It was very nice of the Wyoming state tourism people to arrange to have a bunch of bison roaming across a hill next to the highway as I crossed the state border – well played!
Of course, what really happened was that I simply drove past what I later learned is the Terry Bison Ranch just south of my destination in Cheyenne, but still….
There were only a few free hours available in between speaker duties while I was in town for a conference, but it was enough time to see some of the local sights. A quick search on my phone for suggestions led me to this list of Ten Things You Gotta Do in Cheyenne – I couldn’t do ten, but I could knock out two or three, so off I went.
An attractive historic railroad depot anchors one side of downtown, “easily the Union Pacific’s most grandiose facility west of [the Transcontinental Railroad] starting point at Council Bluffs.” Built in 1887, it’s now a National Historic Landmark housing a small museum, gift shop, and the Shadows brewpub and restaurant.
The original lobby has been refurbished with period decor, so I wandered around looking at the features for a few minutes until they closed (3 p.m. on Sundays during the winter.)
Outside of the depot is a statue of a sturdy-looking pioneer woman, acknowledging the difficulties of being a 19th century female in that unforgiving area and also noting that in 1869, Wyoming territory granted women the right to vote, the first state or territory to do so.
The railyard next to the depot is huge and is still active; you can view it from observation points on a nearby bridge.
Not far from the depot in the city’s Holliday Park is 1.2 million pounds of “Old Number 4004,” one of the world’s largest steam locomotives.
Called a “Big Boy,” it is one of 25 that were built by the Union Pacific railroad in the 1940’s specifically to handle the steep grades of the Wasatch Mountains in the demanding run between Cheyenne and Ogden, Utah.
There’s a rather ugly chain link fence all around it, but it’s free to see, easy to find and there’s parking nearby.
If you can’t attend Cheyenne’s famous annual Frontier Days in July (huge rodeo, parades, carnival midway, musical acts, Pancake Breakfast, Cowboy Church, “Behind the Chutes” tours) there’s always the nearby Old West Museum that captures the spirit of westward expansion and Frontier Days rodeo event history.
How would you like to bounce around in this coach for the 50 hours it took it to get from Cheyenne to Deadwood in the Dakota Territory? Ouch.
Without much time to sample local food, I can certainly recommend the steaks (I always order a ribeye, medium rare) at Wyoming’s Rib and Chop House downtown, near the depot. One of my fellow conference attendees thoroughly enjoyed her meal at the “divey-looking but really nice!” Luxury Diner. She found it on Yelp, one of my must-have travel apps.
In addition to craft beer at Shadows next to the railroad depot, many locals recommended Freedom’s Edge Brewing, but they had closed by the time we finished working our way through those steaks.
If you do have time to stay the night, there are the usual hotel chains, the very nice Little America resort property on the edge of town, and I wish I’d had a chance to investigate the historic Plains Hotel across the plaza from the train depot.
Even when there’s not a whole lot of time available, it’s always worth it to experience just a little bit of a destination, and then return if you really like what you find.
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