North Platte, Nebraska, may not sound too exciting but it’s got a lot of history, making it a decent place to stop for a day. In this entry, I’ll write about the things I did on my day in North Platte. Visit the town’s official website for more info on what to do or special events taking place.
Firstly, North Platte is billed as the hometown of Buffalo Bill Cody. The Wild West showman built Scout’s Rest, a home and ranch a few miles from the town, in 1886, on some of the 4,000 acres he owned. They are now part of Buffalo Bill Ranch State Historical Park. Admission is US$5. A US$5 Nebraska State Park daily permit is also required for private vehicles. From Memorial Day to Labor Day, it’s open daily. The rest of the year, it’s closed on weekends.
In the Victorian home, period furniture and personal artifacts are on display. The barn has remnants of original posters from the Wild West show along with some wagons and other equipment.
Near the barn is an authentic cabin used by Cody when he was a scout. It was brought to the park from its original location near the Dismal River in Nebraska.
A small pen of bison are also on display.
Near Scout’s Rest is the Lincoln County Historical Museum. This wonderful volunteer-run museum tells visitors about the history of North Platte and Lincoln County. Behind it is a small “village” of historical buildings collected from all over the county. Admission is US$5 for adults. It’s open daily from May through September.
The most important section of the museum explains the history of the North Platte Canteen. It was a volunteer effort used to feed soldiers who passed through North Platte during WWII. From Christmas Day in 1941 until 1 April 1946, over 6,000,000 servicemen and women were served food and entertained by the people of North Platte. Everything was donated.
The “village” is a collection of historic homes and buildings, including an original building from Fort McPherson, which stood near North Platte from 1863 to 1880.
The small boyhood home of William Jeffers, former president of Union Pacific Railroad, is also on display, as is the Brady Island Depot and a caboose.
Other buildings include a school, church, some homes, and businesses.
North Platte has always been linked to the railroad industry. It was the western terminus of the Union Pacific Railway in 1867 for one year. Today, it is the home of the largest railroad yard in the world, Bailey Yard. Visitors can view the yard from the Golden Spike Tower for a cost of US$7. There is a small museum and video on the ground floor. An elevator to the 7th and 8th floors take you to viewing platforms. On the 8th floor, a volunteer is on hand to explain what’s happening in the yard at any given moment. The Golden Spike Tower is open daily.
Scout’s Ranch, the Lincoln County Museum, and the Golden Spike Tower can all be visited on a combination ticket costing US$10. It’s a significant savings if you plan on visiting all three sites. Tickets can be purchased at the first of the three locations visited.
A kitschy site at the highway exit to North Platte is the Fort Cody Trading Post. This huge souvenir store contains a museum with oddities and a mechanical scale model of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show that runs on the half hour. Admission is free and it’s open daily.
Behind Fort Cody is an outdoor area with some log cabins, wagons, and a giant Indian.
The historic downtown of North Platte isn’t much to see. The most interesting buildings are the old Fox Theatre and the Pawnee Hotel.
We stayed at the America’s Best Value Inn. It had clean and comfortable rooms and a swimming pool. Breakfast was not included. Wifi was ok. We paid US$75 for the night.
For food, we had a quick breakfast at the local chain of Daylight Donuts and lunch at the Oak Tree Inn’s Penny’s Diner. Neither were special.