Trips Worth Taking: Cowboy Town USA

Published on: January 23, 2013



By WARREN RESEN, North American Travel Journalists Association

Yeehaw!..This is the one word I think that best describes the most Cowboy of Cowboy Towns I’ve so far visited in the American West. Cowboy Culture thrives here and the people really live it. If you want better service in any restaurant, bar or better seats at the daily Rodeo the secret, we discovered, was to wear your Stetson 24/7 everywhere you go in Cody.

Cody is the focal point for eastern Yellowstone National Park. Whether going to or coming from the park, you must drive through Cody. Colonel William Cody, a/k/a “Buffalo Bill” saw to this major marketing ploy. After all, he was an entrepreneur and the consummate showman.

Colonel Cody had traveled through this region in the 1870s and was so impressed by its potential and the area’s proximity to Yellowstone, which had been declared a National Park by President Ulysses S. Grant in 1882, he returned in the mid-1890s. The resulting town of Cody was incorporated in 1901. This is the town he built, as if anyone can miss the connection. His name is on almost anything of importance even structures completed long after his passing.

In 1902 he built the Irma Hotel, named for his daughter, right in what is today the city’s center. The 2-story Irma Hotel is the focus for many of the happenings in Cody. This is where tourists congregate to hear the legends, true or not, about The Great Man. The Cody Gunfighters hold the requisite afternoon shoot out between the good and bad guys in the street outside the hotel. Shoot outs have become a tradition in many small western towns. They are generally free and fun to watch. Cody’s popular sightseeing trolley begins its run from the hotel.

This is a family town with no high rises and friendly people where the badge of one’s manhood seems to be the degree of noise one’s muffler can emit while driving on Sheridan Avenue, the main road through town. But still, it’s good clean fun and nobody seems to mind.

The famous Irma Hotel is a historic landmark which in this instance means a little dated. The hotel with its bar (smoking is allowed) and busy restaurant had a tad too much activity for us so we opted to stay at the charming and definitely peaceful Chamberlin Inn, a small 21 room hotel just ½ block north of Hotel Irma.

The Chamberlin Inn is a different world with its individually furnished rooms and lovely private garden for guests where we had time to rest and recharge our batteries after thousands of miles on the road. We were in the heart of the city yet totally removed from the downtown.

Built in 1903 by Agnes Chamberlin who worked for Buffalo Bill at the Cody Enterprise newspaper, the Chamberlin Inn was expanded over the years, had several different owners and operated under various names. The original name was restored by Ev and Susan Diehl in 2005 when they purchased this historic gem.

We had the privilege of staying in Suite #18, a/k/a “The Hemingway Room.” Ernest Hemingway stayed there in 1932 when he was 33 years old and had just completed the manuscript for “Death in the Afternoon.” His greatest works were still on the horizon and copies of all of Hemingway’s works are on the writing desk next to the old manual typewriter. Nice touch.

It is said that Hemingway fished during the day and spent evenings in the Hotel Irma’s bar. Perhaps he found time to also do some writing during his sojourn at the Chamberlin Inn.

Tripadvisor has page after page of superlatives from guests about the Chamberlin Inn. The list includes refined boutique hotel, charming, delightful, warm and inviting, excellent, quaint plus many, many more. This might seem a tad too elegant for a cowboy town, but don’t we all deserve a little bit of pampering from time to time?

Guests can walk to almost anything in the city from the Chamberlin Inn. And while not a B&B, just around the corner from the Inn is Peter’s Café & Bakery serving good food at inexpensive prices with friendly service and local color.

codywyoming_P1050742The Inn’s accommodations vary in size and rooms are individually and tastefully furnished. Bathrooms feature amenities ranging from footed tubs to glass block shower stalls. There are several private sitting areas inside the Inn and the previously mentioned private tree shaded garden is quite spacious. An afternoon bar is available for the Inn’s guests. There are no lines at the front desk during check-in. The Inn’s concierge provides individual service.

While the Chamberlin Inn was a wonderful and relaxing stopping place on our cross country journey, there is a lot to do in Cody. A must visit is the world-class Buffalo Bill Historical Center.
The museum is a complex of 5 connected wings. Buffalo Bill’s Museum features his life and exploits. Did you know Colonel William Cody was presented with the Congressional Medal of Honor? It’s displayed in his wing.

Other wings include The Plains Indian Museum, the Gallery of Western Art Museum and a Museum of Natural History. The largest display space is given over to the Cody Firearms Museum.
This firearms collection is purported to be the largest and most comprehensive assemblage of American Firearms in the world displaying both long and hand guns. Virtually every significant gun manufacturer in the world is represented here. I found the sheer size of the gun collection overwhelming. Be prepared to spend time in all of the museums to properly appreciate the scope of the Buffalo Bill Historical Center.

Cody, WY is known as the “Rodeo Capital of the World.” The 6,000 seat Stampede Park sits above the Shoshone River just west of town. The Rodeo goes on seven nights a week from June 1st through August 31st. July 1–4 is when the world famous Cody Stampede takes place featuring some of the nation’s greatest cowboys but if you can’t make it for this event, any night is a fun night and attending a regular nightly event was one of the highlights of our stay. Local talent of all ages is showcased. It is family oriented. It is local. It is fun and it is real.

We would look forward to a return visit to Cody, Wyoming and would not even consider staying anywhere but at the Chamberlin Inn.