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Wyoming Wanderers: Cody

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. John Raven
  • 90th Missile Wing Public Affairs

Hey Wranglers,

I had the chance to get out and see some of this great state over our last four-day weekend. My family and I decided to head up to Cody and see the beautiful sites that Northwest Wyoming has to offer.


On the 6.5 hour drove up, we decided to stop in Thermopolis. Thermopolis is famous for its natural hot springs. In 1896, a treaty was signed with the Shoshone and the Arapaho which guaranteed that the hot spring would be free to the public. There is a bath house located on the state park ground that includes an indoor and outdoor pool and changing rooms. The water is a constant 104 degrees and is checked a couple of time an hour. Because it is natural, there is a certain sulfur-ish smell, but it easily goes away with a shower. Also located in the park are walking trails around the hot springs, a playground for kids and a small bison herd that can be viewed from your vehicle. Always remember to stay in your vehicle when viewing the bison, they look fluffy but appreciate your distance.

Once we arrived in Cody and settled into our Airbnb, it was time to go get some dinner. We chose to try a local place called Cassie’s. The wait was not long and the food was good. Cassie’s is known for its live music and dancing; however, that started after my bedtime.


The next morning, we woke up early (to complaining kids) and got on the road shortly before 7 a.m.. The plan for the day was to take the drive up the Highway 296 Chief Joseph Scenic Byway and then onto Highway 212, known as the Beartooth Highway. The views we witnessed up in the mountains were spectacular. My kids, who had never seen mountains this close before, were wide-eyed the whole time. We stopped multiple times to take photos and take in the views. We saw some wildlife while driving, including  deer and  a red fox, and we also got to feed chipmunks which my dog was excited to meet. The Beartooth Highway for us ended in the town of Red Lodge, Montana. We had packed lunch and stopped at a little rest area right next to the Rock Creek and my boys got to throw rocks in the river. After lunch we got some ice cream at a local shop and then drove back to Cody via Highway 72.

*Editor's Note: Make sure to check WYDoT's 511 app or other travel safety service to ensure that the Beartooth is open. Due to its extreme altitude, the road often closes in October and will not reopen until May or June.

After a brief nap, we took a short drive east to the Heart Mountain Interpretive Center. At first, it seemed odd that there would be a World War II National Historic Landmark in this part of Wyoming; however, Heart Mountain was one of 10 confinement camps used during World War II for Japanese-Americans. The Center contained many pictures, information and artifacts from the 3 years that the camp was used to house more than  14,000 people. There were examples of the housing they were given on arrival. Families were given a single 16 x 20 room. Bathrooms were in latrines and shared by 250 people. The lodging they were given was built quickly with green wood and when the wood would shrink, there would be gaps between planks up to ½ inch wide, which was not ideal in a Wyoming winter or summer. In the spring of 1943, the government reinstated the draft for those in the camp. Over 800 men from Heart Mountain served in the military, many being members of the famed 442nd Regimental Combat Team, the most decorated unit in U.S. military history for its size and strength. Fifteen men from that unit died in service to their country and two received the Medal of Honor. As sobering as the entire visit was, there was one thing that really shocked me towards the end of the tour. In 1945, the Japanese-Americans interned at Heart Mountain were finally told that they were allowed to return home. Yet, many had lost everything or had little to return to. When they left the camp, Japanese Americans were only given $25 and a train ticket to wherever they wanted to go. Then, when they arrived in the communities they had lived in before Heart Mountain, many were not welcoming to them. It was a sobering part of American history and not one that many know about.

That night for dinner we went to the ‘The Irma’, originally built as a hotel by Buffalo Bill Cody and named after his daughter. One reason we chose it was that it also offered a Wild West Show and shootout just outside. We got there early and got a seat on the patio, but show was quite disappointing. Although they closed a side street and pulled out a few little buildings on wheels as props, there were only 3 cast members. They also tried to do a salute to the military by having two of the cast members hold the American flag and the Wyoming state flag. The man holding the American flag let it come very close to the ground and was smoking during the playing of the national anthem. To top it off, the “show” part seemed very unrehearsed, was slow and then ended abruptly with about 20 seconds of shooting blanks. My recommendation would be to skip the show and just head in for the dinner, where they offer a prime rib buffet. The price was right for our kids, and my wife and I ordered the prime rib dinner. That and the sides were very good, so in closing, I recommend the restaurant, but not the wild west show.


Sunday was dedicated to the Buffalo Bill Center of the West Museum. This museum has 5 different wings in it, and I enjoyed all of them. Another part that made it enjoyable for my kids and myself was a scavenger hunt with eight items to find in each wing of the museum. When you find 6 of the 8 items (or 8 of 8 for those who are perfectionists), you can turn the form into the security desk for a sticker unique to that wing.

The first one we walked through was the Draper Natural History Museum. This museum showed and described the plant and animal species of the Yellowstone area. As you walked through, you would walk down a slight ramp to a different level. Each level described a certain elevation and the plant and animals that would be found there. There are items that can be touched or played with for those kids who like to know what things feel like.

The second museum we walked through was the Buffalo Bill Museum. This wing talked about his life, his adventures in the Army and of course his time as a showman. There were many artifacts from his life, to include clothes he wore, guns he owned and posters used to promote his show. Some of the more interesting pieces to me was the ornate jewelry he received from European monarchs when he traveled across the pond.

The third museum and the last before lunch was the Cody Firearms Museum. This museum contains more than 4,000 firearms and is the most comprehensive museum of its kind in the U.S. This part of the museum is broken down into eras of gun development and use., and there are also areas dedicated to Firearm Safety and Basics, demonstrations of different types of scopes and kids can fire a simulated World War I machine gun.

After a quick lunch back at the Airbnb, we started the afternoon with the Whitney Western Art Museum. Truth be told, I’ve never stepped foot in an art museum or gallery. I just never thought much of it. But I have to say I really enjoyed this wing. My favorite pieces were the nature paintings. I’m not much for abstract, as it doesn’t compute right in my brain. If you have heard of the 4 colors test, I’m for sure a gold, not an orange. Another part that made the art museum enjoyable was that my wife had each of us pose in front of a painting and try to replicate it. It was quite fun.

The last wing was the Plains Indian Museum., which explained and showed the unique cultures, histories and traditions of the Plains Indians. My boys enjoyed seeing the head dresses, the full-sized tipi and the traditional clothing with all the beads.

After that, we drove to the Old Trail Town which was only a few minutes down the road. This area consists of 28 buildings dating from 1879 to 1901, many horse drawn vehicles and lot of memorabilia from the Wyoming frontier. The buildings were from different parts of Wyoming and were taken apart and then reconstructed at its current site. There were cabins used by hunters and outlaws such as Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, as well as old general stores. One of the more interesting parts were the 6 graves on site. Each one had a story tied to who was buried there. For example, Jeremiah “Liver Eating” Johnson had been a trapper, army scout and Civil War veteran, while Belle Drew had been a lady of the night who was murdered.

On the way back to the Airbnb, we of course had to stop for some ice cream. Dessert first, then dinner, I always say.


We packed up in the morning and hit the trail back to Cheyenne. We made it to Casper by lunch time and found a burger place called ‘Little Shop of Burgers.’ As it is ranked #7 in Wyoming for their burgers, we had to stop in. The restaurant is monster/Halloween movie themed and all of their burgers are named as such. I had ‘The Fester’ which would typically be a Western or Cowboy burger with BBQ sauce, bacon, cheese and an onion ring. It was delicious. All my family members agreed that the burgers were fantastic. The French fries left a little to be desired in flavor, but I would stop again if passing though for a burger.

Our last stop was in Guernsey. I know what you’re thinking: why Guernsey? On the south side of town there is a small state historic site, home to wagon ruts carved into the sandstone by pioneers headed West. The Oregon Trail Ruts State Historic Site also has a few trails and spots you can walk to that are not difficult. It was neat to see the ruts that were created and think about the people who had made it this far and still had a ways to go to Utah, Oregon or California. It also made me more grateful for the interstate and cars.

So if you are looking for something to do over a long weekend, consider heading up to any of the sites in Cody. You won’t regret the trip. As my kids like to misquote, “Adventure is up there!”