Fort Cody Trading Post
No visit to North Platte is complete without a visit to the Fort Cody Trading Post
The highlight of a visit to the Fort Cody Trading Post is the animated twenty thousand piece hand carved miniature replica of the Wild West Show. The delightful show runs every half hour. The Old West Museum features some of the finest cowboy gear, Native American hand crafts, guns and much more Wild West memorabilia to be seen in this area, and all free of charge.
Location: I-80 & U.S. Highway 83 Interchange – North Platte
Hours of Operation: Summer Hours Memorial Day – Labor Day 9am-9pm seven days
Winter hours: 9am to 5:30pm Monday-Sat, 12pm – 5:30pm Sunday
The Fort Cody Trading Post Story
From Roadside America: On a cross-country trip, Fort Cody is a reassuring sight, with its log stockade walls and towers, looming 2-dimensional Buffalo Bill sign, and promise of “Western Gifts.”
The 30-foot tall sign resembling Buffalo Bill isn’t an arbitrarily exploited Old West figure; Buffalo Bill Cody (called Buffalo Bill after killing 4,280 buffalo in one 18 month period) lived in North Platte for many years.
The Fort Cody Trading Post has remained true to its original vision — a replica frontier redoubt of the 1860-to-1875 era that claims to be “Nebraska’s Largest Souvenir and Western Gift Store.” While many gift shops in the West attempt to look like frontier stockades, this is probably the largest, maybe even larger than life. Soldier dummies man the stockade battlements and towers; one has an arrow sticking out of his butt.
In the fort, aside from all the items for sale, is the Old West Museum, a collection of guns, chaps, boots, hats, and saddles and other leftovers from the past. The collection has been added to over the years. The proprietors of Fort Cody are particularly proud of Buffalo Bill’s Miniature Wild West Show. Over 20,000 tiny hand-carved figures populate dioramas of Bill’s show, which traveled across America and even to Europe in 1877. The scenes were created by Ernie and Virginia Palmquist over a 12 year period.
From FreeWheelinTravel.org: Fort Cody Trading Post is the epitome of kitsch, and revels in its status. They actually have a bear trap mounted on the wall outside, with a sign next to it that says Tourist Trap. Does it get any more awesome than that? Why yes, it does. The exterior of the building has a giant façade designed to resemble a fort, topped by several cowboy mannequins engaged in an epic battle. One poor guy has been shot in the butt with an arrow. There’s also an enormous Buffalo Bill Cody sign, with info on the attraction’s namesake.
The Fort Cody Trading Post advertises itself as a free museum, and it is, if you can get out the door without buying something at their massive gift shop. When it comes to Western souvenirs, they’ve got everything, from cowboy gear to plush buffaloes, Jackelope statues, toy animals, and tons of clothing for all sizes and ages. They even sell whips, with the requisite warning sign not to crack them in the store.
The back portion of the Fort Cody building (they’re sneaky like that, you have to go through the gift shop first) contains a small but impressive museum devoted to Buffalo Bill Cody. Its centerpiece is the spectacular Buffalo Bill’s Miniature Wild West Show, featuring over 20,000 figures painstakingly hand carved in wood by Ernie and Virginia Palmquist. Many of the figures are animated — there’s a train that runs around the circus tents, and animated bucking broncos, sharpshooters, and more. Recorded audio narration tells the story of Buffalo Bill, his traveling Wild West show, and the creation of the miniatures. The show runs for about five minutes every 30 minutes, so if you missed something, you can wait around, and shop of course, and it will replay.
As you can see, the new Buffalo Bill is justifiably proud of the trading post that bears his name.