Discovering the Cowboy State: 10 Fun Facts About Wyoming for Kids

February 26, 2024

A family digging for fossils at the American Fossil Quarry.

Calling all little ones! The Cowboy State is an incredible family vacation destination featuring tons of furry friends, amazing outdoor sights and plenty of room to roam. Education is made exciting with hands-on history, fossil digs, dinosaur adventures and cowboy-style celebrations. Whether you love the West or you’re simply looking for a unique getaway for the whole gang, these are ten fun facts about Wyoming for kids that you may not know.

1. Hot Springs, Geysers & Yellowstone for Kids

Did You Know? Wyoming is home to many natural wonders, including 173 hot springs and many geysers. Wondering what gives these fun features their blazing temperatures? These springs are created deep underground when super-hot rock makes water bubble and turn into steam. This steamy water rises up through cracks in the earth and forms a pool on the surface. A geyser is made the same way, but sometimes, that hot water builds up a ton of pressure under the rock. When that pressure is just right, it shoots up and bursts out like a water fountain.

Midway Geyser Basin thermal pool with grasslands around it.
Photo Credit: @kylegernerphotography

Explore More: Part of the fun of Yellowstone for kids is taking in these eye-catching beauties, and this grand national park has no shortage. Check out the steaming Grand Prismatic Spring with its vivid orange and blue hues, then head over to Old Faithful for a water show to see firsthand how the world-famous geyser lives up to its name.

Aerial view of Grand Prismatic Spring in Yellowstone National Park.

2. Fluffy, Fuzzy & Feathered Friends

Did You Know? From towering mountain ranges to tall, wild grasslands, the Cowboy State is a great place to see wild animals in their natural habitat, especially ones you may not see in your backyard. Spot a moose in a marsh munching on twigs, observe prairie dogs as they scamper about and find the biggest elk herd in the United States. Don’t forget to pack your binoculars for a bit of bird watching in Wyoming, and you could spot everything from the golden eagle to the Western meadowlark, which happens to be the state bird.

A golden eagle perched in a tree.

Explore More: Thanks to people who work hard to care for them, Wyoming animals are often found scattered across the state, living in places that make them happy. Moose like to hang out in groups near the mountains and are often seen in the Medicine Bow-Routt National Forest and the Bridger-Teton National Forest. Visit a real prairie dog town near Devils Tower and the Belle Fourche River, and spy an elk where they love to live in the Yellowstone National Park area or on a tour of the National Elk Refuge in Jackson.

A moose grazing in a field.

REMEMBER: Wyoming animals are beautiful, majestic and often downright adorable, but they are wild and can be dangerous to humans. Always keep your distance, and do not approach any animal you see on your adventures.

Find out more about wildlife viewing safely here.

An American pika leaping through the air with foliage in its mouth.

3. A Bison or a Buffalo?

Did You Know? If there is one creature that screams “Wyoming animal,” it’s the bison — it is the state’s official mammal, after all. Weighing up to 2,000 lbs and standing around 6 feet tall, the bison is as wild and free as the Cowboy State itself. You might wonder, “What’s the difference between a bison and a buffalo?” While people often think they mean the same thing, the bison lives in North America, while the two types of buffalo live in Asia and Africa. The bison also has smaller horns, a hump on its neck, and a more territorial personality than their distant buffalo cousins.

A herd of bison in a grassy field.

Explore More: While exploring Yellowstone, Hayden Valley is an excellent spot to see free-range bison residing there, often without even getting out of your car. Adventuring elsewhere in the state? Grand Teton National Park is a great place to see some bison with a gorgeous mountain view behind them, and the famous Terry Bison Ranch Resort in Cheyenne provides visitors with an exciting train tour and the opportunity to feed their bison herd.

A bison crossing a road in front of a car.

REMEMBER: While Bison may look like cuddly, furry cows, they are massive and sometimes aggressive. Ensure that there are at least 25 yards between you and the bison at all times so they don’t get scared and feel the need to charge.

Click here for more wildlife viewing destinations.

Terry Bison Ranch is one of the best places to get a bison burger in Wyoming.

4. Carefree Cowboy Adventures

Did You Know? Wyoming isn’t known as the Cowboy State for nothing — the wide open countryside has tipped its hat to ranchers and cowpokes since the pioneer days. As a matter of fact, one of history’s most famous cowboys, William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody, called the state home. After being a hero in the military, he went on to create Buffalo Bill’s Wild West, a grand performance that included some of the best roping and riding cowboys in the West. Many believe this was the start of the rodeo we know and love today.

Buffalo Bill Bench sculpture in front of the Irma Hotel.

Explore More: Rodeo is the state sport of Wyoming, so it’s very easy to find bull riders, calf ropers, cowboys and cowgirls doing tricks on horseback. Known as “Daddy of ’Em All,” Cheyenne Frontier Days is ten days of rodeo fun for the whole family. Another must-see cowboy stop is the city named after the man himself: visiting Cody means catching both the Cody Stampede Rodeo and the Cody Nite Rodeo, among the best activities in Wyoming for kids.

A man saddle bronc riding in an arena at the Cody Stampede Rodeo.

5. Mine for Excitement

Did You Know? Mining has played an important role in Wyoming’s history, as many early settlers came to the state looking for iron, copper, gold and coal in boom towns that sprang up all over the state. Most of those mines closed over time, but coal has stayed strong even to the present day. Over 30% of the coal used to produce power across the country comes from Campbell County, Wyoming, which has earned it the title of the energy capital of the nation.

Carissa Mine with mountains and rolling hills in the background.

Explore More: Bringing the family to Power Country makes for one of the most unique things to do in Wyoming for kids. Stop in for a tour of the Eagle Butte Coal Mine in Gillette and make memories while getting a closer look at this exciting process.

Heavy machinery at Eagle Butte Coal Mine.

6. The First in the Nation

Did You Know? One of the coolest things about Wyoming is that it has so many “firsts” in its history. For example, the first national monument in the U.S. is Devils Tower National Monument, an enormous piece of rock that stands 867 feet high and is a popular attraction for hiking, rock climbing and snapping an amazing selfie. With its green trees and peaceful waters, the Shoshone National Forest near Cody was the first to be given that special title by the government, and the big and beautiful Yellowstone was America’s first national park.

Family hiking at Devils Tower National Monument.

Explore More: Yellowstone is an awesome place for family adventures. It’s got mountains, meadows, animals and rocks that are so amazing you won’t believe your eyes. Once you’ve seen the incredible Devils Tower, stop by the Trading Post to grab a snack and a souvenir to take home with you. Pack a picnic for your day in the Shoshone National Forest, or enjoy the outdoors with a relaxing day of fishing on the water.

Aerial view of the North Fork of the Shoshone River.

7. Say Hello to the Triceratops

Did You Know? By now, you know some of the Wyoming animals you can be on the lookout for during your visit, but you might not expect to see a dinosaur on vacation. Guess what? Wyoming is one of the few states in the country with a state dinosaur — the triceratops, a plant-eating dino that could grow 30 feet long and weigh up to 6 tons. According to where their bones were found, the triceratops made themselves at home in Wyoming 65 million years ago, and paleontologists still find their skeletons today.

People digging for fossils at the Wyoming Dinosaur Center.
Photo Credit: @2TravelDads

Explore More: Come get your hands dirty looking for your special dinosaur bones and fossils at the Wyoming Dinosaur Center in Thermopolis or the Tate Geological Museum at Casper College. Want to see genuine triceratops bones for yourself? Pop by the display at the University of Wyoming Geological Museum in Laramie to get a bird’s eye view of what those former Wyoming residents really looked like.

Wooly mammoth fossils at the Tate Geological Museum.

8. Less People, More Space

Did You Know? Want to know a fun fact about Wyoming? It’s got the smallest number of people in the whole country. That means more space for awesome outdoor family fun: no big crowds, no long lines — just lots of room to explore. Hit the trails, enjoy the views, and climb the peaks in the summertime. When the snow falls, you can ski, snowboard or snowshoe across the peaceful mountains.

A highway alongside Tollgate Rock.
Photo Credit: National Travel Center

Explore More: With 109 mountain ranges, eight national forests and ten National Park Service sites, Wyoming is like a giant playground. You have your pick of where in the state you wander to find your space. Remember to put safety first and use a guide service or outfitter before venturing into any unsafe territory. If you feel like chilling out and watching the scenery roll by from the car, there are scenic byways for that.

Aerial view of the Snowy Range Scenic Byway.

9. Digging Up the Past

Did You Know? Wyoming is like a treasure chest for fossils, rocks and remnants from long ago. Why? Because way back when there were many more forests and lakes than there are today. When those things disappeared, they left behind bits of the past just waiting to be discovered.

A father and son holding up fossils at the American Fossil Quarry as a boy digs for fossils in the background.
Photo Credit: @2TravelDads

Explore More: Grab a shovel and treat the gang to one of the most incredible things to do in Wyoming for kids. The American Fossil Quarry in Kemmerer doesn’t just let you dig but also lets you take your fantastic fossil finds home. If you want to see what other people have dug up in the Cowboy State, take a trip back in time to the Fossil Butte National Monument while you’re in town.

A family digging for fossils at the American Fossil Quarry.

10. Rip-Roaring Roundups

Did You Know? Nothing says cowboy country like a day on the ranch. Wyoming had a cattle boom in the late 1800s, and the open, rolling environment is perfect for keeping a herd comfortable. These days, there are thousands of farms and ranches across the state, with nearly 30 being dude or guest ranches where cowpokes can come for a visit.

Horses running into a corral at Eatons' Ranch.

Explore More: The oldest dude ranch in the United States is Eatons’ Ranch in Wolf near Sheridan, and it is still open today for all-inclusive getaways. Take a look at 7D Ranch in Cody for activities for the whole family, including archery, horseback riding, dancing and more. Giddy up!

A woman riding a horse surrounded by other horses at Eatons' Ranch.

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