One of the finest museums in the country sits on the west end of Sheridan Avenue in Cody, Wyoming. The Buffalo Bill Center of the West, an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution, is dedicated to telling the story of the American West.
The Buffalo Bill Center is actually five world-class museums in one. Admission is US$19 for adults and it’s open daily from March to November. From December through February, it’s open Thursday through Sunday.
Draper Natural History Museum
My visit to the center started with the Draper Natural History Museum. It’s dedicated to the ecology and wildlife of Yellowstone National Park. With animals in lifelike settings and hands-on displays, it’s a wonderful introduction to the park. Even for those who have visited the park, there is a lot to learn from this museum.
Buffalo Bill Museum
Next, I wandered through the Buffalo Bill Museum. The flagship museum of the Buffalo Bill Center of the West, It documents the life of the iconic American hero Buffalo Bill Cody. On display are personal effects of the legend including his clothing, guns, and saddle along with “Camp Monaco”, a tent used by Cody on a hunting trip with the Prince Albert I of Monaco in 1913. His relationship with Native Americans is also covered.
Plains Indian Museum
The third museum I visited was the Plains Indian Museum. The history, culture, and traditions of the Plains Indians are beautifully covered in several captivating displays. Artifacts such as weapons, clothing, ceremonial items, and art as well as an example of a modern Native American home are in the museum.
After the Plains Indian Museum, I walked through a courtyard with a few sculptures of Native Americans. Crazy Horse was depicted in one of them.
Whitney Western Art Museum
Next was a quick look at the Whitney Western Art Museum. I wasn’t too interested in this museum, but there were some beautiful paintings and sculptures that I walked past. The most interesting section for me was a disassembled sculpture of Theodore Roosevelt called “Rough Rider”.
Cody Firearms Museum
Finally, I walked through the Cody Firearms Museum. Over 7,000 firearms and 30,000 firearms-related artifacts are on display. Guns from just about every war the United States has participated in as well as guns from foreign wars are on display. American gun manufacturers such as Colt, Winchester, and Smith & Wesson have their own displays.
A replica gun factory and hardware store show how guns are designed and made.
In the basement, international firearms are displayed as well as cases where visitors can pull a handle to display more guns. A few national treasures are there as well, including a huge Swiss Army-style folding knife complete with a .22 caliber revolver – made 12 years before the Swiss Army knife was even invented! Another important firearm is a hunting rifle made for Catherine the Great of Russia.
By the time I had finished going through the museum, I was blown away at the amount of things to see and the overall quality. I allotted just a couple hours to see it but it warrants much more. At the very least, I recommended a half day to fully appreciate what the center has to offer. It’s a real treasure.