Wyoming Holiday Planning Guide
Still largely undiscovered by foreign tourism, Wyoming is anything but "the bunchgrass edge of the world," as a writer once called it. Though the state's geography includes mostly wide-open plains, swaths of high desert, and sweeping mountain ridges, it also contains many small towns filled with places to visit, such as historical buildings, museums, shops, and restaurants. Great places to discover the last vestiges of the Old West, Wyoming tourist attractions include the country's first national park, Native American reservations, and a smattering of ghost towns from the early frontier days. As you travel across this "Cowboy State," remember that distances between towns can be vast, requiring more advance vacation planning than travel in more densely populated parts of the country.
Places to Visit in WyomingJackson Hole
: From outdoor activities such as hiking and skiing, to pristine nature and exciting nightlife, this scenic valley is a perfect destination for a Wyoming vacation.Jackson
: The main hub of tourism in Wyoming, Jackson is home to a bustling cultural scene, numerous places to go out, as well as in-town skiing slopes. Despite being visited by millions of tourists every year, the city still maintains the recognizable free spirit of the Wild West. Cody
: There's hardly a better place to experience the genuine American West--complete with cowboys, rodeos, and saloons--than the city named after Buffalo Bill Cody. Its proximity to Yellowstone National Park also makes the city a popular tourist destination.Yellowstone National Park
: America's most famous national park, Yellowstone covers an area larger than the combined size of Delaware and Rhode Island, packed with breathtaking natural wonders. The park includes lakes, rivers, canyons, geysers, waterfalls, and many other features that make it a prime destination for nature lovers from all over the world.Grand Teton National Park
: Just south of Yellowstone, Grand Teton National Park is less crowded and more tranquil than its more famous neighbor, but it's just as stunning. The park is the perfect place for those looking for alpine scenery dominated by jagged mountains, crystal-clear lakes, and forests teeming with wildlife.
Things to Do in Wyoming
Popular Wyoming Tourist AttractionsGrand Canyon of the Yellowstone
: Featuring a series of splendid views and crisscrossed with nature trails, this canyon is the perfect spot for passionate hikers visiting Yellowstone National Park.Buffalo Bill Center of the West
: One of the best places to visit in Wyoming for history enthusiasts, this large museum complex tells the complete story of the American West and life on the frontier.Old Faithful
: A centerpiece of Yellowstone National Park, and something you definitely don't want to miss, this is probably the world's best-known geyser and one of the main tourist attractions in Wyoming. Devils Tower National Monument
: One of Wyoming's most impressive natural wonders, Devil's Tower was also the first natural feature in the country to gain the status of a National Monument. It's impressive to see, and even better to climb, if mountaineering is your passion.Yellowstone Lake
: Yellowstone Park's largest body of water is a great fishing and boating destination, but you can also just enjoy the scenery, or go for a walk along the shores.Lamar Valley
: This vast valley in the Yellowstone National Park where elk, bison, wolves, and bears roam free is a real treat for wildlife watchers.Grand Teton
: A household name with serious mountaineers, Grand Teton is Wyoming's second-tallest peak. In addition to climbing up, active vacationers can also enjoy the thrill of skiing down the mountain's slopes.Grand Prismatic Spring
: Another of Wyoming's famous attractions, the multicolored jewel of Yellowstone is the largest and possibly the most beautiful hot spring in America.Jackson Hole Aerial Tram and Gondola Rides
: Soak in the 360-degree views on this ride from Jackson Hole Mountain Resort to the top of Rendezvous Mountain. In the wintertime, the tram also works as a very cozy and scenic ski lift.Jackson Hole Mountain Resort
: An amazing center for adventurous and active travelers, the resort offers a great selection of things to do throughout the year.
Planning a Wyoming Vacation with Kids
Places to Visit in Wyoming with Kids
Virtually free of large cities, Wyoming is all about nature and outdoors, and if this is what you and your kids enjoy, the state is certain to be a perfect destination for your family vacation. Yellowstone National Park
is probably the state's most famous attraction and if you have the time to visit just one national park, this is the place to go. While not as famous, other areas of protected nature, such as Grand Teton National Park
, are also great destinations where the whole family can take part in an array of outdoor activities. The towns of Jackson
are both great bases for nature trips, offering a good selection of attractions for visitors of all ages. With its selection of museums and historic sites, the state capital Cheyenne
is another ideal destination for a family vacation in Wyoming.
Things to Do in Wyoming with Kids
Depending on the season in which you decide to visit, Wyoming offers different types of activities you can enjoy. During the warm months, the whole family can go hiking, camping, or horseback riding. If you prefer water activities, you can go rafting with one of Jackson's numerous operators, or take a boating tour on Jenny Lake in Grand Teton National Park
or on Yellowstone Lake
. In the wintertime, Jackson Hole Mountain Resort
is the place where the whole family can enjoy skiing, regardless of skill level. Youngest history buffs enjoy the engaging exhibits at Buffalo Bill Center of the West
and Wyoming State Museum
, while visiting a rodeo or a dude ranch allows fledgling adventurers to experience the true spirit of the Wild West. The state might not have many theme parks, but if you're looking to splash around in pools and have some fun on water slides, Pinedale Aquatic Center and The Star Plunge
are the places to visit in Wyoming.
Tips for a Family Vacation in Wyoming
If you're planning a family tour of Wyoming, the best and usually the only way of getting around is by private car. You'll find car rental agencies in most of the state's cities and larger towns. When driving in Wyoming, it's always good to keep in mind that distances between places can be quite long. That's why it's a good idea to stock up on snacks, drinks, and gas, and provide some in-car entertainment for the kids to prevent boredom from quickly setting in. In areas popular with tourists you'll find a number of tourist agencies and tour operators, like BrushBuck Wildlife Tours - Day Tours
and Wildlife Expeditions of Teton Science Schools
. Consider those if you wish to leave the car behind and let the operators take care of transportation.
Dining and Shopping on Holiday in Wyoming
Cuisine of Wyoming
For a state that cherishes its cowboy roots, it's not surprising that simple, hearty, and tasty recipes are a staple in authentic Wyoming cuisine. Working hard and living on the prairie always required a protein-rich diet, so many Wyoming recipes are based on roasted meat, often from wild game like deer and elk. Many of these traditional recipes remain widely available throughout the state, so make sure to use your trip to Wyoming to try the local barbecue, jerky, and chili. Wyoming's lakes and rivers have always been known for their abundance of fish--trout is a major local specialty. Wyoming is not all about tradition, and throughout the state's towns and cities you can find plenty of restaurants that serve food from all over the world, from Thai to Mexican. Consider joining Jackson Hole Food Tours, a treat for foodies. The state is also home to several breweries and wineries, like The Blacktooth Brewing Company
and Buffalo Jump Winery
, providing beer and wine connoisseurs with their own selection of places to visit in Wyoming.
Shopping in Wyoming
Like many other aspects of life in this part of America, the state's shopping options remain largely influenced by Wyoming's historical heritage and stunning nature. You can spend your entire Wyoming holiday hunting for unique, locally made souvenirs, accessories, and home decorations that you'd be hard-pressed to find anywhere else. You'll soon discover that, just like in the old days, local craftspeople prefer to use natural materials like wool, leather, wood, antlers, and stone for creating their designs. Wyoming's nature and history provide constant inspiration for local artists, and you can find their creations at places like Whitney Gallery
and Mangelsen Images of Nature
With only a handful of larger cities in the whole state, it's understandable why Wyoming doesn't offer a lot of modern shopping malls. This doesn't mean that those looking for world-famous brands cannot find what they need, as Cheyenne's Frontier Mall features a collection of shops to match those of much larger cities.
Know Before You Go on a Trip to Wyoming
History of Wyoming
Before the arrival of European settlers, Wyoming's abundant hunting grounds and bountiful rivers and lakes attracted various Native American tribes for thousands of years. Some of the oldest archeological evidence suggests that people have been living in the area for well over 10,000 years. Arriving in the second half of the 18th century, European explorers encountered numerous native tribes, including Sioux, Shoshone, Blackfeet, and Cheyenne, after whom the state's capital and largest city was later named.
After America gained its independence and the Louisiana Purchase was concluded in 1803, the way to the West was open and more explorers started entering the area now encompassed by the state of Wyoming. One of the first American explorers to extensively travel the wilderness of Wyoming was John Colter. His descriptions of geothermal activities in the Yellowstone area sounded so unbelievable to his contemporaries that they quickly rejected them as a product of pure imagination. By the 1830s more and more people had become aware of Wyoming's beauties, as the establishment of the Oregon Trail made the territory one of the main links between the Pacific coast and the Missouri River.
An influx of immigrants in the mid-19th century caused tension with the native tribes and provoked increased military presence in the area. Sites like Fort Laramie National Historic Site
and Fort Casper Museum
still stand as monuments to this period and are great places to see in Wyoming for history buffs.
For almost a century Wyoming was the epitome of the Wild West--the home of cowboys, ranchers, trappers, prospectors, and outlaws. Even today, Old Western heritage is very much alive, especially in places like Buffalo Bill Center of the West
and Wyoming Frontier Prison
In 1890, Wyoming became the 44th American state. Even before Wyoming gained statehood, its natural beauties became renowned throughout the nation. In 1872, Yellowstone became America's first national park, and two decades later, Shoshone National Forest
was registered the first protected area of its kind in the country. For over a century, sites Devils Tower National Monument
have been some of the main tourist attractions in Wyoming, drawing millions of visitors to the state each year.
Landscape of Wyoming
The natural wonders and dramatic contrasts of Wyoming's landscapes can hardly be overstated. America's tenth largest state features everything from peaceful prairies and towering peaks, to crystal-clear lakes, boiling geysers, and roaring waterfalls, all of which make natural sightseeing in Wyoming a memorable experience. Geographically, the whole state is one large plateau crisscrossed by mountain ranges. Standing at 4,209 m (13,809 ft), Gannet Peak is the state's tallest mountain and is usually considered one of the most challenging climbs in the country. Probably the most famous feature of Wyoming's landscape are the geothermal sources like Grand Prismatic Spring
and Old Faithful
. The area of Yellowstone alone contains over 10,000 geothermal features and over 1,000 geysers. Unusually for a landlocked state, Wyoming is also home to over 30 islands, most of which are located on Yellowstone Lake
and Jackson Lake
Holidays & Festivals in Wyoming
In addition to all-American holidays like the Fourth of July and Thanksgiving, the people of Wyoming celebrate local history and traditions with a number of colorful festivals taking place throughout the year. In late January, Jackson
and several other communities host the International Pedigree Stage Stop Sled Dog Race, one of the biggest events of its kind in North America. Spring and summer are the times to celebrate the Old Western heritage, and there's no better way to do it than with a rodeo. Plenty of communities organize their own rodeos, but the biggest ones remain the Cody Stampede and the Cheyenne Frontier Days. Both of these events take place in July and you can easily plan your Wyoming vacation around them. For a real taste of old Wyoming, head to Fort Bridger
on a Labor Day weekend for the Fort Bridger Rendezvous, a reenactment of a 19th-century fur trade meeting. The celebration is marked with traditional dances, period cuisine, marksmanship contests, axe throwing competitions, and many other lively activities.
Wyoming Travel Tips
Climate of Wyoming
Wyoming's landscape is so diverse that it's often hard to talk about climate at a state-wide level. Latitude and geographical features play a major role in determining the weather of certain parts of the state, though Wyoming as a whole experiences a mostly continental climate. Winters in Wyoming usually start in late November, but it's not uncommon for many parts of the state to see first snows in September. A mountainous landscape and plenty of snowfall over the winter make the western parts of the state an excellent skiing destination, but even there average temperatures usually stay just below freezing point. Wyoming springs are relatively short and quickly give way to pleasant and moderately hot summers, which remain the most popular season for visitors interesting in taking a tour of Wyoming and enjoying a broad range of outdoor attractions. Bear in mind that even in June and July, when daily temperatures usually rise to around 26 degrees Celsius (80 degrees Fahrenheit), nights can be quite chilly--bring a jacket to avoid catching a cold in the middle of the summer.
Transportation in Wyoming
In many cases, the only way of getting to and around Wyoming is driving. In a state as large and as sparsely populated as Wyoming, there is no real need for an extensive intercity public transportation network. Jackson Hole is the home of Wyoming's biggest and busiest airport, but finding tickets for direct flights there can be tricky. That's why many visitors not driving to Wyoming from other destinations usually prefer to take a flight to one of the neighboring states, like Colorado or Utah. Taking a road trip in Wyoming can be a superb experience, but you should be careful when driving in winter or through areas rich in wildlife. Once the snow starts falling, make sure your schedule remains flexible, and be mindful of mountain roads that often get snowed in and force drivers to take alternative routes to their destination. Some means of transportation, like Jackson Hole Aerial Tram and Gondola Rides
and Cody Trolley Tours
are not just convenient ways of getting around, but also popular Wyoming attractions.