While approaching North Platte from Interstate 80, one of the first landmarks seen is Fort Cody Trading Post. When viewed from the outside it looks like a frontier log stockade complete with authentically dressed mannequins with toy rifles standing guard. Inside it’s a combination gift shop and museum, with authentic Buffalo Bill Cody and Wild West memorabilia, and a miniature mechanized Wild West Show. Twenty thousand individual pieces make up the one-of-a-kind machine, and no quarters are required; it comes to life on its own every half hour. A taxidermy two-headed calf and frontier cannons are among the curiosities to be seen, and jewelry, moccasins and coon skin caps are among the unique gift items found here. Under the watchful eye of one of the few remaining Muffler Man sculptures, the Fort Cody Music Series takes place each summer in the Fort Cody courtyard.
Besides queries about that calf, owner Chuck Henline said the most common question he gets from travelers is, “How do you get to the ranch?”
The ranch, of course, is the Buffalo Bill Ranch State Historical Park, which showcases the restored 1880s Victorian home, horse barn and outbuildings of William F. Cody’s famous Scout’s Rest Ranch. The site features Wild West Show memorabilia, period household furnishings, picnic areas and walking trails. Cody owned about 4,000 acres, and the park encompasses 25 acres of the original ranch.
As folks at Fort Cody would tell you, it’s easy to find: north on Highway 83, then west on Highway 30, then north on Buffalo Bill Avenue. A Nebraska park permit is required to visit the park open April 21-September 30, 2017. Admission is charged to tour the Cody home. (308) 535-8035.
Buffalo Bill is memorialized at Cody Park on north U.S. Highway 83. 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, valued at $500,000 at the time of its installation, 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 steam engine is one of two remaining 3900-class Challenger locomotives built by Union Pacific. The park also has a swimming pool and amusement rides for children, including a carousel and Ferris wheel. A concession stand adds treats to the memories made here.
Some of the animals that Cody saw on the frontier can be seen at Cody Park, too. Deer and bison are part of the herd, and the bugling of elk can be heard across North Platte during rutting season. Peacocks and llamas live here, and there are geese, ducks and donkeys. The lake at Cody Park attracts rare trumpeter swans. Binocular-clad birdwatchers come here for nature’s show during spring and fall migrations. There is an admission for rides; other attractions are free. In 1995, the Guinness Book of World Records recognized Union Pacific’s 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 cars pass through daily.
Golden Spike Tower and Visitor Center rises eight stories for a bird’s-eye view of massive Bailey Yard. An elevator takes visitors to the seventh floor open-air observation deck, or to the top for an enclosed viewing experience. (308) 532-9920.
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 for sampling each variety, and the purchase of bottles of your favorites and other gifts. (308) 696-0078.
Putting Nebraska agricultural ingenuity to work, Grain Bin Antique Town offers high quality collectibles and antiques for sale from repurposed grain bins. A boardwalk connects 20 Depression-era grain bins chock-full of vintage signs, glassware, wooden furniture, trinkets and more. (308) 539-7401.
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 headquarters. (308) 534-5640. Located just south of I-80, America’s 20th Century Veterans’ Memorial honors all military men and women of the past century. A brick bas-relief sculpture depicts major wars from World War I to the Persian Gulf. Larger-than-life-size bronze statues depict the branches of the armed forces and the ladies of the North Platte Canteen. The memorial is south of I-80 beside Highway 83. (308) 532-6579.
The North Platte Area Children’s Museum offers hands-on learning about science, technology, culture and the arts in the Carnegie Library building, 314 N. Jeffers St. (308) 532-3512. Downtown 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.
North Platte’s Prairie Arts Center opened its first exhibition in the renovated 1913 federal building during the 2015 holiday season. The historic building, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is undergoing further renovation, but the main level, complete with grand entry hall, gift shop and gallery is open Tuesday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-4 p.m. showcasing local artists and traveling exhibits.
Cody Go-Karts near I-80 has water slides, mini golf, bumper boats and go-karts mid-March through September, weather permitting. (308) 534-8277.
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) 534-7550; as well as a nine-hole course, Indian Meadows, (308) 532-6955. For more information about North Platte, contact the North Platte/Lincoln County Convention and Visitors Bureau at (800) 955-4528 or visit www.visitnorthplatte.com. Brochure:
Sept. 15-17. Celebrate railroad history in Cody Park with music, model trains, art competition and pancake feed. Events at Lincoln County Historical Museum, Buffalo Bill State Historical Park, Bailey Yard and other sites.