Chase Cowboy Culture in Nebraska
Howdy, friends. Ready to channel your inner cowhand? You've come to the right place.
Chances are, if you're imagining Nebraska, visions of cowboys and cowgirls—or simply, cowhands—have galloped through your daydreams. We're here to help you realize those dreams: as a keeper of generations-deep cowhand culture, Nebraska promises several ways for you to experience the lore, and even the lifestyle, firsthand.
In Ogallala, head to a recreated late-1800s Main Street at Front Street and Cowboy Museum.
Step up to the bar at the Crystal Palace Saloon and order a drink —pink lemonade and milkshakes for the kids, maybe something stronger for the adults. You’re in for an Old West shootout and show resurrecting the days when Ogallala was a rough-and-tumble town full of cowhands, cattle barons and drifters — and the Crystal Palace was at the center of it all. Tour the museum to see cowboy artifacts and learn about the Old West lifestyle and some outlaws like Sam Bass.
While you're in Ogallala, seek out the historical marker for Boot Hill, where cattle drivers and cowboys en route from Texas to Nebraska died and were buried with their boots on. The bronze “Trail Boss” statue marks the spot.
You'll discover another Boot Hill Cemetery in Sidney. Originally built as a burial place for soldiers of Fort Sidney, the cemetery was quickly filled with outlaws and their victims when Sidney became a lawless Old West town in the last 1870s and early 1880s.
Reserve at least a half-day to explore Buffalo Bill Ranch State Historical Park and State Recreation Area. Once home to Pony Express rider and showman William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody, this mansion and barn have been restored and filled with memorabilia related to Cody's storied life. Before or after your tour, relax with a trail ride at neighboring Dusty Trails. The outfitter guides horseback trips through the historic ranch, winding past shrubs, trees and the North Platte River.
Curious about the Pony Express? Visit the Pony Express Station in Gothenburg. Originally built as a trading post and ranch house, the site served as a station along the historic mail route from 1860 to 1861. Visit the museum to learn more about “lightning mail” and the incredible riders who raced along this historic trail. Bonus: It's a great place to stretch your legs, too, with a walk in the onsite arboretum or a trip to the playground.
See a replica miniature of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show and all kinds of Old West artifacts at the Fort Cody Trading Post in North Platte. At the Old West exhibit, you’ll see a collection of tools, clothing, saddles and other artifacts, some even dating back over 150 years. Be sure to stop into the Trading Post’s shop for a variety of unique gift items and souvenirs.
Chadron’s Museum of the Fur Trade, located at the historic Bordeaux Trading Post, houses more than 6,000 artifacts. From clothing and textiles to tools and art supplies to firearms and weapons, the museum’s immense collection details the North American fur trade.
In Crawford, experience frontier life firsthand at High Plains Homestead. Book a two-night stay for a true homesteading adventure at this 1880s frontier village. There are all kinds of ways to get out and enjoy northwest Nebraska’s landscapes here, from birding and wildlife watching to hiking, mountain biking and fossil hunting.
For more hands-on cowboy experiences, consider a ranch-cation. Many of Nebraska’s working ranches double as unique vacation accommodations. If you’re looking for a true cowhand experience, book a stay on a working ranch.