Buffalo Bill Cody spent much of his life traveling the globe with his Wild West show, but when he came home, it was to North Platte. That Wild West spirit still animates this city of 24,000 and the rest of Lincoln County.
Buffalo Bill Ranch State Historical Park at the northwest edge of North Platte showcases the restored 1880s Victorian home, horse barn and outbuildings of Cody’s famous Scout’s Rest Ranch. The site features Wild West Show memorabilia, period household furnishings, picnic areas and walking trails. The park encompasses 25 acres of Cody’s original 4,000-acre spread. A Nebraska park permit is required to visit the park, open daily Memorial Day through Labor Day, plus the weekends a month before and after.
The adjacent Buffalo Bill Ranch State Recreation Area offers hiking, fishing, and modern and primitive campsites. 2921 Scouts Rest Ranch Rd. (308) 535-8035.
Just down the road from Scout’s Rest Ranch is Dusty Trails Outdoor Specialists, which lets visitors explore the historical park on horseback. Dusty Trails also leads scenic trail rides elsewhere in the area. It’s fun and easy for anyone, even if you’ve never been on a horse. The outfitters also rent canoes and kayaks to paddle around the North Platte River. Inner tubes and tanks are popular for those who want to enjoy a leisurely float downstream. 2617 N. Buffalo Bill Ave. (308) 530-0048.
From the outside, Fort Cody Trading Post looks like a frontier log stockade with authentically dressed mannequins with toy rifles standing guard. Inside is a combination gift shop and museum, with authentic Buffalo Bill and Wild West memorabilia, plus a miniature mechanized Wild West Show made of 20,000 parts. A taxidermy two-headed calf and frontier cannons are among the other curiosities to be seen. The gift shop sells jewelry, moccasins and coonskin caps. The Fort Cody Music Series takes place on summer Thursday evenings mid-June through mid-August in the Fort Cody courtyard. 221 Halligan Dr. (308) 532-8081.
Buffalo Bill is memorialized at Cody Park, a family-friendly amusement park operated by the City of North Platte. 1601 N. Jeffers St. In 1998, a British sculptor donated a life-size bronze statue of Buffalo Bill, whose show was a big hit in Queen Victoria’s time. As the centerpiece of the park’s Wild West Memorial, the statue is surrounded by the flags of every state and nation the Wild West show visited.
At the park’s Railroad Museum, Union Pacific Railroad displays two of its largest locomotives (one steam, one diesel) and houses a railroad museum in the accompanying cars and restored depot. The park also has a swimming pool and amusement rides for children, including an antique carousel and Ferris wheel. A concession stand adds treats to the memories made here. Admission for rides; other attractions are free. (308) 535-6719.
The eight-story Golden Spike Tower and Visitor Center rises up west of North Platte for a bird’s-eye view of Union Pacific’s massive Bailey Yard. In 1995, the Guinness Book of World Records recognized the Bailey Yard as the world’s largest railroad classification yard. It has since grown by 25 percent. It stretches eight miles and covers nearly 3,000 acres. More than 15,000 railcars pass through daily. An elevator takes visitors to the Golden Spike Tower’s seventh floor open-air observation deck, or to the top for an enclosed viewing experience. 1249 N. Homestead Rd. (308) 532-9920.
The North Platte Canteen is commemorated at the Lincoln County Historical Museum. The World War II canteen met every train and fed the service men and women who passed through the depot – about 6 million in all. The museum also features a village of historic buildings, including a Pony Express station and the old Fort McPherson Captains Quarters. 2403 N. Buffalo Bill Ave. (308) 534-5640.
The area’s geological history is part of the flavor of Feather River Vineyards, where the mineral-rich soil produces distinctive grapes for its new wines. There’s a tasting room where you can sample each variety before purchasing bottles of your favorites and other gifts. 5700 S.E. State Farm Rd. (308) 696-0078.
Putting Nebraska agricultural ingenuity to work, Grain Bin Antique Town offers high-quality collectibles and antiques for sale from historical grain bins. A boardwalk connects 20 Depression-era grain bins chock full of vintage signs, glassware, wooden furniture, trinkets and more. 10641 S. Old Highway 83. (308) 539-7401.
Cody Go-Karts near I-80 and Fort Cody Trading Post has water slides, mini golf, bumper boats and go-karts mid-March through September, weather permitting. 805 Halligan Dr. (308) 534-8277.
Downtown North Platte has unique shops, restaurants and art galleries, including the Art & Gift Gallery, 516 N. Dewey St., the largest original art gallery between Omaha and Denver. (308) 534-1946. Prairie Arts Center showcases local artists and traveling exhibits in the renovated 1913 federal building. 416 N. Jeffers St. (308) 534-5121.
The North Platte River valley between North Platte and Sutherland hosts thousands of sandhill cranes during spring migration February to April. For viewing information call (308) 532-4729.
Five miles south of town, Lake Maloney State Recreation Area provides fishing, boating, camping, picnicking, as well as archery, golf and wildlife watching. North Platte offers three 18-hole golf courses: Iron Eagle, (308) 535-6730; Lake Maloney, (308) 532-9998; and Rivers Edge, (308) 532-7550; as well as a nine-hole course, Indian Meadows, (308) 532-6955.
Learn more about North Platte and the surrounding area by contacting the North Platte/Lincoln County Visitors Bureau at Visitnorthplatte.com or (800) 955-4528.