Wild West Travel: Cheyenne, Wyoming

Where Rails and Cowboy Tales Meet

By Reagan Johnson

Cheyenne, Wyoming, is a city that epitomizes the spirit of the Old West—so it’s no surprise so many Western fans make the pilgrimage to its borders each year. Known for its rich history, iconic rodeo culture, and wide-open landscapes, Cheyenne offers visitors a particular glimpse into the heart of the American frontier.

Founded in 1867 during the construction of the Union Pacific Railroad, and named for the Cheyenne Native American people who occupied the Dakota Territory, Cheyenne quickly became a bustling hub of activity. On the heels of the Westward Expansion, the city earned its place in history as a key location in the development of the new frontier, attracting cowboys, lawmen, and pioneers alike. Today, Cheyenne’s vibrant culture and well-preserved historical sites make it an ideal destination for those looking to experience a modern-day Wild West.


Why It’s Famous: The Gateway to the West

Cheyenne is perhaps best known today for its significant role in the expansion of the American West, along with its rich cowboy culture. Make no mistake—these cowboys are no mere relics from the past; rather, they’re practicing and living the cowboy code each and every day.

It’s fitting, then, that Cheyenne hosts an annual event called Cheyenne Frontier Days each summer—often referred to as the “World’s Largest Outdoor Rodeo and Western Celebration.” This iconic event, held every July since 1897, features thrilling rodeo competitions, parades, concerts, and a carnival, drawing visitors from all over the world.

Cheyenne has been a backdrop for numerous Western films and TV shows over the years, further cementing its place in American cultural history. In fact, megawatt Western stars like Jimmy Stewart and Henry Fonda—along with Western director extraordinaire, John Ford himself—have been associated with Cheyenne through their films.

In the comedy, The Cheyenne Social Club (1970), Stewart and Fonda star in a tale of Western hijinks on the high plains; and in a far more serious turn, in Cheyenne Autumn(1964), Ford directed the likes of Richard Widmark, Karl Malden, and Stewart yet again, in an epic retelling of a small band of Cheyenne Native Americans determined to make their way back to their ancestral Wyoming homeland—a true story. Arguably the most notable pop cultural reference of all may be the TV series Cheyenne (1955-1963), starring Clint Walker, and showcasing the rugged beauty and frontier spirit of the area.

And of course, iconic historical figures such as Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane have also been integral parts of Cheyenne’s storied past, only adding to its allure as a quintessential Western town.


What It’s Like Today: A Blend of History and the Now

Today, Cheyenne is a bustling and colorful city that seamlessly incorporates its rich historical roots with fun things to do. The Cheyenne Depot Museum, housed in a beautifully restored 1886 Union Pacific Railroad depot, offers a fascinating look into the city’s railway history. Nearby, the Wyoming State Capitol—a stunning example of Renaissance Revival architecture—provides insight into the state’s political heritage.

The Historic Governor’s Mansion and the Cheyenne Frontier Days Old West Museum are must-visit sites for history enthusiasts. And for a lowkey way to experience the town in all its modern-day glory, downtown Cheyenne features an array of Western-themed shops, restaurants, and art galleries—a veritable Western paradise you can explore at your own pace.


Why You Should Go Now: Experience the Western Heritage

If you love history and Westerns, Cheyenne is the place for you. Here, visitors can immerse themselves in lively local culture, enjoy scenic drives through the postcard-worthy Wyoming landscape, dine on an array of Western-favorite dishes, and experience the thrill of the rodeo up close.

Of course, being set in the rugged plains of Wyoming, outdoor activities also abound in Cheyenne, with opportunities for hiking, horseback riding, and exploring the natural beauty of the region, all within easy reach. The nearby Curt Gowdy State Park offers trails for all skill levels, fishing, and camping, and visitors will have no trouble reaching a number of other parks and trails within an easy drive from downtown. With so much to offer, it’s no wonder this historic town has earned the nickname “Magic City of the Plains.”


Saddle Up and Go

Ready to explore Cheyenne and experience its rich Western heritage? Here’s everything you need to know before you go.

Getting There

Cheyenne is easily accessible via I-25 and I-80, and is serviced by Cheyenne Regional Airport, with daily connections to larger hubs.

Best Time to Visit

Summer is ideal for enjoying the outdoor festivals and events, particularly Cheyenne Frontier Days. Spring and fall offer pleasant weather for exploring historical sites and outdoor activities.

Must-Try Foods

Indulge in local flavors that capture the essence of Cheyenne’s culinary heritage. Try Wyoming bison steak, Rocky Mountain oysters, and fry bread for an authentic taste of the region, and pair your meal with a locally brewed craft beer for the full Wyoming experience.


Shop Cheyenne souvenirs from the INSP General Store and crank up the tunes with our Western Road Trip playlist on Spotify!