Nothing Shy about Cheyenne, WyomingFebruary 27, 2011 No Comments
We went to Cheyenne on business, but we stayed for family fun. Do your kids like cowboys? Have they ever sung the song “Home on the Range?” Then consider taking a trip to cowboy country and wide open spaces where the deer and the antelope – and plenty of cattle – still roam.
Wyoming is a wonderful state and we’ve spent past vacations in the wonder and solitude of the Grand Tetons and enjoying the incredible geysers and mud pots and mysterious saline shapes of Yellowstone National Park, too. Cheyenne is in the grass lands part of the state, a city surrounded by vast, stunningly empty plains. It’s the state capital of Wyoming and the state’s largest city – but with a population not much over fifty thousand, it still has a small town feel and plenty of cowboy hats to be found on its urban population.
In the nineteenth century, Cheyenne was a busy city populated by rich cattle barons and driven by an expanding railroad industry. Business and transportation moved south to Denver, Colorado however, and Cheyenne morphed into the mellow cowboy town it is today.
We loved the Historic District located in the heart of downtown Cheyenne. While the business portion of our trip was conducted at a chain hotel just outside of town, we moved our children to the Nagle Warren Mansion, once upon a time the home of Francis Warren, a governor of Wyoming who entertained lavishly and decorated his home on an even more lavish scale. Today the Mansion is a bed and breakfast. In these elegant surroundings we were surprised to find out that both small children and pets are welcome – the pets with a security deposit, the children under twelve with the accompaniment of an adult.
Our kids were fascinated by the stunning, original Moroccan chandelier in the front entrance. Carved leather ceilings were another interest, and the lush stained glass and crystal windows were lovely, particularly with afternoon light streaming in. The library and sitting room are something out of a Harry Potter movie – if Hogwarts was set in the old west on what was once Cattle Baron Row. Our rooms were in the Carriage House, although there are guest rooms in the main house as well, and public areas including the library and sitting room are open for all. Best of all were the commodious grounds – gardens, a fountain, and a hot tub room for chilly nights.
The mansion serves an enormous and delicious breakfast and a high tea. The ingredients are organic, fresh, and special diets are willingly accommodated. Best of all this incredible Bed & Breakfast is reasonably priced.
Staying here, we had very easy access to all of the historic area. We began our walking tour of this district with the Union Pacific Depot, another stunning link to the opulence of Cheyenne in the late 1800′s. Similarly, the Governor’s Mansion and the Capitol Building, with a sparkling gold domed roof that dominates the city’s skyline, also provide a look into the city’s rich past.
We loved simply strolling the streets and taking in the well preserved historic buildings, but the Governor’s Mansion also offers a tour that’s short enough to keep the small ones interested while offering an interesting look at both the architecture of the mansion and the people who lived and worked there.
Time for a giant chocolate chip cookie or a tasty vegetable sandwich on fresh baked bread? Check out the small but very delicious Bread Basket in the same historic downtown area.
Just outside of Cheyenne – twenty minutes on a nicely open freeway, the kind of freeway Southern Californian’s like myself only too rarely get to drive – you’ll find the Terry Bison Ranch off Interstate 25.
Although the ranch offers a great look at cowboy activities and culture with its old time, old West architectural facade, its not cattle that are raised here, its bison. About two thousand of them, and visitors are allowed see the herd from a tour bus that runs across the property. This was a great visit for the kids, bouncing over the open plains and straight into a group of these massive, impressive critters. Not quite exotic enough? Check out the camels that the ranch also raises.
For dinner we liked Sanford’s in downtown Cheyenne. The kids liked the fact that the building features a car embedded in the wall, and most excellent macaroni and cheese. Family friendly and busy even though we did not dine until close to eight p.m. the hearty food more than held us until we were able to partake of the mansion’s full breakfast spread in the morning.
Once fed, we got in a rut – a wagon wheel rut, fossilized into the ground near Guernsey State Park outside Cheyenne. The rut was a remnant of the Oregon Trail, when pioneers traversed these plains heading west. The park also offers some pleasant, easy trails of its own for small feet to enjoy. The park is about a forty-five minute drive from downtown, but again the ease of driving on and the emptiness of the interstate around Cheyenne makes the drive nearly painless.
Back in town, we were able to see depictions of the Oregon Trail era at Cheyenne’s well laid out Old West Museum. The collection focuses on western art, and the vivid landscapes and crisp cowboys hanging on the wall made the entire Cheyenne experience really come alive for the kids. For western wear, you can check out a veritable museum of clothing at The Wrangler, where we were able to try on some of those ten gallon hats we saw around town.