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From its Wild West roots and cowboy culture to some of the most breathtaking national parks in the country, there’s no shortage of reasons to visit Wyoming. This summer, the state celebrates a few major milestones that make this an even better time to plan an adventure to this majestic region. Check out these five destinations and summer experiences that capture the essence of why Wyoming is known for its untamed spirit of the West.
Celebrate the “Year of Hemingway” (Sheridan, WY)
While most Americans probably associate Ernest Hemingway more closely with Key West, he also has strong ties to Wyoming. The famed author once wrote, “There are two places I love; Africa and Wyoming.” He first visited the Cowboy State in 1928, completing a novel and mailing it from the town of Cody. He had a great connection with the state’s wide-open spaces and outdoor recreation. Even today, visitors can glimpse his signature on the guest registry at one of his favorite spots, the Chamberlin Inn. Visit the town of Sheridan in mid-July and take part in Ernest Hemingway Days, just one of several festivities throughout the state honoring the 90th anniversary of his visit. While in Sheridan, experience hometown hospitality with a meal at the Black Tooth Brewing Company and old west charm with a stay at the circa-1893 Sheridan Inn, founded by Buffalo Bill. And be sure to make time for a visit to the Brinton Museum, located on the historic 620-acre Quarter Circle A Ranch, featuring impressive collections of 19th, 20th and 21st century Western and American Indian art and photography.
Experience the only nightly rodeo in the world (Cody, WY)
Not only is the Cody Nite Rodeo the only nightly rodeo, it’s also the longest running night rodeo in the world, getting its start in 1938 and now celebrating its 80th year of action and fun. While the event is a regular night out for locals, it’s a must-see for travelers who want to experience rodeo culture first-hand. There are even opportunities for kids to join in the calf scramble, and this summer, expect a few celebratory twists to this historic nightly event. Once you’re here, don’t plan to leave Cody right away. This “Wildest Way into Yellowstone” was founded in 1896 by Colonel William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody himself, and is just 50 miles from the east entrance to Yellowstone National Park. In town, attractions include gun fight re-enactments and the world-class Buffalo Bill Center of the West. Just outside town, adventure abounds, with opportunities from rock climbing and kayaking to fly-fishing and seeing this beautiful landscape via horseback. The Irma Hotel is a must-stay if you’re seeking historic accommodations and the Beartooth Loop scenic byway is a must-drive to take in the panoramic overlooks and wildlife sightings that make this region of Wyoming so special.
Relive the Gold Rush (South Pass City and Atlantic City, WY)
There’s no better way to learn about the great Gold Rush than to visit the pioneer towns that became some of the biggest hubs for early settlers trying to make their fortunes on the western frontier. 2018 marks the 150th anniversary of the first-ever mineral claim in Wyoming, as well as the 150th anniversary of South Pass City and Atlantic City, both major mining towns. With summer events and weekend festivities taking place to celebrate, including Gold Rush Days in July, this year is the perfect reason to visit these historic communities. As one of the largest historic sites in the state, South Pass City has more than 30 period room exhibits, a visitors’ center and 24 historic structures. Summer weekends bring the town to life with living history demonstrations, and its July 4th celebration is one of the oldest and biggest in the state. With Atlantic City just 4.5 miles east of South Pass City, both can be explored as a day trip from nearby destinations such as Dubois and Casper, where you’ll find plenty of lodging and dining options.
Take a hike through history on the Oregon Trail (Casper, WY)
This year marks the 175th anniversary of the Oregon Trail, a route that ran through seven states and was traveled by more than 300,000 people making their way west as early pioneers. This summer, walk parts of this historic trail at the Guernsey Ruts, Independence Rock and Register Cliff in Wyoming. And be sure to stop by the National Historic Trails Interpretive Center in Casper for hands-on exhibits that showcase the history of the Oregon, California, Mormon and Pony Express trails, and offer a deeper look into the journey and real-life drama of those who followed them in the mid-1800s. While in Casper, be sure to check out its many attractions for families and outdoor enthusiasts that are both affordable and fun. Learn about Wyoming’s unique geology at the Tate Museum and it’s native wildlife at the Werner Wildlife Museum, both which are free. And tap into Casper’s many local trails, from the Cottonwood Creek Dino Trail to the town’s urban trails connecting visitors to its unique neighborhoods and parks.
Savor Wyoming’s Swedish history (Dubois, WY)
If savoring a Swedish smorgasbord in the heart of Wyoming sounds a bit odd, you just need to step back in time to make the connection. Dubois has some serious Scandinavian ties, specifically Scandinavian “tie hacks,” a specialty group of loggers who cut and limbed trees, creating railroad ties from them. They worked in this region’s railroad industry for decades and, this year, Wyoming is celebrating 70 years of its Swedish history in June with a traditional smorgasbord of Scandinavian food. But even if you miss this big buffet celebration, Dubois is a charming, hidden gem with an authentic western vibe. Just an hour from Yellowstone and Teton National Park, this vibrant destination features weekly rodeos, summer square dances, historic sites, dude ranches, and some of the best terrain for hiking, rock climbing and mountain biking in the state. Be sure to stop at Cowboy Café for buffalo burger and consult the locals at Bear Basin Adventures to help you plan your epic outdoor Wyoming adventure, from horseback rides, guided fly fishing excursions and overnight camping trips.
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