Cheyenne is a state capital with a small-town feel. It's in the southeast of Wyoming, far away from the celebrated Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks, and it's easier to fly into nearby Denver than into the Magic City of the Plains. Still, this criminally underrated destination is worth your time and energy, especially if you want loads of Wild West vibes. We're talking windowless saloons for bars, staged gunfights downtown in summer, and eight-foot-tall painted cowboy boots scattered here and there.
During the summer, one of the largest rodeos on the planet takes place in Cheyenne. Founded in 1897, Cheyenne Frontier Days is a celebration of all things Western. The Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association puts on a 10-day spectacle involving major disciplines like barrel racing, bull riding, steer wrestling, and team roping. It's family-friendly with food competitions and festive spirits. There's also an Indian Village with authentic Native American garb, cultural performances, and food stalls, just as there has been since the event's early days.
Back in 1876, Cheyenne had a total of 12 individual trees. The city has come a long way since then — you won't find lions in Lions Park, but you will find a tropical rainforest and award-winning horticultural displays. The hot and humid grand conservatory is 50 feet tall and houses a fairy garden and a wondrous array of flora. Outside, the Lions Park Tree Walk showcases 37 species of trees, and there's a labyrinth and veggie garden. The Paul Smith Children's Village features wading ponds and a huge set of Jenga.
The Wyoming Capitol building is over 130 years old and recently underwent a $300 million renovation. This National Historic Landmark looks rather spiffy these days and could just be the best of the lot, but we'll leave that up to you to decide. The wood's been restored and trompe l'oeil art redone for that newly painted pop of color. And the room where Wyoming granted its women suffrage 50 years before the 19th Amendment has been reclaimed.
Keen on a lazy day out where you can have fun in the sun without too much effort? Terry Bison ranch is the place for you. You can take it easy at the animal enclosures filled with camels, alpacas, llamas, ostriches, pigs, and goats. Or kick back while letting black-tongued bison nibble food from your palms through a train window. If that's too sedate for you, you might want to hop on a horse or ride off into the sunset on an ATV (before making your way back, of course). Once you've worked up an appetite, you can let your carnivorous side take over by ordering short ribs and bison burgers. The ethically conflicted can opt for other kinds of protein and salads. Digest your food with a stroll around the lush grasslands.
This attraction is run by volunteers passionate about its subject matter—it honors the strong Pioneer women of various backgrounds who made a mark as bronc riders, ranchers, property owners, and even hustling robbers. You'll see costumes, artifacts, and audiovisual material. The museum is small but packs a punch, and you won't regret spending time here. Proceeds from the gift shop support the upkeep, so purchase trinkets and souvenirs to your heart's content.
If it's winter in Cheyenne and you're looking for something to do indoors, you can spend a solid hour at the Cheyenne Depot Museum, although young kids might struggle to appreciate the exhibits. Find out about Union Pacific railroad history and the labor that went into laying down tracks, and check out the Big Boy steam engine and the mini model train.
This one-and-a-half-hour historic tour narrated by knowledgeable and entertaining guides will deepen your understanding of Cheyenne's history and the various characters who made a splash in the city. You'll hear about gunmen and outlaws and see examples of different architectural styles along the way. During Halloween and Christmas, there are themed tours as well.
A mountain biker's dream lies at the bottom of the Laramie Mountains, half an hour west of Cheyenne. The bike trails are award-winning, but if you're more confident on your two feet, you can hike up to 35 miles of signposted paths to suit different fitness levels—we recommend the four-mile Stone Temple Pilot Loop. You can also go fishing at Granite Reservoir or test your archery skills on the 28-target course. There are camping grounds here and at Vedauwoo Recreation Area, a short drive away down Happy Jack Road. The latter is popular with rock climbers. Make a detour to the Ames Monument if you've got time to spare, and blast some Cheyenne-themed country music en route, courtesy of Garth Brooks and George Strait.
Local businessman Erasmus Nagle built this Victorian mansion in the late 19th century. He acquired sandstone blocks that had the distinction of being rejected by the concurrent construction project at the State Capitol building. Senator Warren eventually bought the mansion in 1910 and hosted esteemed guests like Presidents William Howard Taft and Theodore Roosevelt. When the senator died, his wife Clara gave the property to the YWCA. Today, it's a bed and breakfast with some original finishes still in place.