As home to such world-famous wonders as the Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming needs little in the way of introduction. Its untamed beauty has been attracting visitors for centuries, and its appeal shows little sign of abating anytime soon. Whether you want to discover more about the history of the Old West, visit a rodeo. or uncover your inner adventurer, Wyoming delivers in spades. With such an abundance of things to see, do, and experience, the only real challenge is knowing where to start. To help, we’ve rounded up 20 of the very best things to do in Wyoming for first-time visitors. Add a few of these little wonders to your itinerary, and you’re guaranteed the vacation of a lifetime.
20. National Museum of Wildlife Art
Whether you’re an art lover or a wildlife enthusiast, the National Museum of Wildlife Art is certain to appeal. The museum has gone to the effort of scouring over 5000 pieces of wildlife art from all four corners of the globe – and the effort has more than paid off. With its huge collection of temporary and permanent exhibits, the museum could keep you entertained for days – and that’s to say nothing of the art- strewn, three-quarter-mile long trail that winds around the museum. Kids will relish the chance to get hands-on at the interactive children's gallery, while the cute little café and museum shop are both worth a quick visit before you leave.
19. Fort Laramie National Historic Site
As Trip Savvy notes, Fort Laramie began as a fur trading post before morphing into a through town for folks migrating west during the Gold Rush. The colorful history of the town is now on proud display at the Fort Laramie National Historic Site, a fascinating collection of buildings that house an intriguing collection of artifacts and period pieces from the town’s boom years.
18. Cheyenne Frontier Days Rodeo
The Cheyenne Frontier Days Rodeo has been around since 1897, but age hasn’t withered it charms one bit. The annual event consists of ten activity-packed days that promise a fun time for the whole family. Parades, concerts, an antique car show, an air show, a wild-horse race, trick riding, a carnival, a western art show… there’s even a faithful replica of an American Indian village to peruse. Being an annual event, you’ll need to make sure you time your visit wisely, but if you’re in the vicinity of Cheyenne in the last week of July, count yourself lucky.
17. Buffalo Bill Center of the West
Want to learn more about the history and heritage of the west? Then don’t miss a visit to the fascinating Buffalo Bill Center of the West. The site consists of five distinct museums, each dedicated to a specific theme. To find out more about the wildlife and geology of the region, head to the Draper Museum of Natural History. The Buffalo Bill Museum is the place to discover all about showman Buffalo Bill Cody, while the Plains Indian Museum offers a fascinating insight into the history and heritage of Wyoming’s Native Americans. Finally, don’t miss the staggering collection of Western art on display at the Whitney Gallery of Western Art.
16. National Historic Trails Interpretive Center
If you get bored at conventional museums, prepare to be pleasantly surprised by the National Historic Trails Interpretive Center. Forget about the usual exhibits and ‘look but don’t touch’ approach of your garden variety museum: here, the mission is to bring the past alive, an aim that’s achieved beautifully with its interactive, hands-on approach to history. Events and demonstrations change frequently, so be sure to check the website before your visit so you can plan out your tour accordingly.
15. National Elk Refuge
If you’re visiting Wyoming in the winter, you’ll kick yourself if you miss a visit to the National Elk Refuge. During the colder months, the sanctuary is visited by around 7000 elks – and even greater numbers of tourists who want to enjoy the extraordinary sight while enjoying a magical horse-drawn sleigh ride through the park.
14. The Historic Occidental Hotel Museum
Wyoming may have stunning natural scenery aplenty, but it also has a huge amount of history… not to mention plenty of quirky little museums all too eager to tell you all about it. if you’re eager to learn more about the Old West, you’ll do well to add the Historic Occidental Hotel Museum onto your itinerary. Home to an astonishing collection of period pieces and antiquities from the early days of Buffalo, the museum is decorated in such a way as to make you feel you’ve stepped through the door into the past. As the museum itself says ‘At The Occidental, you have the opportunity not only to learn about history, but to experience it’… and who could say no to that?
13. Snow King Mountain
Adrenaline junkies, rejoice. Snow King Mountain has exactly what you need for your next fix. Jump in one of the hand-operated cars on the Cowboy Coaster before winding your way up the 456 vertical cliff face. The way up is scenic enough, but the dramatic descent down will get your heart pumping for days. If you can’t quite bring yourself to take the ride, there’s still plenty of fun to be had at the Treetop Adventure Park, the cute little mini-golf course, and the thrilling alpine slide. Buy an all-day Big King Pass and prepare for one of the most fun-packed days of your vacation.
12. Devils Tower National Monument
If you’re looking for adventure, pack some water and your sturdiest boots and head to the Devils Tower National Monument. Made famous by its depiction in "Close Encounters of the Third Kind”, the formation is a holy grail for rock climbers – although the less intrepid can still have a fine old time of it traversing the less challenging (but no less worthwhile) 1.3-mile paved trail that winds its way around the tower.
11. Hot Springs State Park
As the site of the world’s largest mineral hot spring, Hot Springs State Park understandably attracts a huge number of tourists every year. if you can overlook the crowds, you’ll find a delightful park full of distractions. Take a dip in one of the two outdoor pools in summer, soak up the therapeutic minerals at the heated pool in the State Bath House during winter, wander the gorgeous flower garden, or take some snaps of Wyoming's central bison herd (who’re lucky enough to call the park home)… whatever you do, you’re guaranteed a superb experience.
10. Jackson Hole Mountain Resort
If you’re visiting Wyoming in winter, don’t miss hitting the ski slopes at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort. If you’re a beginner, the lower slopes of the mountain are the perfect place to practice, while more experienced skiers will find the dramatic terrain of the upper slopes a suitable challenging experience. Once you’ve had your fill of exercise, head to one of the many fine restaurants in Teton Village for some first-class dining.
9. Vore Buffalo Jump
The Crazy Tourist highly recommends a visit to Vore Buffalo Jump, and with its combination of cultural significance and geological relevance, so do we. The natural sinkhole was once used by Native Americans to trap bison, with most historians reckoning that at least 100,000 bison were captured at the site over the course of its history. If you’re interested in learning more about the absorbing history of this natural wonder, a visit during the summer opening months is something you won’t want to miss.
8. Hole-in-the Wall Hideout
If you’re a fan of ‘Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid’, why not use your trip to Wyoming as an excuse to visit the hideout of the film’s real-life anti-heroes? The secluded little spot perfectly encapsulates the romanticism and mythology of the era. While it’s a challenge to reach, movie -aficionados won’t regret the climb.
7. Old Trail Town
Walking through the entrance of Old Trail Town is like stepping back into the past. Recreated to resemble the town established by Buffalo Bill and his cohorts in 1895, the site features a host of historical Old West buildings that span the years between 1879 and 1901. Each building houses fascinating collections of artifacts collected from and around Buffalo’s Bill’s original settlement, while the grounds are home to several original gravestones (including those of legendary mountain man 'Liver-Eating' Johnson, fur trader and discoverer of the Great Salt Lake, Jim Bridger, and frontiersman Jedediah Strong Smith) that have been taken from their original sites and given a new home in the town. Open from mid-May until the end of September every year, the site is an educational, fun experience for the whole family.
6. Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area
For lakeside fun, few places are quite so appealing as the Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area. With its pristine waters and dramatic surroundings, the reservoir is the perfect place to enjoy a spot of fishing. If you prefer, you can even rent a boat from the nearby Buckboard Marina before spending a relaxing day cruising around the reservoir.
5. Smith Mansion
As reported by Atlas Obscura, Smith Mansion comes with an intriguing history. For years, rumors have circulated that the mansion was the product of a madman’s perverse joke, and while it certainly looks like that, the simple truth is that it was built by a man who didn’t know when to stop. Its creator, the builder and engineer Lee Smith, began the house with the simple aim of creating a home for himself, his wife, and their children. But after completing the basic form, Smith found he couldn’t resist adding on extra layers –had he not fallen to his death while tacking on yet another balcony, he’d probably still be going. After sitting empty for years, the mansion was finally turned into a tourist attraction when Smith’s daughter, Sunny Smith Larsen, began a preservation campaign.
4. Grand Teton National Park
For wildlife spotting and enjoying some raw natural beauty, few places come close to the picture-perfect Grand Teton National Park. Combining rugged peaks with peaceful glades, meandering rivers with rushing streams, it’s the ideal place to pull on your hiking boots and start exploring.
3. Grand Prismatic Spring
If you’re planning on visiting the Grand Prismatic Spring, don’t forget your camera. The mammoth hot spring is one of the wonders of the state thanks to the vivid, rainbow-colored ring that covers its surface. The explanation for the natural phenomena is actually very simple (we won’t bore you with the details, but bacteria and microbes are involved), but none-the-less, the awe-inspiring sight is enough to make anyone’s jaw drop.
2. Thunder Basin National Grassland
If you’re visiting Wyoming, it would be remiss of you not to take advantage of some of the glorious hiking opportunities the state affords. Although you’ll not be disappointed with the trails at any one of the many state and national parks, the Thunder Basin National Grassland is a particularly excellent place to stretch your legs and enjoy some fresh air. With its rolling glades and grasslands, the park offers plenty of challenges for experienced hikers, but is equally well suited to the more sedentary. Best of all, its crammed with native wildlife, offering plenty of opportunities for bird watching… keep your eyes peeled and you may even spot a grazing cow or two.
1. Yellowstone National Park
As anyone who’s visited will tell you, the Yellowstone National Park is one of the most wondrous places on earth. Consisting of 2.2 million acres and featuring a mammoth collection of bubbling hot springs, crystal clear rivers, dramatic waterfalls, majestic geysers, and awe-inspiring mountain ranges, it’s a truly inspiring experience. A few of the park’s most popular sites include the Old Faithful Geyser, Mammoth Hot Springs, and the Yellowstone Grand Canyon, but truth be told, you really can’t go wrong with whichever part you chose to visit.
Written by Liz Flynn
Read more posts by Liz Flynn