Driving across Nebraska? It’s one of those states with long stretches of flat straight highways and little to see on either side of the road except huge wind turbines which can be seen for miles and which are fascinating to watch. But even with the entertainment provided by wind farms, you’re going to want a break at some point. Travelers have been stopping at the Fort Cody Trading Post in North Platte for years.
Seen from the highway (you don’t even have to go out of your way to find it) it looks like what you’d imagine a fort should look like—a huge log stockade. There are plenty of forts along the Midwest cross country trek–Fort Kearney, Fort Laramie, Fort Bridger– if you want to visit a real one. Fort Cody however, is not a fort at all but rather a combination museum and gift shop with a 30 foot cut-out of Buffalo Bill standing guard in the parking lot. It’s one of those kitschy, cheesy sort of places that everyone stops to see but no one admits to having been there.
Before you go speeding past on the highway though, you should know that Fort Cody is worth your time. Yes, it’s a tourist trap. But it’s a great tourist trap! Inside are authentic Buffalo Bill memorabilia and historical displays all over the walls and in glass cases. There are some great artifacts — Old Buffalo Bill Circus posters, Native American dresses and heavily beaded moccasins, old guns and knives, saddles, and my favorite, a buffalo hide coat and gloves that I imagine weighs something like a zillion pounds. Someone has done a great job of collecting interesting pieces. A big display of Buffalo Bill’s wild west show has been carved and features 20,000 pieces according to the informational sign. A door in the back wall leads outside where there is an old cabin, some old wagons and covered wagons on display. There are a few cheesy photo ops too.
Back inside the gift shop are lots of souvenirs, both inexpensive stuff that the kids will go for as well as some higher quality merchandise. There’s a nice selection of Minnetonka shoes and slippers, some Native American pottery, leather handbags with beading, jewelry, a collection of decorative knives and swords, and lots more. I bought several jams and syrups including huckleberry and chokecherry — hard to find where I live– from the foods section. There is a pretty good book section filled with western history too if you want something to read on your journey.
After hours of driving on the freeway this was a fun and relaxing stop. Plan to stay 1 to 1.5 hours. Maybe longer if you have kids.