North Platte



Very much a crossroads of the Old West, North Platte, Nebraska, was a way station for the Pony Express and another town along the Oregon and Mormon Trails. Latter-day travelers passing through North Platte, located 280 mi/450 km west of Omaha, should take a break and visit the Buffalo Bill Ranch State Historical Park, where the famous adventurer's home has been preserved, along with artifacts and memorabilia from his Wild West Show.

Railroad buffs will want to see Bailey Yard, the world's largest classification yard (where cars get hitched together for outgoing trains). They can view the yard from above from the Golden Spike Tower and Visitor's Center, which gives a 360-degree view of thousands of trains. Railroad memorabilia is for sale in a gift shop on the tower's main floor.

For water activities or just a break on the shore, head west to Lake McConaughy, a 25-mi-/40-km-long lake with lovely blue water. If you're in North Platte in June, don't miss Nebraskaland Days, which includes the four-day Buffalo Bill Rodeo, a professional event.

Nearby in Maxwell is Fort McPherson National Cemetery, the site of a U.S. cavalry fort turned into a graveyard for veterans of the Civil War. It's now a final resting place for veterans of many conflicts and the site of a moving annual ceremony on Memorial Day weekend.

Ogallala, another important town in the history of the West, lies 50 mi/80 km west of North Platte. This is where the Texas Trail cattle drives ended in the 1870s and 1880s and where the just-paid cowboys raised a ruckus after many long days on the trail. You can visit the Cowboy Museum and Front Street, a re-creation of the main street of the 1880s. During spring and summer, there are western shows in the saloon and simulated shootouts in the streets.

Nearby is Boot Hill, topped with a bronze cowboy statue and plaque. It's the final resting place of some cowpokes who didn't survive the town's rough-and-rowdy ways: as the story goes, they died with their boots still on. Also in Ogallala is the Mansion on the Hill, a historic home from the cattle-drive period.

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