By Charlene & Richard Mixa
Get the Spirit of the Old West
Cheyenne – the name alone conjures up images of the old West with cowboys, rodeos, railroads and majestic plains. It’s a vibrant frontier town that celebrates its western roots as well as a fun lovin’ town that boasts Big Boots, Big Bison, Big Trains, Big Mansions, Big Western Stores and more. Join us on a trip through the past and experience the “Legend of Cheyenne.”
Just across the Wyoming border, Cheyenne is only 90 miles north of Denver, Colorado. Anxious to explore this fascinating town, we first check in at the Nagel Warren Mansion B&B located a couple of blocks from downtown. One of Cheyenne’s most elegant residences it was built by Erasmus Nagle in 1888 and is listed on the National Registry of Historic Places. Today this Victorian Bed & Breakfast hosts twelve rooms. Every room is uniquely decorated to recreate the elegance of the Victorian West, from the ornate staircases to the authentic period wallpaper to the antique furniture and 19th century-style artwork. On a gracious tour of the Mansion we admire the Sitting Area with a beautiful grand piano as the focal point and large upholstered chairs perfect for entertaining friends. Volumes of antique books line the walls of The Library while The Parlour has plenty of windows and a beautifully stenciled ceiling. The Dining Room is the picture of elegance for breakfast or tea. Complimentary refreshments and homemade “sweet treats” are found daily in the Butler Pantry. Our room, the Emma Room, named after Erasmus Nagle’s wife, is on the second floor of the mansion. A large room with tall windows facing the front lawn and stunningly high ceilings it has a beautiful antique queen bed with matching vanity and dresser. We definitely appreciate the desk and complimentary wireless internet for planning our adventures. Our private bath has a claw foot tub and great shower. Unlike accommodations of the past, it offers central air conditioning, a private bath, telephone, and television in each guest room. At Depot Plaza we jump on board the Cheyenne Street Railway Trolley. It’s a great 90 minute informative tour of Cheyenne’s past, present and future. As the tour winds through the city we go by major city sites including the Cheyenne Depot, the Wyoming State Capital, the Historic Governor’s Mansion, Cheyenne Botanic Gardens, and Cheyenne Frontier Days Old West Museum. We see the site of the Cheyenne Frontier Days which is the world’s biggest outdoor rodeo and Western celebration held annually in July. Our driver entertains us with amazing “tales” of Cheyenne and the fascinating history of the infamous Cheyenne Social Club. A progressive town it was one of the first city’s to have electricity and the first territory to grant women equal voting rights in December 1869. Cheyenne is home to the Big Boy Steam Engine, Old Number 4004, in Holliday Park. The world’s largest steam locomotive, this powerful coal-fired engine was designed to pull a 3,600-ton train over steep grades between Cheyenne and Ogden, Utah. It’s an insightful tour! We recommend the trolley tour with museum passes. Hop aboard early to take advantage of the “hop on and off.”
It’s Big Boy to Big Boot to Big Railroads! Outside the Cheyenne Depot is a beautifully painted 8 ft. tall cowboy boot. Actually there are twenty Big Boots throughout the city with paintings to celebrate Cheyenne’s history. Trains are big in Cheyenne – it’s the nation’s railroad capital! Located at the geographic center of North America, Cheyenne is strategically situated as a major transportation hub. The Cheyenne Depot was built in 1887 and designated a National Historic Landmark. Formerly the Union Pacific Depot it is acknowledged as one of the most beautiful railroad stations in North America and has been restored to its original glory. At the Depot, we look out over this massive railroad yard and get a better understanding of the influence of the railroad on Cheyenne. Inside are a visitor center, a restaurant and the Cheyenne Depot Museum. Touring the museum we learn the impact and allure of the railroad on Cheyenne with exhibits showcasing the history and romance of the railroad. It also has a wonderful interactive section for children. A big three story red-painted brick building dominates a corner across from Depot Plaza. “The Wrangler” has been a retail outlet since its erection in 1892. Over 13,000 sq. ft. today it offers every kind of Western clothing and accessories. Browsing the store we find it all from good ol’ Wrangler jeans to diamond-studded Stetsons. After a Western shopping spree we are off to the Plains Hotel for a tour and dinner. Opening in 1911, the Plains was Wyoming’s premier full service hotel enjoyed by cattle barons and oil tycoons. Even today it continues with an elegant historical charm especially the two-story lobby mezzanine with an inspiring stained glass skylight. Dining at the Plain’s Capital Grille we enjoy a relaxing dinner while visiting with Darren Rudloff from the Cheyenne Convention and Visitors Center. Darren shares not only the historical aspects of Cheyenne but especially new and exciting business growth for the area. Centrality is big! Due to its central location Cheyenne is a major communications hub especially with the new NCAR (National Center for Atmospheric Research) supercomputer housed there. Depot Plaza is gearing up for a Friday concert and we enjoy the cool evening air and some boogie music. Back at the Nagle Warren Mansion, we find great homemade “sweets” in the Butler Pantry. A scrumptious breakfast of Wyoming size portions in the Mansion’s elegant dining room begins our day. Jim, the Mansion’s owner, is readily available with interesting stories of the Mansion and Cheyenne’s history.
Yippee! Thrill in the world’s first extreme sport! At the Cheyenne Frontier Days Old West Museum we experience the history of the world’s largest outdoor rodeo and western celebration. Missing the real rodeo its excitement still comes alive at the Museum. The exhibits are fantastic celebrating the heritage and pioneer spirit of the American West. We marvel at one of the nation’s largest collections of historic horse-drawn carriages and wagons. The Museum traces the history of Cheyenne’s Frontier Days from its humble beginnings in 1897 to the world renowned pageantry today as “The Daddy of ‘em all.” Fantastic videos capture the amazing and brave feats of the rodeo clown’s, cowboys and cowgirls. It has a fantastic children’s area too!
Big Ranch and Big Bison! Feed a buffalo! All this and more is found at the Terry Bison Ranch just south of Cheyenne. Boasting 28,000 acres and 3,000 buffalo it’s a fun place to visit. First is lunch of a tasty, “lean and healthy” bison burger and bison brat in the Senator’s Steak House at the Ranch. Boarding the train (which in September is actually a revitalized boat on tracks) that only goes 2 miles per hour, we slowly pass by stalls of camels, ostrich, chickens, horses and other animals as we head out to the plains. Approaching the buffalo herd, our driver explains Tinkerbell, a buffalo bull, fathered 1400 of the herd. As the “boat” stops, buffalo come right up to the open doorway. A huge bison sticks his head in the doorway to be fed. Must be pretty tasty, these beasts stick out large tongues to grasp treats. Beware! No treats – you get a big wet lick. For a bit of culture we visit DeSelms Fine Art featuring fantastic and phenomenal art work in a beautiful restored home. Fabulous! Amazing the Wyoming Plein Air painting event held each August is a collaboration of The Link Gallery and DeSelms Fine Art. The artists paint around Cheyenne and Wyoming for this two week event. Attending artists paint En Plein Air which means from life, no studio work or painting from photographs is allowed. Magnificent artwork and talent! Afterwards we enjoy an afternoon stroll through town along Capital Street to Wyoming’s State Capital admiring the sites of the town. Guess we burned off that Bison Burger so we drive over Poor Richard’s for dinner. A warm cozy setting the restaurant offers a varied menu featuring steaks and seafood. The staff is very friendly and conscientious. For 28 years, Poor Richard’s has been Cheyenne’s finest family owned & operated restaurant. Our meals of walleye over tricolor rice and scallops with a spinach mushroom risotto cake are excellent. Plus the tasty soup and scrumptious salad bar are included. Our final evening in Cheyenne we find more delicious treats in the Mansion’s Butler’s Pantry for a “sweet” end to our busy day. Back in our room we “kick” of our shoes (no boots today) and relive our fun adventures in this “boot-stompin” vibrant town. If you go: Cheyenne Area Convention & Visitors Bureau, One Depot Square, 121 West 15th Street, Suite 202, Cheyenne, WY 82001; 800.426.5009; www.cheyenne.org Nagle Warren Mansion, 222 East 17th Street, Cheyenne, WY 82001;307.637.3333; http://naglewarrenmansion.com Poor Richard’s, 2233 East Lincolnway, Cheyenne, WY 82001 307.635.5114; http://poorrichardscheyenne Terry Bison Ranch, 51 E I 25 Service Rd, Cheyenne, WY 82007; 307.634.4171;http://terrybisonranch.com