These days, there seems to be a hip food truck pulling up to a sidewalk near you, no matter where you go. But just east of Yellowstone, you can get served from the oldest kitchen on wheels in our country: the chuckwagon.
In 1866, Charles Goodnight invented the chuckwagon, a 10-foot by 40-inches wide covered wagon that carried food, water, cooking tools and a dutch oven. It revolutionized meal time for cowboys who previously had to scramble for food on long cattle drives.
Today, watch your dinner get prepared at a chuckwagon at the Cowboy Chuckwagon Experience at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West in Cody. It’s one of many experiences you can have at this Smithsonian-affiliated complex that’s home to world-class art, remarkable Indian artifacts and cultural exhibits. From horseback rides and an escape room to breathtaking art by Albert Bierstadt, Remington and C.M. Russell, there’s enough here to stay for days. And in fact, every museum entrance ticket is good for two days.
And you may just need that. With five separate museums, the complex spans 300,000 square feet, which is equal to five football fields.
“We have so much for people who want to learn and take a deep dive into our collections, but we also are giving people other ways to learn,” says Levi Meyer, the complex’s public relations and marketing manager. “The younger generations don’t necessarily want to just look at stuff. They want to have experiences and participate.”
And there’s so much to experience at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West. Put on your jeans and slip into a saddle at the complex’s corrals. You’ll ride down to the Shoshone River with mountain views behind you and cliffs rising up near the river. It’s just an hour, giving you a dose of cowboy life without having to commit to a full day.
“It’s a beautiful ride,” Meyer says. “And it’s certainly a draw for people, especially those who are nervous about riding a horse for the first time or don’t want to commit to a full-day experience.”
Then head to “”Bringing Work to Life” at the front of the museum where you’ll find a real saddle-making workshop with leather-making legend Keith Seidel. He and his apprentices will be using tools from 1910 to make saddles, belts and more. Some will be on sale at the museum gift shop.
“Keith is a legend,” Meyer says. “He loves making saddles, but he also loves talking to people about the process and so on.”
There’s also Escape the Vault, a new family friendly escape room opening summer 2020. Head to the escape room to figure out how to get out of the Vault filled with valuable paintings. The plot thickens when you discover there’s a curator in the next room creating fake masterpieces. You’ll find out how well you can work together as you try to crack the code and get out.
Learn About the Remarkable Life of Buffalo Bill
And of course, there’s Buffalo Bill himself, founder of Cody and a world-renowned showman whose Wild West shows entertained thousands, including Queen Victoria of England. Discover more about this Old West character at the Buffalo Bill Museum on site.
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.
Meet Amelia and Her Raptor Friends
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, don't miss seeing the work of Albert Bierstadt. A western landscape artist, Bierstadt captured scenes from Yellowstone, along with the West's most iconic landscapes, native peoples and animals. Through his art, he hoped to preserve the dignity of native peoples and draw attention to the decimation of American bison.
His work and that of others in 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.
Experience the Culture of the Plains Indian
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
The newly renovated Cody Firearms Museum has the world's most comprehensive collection of American firearms, revealing the impact of the firearm on history. From Civil War revolvers to Buffalo Bill's Winchester 1873 lever action used in his traveling show "Buffalo Bill’s Wild West" to guns used in Hollywood, you'll learn the stories behind them all.
“It’s about so much more than guns,” Meyer says about the museum’s new multi-million dollar renovation. “Regardless of your opinion about firearms and gun control, it’s a great place to understand the use and misuse of guns and their role in 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
720 Sheridan Avenue Cody, Wyoming 82414