The Cowboy Life For Me At Cheyenne Frontier Days - My Family Travels

The annual Cheyenne Frontier Days Festival returns this July. Are you tired of bingeing on Yellowstone, 1883 and 1923 to get your cowboy fix? Unplug at the the wildly popular 10-day summer extravaganza that celebrates Wyoming’s cowboy and Indian heritage. Featuring a rodeo known as the “Daddy of ’em All,” it runs July 21-30, 2023.

Lots of cultural activities at the Indian Village at Cheyenne Frontier Days.
Lots of cultural activities at the Indian Village at Cheyenne Frontier Days. Photo by Bree Anderson, c.Cheyenne Frontier Days.

The thrilling centerpiece is the Professional Rodeo Cowboy Association sanctioned PRCA ProRodeo, a bucket list item for many. At Cheyenne Frontier Days, contestants from around the world compete to win the $1 million purse. Watch bronco and bull riding and team roping performed by the field’s top cowboys.

Honoring cowboys and Indians since 1897, Cheyenne Frontier Days (CFD) starts with a bang-up parade. Buffalo Bill brought his Wild West show to Cheyenne in 1898 ot take advantage of the fans. His troupe of Sioux Indians and trained horseback riders highlighted stories from the mystical Wild West. His show was a huge hit and traveled all over the world. Today, a family-oriented carnival, bustling market, and educational activities continue around the daily CFD rodeo and elimination rounds.

Cheyenne Frontier Days is a Citywide Festival

Rodeo action is non-stop. Photo by Bree Anderson, c.Cheyenne Frontier Days.
Rodeo action is non-stop. Photo by Bree Anderson, c.Cheyenne Frontier Days.

There’s herds of free entertainment in addition to the rodeo at Cheyenne Frontier Days, too.

The CFD’s tiny management staff annually corral several thousand Wyomingite volunteers into sharing their ranch smarts and hospitality with visitors from all over the world. The townsfolk put on pancake breakfasts, chili cookoffs and train buff events. There are daily Gunslinger Shootouts in the town square. Fit in a guided trolley tour to get oriented and learn a bit more about Cheyenne’s history. Enjoy all the Cowboys n’ Indians play that any family could want.

Take advantage of free entry to the Frontier Days fairgrounds. Partake in much more than judging bulls and riders. There’s a fun Carnival midway with rides, Western Wear vendors, stirrup shops and more. Explore an Indian Village with crafts and dance displays, a cowboy style children’s play area and a myriad of shops, without even paying an admission fee.

Get a good start for the day at the Pancake Breakfast at 7am on July 24, 26 and 28, 2023. Traditionally, folks have served 100,000 flapjacks with 475 gallons of syrup, free of charge to all comers.

Horses and Bulls Make any Rodeo Great Fun

If you’ve never been to a rodeo, arrive early for the Rodeo Qualifying Trials, July 15-19. Families love this event because it’s free of charge. Arena seating is open first come, first serve for this introduction to the arts of rodeo.

Daily rodeo competitions include bull riding, which you’ll need tickets for. The sport requires riders to stay mounted on wildly jumping bulls for at least 8 seconds in order to score. (Only one of the 20 contestants we saw made it through.) As the MC announced prior to the event, “These steers are stronger than 10 acres of mowed garlic!”  

Different cowboy competitions include calf-roping and bronc riding, requiring lots of skill. Muscle up to watch the steer wrestling. The race between wild horses is exciting too. Some clowns, barrel racing and appearances by glittery Rodeo Queens make up the rest. These fans love a good rodeo.

Have you heard of Steamboat, a famous bucking bronco that entertained the Frontier Days crowd for many seasons? He was famously buried under the arena at his death. Wyomingites honor this fearless horse by featuring him on their license plate, though the rider is unknown.

Cheyenne Frontier Days Rodeo Appreciation for Colts

Watching the action at the Kids Corral at Cheyenne Frontier Days.
Watching the action at the Kids Corral at Cheyenne Frontier Days.

Begin your visit to CFD with a free, hour-long, morning Behind the Chutes tour. Local cowboys explain how the rodeo works, what type of events to expect and how they are judged. Additionally, go behind the scenes for a chance to inspect horses in competition. Can you judge their ability to outrace a bull, lasso a steer or keep bucking broncos in their place?

Take your time touring the world’s largest outdoor rodeo arena. Stick around the perimeter of the competition arena and pay attention to the riders and horses. The kids may be able to spot the up-and-coming cowboy stars of each rodeo event.

This little orientation will help the city folk in your crowd appreciate the many rounds of competition (well illustrated with instant replay on a big screen). There is cheap general seating on the sunny side of the arena, which is cooled by spritzers. Reserved seating is in the shade — a good place to be if you have little ones.

Little cowpokes getting hungry? There’s plenty of great carnival-style snack food at stands below the bleachers.

The After Sundown Side of Cowboys and Indians Life

Frontier Nights puts on huge CW star concerts.
Frontier Nights puts on huge CW star concerts. Photo by Bree Anderson, c.Cheyenne Frontier Days.

Evening entertainment includes an “Old Fashioned Melodrama.” Yes, it’s fun for the entire family, a time to holler “Yay” for the hero and “Boo” for the villian. Dinner and a show alternatives include The Hell on Wheels Rodeo and Chuck Wagon Dinner for some outside-the-competition rodeo watching and a cookout. At the Bunkhouse Bar, settle in Friday or Saturday night for a family-friendly meal, the house band and some country western dancing.

For more elegant approach to rodeo watching, for a fee, book the CFD arena’s Rooftop Deck. This shaded patio above the main building has great views of the arena for several evening rodeo events. The Rooftop has table service and a large selection of hard and soft drinks. Several big screen TVs show highlights of the rodeo and concert action. Admission is restricted to ages 21+ at night.

This year there will be nine spectacular concerts as part of Frontier Nights. Buy tickets in advance. Scheduled performances include Zach Bryan with Levi Turner — sure to be a sell-out. Plan a night to catch Eric Church, Old Dominion with Chase Rice, Five Finger Death Punch with Papa Roach & Paws, Tim McGraw and others. 

Cheyenne Frontier Days Rodeo Special Family Events

Cheer on some extraordinary kids at the Challenge Rodeo, a modified rodeo which pairs children with special needs with contestants of the PRCA. Volunteers assist kids in learning how to star at steer wresting, roping, bull riding, stick horse barrel racing. Check the schedule for events that are typically held in the middle of the arena.

At the Indian Village, families grab shaded picnic tables under the trees. Sample the popular Indian Tacos (ground beef and beans on Indian bread). Several times a day, Native Americans cultural ambassadors run a storytime. Stay for demonstrations of hoop dancing and other Indian arts. Here, the vendors in teepees showcase beautiful turquoise jewelry, beadwork, feathered items and Native American pottery.

Look for the daily Chuckwagon Cookoffs for cooking and family grilling tips from the pro’s. Families love the Junior Barrel Racing competition that includes pre-teen competitors.

Among the CFD attractions is a Frontier Town. Live Yellowstone. Step back in time and chat with merchants, artisans and craftspeople about our Western heritage.  You may even meet up with the likes of Buffalo Bill Cody and Wyatt Earp. 

Cheyenne for Family Fun Vacations

There's a fun midway at the Cheyenne Frontier Days Carnival
There’s a fun midway at the Cheyenne Frontier Days Carnival. Photo by Bree Anderson, c.Cheyenne Frontier Days.

It’s absolutely worth visiting in late July, although it’s the most crowded and expensive time of the year. We novices found the first few days of the CFD festival great fun. Rodeo followers, however, prefer the last days when only the best riders are left. Just arrive early enough to suit up at Just Dandy, Desperado Depot or The Wrangler or get some new bling at Indigo Buffalo Turquoise and Three Crows Gallery and Gifts.

If you can’t visit Wyoming’s state capital during Cheyenne Frontier Days, you can still watch it live on Cowboy TV. We think — if you circle the wagons and focus on the town’s many Old West attractions — you’ll have a great visit any time.

Here’s our roundup of fun sights for kids, neat places to explore, and friendly hotels for families visiting Cheyenne.

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