With room to roam, northeastern Wyoming’s small towns of Gillette and Wright deliver naturally socially distanced activities that will make you feel safe and adventuresome. Rolling roads, great big skies and wide-open grasslands lend themselves to COVID-19 friendly activities. Home to more than 70 restaurants, you can let your stress melt away during two full days in this grassland haven.
As Gillette is located between Mount Rushmore National Memorial and Yellowstone National Park on I-90, Gillette is the perfect place to pull in between the “Big Three” — the third being Devils Tower National Monument, an epic outdoor wonder that every person should see in their lifetime. Read on to learn more about this magical place.
Your journey begins with a stop into the Wright Centennial Museum, which showcases the tales of cowboys, coal miners, trailblazers and more. Make sure to see the original Jacob William Benson painting and the domed sheep wagons. On your way out, get an outdoor photo with the huge Lectra Haul Unit Rig — an off-highway dump truck that was used throughout the state — you’ve probably never seen one like it before.
After learning all that history, you’re probably starving. Pop into Hanks Roadside Bar and Grill to get a Monte Cristo sandwich — crisp egg-dipped sourdough piled high with ham, turkey, Swiss and American cheese and served with a sugary raspberry sauce. Take it to the intimate park located behind the Wright Branch Library near downtown for an alfresco lunch.
Next, hop on the highway to Durham Buffalo Ranch, one of the world’s oldest and largest bison ranches. Go on a tour and see the 3,000-plus bison currently residing among the verdant grassy hills. You’ll learn about how the farmstead has raised these creatures since the 1960s and see the special working facilities that have been designed with the grand animals in mind.
Continue your journey north to Gillette with a visit to see CAM-PLEX, the largest multi-event facility in the western U.S. It houses a theater, pavilions, arenas and plazas — the sheer size of it will impress anyone.
Once you arrive, head to the Rockpile History Museum, which is aptly named as it is next to a massive pile of sandstone-colored rocks. The space tells the history of the Powder River Basin with an impressive firearms collection.
To stretch your legs and breathe in some of that fresh Equality State air, stroll downtown Gillette’s bustling streets. Nip into Magpie Designs for adorable gifts, Sole Mates for a new pair of shoes and Seconds on the Avenue where your purchases benefit the local soup kitchen, food pantry and homeless shelter.
Your inner dinner bell is probably ringing, so make your way to the patio at The Coop, where you should share the “whole bird” rotisserie chicken. It’s succulent, juicy and just downright delicious. For a nightcap, try Wyoming’s first meadery, Big Lost Meadery and Brewery. The Crazy Woman Mead tastes like honey and hibiscus. Then turn in for that night at one of Gillette’s more than 20 lodging facilities boasting modern amenities — including free WiFi and plush beds.
When dawn breaks, get take-away crispy Belgian waffles topped with strawberries, whipped cream and chocolate sauce from City Brew Coffee. Then pick up lunch from The Main Bagel for a picnic later on. Might we suggest the Batalian, which is topped with pepperoni, salami, Canadian bacon, olive and red pepper cream cheese and creamy Italian dressing?
Get on the road and drive a little over an hour to Devils Tower National Monument. The geologic marvel rises out of the ground like a stone beacon. It’s the country’s first national monument and stars in “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” mashed potatoes anyone? Hike the Tower Trail, 1.3 miles, where you’ll see Native American prayer cloths that represent the spiritual connection many tribes have with the formation.
Sit in the monument’s shadow and chow down on your bagel sandwiches before traveling to the Frontier Relics & Auto Museum for some socially distanced fun. The bright neon signs and classic cars will delight kids and the young at heart.
End your evening with a walk around the Avenues of Art near downtown. The sculptures — including a child in a yellow rain jacket jumping into an unseen puddle — make for great photos to remember your Wyoming adventure once you depart. Before returning to your hotel, have a mint chocolate chip cone at Ice Cream Cafe.
For tips on traveling mindfully and responsibly through Wyoming’s big, open spaces, visit WY Responsibly. Just remember: Leave natural spaces cleaner than you found them, keep a safe distance from wildlife and respect the health and safety of everyone you encounter by social distancing and wearing a mask.