The legacy of the Wild West did not materialize in isolation; it was shaped by influential individuals such as William “Buffalo Bill” Cody. Beyond his success as a showman and the captivating Wild West shows he produced, Buffalo Bill’s impact extended far beyond the realm of entertainment. He was a trailblazer who embodied progressive ideals ahead of his time.
A visit to the Buffalo Bill Museum offers an immersive experience where you can delve into the intricacies of this extraordinary legacy.
This article aims to provide you with a comprehensive overview of what to expect and what you should know before embarking on your museum visit.
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What is the Buffalo Bill Museum?
Situated on Lookout Mountain in Golden, Colorado, the Buffalo Bill Museum and Grave is dedicated to the life and legacy of William “Buffalo Bill” Cody.
At the museum, visitors can explore exhibits that showcase the life of Buffalo Bill, his Wild West shows, and the history of the American West.
The museum features artifacts, photographs, memorabilia, and interactive displays that provide insights into Buffalo Bill’s career as a buffalo hunter, Army scout, and showman.
Visitors can learn about his impact on popular culture and his contributions to shaping the perception of the American West here in the United States and abroad.
In addition to the museum, the site includes Buffalo Bill’s grave, where he was laid to rest in 1917, although controversy around the grave lived on much longer (but more on that later).
Where is the Buffalo Bill Museum & Grave?
The Buffalo Bill Museum and Grave is located in Lookout Mountain Park, just west of Denver, Colorado. The museum’s address is: 987 1/2 Lookout Mountain Road, Golden, CO 80401.
The road leading up to the museum is a popular route for cyclists so if you’re heading up there on a morning during the weekend, make sure you are extra careful about avoiding the cyclists with your vehicle.
Our experience at the Buffalo Bill Museum
We arrived at the Buffalo Bill Museum just before its summer opening time of 9AM on a Saturday and we were one of the first people to show up in the parking lot.
As you arrive at the Buffalo Bill Museum and Grave, be sure to take advantage of the breathtaking scenic overlooks located along the perimeter of the parking lot.
These vantage points offer stunning views of the Denver skyline, the vast expanse of the surrounding plains, and the majestic mountain peaks of the Front Range.
After indulging in the breathtaking views for a while, we eagerly headed towards the museum entrance. A warm and welcoming staff member greeted us with a friendly smile as we purchased our tickets, setting the stage for an enjoyable experience ahead.
When it comes to admission pricing, you’ll be pleasantly surprised to find that this museum offers an incredible value for what it has to offer. At five dollars per adult, it’s definitely a budget-friendly option, allowing you to explore and immerse yourself in the rich history and captivating exhibits without breaking the bank.
As we ventured into the museum, I couldn’t wait to delve into the world of Buffalo Bill. If you’re planning a visit, I highly recommend starting off by immersing yourself in the film that provides a glimpse into the life of this legendary figure.
Prepare to be captivated as you learn about Buffalo Bill’s extraordinary journey, from the trials and tribulations he faced during his challenging childhood to the diverse roles he played throughout his life, including that of a skilled hunter, daring scout, and charismatic showman.
The film not only reveals his remarkable story but also unveils the profound influence he had in shaping the perception of the American West and many of the progressive ideals he stood for.
I must admit, after watching the film, my admiration for Buffalo Bill skyrocketed, and I was ready to explore every corner of the museum.
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After the film, you’ll have the opportunity to wander through the corridors of the museum. While it may not be sprawling in size, it more than compensates with its immersive and comprehensive exploration of all things Buffalo Bill.
The exhibits are a treasure trove of fascinating artifacts, showcasing original costumes, authentic guns, and a myriad of captivating memorabilia. Each item provides a tangible connection to the past, allowing you to step back in time and truly appreciate the legacy of this iconic figure.
Navigating the museum’s displays, you’ll come across intriguing glimpses into the circles Buffalo Bill was intertwined with during his lifetime. One notable highlight is his invitation to have tea with none other than the legendary playwright and poet, Oscar Wilde.
As you immerse yourself in the museum’s exhibits and delve into the captivating history of the Wild West shows, you’ll gain a profound understanding of the essence and allure that surrounded these spectacles.
Image it being your first time witnessing skilled horseback riders, cowboys, Native Americans, and sharpshooters performing daring feats, reenacting thrilling scenes such as buffalo hunts, stagecoach robberies, and frontier battles, all set against a backdrop of expansive landscapes and authentic Western props.
It also becomes evident how these shows were well marketed to captivate audiences not only across the country but also abroad.
You’ll discover the creative tactics used to pique the curiosity and fascination of people from all walks of life. From eye-catching posters and advertisements to newspaper articles and promotional campaigns, the marketing efforts surrounding Buffalo Bill’s shows were truly ingenious.
Moreover, the Wild West shows created an immense commercial opportunity for merchandise, toys, and various forms of memorabilia.
The evolution of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West shows is a captivating aspect to explore. These shows went beyond simply portraying “cowboys and indians”; they became a grand amalgamation of diverse cultures from around the world.
The shows incorporated performers from various countries and regions, such as South American gauchos, Cossacks from Eastern Europe, Arabs, English lancers, and more. This cultural fusion brought together people from vastly different backgrounds, uniting them under a common purpose and creating a harmonious collaboration.
Nevertheless, beyond the surface portrayals, the significance of Buffalo Bill’s achievement lies in his ability to successfully integrate individuals from diverse walks of life.
Despite the cultural differences and occasional conflicts that may have existed among these groups, Buffalo Bill fostered an environment of teamwork and cooperation. He created a platform where people from varied backgrounds could work together, showcasing their unique skills and cultures, thereby transcending societal divisions.
The Wild West shows orchestrated by Buffalo Bill Cody were also not confined to a single location. They captivated audiences across North America and even ventured across the Atlantic to Europe.
Some of the most iconic and noteworthy venues that hosted these shows included Madison Square Garden in New York City and Earl’s Court in London. These locations, known for their size and prominence, served as epic stages for Buffalo Bill’s larger-than-life performances.
If you’re curious about whether Buffalo Bill ever graced your hometown with his Wild West show, the museum’s record book is an invaluable resource.
It meticulously documents specific dates for each performance, allowing you to uncover the possibility that your own ancestors might have been among the fortunate spectators of Buffalo Bill’s unforgettable shows.
One of the most fascinating aspects of Buffalo Bill Cody’s legacy lies in his relationship with Native Americans, with whom he had once been in conflict. However, he embarked on a remarkable path of reconciliation and cooperation.
Buffalo Bill recognized the challenges faced by Native Americans, including the erosion of their cultural heritage and the constraints imposed by reservation life. In an unprecedented move, he extended an opportunity for Native Americans to leave the confines of the reservations and participate in his Wild West shows.
By joining the shows, they had a chance to earn income and simultaneously preserve and showcase their rich cultural traditions.
This collaboration between Buffalo Bill and Native Americans represented a unique alliance that defied previous animosities.
Even though the shows did perpetuate stereotypes that we have moved away from over time, they allowed Native Americans to share their stories, customs, and skills with audiences from all walks of life,
Buffalo Bill was also a notable advocate for gender equality, standing as a proponent of equal pay for equal work. This progressive stance was ahead of its time, reflecting his belief in the fundamental principles of fairness and justice.
One instance that highlights Buffalo Bill’s commitment to gender equality is his meeting with the renowned women’s suffragist, Susan B. Anthony, during his time in Chicago.
As time progressed, Buffalo Bill’s support for women’s rights became even more apparent. In interviews, he boldly expressed his belief that women should not only have the right to vote but should also be granted equal rights and equal pay. His words and actions exemplify a visionary outlook that transcended the societal norms of his era.
The Buffalo Bill grave
Upon concluding your museum exploration, I encourage you to venture outside and embark on a journey to the Buffalo Bill gravesite. While it may require a small bit of extra effort, including navigating an uphill path and ascending some steps, the experience is well worth it.
As you make your way towards the gravesite, you’ll be surrounded by a serene and picturesque setting. The tranquil atmosphere adds a sense of reverence to the visit, allowing you to reflect on the legacy of Buffalo Bill Cody.
There is a lot of controversy surrounding the gravesite, or at least there was back in the day.
According to Buffalo Bill Cody’s Last Will and Testament, he specified a burial site near Cody, Wyoming, the town he founded and held dear. However, as he neared the end of his life in 1917, while residing at his sister’s home in Denver, he made a surprising request to his wife, Louisa, asking to be buried at Lookout Mountain.
This unexpected decision caused a stir among the people of Cody, Wyoming, who felt that Buffalo Bill’s final resting place should align with his wishes as stated in his will.
The controversy sparked intense debates that lasted for decades, with differing opinions surrounding the matter, including one that accused Buffalo Bill’s wife of taking a bribe to have him buried near Denver.
The controversy even reached a point where, in 1948, the Cody American Legion Post offered a substantial $10,000 reward to anyone who would steal Buffalo Bill’s body! Concerns over potential theft led the Colorado National Guard to station troops to protect the grave site, ensuring its security.
To this day, some claim that Buffalo Bill’s remains are not actually located here on Lookout Mountain.
After his wife and daughter died in the 1920s, a group of distant relatives announced their plan to move Buffalo Bill’s body to Cody, Wyoming and they rallied support which led to a lot of rumors about a clandestine “body swap.”
But the museum stands firm that Buffalo Bill’s body is in fact located at this grave, next to his wife.
Before you head out, it’s worth checking out the gift shop which is quite large. You’ll find a little bit of everything inside of the gift shop including a stuffed bison over 100 years old!
They also have a café where you can purchase fudge, root beer floats, or even grab a bite to eat with some great views.
If you harbor a fascination for the American West and the evolution of its portrayal, a visit to the Buffalo Bill Museum and Grave is an absolute must. However, even if you hold only a passing interest in the Wild West, this museum offers a captivating experience that is well worth your time.
What sets Buffalo Bill apart is his status as a man ahead of his time. His showmanship instincts, progressive ideals and advocacy for gender equality, along with his collaborations with diverse cultures, showcase his visionary nature.
And the museum provides a platform to delve into these aspects, allowing visitors to appreciate the depth of his character and the enduring impact he had on the American West.
Daniel Gillaspia is the Founder of UponArriving.com and the credit card app, WalletFlo. He is a former attorney turned travel expert covering destinations along with TSA, airline, and hotel policies. Since 2014, his content has been featured in publications such as National Geographic, Smithsonian Magazine, and CNBC.