Located in Golden, Colorado, the Buffalo Bill Museum and Grave is a museum dedicated to the preservation of the cultural legacy of William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody, a noted Army scout, hunter, entertainer, and icon of the Old American West. William Frederick Cody was born on February 26, 1846 Le Claire, Iowa Territory and raised in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
Cody began working as a freight carrier at the age of 11 following his father’s death, and at the age of 14, embarked on a journey to California to participate in the Holcomb Valley Gold Rush, which resulted in a job as a rider for the Pony Express. Following military service with the Union Army during the American Civil War from 1863 to 1865, he married Louisa Frederici and served as a civilian scout for the United States Army, developing a reputation as an accomplished bison hunter, which earned him the nickname “Buffalo Bill.” In 1869, Cody developed a relationship with author Ned Buntline, who went on to publish a number of serialized novels based on fictionalized accounts of Cody’s adventures as a bison hunter.
Cody’s career as an entertainer began in 1872 with the Chicago production of The Scouts of the Prairie, produced by Buntline. Though the production itself was critically panned, Cody became a popular performer with crowds, leading to a decades-long career as a traveling entertainer in shows depicting the culture of the Old American West. In 1883, Cody founded the Buffalo Bill's Wild West touring show, which traveled across the United States and Europe with prominent figures such as sharpshooters Annie Oakley and Frank Butler and Lakota leader Sitting Bull. Cody’s Wild West shows are credited as an early precursor to modern rodeos, employing real-life cowboys and cowgirls to demonstrate skills such as bronco riding and roping.
Following Cody’s death in 1917, he was buried at Colorado’s Lookout Mountain, overlooking the Great Plains area he devoted much of his life to. Four years later, the Buffalo Bill Memorial Museum was opened near Cody’s gravesite by close friend Johnny Baker, displaying a collection of artifacts related to Cody’s life and military and performance careers, including items donated by his wife Louisa. Until 1956, the museum was operated in a joint arrangement between the Bakers and the City of Denver, Colorado, with the city retaining control of the museum’s property and the Bakers overseeing collections, but following Olive Baker’s death, control of the museum and its collections was transferred to the City of Denver.
Today, the Buffalo Bill Museum and Gravesite is owned and operated by the City of Denver, serving as a memorial preserving the legacy of Cody’s status as an icon of the Old American West. The City of Denver maintains the Buffalo Bill gravesite and all related museum structures within Lookout Mountain Park, including an Observation Deck area, which offers 360-degree views of the Rocky Mountain Front Range and Great Plains areas. A Pahaska Tepee, which originally housed the museum’s collections when it opened in 1921, now is home to a gift shop and a cafe, which serves buffalo burgers and entrees, as well as homemade fudge and ice cream. Several year-round picnic areas are offered, as well as a one-mile hiking trail which connects the museum with the nearby Lookout Mountain Nature Center.
Inside the Buffalo Bill Museum, more than 3,000 square feet of exhibit space focuses on Cody’s life and legacy.The Buffalo Bill Story chronicles Cody’s life using up-to-date research, showcasing a variety of rare artifacts connected to the entertainer, such as a peace pipe belonging to Sitting Bull, a collection of personal posters and archival materials, and the Stetson hat worn during his final performance. At the Visit to the Wild West exhibit, visitors can inquire about their personal connection to sites where Buffalo Bill’s Wild West performed.The Americans explores Cody’s relationship with indigenous people, while Firearms features displays of weapons related to Cody’s work and performances. A Kids’ Cowboy Corral area also offers interactive dress-up and play areas for young visitors. Outside the museum, the Buffalo Bill’s Death exhibit serves as a companion to Cody’s gravesite, reflecting on his 1917 funeral.
Ongoing Programs and Education
Guided and self-guided tour opportunities are available for groups and organizations, including curriculum-incorporated tours for elementary and secondary students with hands-on activities emphasizing aspects of indigenous American cultures. Group rates are available by booking advance tour reservations through the museum’s offices. Discounted rates are also available for active and retired military service employees, including free admission during summer months as part of the Blue Star program. The museum and gift shop are fully wheelchair accessible, with closed-captioned videos available within exhibits.
A variety of public special event programming is offered throughout the year, including a Buffalo Bill Birthday Celebration in February, which includes a ceremonial cake cutting, a chip tossing contest, and family-friendly games and activities. In June, a Buffalo Bill Burial Ceremony Reenactment is offered, following the Masonic burial ceremony traditions of Cody’s funeral. A Buffalo Bill’s Western Roundup event showcases indigenous cultures and Civil War-era weaponry technology, and a Christmas with Cody event kicks off the holiday season in early December.
987 Lookout Mountain Rd, Golden, CO 80401, Phone: 303-526-0744