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Great Getaways: Cheyenne, Wyoming

By Michele Herrmann
updated September 29, 2021
Cheyenne Wyoming landscape
Courtesy Visit Cheyenne

Cheyenne has close ties to The Wild West, so much that every summer since 1897 the city has roped in “The Daddy of ‘Em All." Translation: every July, the city hosts Cheyenne Frontier Days, a two-week extravaganza featuring the world’s largest outdoor rodeo and western celebration.

Held at Frontier Park, the main attraction of this bonanza is the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) Rodeo where nearly 1,500 contestants from different parts of the country come to Cheyenne to participate in various rodeo competitions for cash awards and other prizes. Category events extend from roping, barrel racing, and steer wrestling, to bull, bareback and saddle bronc riding. It's never too early to plan for the next event on July 22-31, 2016, or July 21-30 in 2017.

Visitors can tell when the Cheyenne Frontier Days is in full swing. Along with the rodeo, there are many ongoing celebrations recognizing Cheyenne’s history and honoring its community. Head downtown to watch an ongoing set of four Grand Parades, featuring a procession of marching bands, state officials on horseback, military personnel, and floats replicating symbols of Cheyenne’s past. Additional festivities include a carnival, massive pancake breakfasts, and an air show by the USAF Thunderbirds.

Now, back to the rodeo. If you’ve never been to one before, a free daily “Behind the Chutes” tour gives you an insiders’ look, bringing you all around the arena and down to the chutes where riders, bulls, and broncs emerge from, as well as near the place where the contestants get ready. You can also explore Old Frontier Town, a replica of a village complete with storefronts, and watch a demonstration of dances and storytelling by American Indian performers inside the Indian Village. If you’re looking for a the perfect souvenir or accessory to complete your Western look, you’ll find many well-stocked vendor tents in Frontier Park.

Nights at Cheyenne Frontier Days are buzzing with entertainment as well. The Frontier Nights series features concerts by major headliners, where advanced ticket purchases are a must. The 2015 lineup says it all: Aerosmith, Blake Shelton, Miranda Lambert, Keith Urban, and Big and Rich.

While the Cheyenne Frontier Days are a great time to visit, here are some ways to get a good sense of Cheyenne’s western legacy any time of year.

Ride a historic trolley tour

Walking about downtown Cheyenne is pretty easy, but the best way to get your sense of direction—and learn some history—is by going on a trolley tour. Departing from the Cheyenne Depot, the Cheyenne Street Railway Trolley takes you on a ride through the city’s various districts. Your driver/guide excitedly shares tidbits and tales about Cheyenne’s beginnings as a base on the western expansion route for the Union Pacific Railroad and its early days as a bit of a rough and rumble place. The city's past also includes time as a boomtown for the cattle industry, as barons built their mansions along a section of downtown Cheyenne called Millionaire’s Row that sadly became a municipal lot. You might also hear about Wyoming being unique in giving ladies a lot of firsts: It’s the first state to permit women to vote, own property, and even hold public office—and home to the first female governor, too. On my tour, we stopped at venues like the Capitol Building, Wyoming State Museum, Cheyenne Botanic Gardens, and Frontier Park.

Shop for western gear

When in search of the perfect cowboy hat or a neat Western souvenir, downtown Cheyenne offers a number of options. Visit The Wrangler, home to a heavy selection of cowboy hats plus a ton of boots, belts, bejeweled jeans, and other frontier attire. Customer service is great, too, as the store employees will work with you to make sure your hat or boots fit just right, and hat brims can be adjusted by going through a steaming process. If décor is more your thing, Wyoming Home has furnishings that fit a frontier taste, from bedding and house fixtures to jewelry and knickknacks plus edible treats. For the ladies, Just Dandy carries women’s fashions and accessories.

Get out into nature

Wyoming may be known for its views of the prairie, but there’s a lot more to the scenery. Head west from Cheyenne to see Vedauwoo, a recreation area that is a 30-minute drive from the city. Vedauwoo has impressive rock formations that cautious climbers and experienced ramblers can walk around or step up or pull themselves up on. The formations consist of Sherman Granite dating back to 1.4 billion years ago. Another great outdoor option is Curt Gowdy State Park located about 25 miles from Cheyenne. Named for the late sportscaster and Wyoming native, this state park has 35 miles of hiking and biking trails at various rated levels, plus sections for horseback riding and even archery. It’s pretty rich in flora and fauna too with various plants and flowers along your route. Start off your day with a stop at the park’s visitor center to pick up a map or learn more about the area.

When en route back to Cheyenne from Curt Gowdy State Park, fulfill the appetite you’ve built up at a family-friendly institution, The Bunkhouse Bar. Complimented by a saloon décor, the menu here is all about comfort food specialties: chicken fried steak, various sandwiches, and burgers. And of course while in Wyoming, horseback riding is a must. Terry Bison Ranch is a good place to do so. The ranch offers one-hour or full-day trail rides with slight hill climbs. Before or after your ride, get some grub at the ranch’s Senator’s Restaurant. I had the Bison burger, which comes just about any topping to choose from and tasted quite nice.

Grab some local grub

In Cheyenne, finding a good steakhouse or laidback barbecue joint is pretty easy. Yet if you’re seeking a bit more formal atmosphere, you have options, too. At the Rib and Chop House, a local restaurant chain with a location in downtown Cheyenne, you can order falling-off-the-bone tender baby back ribs or premium cuts. If you’re seeking a different flavor, Morris House Bistro is all about lowcountry cooking. Based in the former home of Wyoming’s first female Justice of the Peace, this bistro serves up Southern dishes inspired by the head chef’s family recipes with added Wyoming ingredients.

Inside the Historic Plains Hotel, the Capitol Grille is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and serves fine Wyoming local ingredients and beef in all their dishes. After eating, take a peek inside the hotel lobby and look straight up at its celestial ceiling. Its design shows the order of the planets around the time of the hotel’s opening in 1911 as Wyoming’s first luxury property.

Craft beer in Cheyenne has been booming lately. One of the best places to go is Freedom’s Edge Tap House Brewing Co., which produces inventive, small-batch suds at its location inside The Tivoli Building, which operated as a saloon back in its heyday. There, you can order a glass or flight of on-tap creations such as Java Jolt Coffee Amber ale or the spicy High Noon Chili ale. At the Depot, Cheyenne Brewing Company is part bar, part restaurant with about five original company beers alongside other tap and bottled ones, cocktails, and wines.

Looking for crafty cocktails? Head to The Suite Bistro for flavored martinis like the WY Campfire, a marshmallow vodka and Kahlua mixture, to go with their fine dining menu. And to close out the night in Cheyenne, head to The Outlaw Saloon. With a main dance floor, pool tables and dartboards plus an outdoor backyard setting with a stage, and even a mechanical bull, you’ll be quite entertained.

This article was written by Michele Herrmann, a travel and lifestyle writer/editor who contributes destination features and travel advice pieces to various media outlets. To date, the farthest she's ventured to is Fiji, along with much of Europe and a good deal within the U.S. For more travel stories, check out her blog, She Is Going Places.

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Inspiration

48 Perfectly Romantic Hours in Paris

I grabbed my fiancé’s hand outside the ivy-draped, trellised garden walls of brasserie La Closerie des Lilas, at the tip of a razor-sharp corner in Montparnasse, and half-led/half-tugged him inside, through a gauntlet of friendly “Bonjour!”s from waiters, alongside tables of alfresco diners, over the restaurant’s tiled mosaic floors, past the grand piano, and, finally, to the low-lit cocktail bar tucked in the back. Save for a few French women quietly sipping white wine and barkeeps in vests and ties hustling to fill drink orders, the glowing red space was blissfully empty—as was the spot at the bar I desperately wanted. It was early, around 4 p.m. That was deliberate. I stepped as swiftly as I could to the curved bar and placed my hands on either side of a small brass plaque nailed to the varnished wood. “Here it is!” I announced, as much to myself as to Neil. He moved in closer to read the engraved script: “E. Hemingway.” La Closerie des Lilas was one of Ernest Hemingway’s favorite cafés to write in. He called it his “home café” and argues with a nosy acquaintance there in a particularly amusing story in A Moveable Feast. Neil and I had both read it prior to the trip. I hopped up into the red leather seat facing the plaque, and overflowing bowls of complimentary green olives and potato crisps soon appeared in front of us. I ordered a Hemingway Daiquiri, made from pineapple juice, citron vert, and Havana rum; Neil asked for an Americano (Campari, sweet vermouth, and seltzer). Before the drinks arrived, Neil snapped a picture of me at Hemingway’s perch. “You look so happy,” he said. Being in Paris, at your favorite place, with your favorite person, following in the literal footsteps of a writer you admire, will do that.  I had only 48 hours to spend in the City of Light, but a single special moment in Paris is enough to justify an entire trip. For me, it was that one. Last month, my fiancé was called away on a last-minute business trip to Paris. “Do you want to meet me there for the weekend?” he asked. Before he uttered the “d” in “weekend,” I was researching flights online. Problem was, I had only one summer Friday to burn, meaning I’d arrive at our hotel around 4 p.m. on Friday and leave for the airport at the same time on Sunday. Two days. That’s it. I still said yes. You always say yes to Paris.  True, Paris has plenty of elegant ways to take your budget, strap dynamite to it, toss it into the air, and shoot it like it’s skeet, but that does not have to be the case. Here’s how we made our trip work on a conservative, hey-we’re-still-saving-money-for-a-wedding budget. You can too, the next time you say yes to Paris. Prioritize location. Schlepping from outer neighborhoods to save cash wastes valuable minutes, and I wanted Neil to experience one of my favorite Parisian neighborhoods, centrally located Saint-Germain-des-Prés. The area can be pricey, but we found a deal on TabletHotels.com for boutique Hôtel Le Sénat, less than a block from the lovely, historic Jardin du Luxembourg (from about $171 per night; see below for more hotel recommendations). The moment I walked in, I knew we lucked out: Our quirky duplex room—the WC downstairs, a shower with a steeply slanted skylight upstairs—had air conditioning (not a guarantee in Parisian hotels), first-floor windows that swung open to reveal a sprawling array of warm yellow atelier windows, and a private upstairs balcony where we sipped café au laits in the morning and drank affordable Bordeaux late at night, a view of Sacré-Coeur basilica on the horizon, the needle of the Eiffel Tower poking up in the west.  Tear up your itinerary. Following your heart, not your head, is essential to immersing yourself in Paris. The minute you start adhering to a strict schedule, you’re doing it wrong. When I first visited Paris, on a solo trip in 2011, I created an airtight itinerary of pastry-making classes, day trips, museum visits, and restaurant reservations. Ironically, the activities I enjoyed most—like seeing Marie Antoinette’s cell at the Conciergerie (about $9) and scoring a cashmere sweater on super-sale at Eric Bompard—weren’t on my docket.  This trip, I swore I wouldn’t make the same mistake; instead, the first thing I wanted to do was take my sweet time in a café, not writing postcards or scrolling through emails on my phone, but sitting back with Neil, eating ham sandwiches on perfectly baked baguettes, ordering more cheese than necessary, and practicing our French. Le Rostand, a classic café around the corner from our hotel, quickly became our home base (33/1-43-54-61-58). Thirty minutes after I stepped off the RER train from Charles De Gaulle Airport, much cheaper than a taxi (about $11), we were seated at an outdoor table, a French feast before us—baguettes, fromage, vin rouge, jambon beurre—with people-watching at the Luxembourg Gardens across the street as our live-streaming entertainment. Nothing expensive, but everything we wanted from Paris.  Walk. The best thing in Paris is free. Clouds are never fluffier and sunbeams never more rapturous than when seen from a bridge over the Seine. After our café outing, we walked hand-in-hand along the river, stopping to wind through the charmingly haphazard bookshelves at Shakespeare and Company and take a selfie on the Pont de L’Archevêché bridge. I insisted on a photo instead of clamping a love lock to the railing, even though I could tell Neil wanted a padlock of our own. We wandered to the Île St.-Louis for a salted caramel ice cream cone at Berthillon, doled out by an impossibly chipper blond woman to each person in line.  Walkability is Paris’s great gift to visitors. Ambling when the city is quiet is so rich that tossing a coin into the Fontaine Saint-Michel becomes a toll you’re glad to pay: a token for looking up to find the soaring architecture of the Notre Dame Cathedral in your sight line, or the simple pleasure of making a mile and a half trek along the Seine, with a brief detour to gaze at bronze Étienne Martin sculptures at the Tuileries, capped off with a long kiss under the filigreed edges of the Eiffel Tower. Picnic hard. By the time I joined him, Neil had already acquainted himself with the local grocery stores, purchasing brie and Bordeaux from the St. Germain covered food market (4-6 rue Lobineau, 33/1-48-85-93-30) and cocoa-dusted truffles from Patrick Roger to surprise me. On Day 2, we packed an inexpensive bottle of red wine, brie, a baguette, a ham sandwich, a slice of duck pâté en croûte, a chocolate croissant, and Badoit sparkling water into a paper shopping bag and toted it to the Jardin du Luxembourg for a picnic. The manicured hedges, incongruous palm trees, and massive fountains were more bustling than peaceful on this summer Saturday, but we swooped in and found a concrete bench, where we spread out our bounty and took in the scene—children pointing at miniature sailboats, teenagers on dates holding hands, an orchestra under a pavilion playing a free concert for everyone within earshot. Total price for the full picnic: less than $35.  Plan one splurge. Everyone has a financial weakness in Paris: expensive shows, fine dining, beauty products, pricey shoes… My advice: Budget for one big-ticket purchase and enjoy it. Mine was a classic canvas tote bag from Parisian fashion designer Vanessa Bruno’s airy, modern Rue Saint-Sulpice clothing boutique, a sartorial utopia bathed in white, where genial saleswomen assist guests in beautiful French and broken English (totes from about $93). On our last day in Paris, after we’d returned from the Eiffel Tower with a sliver of time to spare before our eight-hour flight, Neil and I made a beeline for Le Rostand for one last glass of red wine. We savored it slowly at a table next to an elderly Parisian couple eating bright-pink sorbet, and we wished we didn’t have to go. There is still so much left in Paris we want to share with each other. But I would do a weekend trip again in a heartbeat. Or, should I say, un battement de coeur. Yes, You CAN Take a Weekend Trip to Paris Flights to look for: My ticket on France’s XL Airways cost less than half the price of a last-minute ticket on Air France. XL, which flies out of Miami, San Francisco, L.A., and New York City, currently offers round-trip tickets to Paris from about $706. Beverage service in the cheap seats is limited, legroom is tight, and the weird guy sitting next to me was blasting Van Halen’s “Jump” through his tinny headphones, but you’ll get to Paris, and with a hot meal to boot. Another discount option: Icelandic airline WOW has round-trip flights to Paris out of Boston and D.C. from about $384. Hotels to try: If you decide against an apartment rental—more popular in Paris than ever before—send an email to the Hotel Du Lys, a 17th-century mansion between the Latin Quarter and St. Germain, to nab unadvertised rooms from about $116 per night, breakfast included. On the Right Bank, Hotel 29 Lepic’s stellar location, near Sacré-Coeur basilica and Moulin Rouge in Montmartre, is tough to beat for the price (from about $70 per night). Markets for stocking your picnic: Creatively flavored macarons such as “lemon and olive oil” from Pierre Hermé’s shops are garnering serious buzz (seven for about $20). Patisserie/boulangerie Gérard Mulot’s pastries and petits fours taste as good as they look; be polite and use French phrases when paying—the young women behind the busy counter appreciate it (baguettes from about $1.25). Le Marché Couvert Saint-Germain (translation: “St. Germain covered food market”), in the 6th arrondissement, kept us in wine and cheese, and hawks everything from fruit to flowers to freshly sliced noir de bigorre ham (4-6 rue Lobineau, 33/1-48-85-93-30). Pro picnic tip: Don’t forget a corkscrew.

Inspiration

What's The One Thing You Can't Leave Home Without?

We've got insider tips on the brain, one of the themes of our September/October digital edition of Budget Travel magazine—now available on BudgetTravel.com, on Google Play, for Nook and Kindle, and coming soon to the Apple App Store). To get into the spirit of things, we asked several of our staff members to share the one thing they can't leave home without. Here's what they said: "A favorite novel tied to the place I'm visiting, so I can explore, say, Dickens's London or Joyce's Dublin. I know, nerd alert." —Robert Firpo-Cappiello, Executive Editor "Black ballet flats. They're great slip-on, slip-off flight shoes; easy to walk around a city in; and dressy enough for dinner if I don't want to put on heels." —Jamie Beckman, Senior Editor "A pretty scarf and a little notebook so I can jot down notes about what to see and do." —Kaeli Conforti, Digital Editor "My pillow: a little slice of home in my hotel room." —Rosalie Tinelli, Marketing Associate "My teddy bear, Curly! Each hotel's housekeeper arranges him differently." —Whitney Tressel, Photo Editor "Earplugs. I'm a light sleeper, and you never know when you'll end up with a loud hotel room." —Chalkley Calderwood, Creative Director "My sunglasses (polarized, preferably). I prepare to spend a lot of time outside." —Chad Harter, Lead Developer "A good food magazine and headphones." —Michelle Craig, Director, Business Development "A camera, to capture everything I see." —Elaine Alimonti, President, Publisher "A great pair of walking shoes... and my husband!" —Maureen Kelley Stewart, Advertising Manager "A wrap or pashmina—I always get cold on flights." —Cathy Allendorf, Director of Digital Media "My Trusted Traveler/Global Entry ID. It makes a world of difference getting through customs!" —Jo Neese, Neese & Lee Media Now it's your turn: We want to know, what's the one thing you can't leave home without? Share it below!

Inspiration

Don't Miss These Last-Minute Labor Day Weekend Getaways!

It's not too late! You can still book the ultimate Labor Day weekend getaway. Budget Travel's Senior Editor, Jamie Beckman, talked about these three great last-minute options this week on AMHQ with Sam Champion on The Weather Channel. Here's where you should be heading this weekend. Miami Beach Beat the heat by chilling out at the pool (or beach) in Miami. Dance the day away on Sunday at The Shore Club's Reload pool party, where ladies pay $44 for unlimited mimosas and bellinis (men must pay $44 for the brunch plus an additional $20 for unlimited drinks). Take a 30-minute spin on Miami's Citi Bikes for $4 or use them to explore the city longer—one-hour passes are available for $6, two-hour passes for $10, four-hour passes for $18, and full day passes for $24. Looking for a calmer beach experience? Stake out the perfect spot on any of Miami Beach's seven miles of sand. The best part: it's free. Stay at The Congress Hotel South Beach, a classic South Beach Art Deco hotel with a rooftop pool, from $123 per night, or for glitz and glamour, check out SecretEscapes.com, where you can find flash sales on fancy properties like the trendy SLS South Beach from $149 per night. Henderson, Nevada Instead of heading to the ocean, escape to the lake near Las Vegas. The Westin Lake Las Vegas Resort & Spa has a fire pit, kayaking, coves to explore, and even a white-sand beach! With lots of family-friendly activities to choose from (life-size chess anyone?), movies you can watch from the pool, a complimentary shuttle to and from the Las Vegas strip, and rooms from $109 with daily breakfast, you're running out of excuses not to visit this weekend. Grand Bahama Island Don't wait, take that dream Bahamas vacation now! The Grand Lucayan resort just rolled out a terrific weeklong sale you won't want to miss: book your trip by Tuesday, Sept. 8th, for travel between now and Nov. 15th, and you'll pay just $90 per night (for a minimum two-night stay) and receive a $125 resort credit. Three pools, a private beach, and a beachside fish fry every Wednesday? Yes, please!

Inspiration

Great Getaways: Fiji

Bula! The islands of the South Pacific boast some of the world’s most perfect climates, with sunny days and cool breezes off the ocean essentially delivering an endless summer. The most popular destination in the South Pacific, Fiji draws more than 600,000 visitors each year. Maybe that's because this string of 333 islands combines a reasonable price tag with a wide array of sights, flavors, and experiences for every travel personality whether you're looking for a romantic honeymoon spot or your next family vacation. Psst! If romance is your priority, consider that Fiji's tourism board says there are 600 proposals there in a typical year—oh, and 600 of them end in a yes! Pick a beach, any beach If beaches are the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Fiji, you're not alone. Don't miss a legendary sunset at Natadola Beach on Viti Levu, considered by locals to be the best spot on the island to bid the day adieu. If you're in the mood to party with your fellow travelers in style, check out Beachcomber Island, where you can dance the night away and stay on the island at the Beachcomber Island Resort (private rooms from $115 per night). Feel like unleashing your inner Brooke Shields? Head to the Blue Lagoon (same one from the 80's movie!) on Nacula Island to enjoy enough swaying palm trees, crystal blue waters, and coral reefs to make you want to stay forever. For family-friendly fun, you won't want to miss Treasure Island Resort's natural marine reserve, perfect for aspiring snorkelers of all ages (rates from $389 per night for an island bure). Feeling adventurous? Try one of these tours TerraTrek offers a number of guided self-drive dune buggy tours around the mountains and beaches at Pacific Harbour. Their Waterfall Tour is an epic 4-5 hour trip that includes a guided ride to the falls, lunch, and plenty of time to relax and enjoy the fruits of your labor (from $160 per person). Up the ante by signing up for Terratrek's Combo Tour, a guided snorkel trip around Beqa Lagoon followed by a self-driven dune buggy ride through the highlands above Pacific Harbour (from $139 per person). Looking for something more low-key? Opt for a scenic tour, designed with photographers in mind, and spend an hour driving through the hillside enjoying the view (from $106 per person). For a beautiful break from the action, stop by the Garden of the Sleeping Giant, located on Wailoko Road about four miles north of Nadi Airport, home to one of the world's largest Asian orchid collections. Get to know local Fijian culture and heritage Fiji's people are known for being warm and welcoming, often going out of their way to make sure you're having a wonderful time visiting their country. Spend a full day exploring Nadi's Coral Coast with this guided trip by Fiji Eco Tours that includes complimentary pick-up and drop-off from your Nadi area hotel, a 30-minute trek along the Sigatoka Sand Dunes, a National Archaeological Heritage Site, the Nakabuta Pottery Village, Sigatoka Town, and Natadola Beach. Fiji Eco Tours also offers a full day tour of the Nalesutale Highlands, where you can learn about Fijian herbal medicines, visit Nalesutale Village, trek to a nearby waterfall, and enjoy a Fijian-style lunch before a therapeutic stop at a nearby mud pool (both tours are from $82 per adult, $41 per child ages 6-12).  Explore Fiji's underwater wonders Our favorite thing about Fiji: there's just as much natural beauty under the water as there is above it. In Taveuni, Rainbow Reef's Great White Wall of luminescent coral is a knockout for scuba divers, as the Somosomo (Fijian for "good water") Strait is home to one of the most diverse eco-systems on earth. Try a guided dive or snorkel trip from Taveuni Dive to one of 25 popular reef sites. Adrenaline junkies can try shark diving (gulp!) on Wednesdays and Saturdays at 8:30 a.m. from the Coralview Island Resort (from $100 per person through Dive Yasawa Lagoon), where you can swim among nine species of sharks native to the area. Tee off in paradise You may not think of the South Pacific as a golf destination, but with warm sun and cool breezes, Fiji supplies some of the world’s most beautiful courses, including four championship courses in Viti Levu—Denarau, Pacific Harbour, Suva, and Natadola, where the Fiji Golf International takes place this October. Stay at these BT-approved hotels & resorts So where should you stay? How about these affordable island retreats: Crusoe's Retreat bills itself as "Fiji's best-kept secret" and lives up to its name with affordable beachfront bures from $87 per night. Radisson Blu Resort Fiji Denarau Island is an everything-you-could-want property on the beach with rates starting at $235 per night. For a real treat, splurge for a few nights of swanky Fijian luxury at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Fiji Sonaisali Island, re-opening in July 2016 with rates from $285 per night. Having a great time? Just stay longer! One of the things we love about a Fiji getaway is the option to extend your trip: Fiji Airways, awarded “Best Airline in the South Pacific” by Global Traveler for the past two years, flies nonstop from L.A. and Honolulu to Fiji, Australia (just 4 hours from Fiji), and New Zealand (ony 3 hours from Fiji!), not to mention other islands such as Vanuatu, the Solomon Islands, Kiribati, Tuvalu, Tonga, and Christmas Island. Translation? A Fiji vacation can include stops in a beautiful array of South Pacific destinations. Not only that, on Fiji Airways your South Pacific experience begin the minute you board the plane—you can even enjoy a taste of the islands before you get there thanks to traditional Fijian meals, regional wine and beer, and a signature drink onboard.