Top 20 Old Western Towns You Can Still Visit

Wild West town

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Stagecoach Pulled By Two Horses Down a Street in Tombstone, Arizona, Old Western Style Buildings Line in the Background

Calling All Cowpokes

Tales of the lawless West have always been a hit with tourists. Plenty of the "Old West" towns across the U.S. are more than happy to embrace their history and help visitors travel back in time to the 1800s, cowboy hat in hand.

If you can't get enough of gun-slinging outlaws, booze-fueled saloon brawls, or grizzled prospectors looking to strike it rich, we've rounded up 20 Old Western towns where you can spend a weekend reliving how the West was won.

Old Trail Town, Wyoming, a Ghost Town, Several Old Stagecoaches in the Foreground, Old Western Buildings on Both Sides

1. Cody, Wyoming

As its name suggests, Cody was founded by "Buffalo Bill" Cody himself. The discovery of oil fields and the founding of nearby Yellowstone National Park have ensured the town has always stayed lively. 

Today's visitors won't want to miss the Buffalo Bill Center of the West, which traces not only Cody's life but the development of the region and the culture of the American cowboy. At Old Trail Town, old frontier buildings including outlaws' cabins, a school, a blacksmith shop, and a saloon have been meticulously reassembled for visitors to explore.

The Big Texan Steak Ranch Restaurant, Amarillo, Texas, Cow Statue in the Foreground with Restaurant Behind, Three Texas State Flags

2. Amarillo, Texas

Amarillo's Wild West roots lie not in gold or silver but cattle, as the wide, open spaces attracted ranchers to the area in the late 1800s. The city is still surrounded by ranches and proudly promotes its cowboy history. 

Go for a horseback ride at Cowgirls and Cowboys in the West, and be sure to catch "Texas," an outdoor musical drama that traces the state's settlement in the 1800s and has been performed in Palo Duro Canyon State Park for more than 50 seasons.

A Cowgirl and Cowboys Riding Longhorn Bulls in Veterans Day Parade, Bandera, Texas

3. Bandera, Texas

Nicknamed the "Cowboy Capital of the World," this Wild West town in southern Texas was a staging ground for the last cattle drives of the 1800s. The town's cowboy roots are very much on display today, with plenty of nearby ranches and museums that have immortalized Bandera's history. A highlight for country music fans will be Arkey Blue's Silver Dollar Bar, the longest-running honkytonk in the Lone Star State.

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Stagecoach with Two Horses in Front of the O.K. Corral on Allen Street in Tombstone, Arizona

4. Tombstone, Arizona

Tombstone became a boomtown after a silver-mining strike in the late 1870s. It's most infamous for a shootout at the O.K. Corral, a gunfight that involved Wyatt Earp, Earp's brothers, Doc Holliday, and a gang of unscrupulous cowboys. The 30-second bloodbath is recreated three times a day; visitors can also check out the Birdcage Theater, where more than 140 bullet holes offer ample proof of the building's violent past.

Related: 30 Stunning Photos of Iconic Landscapes in the American West

An Old Wooden Wagon in the Ghost Town of Bodie, California, Two Buildings on the Left, Dramatic Feel of Image

5. Bodie, California

Sandwiched between Yosemite National Park and the Nevada border, Bodie offers a very different way to immerse yourself in the Wild West. An authentic mining ghost town that hosted more than 60 saloons and dance halls at its peak, its decay has been frozen by park authorities. Visitors are free to explore its spooky remains, but there are no kitschy reenactments, restaurants, or shops selling souvenirs — just you and the ghosts of an old, gold-rush town.

Related: 19 Spooky Ghost Towns Across America

Pendleton Woolen Mill and Factory Outlet in Pendleton, Oregon, Road in the Foreground, a Tree on the Right
Brycia James/istockphoto

6. Pendleton, Oregon

This Oregon city where "the West is still wild" began as a western trading post. It later became home to immigrant rail workers as well as the Pendleton Woolen Mills, which is still cranking out its iconic wool blankets after 150 years

Tour the mills or join one of the Pendleton Underground Tours for a look at the city's turn-of-the-century red-light district. See another side of the Old West at the Tamastslikt Cultural Institute, which gives visitors a Native American perspective on western expansion in the United States.

Related: The 40 Best Places in America to Travel Back in Time

Downtown of Bisbee, Arizona During the Holiday Season, Evening with Christmas Lights Lining a Canopy Over the Street

7. Bisbee, Arizona

After a civilian tracker discovered deposits of lead, copper, and silver in Arizona's mule mountains in the late 1800s, speculators flooded the area and the "Queen of the Copper Camps" was born. In 1902, that camp became Bisbee, Arizona, a quintessential old west mining town. 

Today, Wild West enthusiasts can take guided walking tours throughout Bisbee, where there were once bustling saloons, brothels, and breweries. If you're willing to don a hardhat, yellow slicker, and miner's lamp, then you should also tour the Copper Queen Mine.

A Train in Motion with Passengers on the Railroad in Virginia City, Nevada, Gravel in the Foreground, Mountains in the Background

8. Virginia City, Nevada

The discovery of the Comstock Lode made Virginia City a 19th-century mining boomtown the likes of which were unmatched in the rest of the West. Get a firsthand look during a tour of the Chollar Mine, where miners extracted millions in gold and silver. For some kitschy Wild West theater, check out the Virginia City Outlaws, or hop aboard the V&T Railway for a ride to Carson City aboard an old steam train.

White House in the Boise Basin Museum Historical Town, Idaho City, Idaho, Surrounded By Trees and Plants

9. Idaho City, Idaho

This once-booming mining town northeast of Boise was the birthplace of vigilante law, and while it's but a shadow of its former self, what remains is an atmospheric stop for strolling along planked boardwalks and drinking sarsaparilla at the local saloon. The Boise Basin Museum offers a look at the town's past, and the Pioneer Cemetery is a spooky, forested spot with graves dating from the 1860s.

Fort Worth Stockyards National Historic District, Fort Worth, Texas, Cowboys and Cowgirls with a Herd of Bulls on a Brick Road, Historical Buildings on Both Sides
Fort Worth Stockyards National Historic District

10. Fort Worth, Texas

Fort Worth, which bills itself as "where the West begins," was established as an Army outpost in the middle of the 19th century, later becoming a major livestock center. Today, you can head to the Fort Worth Stockyards National Historic District to see massive steers amble down the street in a twice-daily cattle drive, take in reenactments of gun battles, explore the Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame, and much more.

Large Abandoned Wooden House in the Ghost Town of Virginia City, Montana, Yard in the Foreground

11. Virginia and Nevada City, Montana

Virginia City and its smaller counterpart, Nevada City, are just northwest of Yellowstone National Park. Both were mining boom towns starting in the 1860s thanks to nearby gold strikes, and Virginia City even became the territorial capital. Today, visitors can stroll down the boardwalk, pan for gold, take a short open-air train ride between towns, and interact with reenactors at the Nevada City Living History Museum.

Visitor Center of Fort Smith National Historic Site, Fort Smith, Arkansas, Purple Flowers on a Tree in the Left Foreground, on a Green Grass Lawn

12. Fort Smith, Arkansas

The easternmost town on our list still claims plenty of western heritage. In the 1840s, this was a staging ground for miners before they headed west to seek their fortune; it would later play an important role in Civil War history, too. 

Visitors can explore "life on the edge of Indian Territory" at Fort Smith National Historic Site, including its grisly past as the spot where dozens of criminals were executed in the late 1800s. At Miss Laura's Visitor Center, check out a fully restored bordello that was one of several of the town's "houses of ill repute."

Buildings of Old Sacramento Historic District, Sacramento, California, An American Flag on the Left
Leonid Andronov/istockphoto

13. Sacramento, California

Don't let the California capital's reputation as bland and boring fool you — it's one of the best places in the state to get a feel for the Wild West spirit. Visit the Old Sacramento Waterfront, a National Historic Landmark boasting 19th century buildings that now host museums, restaurants, and shops. 

Train buffs won't want to miss the California State Railroad Museum, and the Sacramento History Museum's popular underground tours show visitors how the city saved itself from persistent flooding during the Gold Rush era.

Train in Motion on Railroad in the Foreground with the Town of Cripple Creek, Colorado in the Background

14. Cripple Creek, Colorado

The "world's greatest gold camp" yielded millions of ounces of the shiny stuff beginning in 1890, and visitors today can descend 1,000 feet to check out the Mollie Kathleen Gold Mine, which offers the country's only vertical shaft gold-mine tour. Above ground, catch a show at the Butte Theater, which has been entertaining guests since the 1890s with old-fashioned Victorian melodrama.

The National Pony Express Monument, Sidney, Nebraska, Side of Statue

15. Sidney, Nebraska

Sidney was a supply depot at the beginning of the Sidney-Blackhills Trail, which led straight to gold-rich South Dakota. It was also the site of frequent clashes between settlers and Native Americans, and later became a major farming and ranching center. Today, visit the graves of some colorful characters at Boot Hill Cemetery. You can also follow some of the nearby Pony Express National Historic Trail, which includes landmarks such as Chimney Rock.

A Donkey on the Dirt Road of Oatman, Arizona, Historical Buildings Behind It

16. Oatman, Arizona

This popular Route 66 pit stop once had thousands of residents in its turn-of-the-century mining heyday; today, it's barely a blip on the map. Still, its historic buildings and roaming wild burros, descendants of the animals brought to town by miners, give it plenty of appeal. You'll find kitschy shops and restaurants, gunfight reenactments at high noon, and the historic adobe Oatman Hotel, where Clark Gable and Carole Lombard honeymooned in 1939.

Historical Steam Engine Train, with Yellow Railroad Cars, in Motion Through the San Juan Mountains, Colorado

17. Durango, Colorado

Durango's colorful history includes clashes between miners and Native Americans, westward railroad expansion, cattle rustling, and much more. The picturesque town has even served as a backdrop for many a Western, including "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid." Visitors can take a carriage ride through the historic downtown, hop aboard the scenic Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, or use their own wheels to explore the breathtaking but hair-raising Million Dollar Highway.

Historical Town of Deadwood, South Dakota, Buildings on Both Sides of the Road

18. Deadwood, South Dakota

The discovery of a gold-filled creek in the 1870s was all it took to transform Deadwood from a small camp to a booming town that hosted the likes of Calamity Jane and Wild Bill Hickok. The town's origins are well-preserved at sites such as the Days of 76 Museum and the Broken Boot Gold Mine. The latter offers spooky Candlelight Tours every evening to give visitors a taste of how miners had to search for gold in the olden days.

Replica of the Great Western Hotel, Dodge City, Kansas, Black Fence Surrounds It, with an American Flag

19. Dodge City, Kansas

The "wickedest little city in the West" sprang up as a trading center near the Santa Fe Trail, which connected Missouri and New Mexico for much of the 1800s. Today, the experience is best memorialized at the Boot Hill Museum, which boasts more than 60,000 artifacts and a replica of Dodge City's infamous, lawless Front Street as it looked in the 1870s. Summer also means twice-daily gunfights and a nightly variety show at the Long Branch Saloon.

'Check All Guns' Sign Outside of the Historical Town of Abilene, Kansas, Sign on the Left, Road on the Right, Lawn in the Background

20. Abilene, Kansas

Perhaps better known as President Dwight D. Eisenhower's boyhood home, this "queen of the Kansas cowtowns" was first settled in the mid-1800s, growing as it became a rail hub and cattle market. It was also a place where Wild Bill Hickok like to kick back at the saloon during his stint as town marshal

Visitors can get a sense for the town's lawless history at Old Abilene Town, where you can see gun fights and can-can dancers at Hickok's favorite saloon. For a fun photo op, go see the world's largest spur (and maybe buy yourself a pair of boots, too) at Rittel's Western Wear.