From Cow Town to Western Chic Take a day trip to Cheyenne, Wyoming.

HI_QUEIf you have a passion for the Old West, you’ll be right at home in Cheyenne, Wyoming. This city of 53,000 people is the northern anchor of the Front Range and the capital of Wyoming.

It’s also becoming a major commerce center.

Cheyenne began as a rowdy, railroad town, with lots of saloons and numerous variety and burlesque theaters. With the Union Pacific’s support, opera houses eventually replaced the bawdier forms of frontier entertainment.

Cattle and culture became the mainstays of Cheyenne’s early days. The railroad made the latest styles accessible, while the beef industry attracted wealthy cattle barons from the East and Europe. These men brought not only money, but also good breeding and the finest social amenities. In addition, they prompted the formation of the famed Cheyenne Social Club, inspired by English gentlemen’s clubs. Today, the club houses the Cheyenne Chamber of Commerce.

Cheyenne is home to Cheyenne Frontier Days, the granddaddy of all rodeos. This spectacular event—July 18-27, 2003—offers nine days of PRCA action, and boasts the largest purse in professional rodeo—more than $880,000.

The pace is slower, but don’t miss the Old West Museum’s wagons and Cheyenne history exhibits. The Cowgirls of the West Museum highlights area cowgirls’  contributions to Wyoming’s history.

The newest of Cheyenne’s seven museums is the Nelson Museum of the West, born out of Wyoming native Robert L. Nelson’s passion for the past. Here you’ll see Native American beadwork, saddles and frontier military memorabilia. A good way to view these attractions is by taking the self-guided Museum Loop Tour.

The Cheyenne Street Railway Trolley is an easy way to get around town. Many of the tours offer narrations on Cheyenne’s colorful past. You can also tour downtown in a carriage, a more romantic way to get your bearings. Also check out the Convention and Visitors Bureau’s self-guided walking tour through the town’s historical core and visit the Union Pacific depot and the Tivoli Building.

One of your first stops should be the Wyoming State Capitol, a national historic landmark and one of the most beautiful buildings in the West, with marble floors, detailed woodwork and an outstanding collection of historical photographs. The Governor’s Mansion is equally stunning.

If you’re lucky, you’ll encounter the Cheyenne Gunslingers, a group of pistol-packin’ re-enactors who stage mock gunfights and other Wild West activities in Cheyenne’s Old Town Square.

For a view of Old West ranching, tour the Terry Bison Ranch. Watch a bison drive, take a horse-drawn wagon tour or go horseback riding. And be sure to stop for a cool one in the Terry Bison Saloon.

End your day trip with high tea at the Nagle Warren Mansion, a Victorian showpiece that is now an elegant B&B owned by Jim Osterfoss. He’s a perfect host for harking you back to another era, saying “My dream is to provide the best lodging experience for the discerning traveler.”

Enjoy high tea and imagine yourself an English baron of yesteryear. Better yet, stay the night in Victorian splendor and be pampered—Western style.

What do you think?