Cody, Wyoming, is home to a rich cultural history and Old Western legacy (most notably William “Buffalo Bill” Cody, who the town and many, many other landmarks are named after). Majestic mountains, heart-pumping rodeos, and a visit to a spooky ghost town are just the tip of the iceberg of what you can do in this wild city.
It is also gateway to Yellowstone, which is the reason it was a key stop on my Wyoming road trip—which began in the City of Casper made a pitstop in Meeteetse, then on to Cody, and finally to Yellowstone NP (the perfect route!). PS: Road trips through the sparse lands of Wyoming are perfect ways to stay safe and socially distanced.
Cody also has two scenic byways that would take you to northeast and east entrances. The attractions and stunning views along the way on either scenic byway are just a preview of what’s to come after you get into the gates of the park.
Here are 15 of the best ones you can include on your bucket list that will leave you saying “Yeehaw“!
From Rodeos to Museums, the Best Things to Do in Cody, Wyoming
1. Get Spooked at Kirwin Ghost Town
Kirwin Ghost Town is located 34 miles south of Meeteetse, deep within Shoshone National Forest. It is also one of the top ten ghost towns in Wyoming. Though only remnants of the past remain (like the Tollman building), Kirwin has its fair share of stories to hear and learn.
You can navigate yourself into the forest to Kirwin in your 4WD, but for a more bucket list-worthy experience (like me), go with Tread ‘n’ Trails in a Polaris RZR!
Your adventure will start in Cody and drive the side-by-side for about one and a half hours in and one and a half hours out. Fun! They are speedy, which is perfect for escaping ghosts. Overall, the whole tour lasts about 6 hours.
2. Stay at Buffalo Bill’s Irma Hotel & Restaurant
If you want to sleep somewhere historical, then Buffalo Bill’s Irma Hotel & Restaurant is the answer. It was built in 1902 and is Buffalo Bill’s original hotel named after his youngest daughter Irma. The whole place gives off an old-fashioned welcoming vibe that makes you feel at home, which is why it is the go-to place for people visiting Cody (but, the locals love to eat there!).
Different animal heads decorate most of its walls, along with pictures from the olden days, and the floors covered in dark-colored carpets.
As for the food, you should try their famous Prime Rib, Buffalo Rib Eye, the Wild West Salmon and eggs Benedict for breakfast.
3. Day Trip Yellowstone National Park
I have been fortunate enough to see many beautiful places in the world, but Yellowstone National Park literally took my breath away! That’s why it’s known as one of the best US National Parks.
There are two parts to visit in the park which you can navigate easily due to its figure-8 design. The upper loop takes you to waterfalls, passes, and creeks. The lower loop is the more famous route of the two as it is home to the Old Faithful geyser.
Aside from the good Old Faithful, don’t miss the other sights in Yellowstone, such as Black Sand Basin, Yellowstone Falls, Sulphur Caldron, and Mud Volcano.
4. Visit the 5 Museums at Buffalo Bill Center of the West
Buffalo Bill Center of the West is five museums in one, each with its artifacts and works of art that take you to different times of the Wild West.
The five museums are:
- Buffalo Bill Museum: showcases the life and adventures of Buffalo Bill and other great cowboys and cowgirls of the West.
- Plains Indian Museum: one of the largest Native American museums in the nation, features different arts and artifacts.
- Cody Firearms Museum: takes you through western firearms history and has over 10,000 artifacts on display (almost every gun you could ever think of!).
- Draper Natural History Museum: you will get to see, hear, and smell Yellowstone’s diverse ecosystem. Kids will love this one!
- Whitney Western Art Museum: houses art from classic painters as well as modern western artists.
If you only have time for one, then don’t miss the Cody Firearms Museum. It has over 4,000 firearms on display (some that date as far back as the 1400s!).
P.S.: The entrance ticket is good for two days, so you will have plenty of time to fully immerse yourself.
5. Hit the Target at Cody Firearms Experience
After you’ve toured Cody Firearms Museum, then head over to the Cody Firearms Experience to actually shoot one (and hopefully get a bulls-eye!).
You get to choose from a wide range of firearms to use in their indoor firing range, from flintlocks to modern-day guns.. One of the most popular firearms is an 1862 Gatling Gun, and yes, you have the opportunity to shoot it.
They also educate visitors about American gun history, gun safety, and in-depth information about each firearm themselves. I learned a lot about the Kentucky Flintlock pistol that I chose to take to the range. For even extra safety they clean and sanitize firearms/glasses/earmuffs after every use.
6. Go Shopping Downtown
Your adventure in Cody will not be complete without taking something back with you from their cute downtown. Some of the best shops to get souvenirs from are By Western Hands and Olive & Pearl, but there are plenty of others!
By Western Hands has some of the best western-crafted products you can find. They mainly showcase western craftsmanship in their exhibits and museums and also give lessons to people regarding it. However, they also have a shop where you can buy furniture, leather goods, jewelry, accessories, and art decorations.
Olive & Pearl mainly sells high-quality candles made from coconut wax, each with its unique scent. They also have a wide variety of home decorations and items which are perfect gifts or souvenirs.
7. Step Back in Time at Old Trail Town
Old Trail Town is one of the most popular family-friendly destinations in Cody, Wyoming. You can get there along the road leading to the east entrance of Yellowstone Park. It features authentic historic buildings (a lot of them, by the way), “Mountain Man” memorials, and gravesites of other prominent Western figures.
The different buildings you will see will surely take you back to the Old West days. Some still even have bullet holes in them! Aside from the many sights in Old Trail Town, you can also browse through their gift shop for some Western souvenirs that you will surely love.
8. Visit the Buffalo Bill Dam
It was initially called Shoshone Dam back in 1910 and was renamed Buffalo Bill Dam in 1946 to honor William “Buffalo Bill” Cody. The dam is 325 feet high and was the tallest dam in the world during the time. You can walk along the top of the dam, where you’ll have breathtaking views of the area, including the Shoshone River and Buffalo Bill Reservoir.
The path towards the dam itself is not without its fair share of sights. If you are coming from Cody, you will get to enter Wyoming’s longest tunnel along the way: the Shoshone Canyon Tunnel. It has a length of 2.8 miles!
They also have a visitor’s center where you’ll learn more about the history of the dam and see some prehistoric artifacts.
9. See the Cody Night Rodeo
What better way to experience the energy of the Wild, Wild West than to see the Cody Night Rodeo? It is the longest-running rodeo (started in 1938) and is also the only nightly rodeo worldwide.
While waiting for the actual rodeo (which starts at 8 PM), you can have your picture taken on the back of Mongo, a gentle rodeo bull. There is also a mechanical bull to test your rodeo skills! For the kids, there is a calf scrambling activity where the kids get to chase on some calves.
10. Drive the Scenic Byways
It is always a welcome adventure to go on a road trip on the scenic byways around Cody, especially on a motorcycle. Some of the best ones to drive through are Chief Joseph Scenic Highway and Buffalo Bill Scenic Byway.
The Chief Joseph Scenic Highway (Wyoming Highway 296) is rich in wildlife and will take you to spectacular views such as Heart Mountain. It starts at Highway 120 and ends at Highway 212 (Beartooth Highway) and usually takes around 2 hours to drive through.
Buffalo Bill Scenic Byway has famous places of interest, such as Colter’s Hell and Buffalo Bill Dam, to name a few. It is in the Shoshone National Forest area, specifically US Highway 14, 16, and 20.
11. Take in the View at Dead Indian Summit Overlook
The Dead Indian Summit Overlook is one of the many tourist attractions in Cody, Wyoming, found along Chief Joseph Scenic Byway. It offers a breathtaking view of the surrounding landscapes in Wyoming—which is perfect for taking those Instagram pictures. You will also get to see the occasional squirrel or deer, as well as other animals, while you enjoy the views.
There are signs in the area that tell how it got its name and the struggles of the Nez Perce Indians back then. Along with the plaques there are two sculptures depicting Indians riding on horseback.
12. Explore Buffalo Bill State Park
If you are looking for fun-filled outdoor activities and impressive views, then head over to Buffalo Bill State Park. Located around 10 miles west of Cody, Wyoming, the park surrounds the Buffalo Bill Reservoir (also one of the sights you should see, along with Buffalo Bill Dam).
From camping out in a tent or your RV to boating and fishing to geocaching and wildlife viewing, you’ll never run out of things to experience and enjoy. Even just having the chance to see the mountains in the surrounding area is enough reason to visit.
13. Go Fly Fishing in Shoshone National Forest
Shoshone National Forest has a lot of recreational opportunities, aside from the splendid views. The rivers in the forest have some of the best game species to fish in the U.S., like the Yellowstone cutthroat trout, so it is the perfect opportunity to catch some fish of your own!
Having a guide to take you to the best fly fishing spots in Shoshone National Forest will help heaps, and North Fork Anglers is the man for the job. If it is your first time catching fish, you can also learn how to do expert fly fishing with them!
14. Stay at a Dude Ranch
Experience the ranch life while having the vacation of a lifetime by staying at a dude ranch. It provides a unique experience that you won’t find in staying at any ordinary hotel. Some of the best ones are: Crossed Sabers Ranch, 7D Ranch, and Apple Jack Ranch.
Crossed Sabers Ranch is located 8 miles from the east entrance of Yellowstone National Park. Horseback riding, clay shooting, rafting, and hiking are just some of the many activities you can do here.
Lying near the Sunlight Basin at the heart of the Absaroka Mountains is 7D Ranch. Their activities include horseback riding, fishing, and a program where kids can experience ranch life. And being surrounded by mountains, you’ll have tons of hiking opportunities!
Apple Jack Ranch is the nearest of the three to Cody (only 7.6 miles away). However, you will still get to experience the simple life on the ranch. You can also go on a hike or have a bonfire by the water. It is also close to some sites and attractions, like the Old Trail Town.
15. Snowmobile Cody’s Greater Yellowstone Region
During the winter season, Yellowstone becomes a winter wonderland. The vast landscape covered in thick snow provides opportunities for winter activities like snowmobiling aside from having a different perspective of the land that you won’t get to see often.
You can check out the National Park Services’ list of authorized snowmobile touring companies if you plan to book a snowmobile tour around Yellowstone and the surrounding landscape.
With a rich Old western history that perseveres to this day and a landscape blessed with nature’s wonders, it won’t disappoint with its long list of things to do in Cody. If I were to take something with me on my journey here, it is the wild free cowboy spirit of one who seeks adventure and braves the dangers it will face. One who grabs life by the horns and wrestles it to where it should go. And I hope that you too will take this spirit with you, wherever your journey takes you.
Essential Tips for Visiting Cody Wyoming
Getting There: Yellowstone Regional Airport is a major hub and most airlines will fly into it. You can easily check for the best fare deals at Skyscanner, which also has the option to choose ‘cheapest month’ as the departure to find the lowest priced dates to fly to your destination. From the airport to the city center, you can take a shuttle, bus or taxi.
Where to Stay in Cody Wyoming: It’s best to stay near the city center, public transportation or the area that you will be spending the most time in. For a memorable stay, book a room at Buffalo Bill’s Irma Hotel & Restaurant or the Chamberlin Inn, which are both located right downtown. The Best Western Premier Ivy Inn & Suites or the Comfort Inn at Buffalo Bill Village Resort are both great choices too. Or search some great deals on hotels of your choice at Booking.com. If you’re looking for more of a home atmosphere (or are traveling with a group of people), head over to Airbnb that has houses, apartments and even just a room for rent in every price range.
Getting Around: Driving in a new destination can be a bit of a challenge, but if you choose to rent a car, RentalCars.com has great deals. If you are not renting a car, there are plenty of other options. Taxis, Lyft and Uber are available all over the city. For a more budget friendly option, you can take the public bus.
Best Tours in & around Cody: You can find some of the best tours at Get Your Guide or Viator, and here are some of the top ones:
Insurance: It’s always a good idea to travel fully insured so you are protected in case of trip cancellations or medical emergencies. You can check out pricing at Travelex Insurance.
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