The Call of the West
People from around the world are drawn to the Western United States.
Whether as passengers on a Santa Fe Super Chief, a station wagon on Route 66 or a Boeing 707, tourists flooded the West in the 1950s. For the last 70 years, with the construction of the Interstate highways and the rapid growth of airline travel, tourism has grown into one of the top five economic drivers of the Western states.
At the heart of Western tourism are the men and women who day after day keep the West alive through their dedicated work in museums and preservation, historic hotels and saloons, local rodeos and heritage events. At True West, we celebrate these determined Westerners who give tens of thousands of hours annually to welcoming visitors to their hometowns and providing them opportunities to create memories that will last a lifetime.
Best Place to Live Like an Old West Cowboy (Winter)
The self-proclaimed cowboy capital of the world, Bandera is a wonderful small, historic town in the Texas Hill Country—and the perfect place to live like an Old West Cowboy in the wintertime. Whether you stay at a local resort, hotel or Airbnb, you can’t go far without encountering the cowboy lifestyle that dominates life in Bandera. Downtown is a great place to spend time immersing yourself in the cowboy way at Arkey Blue’s Silver Dollar Saloon, the 11th Street Cowboy Bar, the Frontier Times Museum, the Western Trail Antiques and Marketplace, Bandera General Store and Cedar Street Market. And schedule time to enjoy the Bandera Cattle Company Gunfighters who perform downtown at Rattlesnake Ridge behind the Visitors Center.
Best Place to Live Like an Old West Cowboy (Summer)
In 1882 John D. Loucks founded Sheridan, which he named in honor of his commanding officer in the Civil War. The gateway city to the Bighorn Mountains and Little Bighorn country of Montana, Sheridan became an economic center for the bi-state region after the railroad arrived in 1892. Today, visitors can stroll historic downtown, visit local landmarks, King Ropes and the Mint Bar, tour the local Brinton, Sheridan County and Bozeman Trail museums and stay at Buffalo Bill Cody’s fully restored Sheridan Inn.
Best Old West Gunfighter Town
The epicenter of the Gold Rush of 1874-76 that transformed the Black Hills, Deadwood was founded to supply the rush of miners everything they needed to survive: supplies, saloons and soiled doves. Visitors who walk the streets of Deadwood today should start at the visitors center in the restored railroad station for a map of the city, directions to local museums, daily events, gunfight reenactments, historic sites and the Mt. Moriah Cemetery, where Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane are buried near each other.
Best Preserved Pioneer Town Recreated
Stuhr Museum of the Prairie Pioneer, Grand Island, NE
A hands-on living history experience tells the story of early town-building in Nebraska. For 40-plus years, the renowned educational center and outdoor living history museum, called a “crossroads in time,” has given visitors from around the world an authentic glimpse of frontier Nebraska prairie town life, while preserving and portraying the pioneers’ inspiring stories of life on the Great Plains.
Old Cowtown, Wichita, KS
Best Old West Art Town
From galleries to museums, Cody, Wyoming, is a Western art lovers dream come true. Start at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West’s Whitney Western Art Museum, then head downtown to tour and shop at the art galleries, saddle shops and Western artisan stores. Don’t miss the month-long Buffalo Bill Art Show & Sale every August and September, and the Rendezvous Royale Western art celebration the fourth week of every September.
Santa Fe, NM
Best Town for Historic Entertainment
When traveling through the Panhandle of Texas, a must stop city for historic entertainment is Amarillo. The American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame & Museum is a must-see, as are the Amarillo Museum of Art, Kwahadi Museum of the American Indian and Bill’s Backyard Classics. The Big Texan serves up giant steak challenges daily, so make sure and have a great Western meal at a roadside landmark when in town. And don’t miss side trips to nearby Canyon, home of the world-class Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum and Palo Duro Canyon State Park.
Best Living History Farm Museum
Mahaffie Stagecoach Stop & Farm Museums, Olathe, KS
Open year round, the living history center entertains and educates visitors about 1860s Kansas frontier life. All generations will enjoy learning about the day-to-day responsibilities of farm living, including the raising and caring of horses, chickens and other livestock. Don’t miss a tour of the Agricultural Heritage Barn and its farm implement and wagon collection.
Grand Encampment Museum Encampment, WY
Best Historic Town Tour
Visitors to the mining town of Bisbee will discover a wealth of information on the historic town tour. One of the highlights is the Bisbee Mining & Historical Museum located in the former headquarters of the Copper Queen Consolidated Mining Company, next door to the Copper Queen Hotel (a great place to stay when in town). There are many choices in touring Bisbee: ghost tours, jeep tours, walking tours, golf cart and e-bike tours. Make sure to schedule time to take the underground Queen Mine Tour, too.
Cody Trolley Tour, Cody, WY
Best Promotion of a Historic Place
Promotions of Prescott, the original territorial capital of Arizona, have made the city a popular destination. Check with the chamber of commerce for a full calendar of annual Old West events held at the Courthouse Plaza. Don’t miss Frontier Days and the World’s Oldest Rodeo every Fourth of July.
Best Old West Town to Live In
Virginia City/Nevada City, MT
For the second year in a row, the historic communities of Virginia City and Nevada City are the editors’ choice for Best Old West Town to Live In. The rush into the hills led to numerous claims and the founding of Virginia City, Montana. Once the territorial capital of Montana, the historic, living-history village invites visitors to stay and immerse themselves in the heritage community with its Old West entertainment, lodging, restaurants and activities, including stagecoach and train rides.
Best Historic Railroad of the West
Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, Durango, CO
Located in the heart of the San Juan Mountains on the banks of the Animas River in Southwest Colorado, the world-famous Durango Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad station is right downtown, a short walk from the historic district and the Strater Hotel. The round-trip ride into history on the narrow gauge railway to Silverton and back is one of the greatest heritage rail experiences in North America. The train runs all year, with special excursions in the heart of winter.
Readers’ Choice TIE
Georgetown Loop Railroad, Georgetown, CO
Nevada Northern Railroad, Ely, NV
Best “Who Slept Here” Hotel
Buffalo Bill’s Irma Hotel, Cody, WY
Built by Buffalo Bill Cody in 1902 and named after his daughter, the Irma Hotel is still a gem just outside the east entrance of Yellowstone National Park. Relax in modern accommodations or choose to stay in historic rooms enjoyed by Annie Oakley, Calamity Jane, Frederic Remington or Bill Cody, himself. Don’t miss the restaurant and historic saloon with the cherrywood bar, a gift to Cody from Britain’s Queen Victoria.
The Occidental Hotel, Buffalo, WY
Best Heritage Hotel
The Strater Hotel, Durango, CO
The Strater Hotel in the historic district of Durango, Colorado, is the perfect place to stay when vacationing in the Animas River Valley city made internationally famous by the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad. Opened in 1887, the Strater is a landmark hotel, luxuriously maintained and preserved with antiques throughout the historic inn and its well-appointed rooms. Don’t miss an evening in the Diamond Belle Saloon and dinner in the Mahogany Grill.
Bullock Hotel, Deadwood, SD
Best Dude Ranch of the West
Tombstone Monument Ranch & Cattle Company, Tombstone, AZ
Conveniently located miles from the historic district of Tombstone, this 1880s working cattle ranch built to resemble Old Tombstone is the perfect retreat where you can “earn your spurs” while immersing in legendary history of Cochise County. Guests can stay in the Grand hotel, the marshal’s office or even the jail. Enjoy a drink, music and entertainment in the Old Trappman Saloon. Guests can choose different trail riding experiences, from working cattle to a history tour on horseback. Owned and operated by True Guest Ranches, Tombstone Monument Ranch & Cattle Company is definitely a place to return year after year. Who knows, you might even find yourself back in time as you take a ride into town and tie up your horse on Allen Street.
Rowse’s 1+1 Ranch, Burwell, NE
Best Heritage Bed & Breakfast
Nagle Warren Mansion Bed & Breakfast, Cheyenne, WY
If you are looking for one of the nicest, most sophisticated and historic bed and breakfasts in the state of Wyoming, look no further than the Nagle Warren Mansion Bed and Breakfast in Cheyenne. Known as the “Duchess of Cheyenne,” the 1888 Victorian era home is beautifully decorated in the style prevalent in 1900. Guests can choose between Mansion or Coach rooms, all of which are beautifully appointed. Breakfast and afternoon tea are served daily. Reservations are required for Clara’s High Tea and the seasonal Emilie’s Summer Garden Tea.
Russ House, Tombstone, AZ
Best Heritage Guest Ranch
Mayan Dude Ranch, Bandera, TX
“Where a Western Welcome Awaits You” is the motto of the Mayan Dude Ranch in Bandera. Visitors can enjoy nearly 350 acres of ranch land from the banks of the Medina River to the ranch house with its picturesque views. Trail rides, cowboy breakfasts, hayrides and big Western-style dinners are all part of the fun at this Western guest ranch.
Concho Hills Guest Ranch, Magdalena, NM
Best Cowboy Poetry Gathering
Arizona Cowboy Poets Gathering, Prescott, AZ
One of the nation’s most celebrated cowboy poetry events, the Arizona Cowboy Poets Gathering will be held August 8-10, 2024. For more than three decades, the gathering has celebrated the traditions, history and culture of cowboy music and poetry. Every year the popular event attracts more than three dozen poets and singers who share their love and passion for the working cowboy and ranching way of life through verse and song.
Durango Cowboy Poetry Gathering, Durango, CO
Best Cowboy Music Gathering
Montana Cowboy Poetry Gathering and Western Music Rendezvous,
R.W. Hampton will headline the long weekend of fun in Lewistown, from Thursday through Sunday, August 8-11, 2024. The popular gathering celebrates the Western ranching lifestyle and the heritage of the American cowboy of the Northern Rockies. The gathering will have 70 cowboy poets and Western musicians and over 20 popular vendors.
Red Steagall Cowboy Gathering & Western Swing Festival, Fort Worth, TX
Best Old West Mounted Reenactment
Little Big Horn Battlefield,
Crow Agency, MT
Near Garryowen, Montana, on the Crow Nation, the Real Bird Family hosts the annual reenactment of the Battle of the Little Bighorn. Watch Native braves and Cavalry troopers crash through the river, and battle along its banks, where some believe Custer was killed. The reenactment is held over two weekends in June in conjunction with the anniversary of the battle. In 2024, it will be held
Readers’ Choice TIE
Green River Rendezvous, Pinedale, WY
Defeat of Jesse James Days,
Best Old West Reenactment Group
Six Guns and Shady Ladies,
El Paso, TX
Six Guns and Shady Ladies has entertained audiences all across the country since Bernie and Melissa Sargent founded the El Paso troupe in 1998. With nearly 50 skits, the Wild West reenactment group brings humor and history to every show, with thrilling gunfights, including the famous “Four Dead in Five Seconds.”
Prescott Regulators & Their Shady Ladies, Prescott, AZ
Best Wild West Show
Discover legendary Tombstone at the O.K. Corral Historic Complex, a unique step back into the Old West—a true encounter with history in “The Town Too Tough to Die.” In the historic district on Allen Street, visitors can watch Wyatt Earp, Doc Holliday, Virgil and Morgan Earp shoot it out with the McLaurys and Clantons in daily reenactments of the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral in The Streets of Tombstone Theater.
Deadwood Alive, Deadwood SD
Best Historic Western Rodeo
The World’s Oldest Rodeo,
Since 1888, the Prescott Frontier Days rodeo has been held over the Fourth of July weekend. The World’s Oldest Rodeo will celebrate its 136th annual performance with eight shows July 1-7, 2024. In conjunction with the rodeo, the always popular annual Prescott Frontier Days Parade is scheduled for 9 a.m. on Saturday, July 6, and the Rodeo Dance the evenings of July 4-7.
Cheyenne Frontier Days,