The truth is – I wasn’t expecting much when I rolled into North Platte, Nebraska. Let’s be honest – have you ever actually heard of North Platte, Nebraska? Aside from mentioning the town in my most recent book Finding The American Dream – A Guided Tour of Places Where Americans Changed History – I knew nothing about it other than it’s the place where Buffalo Bill lived.
While I arrived with zero expectations, I drove away pleasantly surprised after spending two days exploring this fun little community that completely embraces the “wild west”.
First stop was visiting the former home of William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody. The two story home sits on the 25 acre Buffalo Bill State Historical Park in North Platte. Originally, the property was a sprawling 4,000 acres and called Scout’s Rest Ranch. You can enjoy a peaceful walk around the park, tour the barn which has stables and vintage vehicles inside, and even get close to a few bison that are kept in a corral.
But the biggest attraction is the house itself. While not everything inside is original, much of it is. Buffalo Bill’s bedroom is on the second floor and guests can peek inside and see the western decor that fills the walls and shelves. Some of his costumes and firearms are still on display. On the second floor there’s a small museum with newspaper clips, old comic books, and other artifacts that tell his life story.
In keeping with the wild west theme – visitors should make a stop at Fort Cody Trading Post. Inside there’s a cool miniature version of Buffalo Bill’s “Wild West Show” as well as a museum. You’ll find something interesting to buy in the store with all sorts of fun western themed gifts and souvenirs.
For train lovers, you’ll get a kick out of visiting the Golden Spike Tower and Visitors Center where a panoramic view of Union Pacific’s Bailey Yard awaits you from an observation deck at the top. Look out at a whopping 315 miles of railroad track that can carry as many as 150 trains each day. They also have a really cool gift shop with unique train themed toys, shirts, and collectibles. Perhaps a “train nerd” tee shirt is in your future?
Across town at Cody Park you’ll find another fun train exhibit that features the only Challenger locomotive on public display. You can walk through the train including a mail car to see how letters and packages were once delivered by rail. The park also has hiking trails and sports fields.
A short drive from downtown, and certainly off the beaten path is a unique antique shopping experience called Grain Bin Antique Town. Visitors can walk around the property, lined with large grain bins loaded with odds and ends. I found everything from kitchen utensils to vintage signs as I popped into each bin looking to score a must-have treasure.
Downtown North Platte didn’t disappoint either. For a town of its size, there are some wonderful choices of restaurants. I stopped by The Cedar Room on my first night in town and was treated to an incredible steak that was so big I could only eat half of it. After dinner, I took a walk around town and spotted a beautiful old Fox Theater that was still showing movies.
Other things to consider on your visit – Fort McPherson National Cemetery, Dusty Trails horseback riding, the Prairie Arts Center, and Feather River Vineyard – the largest in the state of Nebraska. You can find other things to do and lodging options on North Platte’s tourism website: visitnorthplatte.com.