Colorado has a rich heritage in cowboy culture and remains a global ranching capital. Groups can experience the state’s rich Western heritage in its many museums, historic sites, and rodeos.
This list, provided by Tour Colorado, includes the best places to experience cowboy culture in the state.
1. ProRodeo Hall of Fame & Museum of the American Cowboy
Orient your group to the region’s cowboy history at the ProRodeo Hall of Fame & Museum of the American Cowboy in Colorado Springs. Visitors can explore the immense exhibition hall that houses saddles, chaps, and other equipment from centuries of rodeo history. The Hall of Champions honors wranglers, stock contractors, and rodeo clowns that contributed to rodeo culture.
2. Ghost Town Museum
Step into the spurs of 19th-century settlers at Colorado Springs’ Ghost Town Museum. Visitors can walk through an immense indoor re-creation of a pioneer village that consists of preserved artifacts and buildings from the Pikes Peak area. Test your aim at the shooting gallery, try your hand at a printing press, and even pan for gold.
3. Black American West Museum & Heritage Center
Learn about the profound influence African Americans had upon Western expansion at the Black American West Museum & Heritage Center. Located in the former home of Dr. Justina Ford (the first Black female doctor in Denver), the center profiles black cowboys, homesteaders, and lawmen as the American West rapidly developed after the Civil War.
4. Bent’s Old Fort
Bent’s Old Fort in Colorado’s southeastern corner was once a thriving trading post that connected fur trappers, Westward pioneers, and the Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes. Register for an interpretive tour to interact with costumed craftspeople and walk the ramparts of this adobe structure to learn how these disparate groups interacted during the fort’s heyday in the 1840s.
5. The Fort
The Fortin the town of Morrison was built in 1962 to match the style of Bent’s Old Fort, including an authentic adobe foundation, furniture, and doors constructed using 19th-century techniques. Groups can call ahead to tour the campus and learn about Colorado’s Western past before enjoying entrees of bison, elk, and quail, in addition to the signature house cocktail that was served in Bent’s Old Fort in 1833 (consisting of bourbon, sugar, and mint).
6. Gunnison Pioneer Museum
Learn about Rocky Mountain history at the Gunnison Pioneer Museum, a 14-acre campus that consists of 30 buildings. Tour a preserved schoolhouse, post office, and rail depot to learn about the Native Americans and settlers who made a home of this rugged region.
7. Buffalo Bill Grave & Museum
If you are staying in the Denver area, venture into the mountains to visit the Buffalo Bill Grave & Museum. The resting place of America’s famous cowboy and showman includes artifacts from the touring Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show, a peace pipe that belonged to Lakota leader Sitting Bull, and beautiful views of downtown Golden.
8. Greeley Stampede
Colorado’s signature Western event is the rodeo. Originally developed as a showcase for vaqueros and cowboys to display their roping and livestock herding skills, rodeos have developed to showcase the ranching lifestyle with a broad array of skills competitions, live music, food, and art. Dating to the late 1800s and once the largest fair in the world, the Greeley Stampede is a massive festival that welcomes over 250,000 annual visitors and features bull-riding, displays by local artists, and performances by internationally renowned country singers. Visitors can watch over 100 cars become rubble in a demolition derby, catch a variety of roping competitions, and see beautiful Western-inspired paintings and sculptures at the art show.
9. National Western Stock Show
Another must-see spectacle is the National Western Stock Show just north of Denver. Hosting over 15,000 animals, the event includes bull-riding competitions, barrel racing, and booths that sell authentic Western ware like cowboy boots, belts, and blankets. Groups can also watch trick roping at the Mexican Rodeo, learn about unsung history at the African American Heritage Rodeo, and enjoy impressive tricks during the Super Dogs show.
10. Flying W Ranch
Is your group hankering for an interactive cowboy experience? Flying W Ranchin the foothills of Colorado Springs offers dinner and a show in an operating cattle ranch. Sit down for a famous three-course chuckwagon feast and enjoy delights like mouthwatering meats, Dutch-oven buttermilk biscuits, and savory trail beans while being serenaded by one of the country’s oldest cowboy singing groups in its brand-new performance venue. The Flying W Ranch is also a great place to learn new skills and understand more of daily life in the Old West. Try your hand at Navajo rug weaving, silversmithing, horse shoeing, or hat making, and get up close with the many ranch animals on-site.
For more information about Tour Colorado, call 888-401-4330 or visit tourcolorado.org.
National Western Stock Show
Credit: Visit Denver