You may see not many cowboys and shootouts these days, but there are still plenty of places to find an air of the Wild West. Head to these places when you want to pull on your boots and feel like a cowboy for a weekend. Plan ahead; some attractions are closed or have different hours depending on the season.
Back in the 1880s, Tombstone was a mining town by day and a hot spot for theater, dancing, saloons and other entertainment by night. Though the town’s mining business slumped before the turn of the 20th century, tourism in “the Town Too Tough to Die” is alive and well.
A convenient rest stop between Reno and Salt Lake City, downtown Elko keeps busy with hotels, restaurants and casinos. While you’re in the city center, stop by the Cowboy Arts and Gear Museum and the Western Folklife Center, home of the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, to see western art, memorabilia and special exhibits.
Elko’s cowboy country sits at 5,000 feet above sea level near the impressive Ruby Mountains. It’s easy to make like a modern-day cowboy and explore the town’s expansive surroundings by car. Head 20 miles southeast to Lamoille Canyon for a scenic walk, drive or horseback ride. Go 100 miles north to Jarbidge, a tiny former mining town with a storied jail, lush forests and famous fishing.
Deadwood’s gold deposit attracted the likes of gun-wielding James Butler, “Wild Bill” Hickok and Martha “Calamity Jane” Canary in the 1870s. Law and order have been restored since their passing, but on summer days you can still catch reenactments of the shooting of Wild Bill and the trial of his murderer, Jack McCall.
Spend a day in Deadwood touring the Broken Boot Gold Mine, learning about the town’s famous residents at the Adams Museum, and looking at a famously large collection of horse-drawn vehicles at the Days of ’76 Museum. Deadwood began as a gambling-loving city and still is today; the Bullock Hotel, opened by Seth Bullock, the town’s first sheriff who is credited with taming its lawless nature, is the spot for a drink and a go at the slot machines.
If “stay at a dude ranch” is on your bucket list, Bandera is a good place to check off that item. The self-proclaimed Cowboy Capital of the World has many places to stay throughout its grassy location in Hill Country, and they’ll keep you entertained with activities like horseback riding, country dancing and Texas-size barbecue feasts.
Explore the great outdoors with ranch hunting, fishing or tubing on the Medina River, or a scenic drive to Kerrville. Pick up souvenirs at the Frontier Times Museum and the Bandera General Store, and bar hop to the city’s many saloons, such as Arkey Blue’s Silver Dollar, one of the oldest honky-tonks in Texas. Don’t miss the professional rodeo if you’re there over Memorial Day weekend. Otherwise, get your cowboy fix by watching the Bandera Cattle Co. Gunfighters’ reenactments every weekend.