Top ways to discover the Old West

Fancy channelling your inner cowboy? Stay on a ranch to saddle up and ride with real cowboys or witness the thrills of a traditional rodeo to get a taste of America’s Old West, right across the USA, from Florida to California. You can also relive the frontier days in towns where the Wild West spirit is still strong. 

Rodeo gaga, Wyoming

Summer is rodeo season when the wranglers and ropers battle it out for big bucks. In a place affectionately referred to as The Cowboy State, it's likely no surprise that rodeo is Wyoming's state sport. From Wrangler-clad residents to the iconic Steamboat (a bucking bronc from Wheatland who was unrideable for nearly 10 years) appearing on Wyoming's state license plates, rodeo is firmly engrained in the heart of Wyoming. Almost every town, big or small, hosts a rodeo throughout the summer where locals and visitors gather to watch amateur and professional rodeo athletes compete in their chosen sport. While Wyoming's big-name rodeos include Cheyenne Frontier DaysCody Nite Rodeo and Sheridan WYO Rodeo, travellers will also find rodeos in Ten Sleep, Saratoga, Thermopolis, Gillette, and Sheridan, as well as many other towns.Wyoming also hosts the High School Finals Rodeo and College National Finals Rodeo.  Other rodeos events to check out include the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas, Oregon’s Pendleton Round-Up and Rodeo Austin which starts this weekend, with ProRodeo action, right, live music, Austin's largest carnival, beer & wine garden, food trucks, livestock show, and a variety of special attractions.  Over at the ProRodeo Hall of Fame in Colorado Springs, you can discover the history of Rodeo.   


Dude ranches, Texas

Take your pick of ranches for different experiences. Dude ranches, such as the Dixie Dude Ranch in Texas and Montana’s Nine Quarter Circle Ranch, offer Western activities and let guests learn about ranch life. Meanwhile on working ranches, including Oregon’s Silvies Valley Ranch and Burnt Well Guest Ranch in New Mexico, guests can help cowboys and cowgirls on cattle drives. 


Old West via Hollywood, California

Channel your inner John Wayne at Pioneer Town in Joshua Tree National Park, California.  This Old West town was built in 1946, Pioneertown by a group of Hollywood investors, including actors Roy Rogers and Gene Autry. They wanted it to be a working movie set for Westerns - but also an attraction worth visiting in itself, so they created a main street with 1880s-style facades for stables, saloons, shops and jails, each with visitor-friendly venues behind them. Inside were housed ice cream parlours, bowling alleys and motels. It was the set for more than 50 films and television shows, and while shooting stopped in the 1950s, you can still enjoy the visitor attractions, including mock gunfights on Mane Street. Make sure you check out live music venue, Pappy and Harriet's Pioneertown Palace. 


Hit em up, Arizona

Down a shot of Red Eye and dodge the bullets at recreated gunfights in Tombstone, Arizona, where Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday take on the Clanton gang daily at the OK Corral, and Dodge City, Kansas, where High Noon takes place twice a day along Front Street at the Boot Hill Museum. 


Small town cowboy capital, Texas

Nicknamed ‘Cowboy capital of the world’ Bandera is located deep in the heart of Texas Hill Country. A small town with less than 1,000 inhabitants, the general pace of life has not changed too much from its famed past. Walking around the town, it’s common to see horses tied to hitching posts at watering holes or a horse-drawn wagon making its way down main street. You’d be forgiven in thinking you’d stepped onto a movie set. With a vast selection of dude ranches, Bandera has been welcoming guests since the 1930’s, introducing travellers from across the world to the cowboy way of life.


Peek into the past, Colorado Springs

Look back over two centuries of life at Rock Ledge Ranch Historic Site, near Colorado Springs. Its restored historic structures highlight the lives of the Pikes Peak region’s inhabitants, from the Ute and Plains Indians and early pioneer settlers to 19th century farmers and early 20th century estate workers. 

Get festive, across the USA

Step back in time at festivals recalling the Old West. Try gold panning and rattlesnake chilli at a recreated frontier town in Williamsburg, Ohio’s Old West Festival. Cheyenne Frontier Days, in Wyoming, spans ten days of rodeo events plus an Old Frontier Town, Indian Village, parade, fiesta day and music. Since 1897, Cheyenne, Wyoming, has celebrated its Old West roots with this eye-popping festival. The centerpiece of this Western celebration is the world’s largest outdoor rodeo, which draws top professionals who compete for more than $1 million in cash and prizes. Complementing the daily rodeo action are behind-the-chutes tours, trick riding, and a wild-horse race. A Native American Village, an Old West town called 'Wild Horse Gulch', a saloon, square dancing, a chuck wagon cook-off, pancake breakfasts, and an art show carry through the frontier theme.


Discover Old West heritage, across the USA

Discover Western heritage at the Museum of the West in Scottsdale, Arizona, The Buffalo Bill Center in Cody, Wyoming, The National Cowgirl Museum in Fort Worth, Texas and the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Over in Visalia, at the base of the Sierra Nevada mountain range, California, you can discover the story of its colourful residents on a self-guided Historic Walking tour of the town. Founded in 1852, this charming town was once home to notorious bandits including, Grat Dalton of the Dalton Gang, train robbers Chris Evans and John Sontag and Stagecoach robber Black Bart. 

Follow in their footsteps, Oregon

Follow the 2,200- mile Oregon trail – along which thousands migrated west – at the End of the Oregon Trail Interpretive Centre in Oregon City, Oregon, and the National Frontier Trails Museum in Independence, Missouri. 


Cowboy roundup, Real America

Can’t make up your mind which amazing Old West place to discover? You can shoehorn in a number of different places on a tour of the ‘Real America’ region with American Sky. This stunning region of the world includes Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming. You’ll get full cowboy country immersion thanks to spectacular landscapes, seemingly-infinite stretches of prairie, desert and soaring mountain ranges, glistening lakes, unique rock formations and abundant wildlife. This area has it all when it comes to the Old West - from iconic National Parks, to Mount Rushmore - famous for its carving of former presidents faces, rodeos, ghost towns, key Native American sites, ranch stays, and more. 


Posted on: 15/03/2019

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