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If you’ve been wondering how to make your next vacation feel like an episode of the popular show Yellowstone, you’re in luck. This lineup checks all the Western culture boxes: horseback riding, cowboy museums, Western art, country music, honky-tonk dancing and lots of rodeos. So put on your hat and boots and head to one of these towns that embrace the culture of the Wild West.
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In 1896 when Col. William F. Cody (a.k.a. Buffalo Bill), legendary for his Wild West shows, set down roots 52 miles from the east entrance of Yellowstone National Park, he picked one of the most iconic Western frontier landscapes, a location reminiscent of the popular television show Yellowstone, starring Kevin Costner. More than a century later, the town still draws large crowds ready to explore the Western heritage curated by its founder, including the Cody Stampede Rodeo, one of the longest-running professional rodeos in the country (July 1-4) as well as the outdoor Cody Nite Rodeo held every night from June through August. Horseback riding, and guest and dude ranches dot the area where most offer a day in the national park for wildlife viewing of bison, pronghorn, bears and moose. In town, art and Western heritage lovers can spend hours at the five Smithsonian-affiliated Buffalo Bill Center of the West museums, which include the Whitney Western Art Museum and the Plains Indian Museum. For a glimpse at Western functional arts like home furnishings and decor, visit the By Western Hands museum. Its Artisan Gallery sells Western accessories such as spurs and saddles along with handwoven rugs and handcrafted jewelry.
It might resemble a Western movie set or, to some folks, it might even seem like a theme park, but Tombstone is indeed a real living town populated with people that heartily enjoy sharing its Old West lore. It’s known for its colorful past, namely, as the site of the most famous gunfight of the West — the shoot-out at O.K. Corral. In 1881, Wyatt Earp with his two brothers and Doc Holliday engaged in a deadly shootout with a gang of notorious outlaws. Today, you can visit the real O.K. Corral and watch a reenactment of the famous gunfight offered three times a day, whet your whistle (that’s cowboy talk for “get a drink”) at Big Nose Kate’s Saloon and even tour the original silver mine under the streets of the town. There are plenty of tours and attractions to fill up a day or two. Don’t miss the original Boothill Graveyard where outlaws, cowboys and gunslingers have resided with their boots on since 1878.