DODGE CITY, Kansas — The city known as the “Queen of the Cowtowns” is a must-visit for those interested in the Wild West. The West was rarely wilder than in Dodge City, which from 1872-1885 was a key stop on cattle drives coming up the Santa Fe Trail.
Notables, including Wyatt Earp, Bat Masterson and Doc Holliday, spent time in the town, which was also immortalized in the long-running “Gunsmoke” TV series.
Dodge City celebrates its history with its “Get the Heck into Dodge” campaign; the town was recently awarded the “Cowboy Keeper” award by the National Day of the Cowboy Association for its efforts in promoting the cowboy way of life.
The city embraces its past, but looks to the future as well, with a new casino that sits beside the 5,500-seat United Wireless Arena, which hosts sporting and entertainment events.
Interested in some of Dodge City’s history? Here are five stops to make on the trail:
BOOT HILL MUSEUM,
500 W Wyatt Earp Blvd.
More than 60,000 artifacts from the Old West era populate the Boot Hill Museum, Many were collected by Chalkley Beeson, former sheriff and part-owner of the famed Long Branch Saloon. The brand ambassador for Boot Hill Museum, Brent Harris, is a wonderful source of information about all things Dodge City, and can tell fascinating stories from the attempted assassination of Wyatt Earp to the ghost of Ed Masterson. An audiovisual program in the museum simulates the look and feel of a buffalo stampede in the days when those animals still roamed the prairies in huge herds. In the summer, the museum hosts dinners, mock gunfights and variety shows.
DODGE CITY TROLLEY,
400 W Wyatt Earp Blvd.
If you go during the summer, the 1-hour trolley tour provides an overview of the area and some of its most famous stories, leading up to the current status of the town as a top meatpacking area. Riders will see the location of the original Long Branch Saloon on Front Street (since burned to the ground), as well as Fort Dodge, which now serves as the Kansas Soldiers Home.
201 E Wyatt Earp Blvd.
The former El Vaquero Harvey House and Depot has been renovated to its 1898 appearance, where it now houses the Depot Theatre. The former hotel lobby now has been restored to its original appearance, as a photo hanging in the room shows. Many original fixtures, flooring, woodwork and windows are part of the lobby.
The depot still serves its original purpose as well — the Amtrak stop in Dodge City is staffed by volunteer. The Harvey House dining room has been restored and can be used as meeting space.
MUELLER-SCHMIDT HOUSE, 112 E Vine.
Called the “Home of Stone,” this 1881 limestone house was built for the family of boot maker John Mueller. After the 1886 blizzard, he sold it to the Schmidt family, which lived in the house until 1965, when the home was sold to Ford County for use as a museum. From Memorial Day to Labor Day, visitors can tour the home, filled with period furniture and clothing. The knowledgeable tour guides are dressed in period attire and tell the stories of the only two families to ever live in the home.
DODGE CITY TRAIL OF FAME
The Dodge City Trail of Fame Inc. is a walking tour of the Old Dodge City historic district. Sidewalk medallions commemorate famous Dodge Citians, real and fictional. The 8-foot statue of lawman Wyatt Earp, dedicated in 2005, is a highlight of the tour.
Accommodations paid by Dodge City Convention and Visitors Bureau