Cheyenne, Wyo. is the place that sparked a love for the Old West in me at eight years old. We’d make the hour-and-a-half drive from Denver to my dad’s favorite outdoor store, and after we picked up a new pair of hiking boots or skis, we’d stick around to soak up the Old West.
What was probably a normal level of horse-craziness for an eight-year-old girl got kicked into overdrive the first time we stopped at the Terry Bison Ranch just outside of Cheyenne. I was hoisted onto a gentle, rust-colored horse named Red, and my dad and I meandered down the trails behind our cowboy guide. We passed a herd of bison, and the wind blew through the prairie grass and I was hooked.
On one trip, we sat in the grandstand at the Cheyenne Frontier Days Arena, watched a rodeo and ooh-ed and ahh-ed over the sparkling fireworks. I decided I wanted to be a barrel racer when I grew up. The next day, we went downtown and rode the Cheyenne Street Railway Trolley, and I still remember the stories of Old West lawlessness that in retrospect, probably also sparked my love of true crime, but cemented my infatuation with cowboy culture. That cowboy culture can still be felt today at the Hell on Wheels Rodeo Series on select Friday nights throughout the summer, complete with a Chuck Wagon Dinner.
As I got older, I started making the drive to Cheyenne for a different reason - my new-found love of rock climbing. Vedauwoo Recreation Area (pronounced vee-da-voo) was a pilgrimage for a sport that would soon be popularized by the likes of Tommy Caldwell and Alex Honnold. As more and more people get into climbing and discover places like Vedauwoo, the sport is becoming part of the excitement that’s fueling the New West in cities like Cheyenne.
I sat down with Jim Walter, Director of Sales and Marketing at Visit Cheyenne, to hear what’s making Cheyenne not only a nostalgic journey into the past, but a blazing trail into the future.
“For one thing, the music scene here is exploding,” says Walter. “It’s really incredible for an Old Western town.”
According to Walter, this new music scene in Cheyenne isn’t fueled by the country music singers you might expect given its Western heritage. Take Ernie November, a quirky record store which frequently hosts heavy metal concerts. Or the summer Edge Fest which celebrates the growth of downtown’s west edge and has welcomed the likes of Bishop Briggs. And there’s also The Presidential, a barber shop that has space for local rappers to cut demos. It’s just one indicator of a fresh and vibrant scene that’s putting Cheyenne on the map for more than just spurs and steaks.
Cheyenne’s sleepy downtown of my childhood has also transformed. The limited dining options of the past have been replaced by a new hip scene. The Met Downtown’s moody art-deco interior and sleek menu featuring a charcuterie board and ahi crudo alongside a pulled pork sandwich paired with mac and cheese is something you’d find in a hip Denver neighborhood.
At the new location of Black Tooth Brewing Co. saddle broncs and mules adorn the cans, giving a nod to an Old West that lives on despite craft beer, underground music and a burgeoning scene of North Face clad millennials in town.
Cheyenne is still the pinnacle of Old West charm from my childhood, but it’s also welcoming a New West, one that’s making it THE place to be right now.
For more information:
Visit Cheyenne Convention & Visitors Bureau
Depot Square at 121 W. 15th St, suite 202
See more information about Cheyenne's Frontier Days and a photo gallery on our Best Rodeos page.