s most recognized predators, the birds of prey.

See Albert Bierstadt

While at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West, do not miss the exhibit, Albert Bierstadt: Witness of a Changing West, which opens June 8 and runs through Sept. 30, 2018.

A western landscape artist, Bierstadt captured scenes from Yellowstone, along with the West's most iconic landscapes, native peoples and animals. This exhibit is inspired by his paintings of bison and American Indians, whom he approached as subjects for his art. Through his art, he hoped to preserve the dignity of native peoples and draw attention to the decimation of American bison. 

This and other exhibits of the Whitney Western Art Museum offer visions of the American West through the eyes of its master painters and sculptors. Landscapes by Albert Bierstadt and Thomas Moran share gallery space with paintings of the classic West by Frederic Remington, Charles M. Russell, N.C. Wyeth and W.H.D. Koerner.

Learn About the Remarkable Life of Buffalo Bill

Vintage poster for Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show in London, May 11, 1887.

An understanding of the environment of the West sets the stage for a fascinating look at the life and times of Buffalo Bill Cody in the Buffalo Bill Museum. Visitors of all ages are inspired by the story of this courageous scout who achieved fame throughout the world as a showman and forged a civilization on the barren plains.

Experience the Culture of the Plains Indian

The Plains Indian Museum at Buffalo Bill Center of the West. 

The timeless beat of the Indian powwow and the powerful recitation of stories handed down through the ages are among the audio experiences awaiting visitors to the Plains Indian Museum. The use of audio-visual exhibits in combination with one of the nation's largest collections of Native American art and artifacts have created what Crow elder and historian Joe Medicine Crow called a "living, breathing place."

See the Massive Collection of American-made Firearms

Firearms in the American West exhibit.

Rounding out the Buffalo Bill Center of the West's perspective, the Cody Firearms Museum reveals insights into the impact of the firearm on history. The fine art of engraved firearms and revolutionary advancements in engineering are among the surprising elements of the story behind one of the world's largest and most important collection of American arms, as well as European arms dating to the 16th century.

As you tour the most comprehensive collection of American-made firearms in the world, see how firearms factories, competition, and production innovations have as much to do with the West as the guns themselves.

For More Information:
Buffalo Bill Center of the West
(307) 587-4771
720 Sheridan Avenue Cody, Wyoming 82414
centerofthewest.org

Portions of this text are excerpted from Road Trip Yellowstone by Dina Mishev.