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Cheyenne is the real deal


Courtesy Fort Laramie

ith the Rocky Mountains rearing up to the west, the grassy plains stretching out to the east and the wide, wind-
whipped blue sky unfurled above, Cheyenne, Wyoming, is a destination that calls to those searching for the true American West.

The city of 60,000 is packed with ranches and rodeos, horse trails and history, pioneering spirit and Wyoming pride.

“We have a magical name,” said Darren Rudloff, president of Visit Cheyenne, the city’s convention and visitors bureau. “The name Cheyenne means ‘West’ to many people.  It conjures images of cowboys and Indians and bison and steam engines puffing across the plains.

“It certainly isn’t Disney World; it’s not a fabricated western community. Cheyenne is that authentic Western destination that many people are looking for. We’re the real deal.”

Intro by Trolley
Cheyenne Street Railway Trolley is a perfect introduction to the city’s rich Western history. The city’s fleet of three “trolleys” — each is a 26-passenger bus painted to look like a trolley — offers historic tours daily between May and September.

The trolleys depart every 90 minutes from the fully renovated Union Pacific Depot in downtown. The depot was built in 1887 and renovated in 2002, and the building now houses a museum, a restaurant and a visitors center.

Trolley tours include stops at several museums and downtown sites. Guests can step off at the Cheyenne Frontier Days Old West Museum, which features a permanent collection of more than 150 horse-drawn carriages and wagons, or the Nelson Museum of the West, where visitors can see a wide array of Native American and early Western art and artifacts. The guided trolley tours also stop at the Wyoming State Museum, the Historic Governor’s Mansion and the Wyoming Capitol.

Trolleys may be chartered for group tours throughout the year “to give a more intimate and historic view of Cheyenne,” Rudloff said, and trolley drivers are also available as step-on guides.

Many groups like to get a taste of the Western ranch experience — literally — at Terry Bison Ranch and Bit-O-Wyo Ranch, both of which offer Western dinners, trail rides and a chance to interact with the West.

Ron Thiel bought Terry Bison Ranch in 1993 to raise bison, but his son, Dan Thiel, saw the potential for more. Dan wanted to create a place that would give visitors an opportunity to get close to the great American bison.

For groups, ranch workers usually sets up what they call a “Dirty Dan”: either a steak or chicken dinner or a beef or bison burger lunch, paired with an engineer-led train tour that lasts about an hour. Visitors can buy “buffalo cakes” before boarding one of the ranch’s six different locomotives, and when the train arrives in the pasture, the buffalo know it’s time for a treat.

“They come running right up. You can hand feed them out the side of the train,” said sales director Jamie Mould, who recently took her daughters on the trip. “One even wrapped its long tongue around my 5-year-old’s arm.”

Groups can get up close and personal with the horses at the Bit-O-Wyo Ranch during trail rides or during dinner. The ranch serves a chuck wagon dinner followed by a show that features live country music and cowboy comedy. The venue is a barn that was built specifically to house the dinner show and has stalls around the outside that allow guests to go right up to the horses.

Rachel Carter

Rachel Carter worked as a newspaper reporter for eight years and spent two years as an online news editor before launching her freelance career. She now writes for national meetings magazines and travel trade publications.