When the west is mentioned in a conversation, the first thing that usually enters the mind of a listener are visions of the rough and tumble days of the old wild west. Thoughts of mountain men, natives, pioneers, gold, buffalo, deserts, snow capped peaks and legendary gunslinging outlaws quickly flash by, before the attention is placed back on matters at hand. It is amazing how the word “west” can conjure up so much attention and admiration, especially when pondering over vacation plans in this vast region.
In order to really get the most out of a western vacation venture, it is necessary to know a little something about the history of the wild west. For example, one would be surprised at how often that the footsteps of western heroes can be traced in old ghost towns that have not changed much since the 1800s. While viewing a remote valley between red sandstone mesas, the picturesque scenery casts a different feeling when it is known that a battle took place in the local area. When wondering why an outpost was located in a god forsaken spot in a vast barren desert, it all makes sense when knowledge of gold prospecting enters the picture. A little bit of western history knowledge can help to put the pieces of the puzzle together and a family vacation can become an educational experience.
The desire to experience key events in western history can inspire an overall theme for a vacation. Visiting destinations along the Oregon Trail, California Trail or the old Pony Express Routes is always a worthwhile vacation theme. Visiting tribal villages, trading posts and ancient pueblos would be perfect for a vacation that has a native heritage theme. Following the trail of old west outlaws with the hope of recovering a hidden stash of stolen gold coins is always a popular vacation theme too. Planning a classic western theme vacation does require doing a bit of research ahead of time, in order to make it all happen.
A good destination that offers a chance to amass as much old west history knowledge as possible definitely is the Buffalo Bill Center Of The West in Cody, Wyoming! No place on earth houses as many old west artifacts and exhibits as this gigantic museum does. The Buffalo Bill Center Of The West actually is five large western museums that are all in one location, so it can literally take two full days to thoroughly explore all that this museum complex has to offer! For those who want to do the full two day tour, staying at Buffalo Bill’s old historic Irma Hotel in Cody is the best option for enhancing the experience.
The Buffalo Bill Museum contains just about everything and anything that is connected with Buffalo Bill and the old west. The antiques, clothing and saddlery items are so well preserved that they look like they were just made yesterday. There are complete shops, kitchens and industrial exhibits that depict western lifestyles of the late 1800s. Tons of memorabilia from the legendary Buffalo Bill’s Traveling Wild West Show are on display in this museum too.
The Cody Firearms Museum contains the largest collection of western guns in the world. Pistols and rifles that many western heroes and outlaws carried are on display. There is one row of display cases after another full of complete manufacturer firearms on display in this place. Even a few old Spanish explorer arms and mountain man muskets are part of the vast collection.
The Draper Natural History Museum houses an extensive collection of flora and fauna gathered from just east of the Rockies all the way west to the coastal states. Ecosystems and predator-prey relationships are conveyed in the exhibits. The geology and mineralogy of western regions is explored in detail too.
The Plains Indian Museum houses Pre-Colombian native cultural exhibits and educational displays that detail events after European pioneers arrived. Items from western archaeological sites provide a wealth of knowledge about everyday life in native culture. Visitors will find plenty of information about the tribes of the Wyoming High Plains in this museum.
The Whitney Western Art Museum is off limits for cameras, so it is best just take the intriguing memories home, unless purchasing a classic work of western art is what one has in mind! Many of the works of western art are for sale, while the old antique paintings have found a permanent home in this museum. The western art collection is vast and many of the works come from famous artists. All that can be said is to be sure to allow plenty of time for visiting this great western art museum, because this exhibit area is seemingly endless.
The Buffalo Bill Center Of The West offers group tours, workshops, lectures and family programs. This museum complex offers a research library that has a vast collection of rare books and photographs that were amassed by prominent western characters, like William F. Cody. The Buffalo Bill Center Of The West has a trading post too, where everything from Native American pottery and jewelry to T-Shirts and Huckleberry Candy can be found. I opted for the Buffalo Nuts and Buffalo Breath Mints, which are good conversation starters back home!
No real western vacation will be complete unless a little something of substance is learned along the way. The Buffalo Bill Center Of The West is a great place to start a western theme vacation venture, because this museum offers such a vast wealth of historical information. While on a family vacation in the Yellowstone neighborhood of Wyoming, traveling down the road to the Buffalo Bill Center Of The West is certainly a worthwhile thing to do. This museum complex is absolutely gigantic, so plan on wandering around for quite a spell!
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