Maybe you’re a cowgirl or cowboy at heart, but you were born in a time when the Wild West has disappeared. You dream of roaming the plains on horseback, playing cards in a saloon, and waking up each morning ready for an adventure.
But wait, is the Wild West really gone?
It’s not the same as it was in the 1800s, but there are still plenty of towns left that feel just like the Wild West. Many have been preserved and others have been replicated. These wild western towns in the USA don’t just offer a glimpse into the past, they also supply the history, feeling, and amazing setting that the wild west hailed back in its glory day. Think gunfights and outlaws, because these are some places you’ll definitely want to put on your destination bucket list.
How We Chose Them
Before giving the list, let’s go over how the Grizzly Rose selected these towns. Disclaimer: we love a good wild west legend!
Looking for something with a Wild West feeling can lead you to a few different types of places, so we focused on three kinds.
- First, beginning with the most obvious are those are places that were famous in the Old West and are preserved to look the same.
- Second, are places that have been modernized, but have a comfortable feeling of present-day cowboys and cowgirls.
- Third, we chose towns that have updated to modern standards but kept some of the crazy nature of the Wild West.
Dodge City, Kansas
This famous wild western town located in Kansas got its start in 1847 when Fort Mann was built to protect people on the Santa Fe Trail.
Interestingly, Dodge City is still very famous in modern day. While we don’t always recognize it as the cornerstone of Wild Western towns in the USA, we do use a phrase that gets its origins from this infamous town. That’s right… “Get Outta Dodge” was coined after this area!
Times were hard, however, and it only survived about a year. But, it wasn’t long before a safer fort popped up in the same place, and this eventually led to a town next to it. Then the railroad came, and cows were shipped through on their way to other parts of the country. While it’s now modernized, it still has a lot of bits of old Dodge spread around.
As far as Wild Western Towns in the USA go, this one is probably the most recognized. Perhaps due to the infamous movie Tombstone, starring Kurt Russell, Val Kilmer, Sam Elliot, and Bill Paxton, it was a great representation of how events went down back in the day.
This town deep in the Arizona desert was one of the big spots towards the end of the Wild West time period. It was a big mining town, and it had plenty of cultural activities (like an opera house) for the rich folk, and a great selection of saloons, gambling halls, and other less respectable places for the grittier types. It’s most famous for the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, and you can still see recreations of this on a regular basis in its original setting, as much of the town is preserved how it was.
This town in Arizona isn’t as well-known as some of the others, but it has some pretty distinct characteristics. To start, the name comes from a pretty interesting story. It was chosen in honor of Olive Oatman, who was the daughter of settlers that had been kidnapped for slavery by a Native American tribe. She was sold to the Mohave tribe, and eventually set free.
Nowadays the town is a revived ghost town (still giving it that Wild West appearance) and is most famous for its wild burros that wander the streets and happily accept food.
Another of our favorites on the list of Wild Western Towns in the USA is Cody. This town was named in honor of “Buffalo Bill” Cody, and it doesn’t get much more Western than that. Not only does it have a whole selection of museums from the good old days, but it also hosts enough rodeos to comfortably call itself the “Rodeo Capital of the World.”
Virginia City, Nevada
Located in Nevada’s high desert area, this place is definitely worth the trip. It is under an hour from Reno and Lake Tahoe, which makes it a quick getaway and “something to do,” if you’re in the area!
Head down C Street, the town’s main drag, and you’ll see how Virginia City has held onto its Victorian-era past. Saloons and old fashioned stores adorn this small town. This town struck it rich with silver, but the atmosphere was preserved long after the mine was empty. You can view some museums, take a trip into the mine, stroll down the main street at high noon, or just drink whiskey in a saloon.
Virginia City also boasts a variety of events throughout the year including:
- Food festivals
- Christmas Celebrations
- International Camel and Ostrich Race
Deadwood, South Dakota
You might immediately think of a TV series when you hear this name, but it’s far from fictional. Gold was found in the nearby Black Hills in the 1870s, so the town attracted plenty of ambitious people. However, it wasn’t in the safest area, so many of these were a little rough around the edges. Gambling and prostitution were big business, and many locals took the law into their own hands (you know, with their revolvers). Even the famous gunman Wild Bill Hickok was shot here!
Wild Western Towns in the USA wouldn’t be a complete list unless including these quaint, mountain towns. Both of these Colorado mountain towns have quite the cowboy character, but one of the best parts is the thing that links them. This narrow-gauge railroad is pulled by a steam engine for 45 miles through a beautiful stretch of mountains. You won’t even need to use your imagination to feel like you’ve gone back in time.
In Durango, the Diamond Belle Saloon in the Strater Hotel of historic downtown is a must-see. During the summer, you can witness a shootout spilling out onto the street and listen to live ragtime music inside the bar. The railroad itself is an American national landmark. It travels through breathtaking canyons where it ends up in Silverton.
Located nearest to metro San Antonio, this small town has a lot to say when it comes to the Old West. This town doesn’t shy away from calling itself the “Cowboy Capital of the World.” There are gunfight reenactments, dude ranches, chuckwagon dinners, plenty of rodeos, and enough saloons to sit in and feel like you’re still in the Old West. Take a town tour and discover the original county jail and courthouse, as well as some of the oldest buildings in the country running along historic Eleventh St. Plus, you can watch saddle makers and blacksmiths.
Just because it’s become one of the most popular cities in the country lately, most people would write off Denver as a Wild West Town, but that would be a mistake. It’s loaded with cowboy history, annually hosts the National Western Stock Show (one of the largest of its kind), and it’s home to the Grizzly Rose. What more could you really want?
Explore the Wild West!
If you know anything about the Wild West, you’d know there’s no way to list all of its best towns at once, so this is just a taste. Saddle up your horse, and let us know what other spots you find! If you love everything country, join us for a few dances at our legendary location in Denver.