The Wild West Lives On at Buffalo Bill Museum & Grave
Adventurer. Buffalo Hunter. Soldier. Pony Express Rider. Dime Novel Hero. Showman. When one thinks of the people who made and defined America’s Wild West, the name “Buffalo” Bill Cody tops the list. Maybe more than any one person, Bill Cody defined the Wild West with his traveling show, featuring sharp-shooter Annie Oakley and Sioux Chief Sitting Bull.
The Iowa-born Cody became one of the most storied and traveled persons in the world at the time of his death in 1917. The story of his life and his lasting influence on Western culture are examined at the Buffalo Bill Museum & Grave, part of the Denver Mountain Parks System.
Our family toured the museum on Lookout Mountain, outside of Denver, in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of Cody’s death. Buffalo Bill chose the location for his burial for its unsurpassed views of the Rockies and the western plains. Cody claimed that on a clear day, one could see four U.S. states. While you can question the veracity of that statement, you cannot argue with the stunning landscape that is Cody’s final resting place.
Who was Buffalo Bill?
He was born in 1846. His family moved a few times, and settled in Kansas, a hotbed of political activity in the days leading up to the U.S. Civil War. His father spoke against slavery in a public forum and was stabbed for his opposition to slavery. The wound would later result in his death, leaving the 11-year-old William to find gainful employment. He did so working for a wagon train. He also worked as a scout, helping guide a U.S. Army unit to Utah.
At age 14, he became a mail carrier for the Pony Express, and later immortalized the Pony Express in his Wild West shows. He also led bison hunting expedition and was renowned for shooting the animal (supposedly killing more than 4,200 bison in an 18-month period), served in the U.S. Army and worked for the railroads.
By age 23, he became the hero of a dime novel which largely fabricated his exploits. The novel brought him national fame. After the fame brought from other dime novels, Cody started a traveling Wild West show that eventually toured most of North America and Europe. Cody capitalized on a desire to experience the Wild West with the act that ended in 1914 in Denver.
A Final Resting Place
While Buffalo Bill traveled the world, and lived many places (including the eponymous Cody, Wyoming), his last days were spent in Denver. He selected Lookout Mountain as his final resting place. At his death in 1917, some 15,000-20,000 attended his funeral service. Today, you can visit the grave of Cody and his wife. Lookout Mountain is a popular tourist stop, boasting 400,000 visitors per year.
A Museum and Tribute
You can tour the museum on location and learn about Cody’s life and see many pieces of memorabilia from Buffalo Bill’s life and traveling show.
The museum boasts many displays walking you through William Cody’s early life, his early work, his military service, and his traveling Wild West Show. Throughout the museum, you find interactive exhibits that allow kids to take part in the history of the Wild West. As an added bonus, you can visit the museum’s website before a visit and download information for your family. The Cowboy Corral lets kids try to rope a cow and dress in western duds. Kids can get a look inside a tepee. And they can create a bead design at a station near the Cowboy Corral.
The museum has memorabilia donated by Cody’s family and friends. There is a lot to see and explore at the museum, Native American headdresses, Bison, firearms, and the costume and saddle that Cody used in his show. You also learn the history of the museum, grave site, and Pahaska Tepee Restaurant and Gift Shop. While we loved exploring the museum, we found it a little small and it did feel crowded during much of our visit (especially when a tour bus let off riders to check out the museum).
On a Clear Day
Lookout Mountain is a popular stopping point for tour buses. On the day we went, we saw three tour buses stop. Some allowed tourists to see the museum, but all let riders see the grave and the stunning view of the Rocky Mountains and the Western plains. A haze in the air during our visit limited visibility of downtown Denver to the East, but the views to the West were breathtaking.
Of course, their are viewing stations throughout the area to sneak a peak at the views.
Pahaska Restaurant and Gift Shop
Nestled between the museum and the grave site in the Pahaska Restaurant and Gift Shop. Named after the Wyoming town near Yellowstone where Cody had a hunting cabin, the restaurant serves bison burger or chili and other western food. The enormous gift shop had more than enough items to leave our kids wishing they had saved more money for the trip. More Buffalo Bill memorabilia is showcased here, as well as a taxidermy bison.
While the museum is a bit crowded, overall we enjoyed our time at the Buffalo Bill Museum and Grave, part of Denver Mountain Parks System. We learned a lot about Cody. Last year as part of a school project, our son researched and wrote about Cody, but he still learned a lot.
The American Wild West would not be the same without the influence of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show. Some of the indelible lore is directly attributable to Cody. For example, he made the Pony Express a part of his show, and without that influence, the Pony Express might have been a forgotten piece of history.
We enjoyed learning about Cody’s experiences with European royalty and with more “common” people. The museum does a good job of showing the important role Buffalo Bill had in making the Wild West such an storied part of American History.
You can find out more about the museum here.
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If you are in the area, you might check out these other nearby attractions.
Read about our visit to touch and excavate dinosaur bones at the Morrison Natural History Museum.
Read about our trip to Denver’s Downtown Aquarium.
Check out or list of 10 other family activities around Denver.
Disclaimer: Our family was given complimentary admission to the Buffalo Bill Museum and Gave, part of Denver Mountain Parks System for this post, but all views expressed are our honest opinions. Find out more here.
All photos and content are by Family Well Traveled and use of photos or content without permission will result in legal action.
36 thoughts on “The Wild West Lives On at Buffalo Bill Museum & Grave”
This is such a great museum! There is so much to learn. Great job on the post and for sharing your experience!
It is a great museum. Thanks.
Sounds like a great day out!
It was, despite the fact that all of our family was recovering from the flu.
Looks like a great museum to check out. I dont know much about Buffalo Bill but must be famous if people are checking out the museum. My question is, why is people leaving money on his grave (looking at that photo)? 😛
I’m not sure why people leave money on the grave. I wondered the same thing.
Hi! I can answer that! It all started when some of the Native American performers came to pay tribute to Cody. At that time there was an Indian Head/Buffalo nickel in circulation, and the models for both were from Buffalo Bill’s Wild West. It is customary to leave an offering and the Lakota visitors placed this nickel on the grave. Others thought it was a good idea so the practice continued on. Today the coins left on the grave are used for acquisition and conservation of artifacts. (Disclaimer, I work here 😉
Betsy, thanks for the answer. I figured it was something like that, but that’s good to know.
I grew up in suburban Denver and have been to Lookout Mountain any number of times. I never realized that this was Buffalo Bill’s last home. It sounds like he was an original travel blogger. He made his fortunes in travelling, location independent income, and writing. It’s hard to believe that this was part of American life just over a century ago.
It is amazing how much has changed in 100 years.
You seemed to have truly travelled in Buffalo Bill’s shoes ( or boots in this case). The descriptive narration took me there experiencing everything with you.
What a cool spot to visit, I never knew this was in Colorado but I’ve always been fascinated in the tales of the wild west. Would love to see this someday, thank you for sharing!
It is a cool visit.
I was reading about the history of the US and the Wild West just yesterday! Would really want to visit that part of your country as I love mountains. I will make sure to visit the museum (I always find native American costumes so beautiful so this would probably be the most interesting bit of it). Thank you for sharing – never enough of America’s hidden gems!
Our son loves the history of the Wild West. There is so much Wild West stuff to see in the Western U.S. And a lot of great places to learn about Native American cultures, including the Buffalo Bill Museum.
It’s funny: I of course know the name Buffalo Bill, but before your post I wasn’t able to tell you who he was and what he did (I would have placed him in the US, though…). I think that your very thorough and detailed post will be strong competition for the museum since you are giving all the information away 😉 Thank you for that!
Thanks, but the museum still has a lot of details to share.
I’ve always been intrigued by Buffalo Bill, I think he is one of my favorite historical people. I did not know this museum even existed. When I am back in that area I am going to have to go check this out. Thank you for sharing this!
We’re glad we could add another stop to your travel bucket list.
Wow! A museum just for him! Amazing how they still preserved up to this day the remains and stuff of Buffalo Bill! Gonna visit there when I get the chance! Is an entrance fee to go inside the museum by the way? http://anythingunderourstars.com/
Yes. Currently the admission fee is $5 for adults and $1 for children 6-15. Children 5 and younger are free.
We were on a crazy 80-day adventure last summer and it brought us to South Dakota and Wyoming where Buffalo Bill kept coming up. I’d love to go to this museum to get a more in-depth look of his life. The Wild West is so intriguing, isn’t it?
It is. And, yes, Buffalo Bill’s fingerprints are all over the Western U.S.
This is an interesting place to visit. I think my son will love this to explore. Great photos as well.
Thanks. It is a great place to explore.
Stories of cowboys armed with double-barrelled guns and fast on the draw enthralled me as a teen. Wild west books captured my imagination and I simply adored them. Given my fascination for the wild west, the BuffaloBill museum is something I would absolutely love.
It sounds like you would indeed.
We’ve yet to tackle Denver, but this looks like a must-do, especially with kids. What a fun museum, and such lovely views, to boot!
Yes, it was entertaining and the views were stunning.
This looks like fun! Incredible views of the Rockies from there too! That’s a bonus
I’ve never really seen any western museums in my life, but it looks like if you’re gonna go to one, this is it! The views are also just stunning. Thank you for sharing!