Situated in the southeast corner of Wyoming, Cheyenne began as a rough-and-tumble railroad tent city filled with brazen cowboys, Civil War veterans and gold-fevered prospectors heading north to South Dakota. In 1867, General Grenville M. Dodge led a group of men across the prairie to trace the route for the Union Pacific Railroad. He founded Cheyenne near Crow Creek, a tributary of the Platte River, and named the city for the famous Native American nation of the Great Plains. Today the city, located a short drive from the Colorado border, is Wyoming’s capital as well as its most populous city.
July visitors can catch a glimpse of the Old West through the famed Cheyenne Frontier Days, the world’s largest outdoor rodeo. The city has hosted this 10-day event, one of Cheyenne’s top attractions, every July since 1897. Pancake breakfasts kick off days filled with champion bull riding, steer wrestling and roping. The Grand Parade has featured such notable participants as Buffalo Bill in 1898 and President Teddy Roosevelt in 1910.
Many of the area’s historic sites lie north of downtown. The Wyoming Capitol Building, a National Historic Landmark, anchors this historic heart of Cheyenne. A 24-karat gold leaf dome and stained glass rotunda punctuate this 19th century Corinthian-style masterpiece carved from sandstone. Visitors must set appointments for guided tours of the Wyoming Capitol Building.
Political history buffs can also head five blocks east to view the Historic Governors’ Mansion, built in 1904. Wyoming’s first families lived in the red brick, white-pillared residence until 1976. A walking tour of the surrounding neighborhood leads down tree-lined avenues dotted with Queen Anne mansions. Prominent community members, such as the state’s first female justice of the peace, resided in these historic sites.
Less than a mile south of the Historic Governor's Mansion is another of Cheyenne’s top attractions. The 18,000-square-foot Nelson Museum of the West on Carey Avenue houses cowboy and Native American artifacts and weaponry as well as U.S. military uniforms and Western artwork. A few minutes north, in Frontier Park, the Old West Museum explores the history of ranching and rodeos during the pioneer days of Cheyenne. The 60,000 artifacts include 150 horse-drawn carriages and Western Art.
Visitors who want to imagine life during Cheyenne’s wild frontier days, and perhaps get a little taste of gunplay, can do so in June and July. The Cheyenne Gunslingers, a local non-profit group, perform a Wild West show at the staged “Gunslinger Square.” Tourists watch sneaky villains and heroic cowboys in jail breaks, gunfights and near-hangings.
Outdoor enthusiasts can head 24 miles west to Curt Gowdy State Park, named for the state’s famed sportscaster. The park boasts 30 miles of trails for hiking and biking, but it also encompasses three reservoirs sure to please any angler. Rainbow trout and kokanee salmon populate both Granite Reservoir and Crystal Reservoir, both of which permit water sports as well. The unimproved North Crow Reservoir has no comfort stations or picnic tables.