There’s a city in the western U.S. that embraces its frontier past while living very much in the present. Cheyenne, Wyoming, is a delightful and surprising place to visit. With a population of 65,000, Cheyenne is in the southeast corner of the state, just 90 miles north of Denver and its massive airport.
“We’re on a lot of people’s bucket lists,” said Jim Walter, vice president of sales and marketing for Visit Cheyenne. “We’re a capital city, and some people like to check off visits to state capitals around the country. We have an absolutely beautiful, restored state capitol building, as well as amazing state, railroad and niche museums, such as one that tells the 125-year history of our Frontier Days celebration.”
Group travel planners who attend the next Select Traveler Conference will gather in Cheyenne March 28-30, 2022. The conference will be at the historic Little America Hotel and Resort, the largest convention hotel in Wyoming.
There are loads of other hotels and motels — 2,375 rooms — in the area, plus Airbnbs, inns and bed-and-breakfasts from which to choose with prices in all ranges. The Select Traveler planners lead travel groups for banks, chambers of commerce, and college and other alumni groups. Walter is happy they’re coming.
“We’ve always succeeded with the leisure travel market when it comes to visiting Cheyenne,” he said.
Cheyenne’s compact downtown is easy to navigate by coach or on foot. Another way is to hop on the easy-to-spot green and red Cheyenne Street Railway Trolley for a tour with lively, knowledgeable guides. There are many public spaces, restored historic buildings and murals to see on tours that emphasize history. Other trolley tours have ghost or Christmas themes and can be booked for any group. Cheyenne is not a large city, but it is certainly a city of museums. The Cheyenne Depot Museum is inside the gorgeous, restored train depot. The Nelson Museum of the West, the Wyoming State Museum, Cheyenne Frontier Day’s Old West Museum and the charming Cowgirls of the West Museum are all good choices. The historic Governors Museum is also an interesting place to wander. Tourists love to stop and have a picture snapped with one of 25 colorful, artist-decorated, eight-foot-tall cowboy boots located all around town. Groups sometimes stage scavenger hunts. The boots commemorate Wyoming history. One pair depicts the railroads extending their tracks from Cheyenne up and across the Rocky Mountains. Another honors Wyoming becoming the first state to give women the right to vote.
Rodeos and Bison
Cheyenne Frontier Days, the largest outdoor rodeo and western celebration in the United States, is held every year in late July. But a group coming to Cheyenne at other times of the year can arrange to enjoy a custom mini rodeo of their own.
The DeLancey Family, who are residents, can put together a custom two-hour performance of cowboys and cowgirls doing team roping, barrel racing, breakaway roping, pole bending and goat tying. Don’t know what all that is? Audience members will catch on fast and enjoy the excitement. A special cowboy dinner for the group can also be arranged to coincide with the rodeo. At one time in the American West, millions of bison and buffalo roamed the plains. Cheyenne re-creates some of those experiences at the 27,000-acre Terry Bison Ranch. People hop on a custom-built train while a guide describes life on the plains in the 1800s. The train glides into a herd of bison, and riders see them up close, take selfies with them and touch and feed the beasts. There are many other types of ranch experiences for groups, among them dinner in the Senator’s Steakhouse and a meal served aboard a train out on the plains.
Even More To Do
There are dozens of options to keep visitors entertained if they want to get outside around Cheyenne. The Cheyenne Botanic Gardens is a lovely place to stroll, with nine acres and three greenhouses, one with a koi pond.
A beautiful state park between Cheyenne and Laramie is named for the late Curt Gowdy, a Wyoming native sportscaster. It has seven distinct sections of landscapes. There are three reservoirs, which means excellent fishing opportunities. Boating, hiking and horseback riding are also popular.
The railroad was a key factor in the founding of Cheyenne. The Union Pacific Railroad track layers chose this area to begin their ascent over the Rocky Mountains, and the city sprang up overnight on the plains. So it’s natural that there are fascinating train relics to see. One is Big Boy 414, the largest steam locomotive in the world. It stands 16 feet tall and 132 feet long and has an engine that weighs 1.2 million pounds and can fit three 40-foot school buses inside of it. It is quite a sight. Another cool locomotive is Engine 1242, known as Ol’ Sadie. It is Wyoming’s oldest steam engine.
Downtown Cheyenne is a wonderful place to walk, eat and shop. The restaurant district is fun and growing, and the area has four breweries and two distilleries. Many folks love to shop for Western boots, clothes, home furnishings and art in several interesting shops downtown.
The CVB’s Walter believes that Cheyenne is an easy sell to groups if their planners try it out first. “They will get to see some of the things that they can then turn around and sell to the people they represent,” said Walter. “We always enjoy having travel planners experience us firsthand.”