The first time I visited North Platte, Nebraska, I was 14. My family drove there via I-80 to attend the wedding of a close family friend. After almost 30 years, I don’t remember too much from that visit, but I do remember being intrigued by the western stockade I saw sitting just off the interstate there. My parents didn’t stop the car to visit then, so I soothed my disappointment by telling myself that it was probably just another cheesy tourist trap.

Over the years I’ve driven been past North Platte several times, and even stayed in hotels right next to the Fort Cody Trading Post — each time without going inside. I’d look at its weathered, wooden stockade walls, the mannequin-soldiers defending it from some unseen foe, and wonder what was inside. So on this trip, I decided to end my wondering and actually visit the store, and not just look at it from the outside. Boy, I’m glad I finally went inside.

Fort Cody Trading Post

When we walked in, we were overwhelmed with all the cool stuff this trading post had to offer.

Just as they opened the doors for business that morning, I walked in to a huge souvenir shop, filled with toys and trinkets from my childhood, oddities I’d never seen before, and country music playing in the background.

Cody Trading Post

A two-headed calf. Sadly, it only survived for 48 hours.

The Fort Cody Trading Post is special. It has been family owned and operated since 1963. It takes its name from “Buffalo” Bill Cody, who was a longtime resident of North Platte. The store bills itself as “Nebraska’s largest souvenir and western gift store,” and it has the four different pressed-penny designs to back that up.

They also offer some free attractions inside the store. One is the “Old West Museum” where you’ll find hats, chaps, and other western stuff like a two-headed calf. The other is a miniaturized “Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show.” This tiny show really isn’t so tiny…it is made up of 20,000 hand-carved wooden figures, many of which march, dance, and spin to music and a narrated history of the show every half-hour.

The miniature Wild West Show includes more than 20,000 hand-carved pieces.

The miniature Wild West Show includes more than 20,000 hand-carved pieces.

You can also step out the back door and into the “yard” of the stockade. Back there you’ll find a variety of covered wagons, a little cabin, a tiny Old West jail cell, and even a teepee. It was a fun place to walk around, take pictures, and imagine the Wild West.

Meghan was a good sport and posed for a photo in the Fort Cody Jail.

Meghan was a good sport and posed for a photo in the Fort Cody Jail.

Back inside, we enjoyed perusing thousands of souvenirs and gifts. In addition to the typical trinkets like postcards, pencils and shot glasses that are in any store, we loved checking out books, Nebraska grown honey and popcorn, steak seasonings, and dip mixes. I felt like a kid again looking at the slingshots, hand-buzzers, polished rocks, over-sized pennies, retro-sunglasses, and those little bicycle license plates that you always check to see if they have your name (they did!).

Fort Cody Trading Post had hundreds of souvenirs including slingshots, giant pennies, Nebraska-grown popcorn, polished rocks and those little bicycle license plates (including the correct spelling of Meghan's name).

Fort Cody Trading Post had hundreds of souvenirs including slingshots, giant pennies, Nebraska-grown popcorn, polished rocks and those little bicycle license plates (including the correct spelling of Meghan’s name).

They even had car Bingo cards to help travelers like us pass the miles. Word of caution: If you buy the Bingo game make sure you pick out different cards. Meghan and I were so excited to play this game in the car but didn’t check that before we left the store. Forty miles down the road, we realized our Bingo cards were exactly the same, and somehow the game just wasn’t as fun.

Our visit to the Fort Cody Trading Post served to teach me a little lesson about travel. If you see something that catches your interest and time allows, stop the car. Visit it. I left North Platte with such regret that I had not stopped here before. I realized I had missed out all these years because I never took the time to go in to a place I had pre-judged. No worries. I plan to start making up for those misses now, as the Fort Cody Trading Post will be on my “must-see” list of places whenever I’m headed west.

Have you been to Fort Cody Trading Post? What was your favorite souvenir or attraction? Let us know, we’d love to hear from you. 

  • Perched high on a hill in Tuscany is the medieval village of Montepulciano. In the center of town is the piazza grande paved with bricks laid in a herringbone pattern in the 14th century. ⁣
Standing in the piazza, looking at the bricks, we were filled with a sense of awe at the history these bricks have seen. They've been there for 700 years so have seen times of war and peace, celebration and sorrow. Generation after generation of townsfolk were born, lived and died, and all have walked on these bricks. ⁣
This is one of the things we love most about traveling. It gives us an authentic feel for history, one we wouldn't have if we just stayed at home.
  • We were so tickled when @thechefandthedish reached out and asked us if we'd like to take a complimentary cooking class with them. They offer private cooking classes with chefs from all over the world that you can take right in your own kitchen. ⁣
For this class, we Skyped with chef Paola who taught us to make strawberry risotto, traditional bruschetta, and a delicious poached pear dessert that blew our minds. ⁣
Risotto always seemed like a difficult dish to make, but Chef Paola explained it so well that it wound up being pretty easy. We spent a great afternoon with friends, learned something new, and enjoyed a great meal after. A class with The Chef & The Dish is a great gift idea, as well. Follow the link in our bio, and you can read more about our class on our blog.
  • The world is a big place, and there's so much to discover. Go places, and see things. It doesn't matter if you don't have a detailed itinerary, either. Sometimes, it's more about the journey and what you see and experience along the way, than it is about the destination.
  • During our trip in Tuscany with @italyunfiltered, we stopped at a small family winery. After learning about the organic methods they use to produce high quality Chianti Clasico wines, we had a tasting. ⁣
Wine tastings in Italy are nothing like those in the US. They are glorious affairs complete with delicious foods paired with the incredible wines. This particular winery brought us samples of homemade, organic jams made from fruits grown in the family's garden. We dabbed these on locally produced pecorino cheese. Yum!⁣
We're so glad that we had a local driver and guide. Stopping here was a highlight of our Italian adventure, and we never would have found it on our own.
  • The village of Marsaxlokk, Malta, is famous for these brightly painted fishing boats. The design is rather ancient, possibly dating back to Phoenician times, though it's still used today because it is very strong and holds up well in rough weather. One feature of each boat's decorations, are eyes painted on the bow of the boat. These eyes are said to protect the people fishing while they are at sea.
  • The blue cobblestones of Old San Juan, Puerto Rico, are actually part of a recycling project which started 500 years ago. Iron foundries in Spain produced huge piles of waste, called slag. Rather than throw these piles away, the slag was made into blocks which was placed into ships as ballast. The ballast was offloaded in Puerto Rico when they loaded products bound for Spain. The blocks were then used to pave the streets. ⁣
Pretty good idea, and 500 years later, they are holding up well!
  • The Overseas Highway connects Key West and the Florida Keys to the mainland U.S. While the entire road is a marvel of engineering, the centerpiece is the Seven Mile Bridge, which runs over water for, well, seven miles.⁣
The next time you're driving, reset your trip odometer and wait until it gets to seven miles. You'll see that's a pretty long distance. And then think about the fact that people built a bridge over water with no land to support them for that distance. Pretty incredible-especially since the first one was built in 1912.
  • We'd never heard of cannonball rocks before we drove past them at North Unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park and asked each other, "did you see that?" We'd never seen anything quite like these natural "concretions" created when water leaked into pockets of minerals in the ground. Now, as a hill erodes, these formations are exposed.⁣
Seeing these rocks was such a cool experience because it reminded us of why we travel. We never know when we'll find something new, something that we never knew existed. We got along fine not knowing about cannonball rocks, yet now that we've seen them, our lives are a little richer. ⁣
The world is a pretty cool place. Check it out.⁣

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