The Wild West was a time of victory for civilization, a time where legends were made, and an era that people often look back on and remember as significant as it made America great again, as highlighted by the Washington Examiner. But the Wild West is not only an important time in the country’s history; it’s much more valuable than that as it’s deeply ingrained in our culture.
Much of that current interest in the West is due to its portrayal in classic movies like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid or, more recently, True Grit.
People want to walk in the shoes of Wild Bill Hickok, Calamity Jane, and Arthur Morgan, and to do so, there’s nothing better than visiting a Wild West town to get the most authentic experience!
So, get your boots and Stetson ready as we’ve compiled a list of the best towns to visit to live out your dreams!
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Dodge City, Kansas
Dodge City, located in southwestern Kansas, is known as the “Queen of the Cowtowns” and was a key destination for cowboys and outlaws in the late 1800s. It was the site of numerous legendary events, including the famous gunfight at the O.K. Corral.
Today, visitors to Dodge City can experience the Wild West through a variety of attractions, including Boot Hill Museum, which features a recreated Western town complete with gunfights, saloons, and cowboys. The museum also houses exhibits on the history of Dodge City, including its role as a frontier town.
Other Wild West experiences in Dodge City include a visit to the Long Branch Saloon, which was once a favorite haunt of famous lawman Wyatt Earp, and a trip to the Santa Fe Trail Tracks, which mark the path of one of the most important trade routes in the American West.
Despite its Wild West past, Dodge City is also a modern town with a range of amenities, including restaurants, hotels, and shopping.
Nestled between Yosemite National Park and Nevada, this town will forever be linked with the era of the cowboy.
Bodie is a ghost town located in the eastern Sierra Nevada region of California. Founded in 1859 during the gold rush, it was once a thriving mining town with a population of around 10,000 people. However, by the early 1900s, the gold had run out, and the town was abandoned.
Today, Bodie is a state historic park that offers visitors a glimpse into the Wild West era. The town has been preserved in a state of “arrested decay,” with many of its original buildings still standing. Visitors can explore the abandoned streets and buildings, including the old schoolhouse, church, and saloons. The park also features exhibits on the history of Bodie and the people who lived there.
While Bodie may be a ghost town, it is still a popular destination for tourists looking to experience the Wild West. The former mining town attracts visitors from across the country with events running throughout the year including a walking ghost tour after dark. Why not try it… If you dare!
Fort Worth, Texas
Fort Worth, also known as “Cowtown,” is a city in North Central Texas that is steeped in Wild West history. It was once a major hub for cowboys and cattle drives, and today it still celebrates its cowboy culture with a range of authentic Wild West experiences.
Visitors to Fort Worth can explore the Stockyards National Historic District, which features a daily cattle drive with real longhorn cattle, as well as rodeos, western-themed shopping, and cowboy cuisine. They can also visit the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame, which honors the women who made their mark on the American West.
In addition to its Wild West attractions, Fort Worth is also a modern city with a thriving cultural scene, including museums, art galleries, and live music venues.
Fort Smith, Arkansas
Fort Smith is a city located in western Arkansas that played a significant role in the Wild West era. It was founded in 1817 as a military outpost to protect the area from Native American attacks and was later a key destination for cowboys, outlaws, and lawmen.
Today, visitors to Fort Smith can explore its Wild West history through a variety of attractions, including the Fort Smith National Historic Site, which includes the remains of the original fort and a recreated courtroom where famous outlaws, such as Belle Starr, were tried. The site also features exhibits on the history of the town and the role it played in the Wild West.
Other Wild West experiences in Fort Smith include a visit to the Old Fort Days Rodeo, one of the oldest and largest rodeos in the country (where you can witness cannon firings too), and a trip to the Trolley Museum, which features a collection of historic trolleys and exhibits on the history of transportation in the area.
Despite its Wild West past, Fort Smith is also a modern city with a range of amenities, including restaurants, hotels, and shopping. You’ll get the best of both worlds here!
Tombstone, Arizona is perhaps the most famous Wild West town in the United States. It’s the site of the infamous gunfight at the O.K. Corral, where lawmen Wyatt Earp, Doc Holliday, and others faced off against the outlaw gang known as the Cowboys.
Today, visitors can watch reenactments of the gunfight and visit the historic O.K. Corral. Other top attractions in Tombstone include the Tombstone Courthouse State Historic Park, which features exhibits on the history of the town and its role in the Wild West, and the Bird Cage Theatre, which was once a brothel and gambling hall.
Visitors can also explore the town’s historic Main Street, which is lined with old-timey shops, saloons, and restaurants. Strolling around and soaking in the old-timey atmosphere is always one of the most fun things to do in Wild West towns!
Deadwood, South Dakota
Deadwood, South Dakota was a gold rush town that was once home to Wild West legends like Calamity Jane and Wild Bill Hickok. Visitors to Deadwood can experience the town’s Wild West history by walking down its historic Main Street, where many of the original buildings still stand.
Other top attractions in Deadwood include the Adams Museum, which features exhibits on the town’s gold rush history, and the Mount Moriah Cemetery, where visitors can visit the graves of Calamity Jane and Wild Bill Hickok. Visitors can also try their luck at the many casinos in town or take a scenic drive through the nearby Black Hills.
Cheyenne, Wyoming was once a major hub for cowboys and cattle drives. Visitors to Cheyenne can experience the town’s Wild West history by visiting the Cheyenne Frontier Days Old West Museum, which features exhibits on cowboys, Native Americans, and frontier life.
Other top attractions in Cheyenne include the Wyoming State Capitol, which was built in the 19th century and features impressive architecture and artwork, and the Terry Bison Ranch, where visitors can go on a bison safari, take a train ride, or go horseback riding. The town also hosts the annual Cheyenne Frontier Days rodeo, which is one of the largest and most prestigious rodeos in the world.
Cody, Wyoming was founded by the legendary Buffalo Bill Cody, who helped to create the image of the Wild West that we know today. Visitors to Cody can experience the town’s Wild West history by visiting the Buffalo Bill Center of the West, which includes five museums dedicated to the history of the American West.
Other top attractions in Cody include the Old Trail Town, which features historic cabins and buildings from the 19th century, and the Cody Nite Rodeo, which takes place every night during the summer months. Visitors can also go on a scenic drive through the nearby Yellowstone National Park, which offers breathtaking natural beauty and wildlife viewing opportunities.
The Wild West era holds a special fascination for many Americans and people traveling from abroad, and for good reason. Its cowboys, outlaws, and pioneers have become part of American folklore, and visiting the towns where they lived and worked is a unique and memorable experience.
We hope this post has inspired you to experience a new Wild West town near you. Thanks for reading!