Wild West Towns You Can Visit
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18 Towns Where You Can Still Experience the Wild West

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Wild West Towns You Can Visit
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Calling All Cowpokes

Tales of the lawless West have always been a hit with tourists, and plenty of towns across the U.S. are more than happy to embrace their history and help visitors travel back in time to the 1800s. 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 18 places where you can spend a weekend reliving how the West was won.

Cody, Wyoming
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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.
Can't-miss event: The mid-summer Cody Stampede, which has been going 100 years strong, showcases why this town is the "Rodeo Capital of the World." And the smaller Cody Nite Rodeo takes place every single night from June through August.

Pendleton, Oregon
Source: TripAdvisor

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 perspective on western expansion.
Can't-miss event: September's iconic Pendleton Round-Up has been drawing rodeo lovers to town since the early 1900s and remains one of the nation's largest such events. A major concert, parades, and the Happy Canyon Indian Pageant are staples of the experience, too.

Amarillo, Texas
Source: TripAdvisor

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.
Can't-miss event: September's Tri-State Fair and Rodeo has been going strong for close to a century, offering visitors plenty of chances to kick up their heels on rides, see livestock shows, indulge in some gut-busting fair food, and root for their favorite bull rider.

Tombstone, Arizona
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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 Theatre, where more than 140 bullet holes offer ample proof of the building's violent past.
Can't-miss event: Stroll Tombstone's streets on the second and fourth Sunday of each month, and the Tombstone Vigilantes will entertain you with historical fashion shows and re-enactments, including mock hangings.

Bodie, California
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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 re-enactments, restaurants, or shops selling souvenirs — just you and the ghosts of an old, gold-rush town.
Can't-miss event: The Bodie Foundation runs events at the park throughout the year, including daily public tours, private tours, and special events including ghost walks and moonlight mill visits.

Related: 20 Spooky Ghost Towns Across America

Virginia City, Nevada
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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 first-hand 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.
Can't-miss event: For something completely off-beat, come in October for the annual World Championship Outhouse Races, which pits competitors against one another as they race their homemade outhouses toward a toilet-paper finish line.

Idaho City, Idaho
Source: TripAdvisor

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.
Can't-miss event: Visit in October for Idaho City Days and enjoy historical reenactments, tours of Gold Rush-era buildings, crafts and antiques, and even Cowboy Poetry.

Fort Worth, Texas
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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 re-enactments of gun battles, explore the Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame, and much more.
Can't-miss event: Enjoy some of Texas' mild winter weather at the Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo, held in January and February. Livestock and horse shows round out the rodeo action, plus there's plenty of shopping, a massive parade, live music, and a carnival.

Virginia and Nevada City, Montana
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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 re-enactors at the Nevada City Living History Museum.
Can't-miss event: Make sure your visit coincides with one of the Virginia City Players' show times, which take place Tuesday through Friday throughout the year. Each performance includes both a melodrama and vaudeville performance, accompanied by a one-man orchestra playing the world's only still-in-use Cremona photo player.

Fort Smith, Arkansas
Source: TripAdvisor

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."
Can't-miss event: Go during May to enjoy the many events of Fort Smith Western Heritage Month. This year's celebration included cannon firings, Victorian house tours, re-enactments, and The Old Fort Days Rodeo.

Sacramento, California
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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 which boasts plenty of 19th century buildings that now host museums, restaurants and shops. Train buffs won't want to miss the California State Railroad Museum, and popular Underground Tours show visitors how the city saved itself from persistent flooding during the Gold Rush era.
Can't-miss event: Old Sacramento Waterfront Days, which recently debuted over Memorial Day weekend, celebrates the city's long history with melodramas, re-enactments, live entertainment, river cruises, carriage rides, and more.

Related: 20 Free and Cheap Underground Places to Explore

Cripple Creek, Colorado
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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. Old-fashioned Victorian melodrama is still on the summer schedule.
Can't-miss event: Come in June for Donkey Derby Days, a two-day jamboree featuring real donkey races, a tradition dating from the '30s. There are also plenty of other activities, plus street vendors and live entertainment.

Sidney, Nebraska
Source: TripAdvisor

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 like Chimney Rock.
Can't-miss event: June's Sidney Gold Rush Days pay homage to the town's role in outfitting miners in the late 1800s. Expect wagon rides, gold-panning demonstrations, crafts, live entertainment and more.

Oatman, Arizona
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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 re-enactments at high noon, and the historic adobe Oatman Hotel, where Clark Gable and Carole Lombard honeymooned in 1939.
Can't-miss event: True to its quirky nature, Oatman hosts some offbeat events like the Sidewalk Egg Fry Contest, held on July Fourth, and January's Oatman Bed Races.

Durango, Colorado
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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 and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, or use their own wheels to explore the breathtaking but hair-raising Million Dollar Highway.
Can't-miss event: The weeklong Fiesta Days festival in July includes a chuckwagon cook off, a parade, rodeos, and other events that pay homage to the area's Western history.

Deadwood, South Dakota
Source: TripAdvisor

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 like 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.
Can't-miss event: Rodeo lovers should mark their calendars for late July, when the Days of 76, repeatedly voted Rodeo of the Year by the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association, kicks up some dust.

Dodge City, Kansas
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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.
Can't-miss event: Go in late July or early August to enjoy the Dodge City Days festival. It features dozens of events, including barbecue contests, the Dodge City Days Concert, and the Dodge City Roundup Rodeo.

Abilene, Kansas
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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.
Can't-miss event: The Central Kansas Free Fair features the Wild Bill Hickok Rodeo, a demolition derby, truck and tractor pulls, plenty of rides and food, and even a belt-buckle auction.