Sure, you can take your kids to Old West-themed amusement parks and yes, they’ll learn about the Old West in school. But why not let them experience the Wild West as it really was instead? In these towns across the U.S., you’ll learn about the cowboys, cowgirls, battles and landscapes that shaped U.S. history, and even relive that history through interactive experiences. These are our favorite old Wild West towns for kids.
1. Cody, WY
When it comes to Wild West towns, there’s nothing more authentic than Cody, Wyoming, founded by William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody in 1896. Here, you can watch gunfighter shows outside the historic Irma Hotel, named for Buffalo Bill’s youngest daughter; see Butch Cassidy’s and the Sundance Kid’s Hole in the Wall Cabin at Old Trail Town; safely shoot firearms from the 1800’s at the Cody Firearms Experience; and visit the Buffalo Bill Museum of the West (a Smithsonian affiliate) for more history and hands-on fun. This Wyoming town—just 53 miles from the east entrance to Yellowstone National Park—is also known as the Rodeo Capital of the World. Check out the Cody Nite Rode, hosted nightly in the summer, and if you can, time your visit to experience the Cody Stampede Rodeo, July 1 to 4 every year.
Recommended Hotel: Holiday Inn Cody at Buffalo Bill Village
2. Sheridan, WY
Buffalo Bill also has a connection to Sheridan, Wyoming, about three hours from Cody. It was here—at the Sheridan Inn (which he developed)—that he held auditions for what would become his world-famous Wild West Show. While the hotel has been renovated, not much has changed; take a peek inside to see period artifacts and furnishings and imagine what it was like to stay here when it opened in 1892. During WYO Rodeo Week in July, The First Peoples’ Pow Wow and Dance is hosted on the front lawn of the hotel, with Native American dancers, drum teams and more. Other things to do with kids in Sheridan, Wyoming: visit the King’s Saddlery and Museum, stroll through downtown Sheridan, and take a drive to Bighorn National Forest.
Recommended Hotel: Fairfield Inn & Suites Sheridan
3. Deadwood, SD
Maybe you know the Black Hills for its roaming bison or hiking in Custer State Park. But did you know it was in these Black Hills that gold was discovered in the 1800’s? In 1876, a group of miners discovered a patch full of dead trees and a creek full of gold—and Deadwood was born. Soon, more people—from miners to outlaws—traveled to Deadwood, South Dakota, in search of gold, among them the infamous Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane. Today, families can learn about the history at the Adams House and Museum, Days of ’76 Museum and the Black Hills Mining Museum. The Saloon #10 American Whiskey Bar is a must for kids, with reenactments of the shooting of Wild Bill, fun artifacts, and for parents, local libations.
Recommended Hotel: The Lodge at Deadwood
4. Tombstone, AZ
Stroll down Allen Street to explore the historic sites of this former silver mining town, otherwise known as “The Town Too Tough to Die.” Highlights include the O.K. Corral, where the Cowboys (a group of outlaws) had a deadly shootout with local law enforcement in 1881; The Epitath Museum, where you can see actual reports of the gunfight; and Boothill Graveyard, where Billy Clanton, Frank McLaury and Tom McLaury, the three men who were killed during the gunfight, are buried. If traveling with teens, take them to the Bird Cage Theatre (the only original building in Tombstone) for a ghost tour. Continue your Old West experience at the Tombstone Grand Hotel, where kids are initiated into the Tombstone Grand Marshall’s Posse with a badge, an oath, and a handshake.
In Tucson, just over an hour away, you can visit Old Tucson, an Old West theme park and the filming location for more than 300 Western films and TV shows.
Recommended Hotel: Tombstone Grand Hotel
5. Fort Worth, TX
Stroll the cobblestone streets of the Fort Worth Stockyards National Historic District for an authentic experience in the Old West, complete with saloons and saddlery stores. Livestock was traded in the stockyards until the early 1990’s, when the area became a tourism hotspot; today, cattle are still sold here! Don’t miss the twice-daily longhorn cattle drive up Main Street or the Stockyards Rodeo. Other Cowtown favorites include the Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame and the National Cowgirl Hall of Fame.
Recommended Hotel: Hyatt Place Forth Worth Cityview
6. Steamboat Springs, CO
Sure, Steamboat Springs is a popular place to go skiing. But did you know it’s also a great place to experience the Old West? Visit for Cowboys’ Roundup Days (July 3 to 6) and celebrate the Fourth of July fun in western fashion; the highlight is the nightly Pro Rodeo Series. You can also head to Saddle Ranch for cattle drives or stay at a dude ranch for a truly authentic experience!
Recommended Hotel: Vista Verde Guest Ranch