Buffalo Bill: Legend Comes to Life in Cody
William F. "Buffalo Bill" Cody is a fascinating historical figure. Dubbed the first global superstar, Cody had a canny mind for promotion and is responsible for much of the romantic notion of cowboys that we have today. Because he was so good at weaving his own image, it’s difficult for historians to parse which of his stories were fact and which were fiction; but his impact on culture is undeniable. Buffalo Bill was also a clever entrepreneur, helping to found his namesake town of Cody where the Buffalo Bill Center of The West now resides. He had a vision of this town becoming a tourist destination, and it’s impressive to see his ideas in effect all these years later.
The Buffalo Bill Center of The West first opened in 1927 as a log cabin dedicated to Cody’s history. In 2013, the museum now makes its home in the Center of The West, a 300,000 square foot building that contains five museums dedicated to a variety of topics relating to the American West.
A walk outside to the Center’s Cashman Greever Garden will take you to Buffalo Bill’s childhood home. The house was actually moved to Cody from its original home of Iowa in 1933 as a tourist attraction; the home was moved a total of four times before finding its final place here. It’s a neat attraction housed in a beautiful location – keep your eyes peeled on the lawn for wild bunnies, as I spotted two during my trip! Awww!
Inside the Center, the Buffalo Bill Museum provides a wealth of information and insights into William F. Cody and his influence over the past and present. We had the pleasure of meeting and talking with historians during our time at the Center, and I appreciated the approach that they took to describing Cody’s history as it was – the good, the bad, and the (sometimes very) ugly. Every legend gets glossed over to a degree, but the feeling I got overall during my time at the Center was that they tried their best to provide a more balanced view of the local history.
The museum is full of curiosities, from the violin belonging to Irma Cody, Buffalo Bill’s daughter and inspiration behind the name of the local Irma Hotel, to Annie Oakley’s dress and guns.
I also thought the Buffalo Bill Museum did a good job in making interesting, colorful exhibits to keep the attention of younger visitors. In addition to two areas where guests can sit and watch short movies/cartoons about William F. Cody, there are also a number of kid-friendly displays. I enjoyed the Buffalo Bill board game on exhibit, with life-size replica game pieces added for extra fun!
Another nice touch is this playable replica of The Game of Buffalo Bill, complete with game pieces and rules – take a break from wandering the museum and see if you can win the game!
Once you’re done soaking up the history, you might want to pick up a few mementos of your trip. During my visit, I received a fun tote bag from the Buffalo Bill Center of the West Store containing goodies like "Buffalo Bill Breath Mints" and a delicious bag of Summer Crunch caramel corn.
The museum has all kinds of gifts available, and on my last day in Cody I had a chance to do some shopping for souvenirs to bring home. Since Jai loves new pairs of socks, I picked up an official pair of Buffalo Bill Historical Center socks ($10) as a gift for him; and for my dad, I got this Wyoming tea towel ($6.99).
The Buffalo Bill Center of The West is a fascinating destination to not only learn about William F. Cody, but about the American West in general. In the future I would love to return because there is still more to see and learn!
For More Information:
Phone: (307) 587-4771
Admission runs $18 for adults and $10 for children ages 6 to 17, with children 5 & under admitted free; more information here. The cost of entrance includes admission for two days, so you can take your time and come back.