Best of the West 2013
- Written by TW Editors
- Published December 02, 2012
Here are the winners of our "2013 Best of the West." Sit back and see if your pick made the list.
THE BEST OF THE WEST: MOVIES
BEST INDEPENDENT WESTERN
Good for Nothing
Though the film received polarizing reviews, we believe Good for Nothing is definitely worth something. The unique film, shot entirely in New Zealand, takes its cues from Spaghetti Westerns of the past and was described by one reviewer as being similar to early Sam Raimi (Evil Dead) and Coen Brothers movies. We can agree with that sentiment. Though the deadpan, dark humor may not be for everyone, we don’t get the chance to see many Westerns of this kind anymore.
BEST MADE-FOR-TV WESTERN
It’s not a true Old West series like HBO’s Deadwood was, but A&E’s Longmire still does enough to fulfill our desires for modern Westerns. The show, whose premiere set the record for most-watched original series in the network’s history, stars Robert Taylor as the titular Sheriff Walt Longmire of the fictitious Absaroka County. It is based on a series of mystery books by author Craig Johnson. We especially like the setting and styling of Longmire, from the dry wit of Taylor’s character, to the slow, deliberate pace of the storytelling.
Hell on Wheels • AMC • AMCTV.com
BEST WESTERN FILM FESTIVAL
Lone Pine Film Festival
Hollywood may be the movie capital of the world, but Western film fans must head four hours north to Lone Pine, California, for the annual Lone Pine Film Festival. Westerns are alive and well at this festival with movie screenings, panels and its exhibits at the Lone Pine Film History Museum. Must-sees for festivalgoers are the movie site tours of films such as Yellow Sky, The Nevadan, Gunga Din, Westward Ho and Tremors. Sign up early for these tours because many sell out!
Lone Pine Film Festival • Lone Pine, CA • LonePineFilmFestival.org
BEST WESTERN FILM SCRIPT
Since some of you will be reading this before Django Unchained is even released, we won’t reveal any spoilers. But we got our hands on a copy of the script ahead of time, and we can’t wait to see how writer and director Quentin Tarantino translates the superb script to the big screen. The script is in-your-face and takes slavery head-on. It’s a Sergio Leone-style Spaghetti Western cranked up several notches and turned on its head like only Tarantino can do. The script was already winning acclaim two months before release as Tarantino took home the Hollywood Screenwriter Award at the Hollywood Film Awards in October.
BEST CLASSIC WESTERN DVD
Westward the Women
The lives of frontier women are not represented enough in Western films, so we’re glad to see Warner Brothers add Westward the Women to its Archive Collection. The 1951 William A. Wellman film is based on the historical record of a group of women who wind up alone on their 2,000-mile wagon train journey from Chicago to California. It’s an entertaining tale, and we like to see the women of the Old West kick some butt! We also like the DVD’s audio commentary with historian and author Scott Eyman who shares how the filmmakers worked to make the film believable.
THE BEST OF THE WEST: BOOKS
BEST WESTERN HISTORY BOOKSTORE
Whether you’re a casual fan or a serious, hardcore collector, Guidon Books in Scottsdale, Arizona, sets the standard for Western bookstores. Since 1964, Guidon Books has been the place to go to for new, rare, hard-to-find and out-of-print books. If Guidon doesn’t have that hidden gem you’re looking for in stock, the owners are happy to try to help you track it down. Offering books that range from Custer to mountain men to the Civil War in the West, Guidon is the place all who love to read about the West need to visit.
Guidon Books • Scottsdale, AZ • Guidon.com
BEST HISTORICAL NONFICTION AUTHOR
In 2012, author John Boessenecker of San Francisco, California, brought us the criminally overlooked history of Bob Paul, the unheralded lawman who was as “fearless a man and as fast a friend as I ever knew,” Wyatt Earp said. Boessenecker’s book When Law Was in the Holster: The Frontier Life of Bob Paul takes readers through Paul’s days as a whaler in the South Pacific to his years as an Old West lawman. True West was inspired to feature an excerpt from the book with our October cover story, “The Bravest Lawman You’ve Never Heard of.”
Robert Utley • Scottsdale, AZ • RobertUtley.net
BEST UNIVERSITY PRESS
University of Oklahoma Press
It was another banner year for the University of Oklahoma Press and another year of churning out must-read Western history books. The acclaimed publisher hauled in more than 30 awards and published over 75 books in 2012. Some of our favorites in the Western genre were When Law Was in the Holster: The Frontier Life of Bob Paul by John Boessenecker, Great Sioux War Orders of Battle: How the United States Army Waged War on the Northern Plains, 1876-1877 by Paul L. Hedren and Zebulon Pike, Thomas Jefferson, and the Opening of the American West edited by Matthew L. Harris and Jay H. Buckley.
University of Oklahoma Press • Norman, OK • OUPress.com
BEST PHOTOGRAPHY BOOK OF THE WEST
John Wayne: The Legend and the Man
The Duke. The man who continues to be one of the most recognizable icons in American film history starred in more than 200 films, many of those Westerns. In 2012, John Wayne Enterprises selected powerHouse Books to produce John Wayne: The Legend and the Man, a stunning exclusive look inside Wayne’s archives. It’s the first-ever authorized photographic record of the Duke’s life, both on-screen and off, and it is full of film stills, backstage photos and candid pics from his private life.
100 Years, 100 Ranchers by Scott T. Baxter • 100Years100Ranchers.com
BEST WESTERN HISTORY BOOK PUBLISHER
Globe Pequot Press
Since 1995, the TwoDot imprint of Globe Pequot Press has celebrated a wide array of stories of the American West, including the often-overlooked tales of frontier women. Two great examples of that, amongst the dozen books TwoDot published during 2012, were Object Matrimony: The Risky Business of Mail-Order Matchmaking on the Western Frontier by Chris Enss and You Might Be a Cowgirl If…A Guide to Life on the Range by Jill Charlotte Stanford. Keep them coming!
BEST WESTERN ROMANCE AUTHOR
The prolific award-winning and bestselling romance author Tracie Peterson has written nearly 100 books in her career, and she showed no signs of slowing down in 2012. The Montana resident released Bridal Blessings; To Love and Cherish, the second part of the “Bridal Veil Island Series” trilogy; Ties that Bind, the third book in the “Ribbons West” series; and all three volumes of the “Land of the Lone Star” trilogy, all from publisher Bethany House. We also tip our hat to Peterson for taking the time to help aspiring authors by speaking at writer’s conferences.
Dawn Nelson • AuthorDawnNelson.com
THE BEST OF THE WEST: MUSIC
BEST WESTERN MUSIC GROUP
Riders in the Sky
The Grateful Dead may have sung “Keep on truckin’,” but that could very well be the motto for Riders in the Sky. The band entertained its first crowd in November 1977, and the original four band members kept up their torrid touring schedule in 2012, entertaining crowds all across the country. If you love Traditional Cowboy music in the vein of Gene Autry and Roy Rogers, then you need to get your tickets for Riders in the Sky next time the band is in your neck of the woods.
Riders in the Sky • Nashville, TN • RidersInTheSky.com
BEST SOLO MUSCIAN
The awards keep piling up for Mary Kaye, and deservedly so. The former Western Music Association “Female Vocalist of the Year” was up for three more WMA awards thanks to her terrific 2012 album No Wilder Place. The title track definitely deserved its WMA nomination for “Song of the Year,” but we implore you to listen to her take on the cowboy classic “Streets of Laredo.”
Dave Stamey • Nipoma, CA • DaveStamey.com
BEST COWBOY POET
The best in the business keeps on rollin’ with another busy year in 2012. Cowboy poet, NPR humorist and author Baxter Black had another year full of public appearances and shows, yet he still managed to release two more books: the humorous novel Ride, Cowboy, Ride! 8 Seconds Ain’t That Long and Reindeer Flu, an illustrated Christmas story with a slightly twisted cowboy perspective. We hope Black doesn’t slow down anytime soon, and if 2012 is any indication, he certainly won’t.
Baxter Black • Benson, AZ • BaxterBlack.com
BEST COWBOY MUSIC GATHERING
Santa Clarita Cowboy Festival
It’s the Lollapalooza of the Old West. Make sure you’ve got a pair of comfy boots on, because the Santa Clarita Cowboy Festival is chock-full of activities that will keep you hustling from one great spot to the next. The music is the centerpiece of the festival, with four different stages featuring a full day’s slate of entertainers; last year’s fans got to see Dave Stamey and Grammy-nominated Don Edwards. Though the tunes are tough to break from, we recommend you see the living history exhibits and American Indian performances.
Santa Clarita Cowboy Festival • Santa Clarita, CA • CowboyFestival.org
BEST COWBOY POETRY GATHERING
Heber City Cowboy Poetry Gathering
You will find more than just poetry at this wide-ranging festival in Heber City, Utah. Some of the best in the business have performed at the five-day event, including Michael Martin Murphey, the Bar J Wranglers, Suzy Bogguss and Ramblin’ Jack Elliott. Also don’t miss the chili and breakfast train events on the historic Heber Valley Railroad. Hone your craft at the Western Writers of America workshop, and it could be you headlining this event in the future!
Spirit of the West Cowboy Gathering • Ellensburg, WA • EllensburgCowboyGathering.com
BEST AMERICAN INDIAN ALBUM
The Southern-style powwow and American Indian church singer Cheevers Toppah was inducted into Oklahoma’s Music Hall of Fame in 2011, and he followed that achievement with the 2012 album True Melodies, released from Canyon Records. Fans of the traditional song stylings of the Plains Indians will appreciate Toppah’s choral talents and his effort to keep the traditions of the past alive.
THE BEST OF THE WEST: ART & COLLECTIBLES
BEST WESTERN ART COLLECTION
What once was only available to be seen by appointment is now open to the public on a regular basis at the American Museum of Western Art in Denver, Colorado. Selections from the Anschutz Collection have been shown around the world, but now the more than 650 drawings and paintings can all be found in one place. For lovers of Western art, this collection should not be missed. It showcases pieces from a number of schools and genres that have contributed to the development and evolution of Western art.
National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum • Oklahoma City, OK • NationalCowboyMuseum.org
BEST AMERICAN INDIAN COLLECTION
Established with humble beginnings in 1929, the Heard Museum in Phoenix, Arizona, has evolved into the preeminent exhibitor of American Indian art. In addition to its signature exhibit, “Native People in the Southwest,” the museum features several exhibitions annually. In 2012, the museum presented exhibits about the Apaches beyond Geronimo, a feature on Hopi pottery and dual exhibits celebrating native soldiers, which will both extend into 2013. In November, the museum added another must-see attraction with the formal dedication of the American Indian Veterans National Memorial, the first and only known national monument dedicated to American Indian veterans.
READER’S CHOICE: Heard Museum • Phoenix, AZ • Heard.org
BEST WESTERN ART GALLERY
When looking to add a piece of fine Western art to your collection, the Legacy Gallery should be your first stop. The gallery, owned by Brad and Jinger Richardson, represents about 100 nationally-known artists and specializes in paintings and sculptures encompassing a variety of subject matter. If you want it, this place likely has it. The gallery also hosts special events throughout the year at its Scottsdale, Arizona, and Jackson, Wyoming, locations, and it is a partner in the Scottsdale Art Auction, which posted more than $13 million in bids in 2012.
Legacy Gallery • Scottsdale, AZ / Jackson, WY • LegacyGallery.com
BEST WESTERN BRONZE SCULPTOR
Harold T. Holden
Holden, or “H,” has been skillfully crafting Western sculptures for over 35 years with more than 20 works on public display. Last May, he added another must-see public piece to his legacy with his bronze sculpture of legendary slave-turned-lawman Bass Reeves (see the artist working on it above). Talk about dedication— the artist overcame lung transplant difficulties to complete the statue. You can see Into the Territories, the Bass Reeves Legacy Monument, in Fort Smith, Arkansas, at the Ross Pendergraft Park.
BEST TRADING POST
Since 1961, the Notah Dineh Trading Company & Museum in Cortez, Colorado, has been capturing the art of the Old West. This is the place for fans of Navajo rugs as the trading post features the largest selection of them in the Four Corners region. It also sells traditional and contemporary jewelry and other goods made by Indian artisans. Set aside some time for the museum and admire the largest-known Two Grey Hills weaving in the world. The rug is 12 feet by 18 feet, more than twice as large as most of the intricately-designed rugs in that style.
Hubbell Trading Post • Ganado, AZ • NPS.gov
BEST PIONEER HISTORY COLLECTION
Harold Warp Pioneer Village
We recommend you set aside at least a full day to explore all 20 acres and 50,000 historical artifacts that encompass the Harold Warp Pioneer Village in Minden, Nebraska. The irreplaceable items are spread amongst 28 buildings, 12 of those being historic, and they all tell the tale of America’s growth. The largest private collection of Americana artifacts includes a Pony Express station with Buffalo Bill’s saddle. Plus, you’ll gain a newfound appreciation of modern amenities after seeing how Great Plains pioneers lived in the authentic sod house.
Harold Warp Pioneer Village • Minden, NE • PioneerVillage.org
BEST WESTERN PAINTER
The list of awards and honors lauded on Howard Terpning is long and ever growing. Often referred to as the “Storyteller of the Native American,” Terpning creates intricately-detailed works that have been sought after by collectors for decades, with some selling at auction for more than $1 million. His popularity is strong as ever, as one of his works broke another auction record last April—Captured Ponies, which bid in for $1.7 million at Scottsdale Art Auction. The next month, a rare artist retrospective opened at the Autry in Los Angeles; his works on exhibit were also featured in a grand book, Terpning: Tribute to the Plains People
BEST OLD WEST COLLECTIBLES
The world’s third-largest auction house is the go-to place for Old West memorabilia auctions. Heritage Auctions hosts thousands of auctions throughout the year; in 2012, the company auctioned off pieces that included a painted-from-life oil portrait of Sitting Bull, signed by the chief himself, and firearms such as a Marlin .22-caliber rifle owned by Wild West showgirl Annie Oakley. When you find that gotta-have-it collectible, Heritage makes bidding easy, as you can bid in person, online, over the phone or via e-mail.
High Noon Western Americana Auction • Mesa, AZ • HighNoon.com
THE BEST OF THE WEST: FIREARMS
BEST FIREARM ENGRAVER
Jim Downing, the man in Springfield, Missouri, with the big black mustache, loves pre-1900 firearms ... and practically everything about the Old West. That’s why you’re likely to find him (in period dress) at the major cowboy action shoots of SASS and NCOWS. His engraving is done in the styles of his heroes, the 19th-century artisans Cuno Helfricht, the Ulrich family or L.D. Nimschke. One look at his exquisite work on a frontier-era replica, and you’d swear that it was done by one of those masters. His engraved guns not only gain the look of Victorian presentation pieces, they also soar in value and collectibility!
READER’S CHOICE: Jim Downing • Springfield, MO • TheGunEngraver.com
BEST COWBOY ACTION REVOLVER
Single Action Army by Colt
Not a copy! This famous six-gun is the original Peacemaker, and 140 years after its introduction, it remains virtually unchanged, save for minor improvements that date back to the 1890s. Arguably the best balanced handgun of all time, it is still hand fitted and handsomely finished at the Colt factory and is as reliable a shooter today as it was in the hands of frontier notables Wyatt Earp, Bat Masterson and John Slaughter and movie heroes Roy Rogers, Gene Autry and John Wayne. In .357 Magnum and classic .45 Colt calibers in traditional 4, 5 and 7 -inch barrels, Colt’s Single Action Army is still winning the West!
READER’S CHOICE: Vaquero by Sturm, Ruger & Co. • Newport, NH • Ruger.com
BEST SINGLE ACTION SHOOTER
Starting at the young age of 12 in 1999 and coached by her grandfather, Evil Roy, a champion shooter himself, Randi Rogers quickly became the Junior Female winner in SASS and held that title until 2004, when she switched over to Women’s Traditional Category. In 2002 Rogers took the High Lady Overall Championship at the SASS End of Trail and has been on top ever since! Adding modern auto pistols and Team Glock to her repertoire, she continues to dominate at Cowboy Action Shooting, having just won her tenth World title. So look out guys, she is truly a holy terror.
BEST COWBOY ACTION SHOTGUN
1878 Coach Gun by Cimarron
Cowboy action shooters, cowboy mounted shooters and, for that matter, stagecoach guards too, will like Cimarron’s 12-gauge sidehammer shotgun with 20-inch barrels and three-inch chambers. Its 1878 Coach Gun is offered in standard blue finish and fitted with a Fine American walnut pistol-gripped stock and a historically correct, easy takedown, Schnabel-style fore stock. This handy Chinese-made, side-by-side scattergun also features double triggers and a brass bead front sight. Also available in a full-length, 26-inch model, this smoothbore has the looks and feel of genuine frontier hardware, and is just the ticket for your next cowboy match or Old West re-enacted shoot-out!
READER’S CHOICE: Coach Gun by Stoeger • Accokeek, MD • StoegerIndustries.com
BEST GUNLEATHER ARTISAN
During his lifelong love affair with the West, Jim Lockwood of Prescott, Arizona, has devoted his exceptional leather working skills to crafting everything from Old West styles to modern sporting and self-defense rigs. His true love is re-creating Hollywood gunleather from the 1930s into the 1970s; his exquisite clones of rigs like those worn by Roy Rogers, Rex Allen and William Boyd are sought after by the most discerning horse opera aficionados. Plus, he’s the creator of the popular Silver Screen gunleather that annually raises funds to help the Happy Trails Children’s Foundation.
READER’S CHOICE: El Paso Saddlery Co. • El Paso, TX • EPSaddlery.com
BEST COWBOY ACTION RIFLE
1873 Comanchero by Taylor’s & Co.
This 1873 Winchester clone comes with Taylor’s own specially designed features that are tailor made (pardon the pun) for the cowboy action shooter to help get those competitive shots off quicker and more accurately. Each rifle is fitted with short stroke links for the fastest levering, an easy-to-see gold bead front sight, custom tuning, a buckskin lever wrap for comfortable cycling and an elk hide butt stock cover. Available in straight or pistol-grip checkered stocks in full octagonal or half round, half octagonal barrel configuration and in .357 Magnum or .45 Colt chamberings, this Italian-import replica is one smokin’ lever gun!
READER’S CHOICE: 1873 Winchester by A. Uberti • Accokeek, MD • Uberti.com
BEST COWBOY MOUNTED SHOOTER
In the world of Cowboy Mounted Shooting, having to run against Chad Little is the kiss of death. This St. Michael, Minnesota, cowboy has been riding all his life, and he only knows two speeds—faster and fastest! With a long list of accomplishments that goes back to age 14 in 2002, he has broken more mounted shooting records than anyone else, is a multi-winning champion—including the Cowboy Mounted Shooting Association’s National and World titles (he’s the youngest, at 15, to win the Overall National Title)—and is an accomplished horse trainer . . . and you wonder why we still think he’s the best?
READER’S CHOICE: Jim Rodgers • Scottsdale, AZ
BEST NEW WESTERN GUN
Thunderstorm by Cimarron
Take the classic Peacemaker design and marry it to the 1877 double-action “Thunderer,” slim down the stocks, put more radius on the thumb and deeper checkering for a better grip—but keep it as a single-action so Cowboy Mounted Shooters and Cowboy Action Shooters can put it to work—and you’ve got Cimarron’s “Thunderstorm.” With its 3 -inch or 4-inch barrel, and either a standard or birdshead grip, in blued or stainless steel, this six-gun will speed up cowboy shooters, whether planted on the ground or in the saddle, so they can shoot up a storm.
Vaquero by Sturm, Ruger & Co. • Newport, NH • Ruger.com
THE BEST OF THE WEST: WESTERN WEAR
BEST WESTERN HATMAKER
They’ve been supplying the world with hats since 1865, and all these years later, Stetson continues to be the industry leader in Western hatmaking. Stetson doesn’t just make hats for the hardened cowboy and cowgirl on the open range; the company also crafts work wear, belts, shoes and fragrances. Even our readers agree that Stetson is the one to beat. Based on Stetson’s return to its hatmaking roots and enthusiasm in sharing its history, we have a feeling this may be true for years to come.
Stetson • Garland, TX • StetsonHat.com
BEST WESTERN BOOTMAKER
In February 2012, the world of bootmakers lost a memorable character and a talented man with the death of Paul Bond. Bond began making colorful boots for himself during his rodeo days of the 1930s and 1940s, and he opened his first boot shop in 1946. He gained a reputation in Hollywood amongst Western stars and celebrities such as John Wayne, Willie Nelson and Johnny Cash, who wore his handcrafted boots. His legacy continues on as Paul Bond Boots still handcrafts the custom boots that Bond made famous.
Lucchese Boot Co. • El Paso, TX • Lucchese.com
BEST WESTERN BELT BUCKLES
When you need a belt buckle worthy of showing off, Montana Silversmiths is the company to turn to. Though based in the small town of Columbus, Montana, Montana Silversmiths has grown into a big, successful company. With more than 300 Western buckle designs for purchase, the odds are good that you will find one that suits you. If not, the company can also work with you on a one-of-a-kind custom buckle.
Montana Silversmiths • Columbus, MT • MontanaSilversmiths.com
BEST WESTERN CLOTHING MAKER
Miller Ranch continues to set the standard for classic Western styling and high-quality clothing. Back in 1918, Philip Miller first sold hats out West, and his name and legacy lives on today with the Rocky Mountain Clothing Co.’s Miller Ranch line. The impeccably tailored clothing line includes shirts and jackets, and the brand is a fitting tribute to the man who did so much for Western clothing over the decades.
Wrangler • Greensboro, NC • Wrangler.com
BEST PERIOD WESTERN CLOTHING
Old Frontier Clothing Company
If you enjoy wearing period apparel, but wish you could wear it to more than just special events and occasions, you should check out Old Frontier Clothing Company. Founded by lawyer-turned-designer Larry Bitterman in 1989, the company brings a more modern and urban look to the usual traditional Western wear. These are the kinds of period clothing you could wear to a special event, yet still keep them on for a night on the town. We applaud Bitterman and his company for stylishly combining traditional Western wear with everyday outfits.
Wahmaker by Scully • Oxnard, CA • ScullyInc.com
THE BEST OF THE WEST: HERITAGE TRAVEL
BEST HISTORIC SALOON
Don’t worry. The Occidental in Buffalo, Wyoming, may still have the bullet holes from its original Wild West days, but you can feel plenty safe pulling up a spot at the bar today. The 1908 saloon stands in the same spot it did when all the characters of the past spent their days raising hell and drinkin’ and gamblin’ in this 1880 hotel. Be sure to admire the original tin ceiling and back bar as you order up your favorite cocktail and soak in the history and spirit of times gone by.
Crystal Palace Saloon • Tombstone, AZ • CrystalPalaceSaloon.com
BEST PRESERVED HISTORIC BUILDINGS
National Ranching Heritage Center
Bob Boze Bell taped several of his True West Moments here for the Encore Westerns Channel a couple of years ago (see BBB in front of barn from the famous Four Sixes Ranch). Boy was he impressed by how much grander the place has become. Located on the Texas Tech University campus in Lubbock, the National Ranching Heritage Center preserves the history of ranching, pioneer life and livestock industry development. Not only are its four dozen authentically-restored historic structures so inspiring to see, the 27.5-acre center also offers an amazing artifacts collection and educational programs that keep alive the spirit of ranching history.
Alamo • San Antonio, TX
BEST CHUCK WAGON SHOW AND SUPPER
Bar D Chuckwagon
Roast beef, rib eye steak, beans, homemade biscuits, old-fashioned spice cake, cowboy coffee and great entertainment amongst the pine trees of Durango, Colorado—this is how you do a chuckwagon show and supper. Bar D has been entertaining guests with its Western stage show and suppers since 1969, and the show continues to be the best in the West. After grubbing on the barbecue dinner, kick back as the Bar D Wranglers hit the stage with their family-friendly Old West music and comedy show. Don’t miss the Bar D’s blacksmith and leather shops while you’re there.
BEST HISTORIC RESTAURANT
The history runs deep at the Buckhorn Exchange. Colorado’s oldest restaurant has been serving diners in Denver since 1893, when it was opened by Henry “Shorty Scout” Zietz, a former scout for Buffalo Bill Cody. Taxidermy fans will feel right at home with hundreds of Zietz’s hunting trophies displayed on the walls, along with other historic artifacts and rare firearms. Keep an eye out for photos of famous patrons such as Ronald Reagan, Bob Hope and Theodore Roosevelt. Feeling adventurous? The Buckhorn sometimes has exotic menu specials like ostrich, rattlesnake and yak.
Wortley Hotel • Lincoln, NM • WortleyHotel.com
BEST HERITAGE HOTEL
The venerable Strater Hotel in Durango, Colorado, celebrated its 125th birthday in 2012 and did so in style by being recognized for a number of honors, including the designation of Room 222—the Louis L’Amour Room—as a Literary Landmark by the Association of Library Trustees, Advocates, Friends and Foundations. The place that was L’Amour’s home away from home offers 93 Victorian-appointed rooms, and you’ll feel you’ve stepped back into the Old West in the Diamond Belle Saloon that features ragtime entertainers. Guests can also take in melodrama and vaudeville acts in the Henry Strater Theatre.
Irma Hotel • Cody, WY • IrmaHotel.com
BEST OLD WEST RE-ENACTMENT GROUP
1838 Rendezvous Association
Plenty of re-enactment groups around the country focus on famous shoot-outs and the like, and many of them are indeed great. But as we near the 175th anniversary of the 1838 rendezvous in Wyoming’s Wind Country, we have to recognize the efforts of the 1838 Rendezvous Association. This entourage of mountain men re-enactors puts on its best tanned hides and heads to the annual re-enactment of the 1838 rendezvous of Jim Bridger, Kit Carson and other famous mountain men who met along the Wind River.
Six Guns and Shady Ladies • El Paso, TX • SixGunsAndShadyLadies.Homestead.com
BEST PRESERVATION EFFORT OF THE WEST
Haub Western Art Donation
The Tacoma Art Museum in Washington is set to become one of the premiere destinations in the country for Western American art. Erivan and Helga Haub have donated 280 works by some of the biggest names in Western art, including Frederic Remington, Charles Russell and Georgia O’Keeffe, with works from the 1820s to the present. As if that wasn’t great enough, the Haubs also donated endowment funds to care for the collection and made a contribution for a 15,000-square-foot gallery to house it. Look for the expansion to be completed in spring 2014.
READER’S CHOICE: Tombstone, AZ
BEST PLACE TO LIVE LIKE AN OLD WEST COWBOY
The town started in part by a legend of the West is still the place to live like the frontier days never ended. The cowboy lifestyle is alive and well in Cody, Wyoming, named after William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody. How about a rodeo every night for three months straight in the summer? Cody has that with the Cody Nite Rodeo. In the Big Sky Country near Cody, where the buffalo and grizzlies still roam free, you’re always a stone’s throw from the vast frontier of Yellowstone National Park. People in Cody truly live life to their cowboy or cowgirl heart’s delight.
BEST HERITAGE B&B
Nagle Warren Mansion B&B
In Cheyenne, Wyoming, the Nagle Warren brings the elegance of the Victorian era to modern times. Each of the 12 rooms in the 1888 mansion is uniquely and luxuriously decorated to re-create the Victorian West, yet provide modern technology and amenities. Don’t miss the English tradition of afternoon tea with seasonal offerings and the staff dressed in period attire. Steak enthusiasts must try the grilled filet mignon béarnaise for dinner or partake in one of the murder mystery dinners. The mansion also makes a beautiful setting for weddings or other private functions.
READER’S CHOICE: Wortley Hotel • Lincoln, NM • WortleyHotel.com
BEST CHUCKWAGON COOK-OFF
Lincoln County Cowboy Symposium Cook-Off
This is where the cream of the crop compete to be crowned the world’s best. Showcased on Food Network’s All-American Festivals, the cook-off in Ruidoso Downs, New Mexico, features about 20 chuckwagon crews competing for $13,000 in prizes. But it’s not just the food that gets judged here; the participants also get in the spirit of the Old West with their authentic period attire and chuckwagons. Get there early and buy tickets to Sunday morning’s biscuits and gravy breakfast; tickets go fast, and the food goes quick.
READER’S CHOICE (tie): National Cowboy Symposium Cook-Off • Lubbock, TX • Cowboy.org / Lincoln County Cowboy Symposium Cook-Off • Ruidoso Downs, NM • CowboySymposium.org
BEST OLD WEST GUNFIGHTER TOWN
Was there any question which one would win? People from around the world still flock to the “Town too Tough to Die” to retrace the steps of Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday, and to catch a daily re-enactment of the legendary Gunfight Behind the O.K. Corral. Though the details on the historical accuracy of the place are sketchy, Boothill Graveyard is still a kick to visit. And don’t miss the Bird Cage Theatre Museum to see if you can spot all 140 bullet holes from the town’s Old West heyday.
BEST HISTORIC RODEO
The world’s oldest still knows how to do it right. Originated in 1888, Arizona’s Prescott Frontier Days Rodeo continues to bring together the nation’s best bull and bronco riders. What started off as a handful of cowboys competing for a purse of no more than $1,000 has turned into a rodeo lovers dream with 600 contestants competing for $250,000. Whether they win or lose, the men and women keeping the rodeo tradition strong can often be found at the popular Whiskey Row.
Cheyenne Frontier Days • Cheyenne, WY • CFDRodeo.com
BEST PRESERVED PIONEER TOWN
Lincoln is well traveled by Billy the Kid fanatics, but it’s also worth a trip for its preserved historic district buildings. Though some of the buildings are threatened by the elements and age (and even a bat infestation in one!), they are still standing and still a sight to see. Be sure to check out the Old Lincoln County Courthouse, where the Kid made his escape, and the Torreon, a re-creation of the rock defensive tower. Stay the night in the room where the Kid was held captive at the Ellis Store Country Inn.
BEST PROMOTION OF A HISTORIC PLACE
All of us Old West fanatics have spent many a day wishing we could hop in a time machine and head back to roam the frontier. The Texas Historical Commission may not be able to grant that wish, but it did invent a clever travel tool with TexasTimeTravel.com. Whether it’s the Civil War or pioneers who catch your fancy, pick the time span you want to explore, and the website will recommend historic sites in Texas for you to visit. It’s a clever and helpful tool us Old West fans appreciate.
BEST OLD WEST ART TOWN
Old Town Scottsdale and the Old West is a Western art lover’s dream with dozens of galleries and studios within a short distance of each other. The area is also home to the famous Scottsdale Art Walk; every Thursday evening, dozens of galleries open their doors for free. While you stroll around, dramatic statues dress the streets. Should you not feel like walking (although that is part of the fun), horse-drawn carriage rides and trolley rides are often available.
Santa Fe, NM
BEST OLD WEST MOUNTED RE-ENACTMENT
Defeat of Jesse James Days
The town that stood tall to legendary outlaw Jesse James still celebrates that heroic day in 1876. The Defeat of Jesse James Days brings the community of Northfield, Minnesota, together each year for a variety of entertainment, but, of course, the must-see highlight is the re-enactment of the famous bank robbery gone wrong. The re-enactors dress to the nines and put on a fantastic and authentic show that fills the Northfield residents with pride. Don’t miss it.
Custer’s Last Stand Re-enactment • Hardin, MT • CustersLastStand.org
BEST ARCHITECTURALLY PRESERVED TOWN
When you can look at an 1800s photo of a town and recognize that many of those same buildings can still be seen today, you know you’re in for a special treat. The best way to see this town’s treasures is through the Eureka County Historical Society’s self-guided tour. Don’t miss the 1880 Eureka Opera House, which has been restored and is open for tours and a variety of functions, and the 1879 Eureka Sentinel Newspaper Museum, which houses original presses.
BEST OLD WEST TOWN TO LIVE IN
“Open spaces and familiar faces.” That’s the motto of Durango, Colorado, and it speaks volumes why this is the best Old West town to live in. You can enjoy the quiet life in this small Rocky Mountain town and still find history and adventure when you want it. (Just think how awesome it would be to ride a steam train whenever you feel like it, courtesy of the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad.) We love Durango because of its mix of Old West history, modern-day convenience and year-round adventures in the open spaces of the great outdoors.
Virginia City, NV
BEST HISTORIC CEMETERY
Backdropped by the Franklin Mountains of Texas, El Paso’s Concordia continues to be the best cemetery in the West. The most famous eternal resident is gunfighter John Wesley Hardin; he’s joined by the man who killed him in 1895, John Selman. Buffalo soldiers, Chinese rail laborers, a former Mexican Revolution president and over 60,000 others are also laid to rest here. Ghost tours, meetings of the John Wesley Hardin Secret Society and other special events take place throughout the year. Even NPR paid a visit last year for a Morning Edition feature.
Boot Hill • Tombstone, AZ • BootHillGraves.com
BEST PRESERVED HISTORIC FORT
Frontier military enthusiasts get a kick out of this fort. Founded in 1834 as a fur trading post, the fort was an Oregon Trail stopping point and was active during the Civil, Bozeman and Great Sioux Wars. Parts of its remaining structures have been restored and still stand strong today in Goshen, Wyoming. Its exhibits reveal what life was like when the largest military post on the Northern Plains was active.
Fort Laramie • Goshen, WY • NPS.gov
BEST HERITAGE GUEST RANCH
The Rankin family has been operating their cattle ranch in the beautiful valley of Walker’s Basin in Caliente, California, since 1863 and began hosting guests 100 years later. They have truly mastered the art of Western hospitality. Here, you can channel your inner cowboy and race horseback through the flatlands or ride on a hay wagon headin’ to a barbecue feast. Even just plain soaking up the great outdoors is a great way to spend the day on this sprawling, beautiful piece of land.
READER’S CHOICE (tie):
Sylvan Dale Guest Ranch • Loveland, CO • SylvanDale.com / Eatons’ Ranch • Wolf, WY • EatonsRanch.com
BEST HISTORIC RAILROAD
Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad
Winding through the remote Colorado wilderness of the San Juan National Forest, this steam railroad is a can’t-miss destination. Operating out of its original 1882 depot, the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad features original 1880s coal-fired and steam-powered locomotives. The trip goes over 45 miles each way in the summer and 26 miles each way in the winter. The train also offers special packages so adventurous guests can add extra activities, like horseback riding, to their Old West rail adventure.
Durango & Silverton NGRR • Durango, CO • DurangoTrain.com
BEST WHO SLEPT HERE? HOTEL
Since Buffalo Bill Cody himself opened it in 1902, the Irma has boasted quite a list of Western icons as guests. Frederic Remington, Annie Oakley and Calamity Jane are among those who claimed to have lodged at the historic venue. Today, you can add yourself to that list and live like Buffalo Bill in his private suite or spend the night in one of the other historic rooms. Whatever you do, be sure to tip a drink back at the hotel saloon’s cherry back bar given to Cody by Queen Victoria.
Irma Hotel • Cody, WY • IrmaHotel.com
BEST RESTAURANT WITH A HITCHING POST
Big Nose Kate’s
Although its true place in history may be debatable, we still love Big Nose Kate’s in historic Tombstone, Arizona. Named after Doc Holliday’s girlfriend, this popular watering hole began life as the Grand Hotel in 1880, before the hotel burned two years later. Regardless of whether the famous Earp brothers or Doc Holliday really did bunk there, this restaurant is an Old West gathering spot that jumps with live music, food and drinks. Not surprising at all, since part of the fun is getting to ride your horse here.
Big Nose Kate’s • Tombstone, AZ • BigNoseKate.com
BEST HISTORIC TRAIL
El Camino Real de los Tejas
This nearly 300-year-old trail was the primary overland route across the Rio Grande to the Red River Valley in Louisiana. Since its designation in 2004, the first of 62 trail signs in Milam County, Texas, were unveiled last October, with many schoolchildren following an Apache Pass trade route taken by Indians, Spaniards and Texas settlers. We bet some of those original travelers wished they had markers to guide them back then!
BEST HERITAGE RIVER CRUISE
Columbia River Cruise
While most might think of the mighty Mississippi when it comes to American steamboat cruises, the best this year took place on the Columbia River in the great Northwest. In partnership with Great American Adventures, the Queen of the West takes guests on an eight-day cruise that starts in Portland, Oregon, heads to Astoria, home of Fort Clatsop, for some Lewis & Clark history, cruises through Volcano Alley and Columbia River Gorge, stops in Pendleton for Pendleton Roundup and ends with Indian petroglyphs at Hells Canyon.
American Queen Steamboat Co. • AmericanQueenSteamboatCompany.com
BEST OLD WEST BAR CRAWL
Though the popular Bird Cage Saloon and Pearl’s Place Cafe were destroyed in a fire last May, that can’t keep Whiskey Row down. The 100 block of S. Montezuma Street in Prescott, Arizona, may not boast the 40-something saloons it once had, but Whiskey Row still offers plenty of great watering holes. Old West fans flock to the Jersey Lilly and the 1877 Palace. Fans of live Country music will want to include Matt’s Saloon on their bar crawl itinerary.
Whiskey Row • Prescott, AZ • WhiskeyRow.us
BEST WILD WEST SHOW
Wild Western Festival
You name it, and this festival at historic Sahuaro Ranch Park in Glendale, Arizona, has it. Gunfights and stunt shows, fast draw competitions, acclaimed Western musicians and cowboy poets, historic building tours, blacksmiths, chuckwagon grusb, stars of Western TV and movies ... shall we go on? Whether you’re a grizzled Old West veteran or you’ve got little desperados in your family, the Wild Western Festival offers something for everyone.
Great American Wild West Show • Various Cities • WildWestShow.net
BEST TOWN FOR HISTORIC ENTERTAINMENT
To this day, the tough frontier town of Deadwood, South Dakota, lives and breathes history and that extends into the town’s entertainment. These are no amateur impersonators in Deadwood—these guys go all-out on authenticity and action to give visitors a show to remember. Don’t miss the historic street shows where the town entertains as it educates with the re-enactment of Wild Bill Hickok’s murder in 1876 and the trial of his killer, Jack McCall. Be sure to grab a spot on the curb—and don’t miss the Gunslingers shoot-out on Main Street.
BEST HISTORIC GAMBLING CASINO
Gilpin Hotel Casino
The downtown district of Black Hawk, Colorado, should be more well known than it is. Historic buildings abound, saved by a rather popular frontier pasttime—gambling. When we asked our friend Tom Noel which one of these beauties is the best, he told us the Gilpin. If ever a place was saved through the process of casinoizing, this is it: the 1896 structure was crumbling apart after a 1990s fire ... until the slot machines rolled in. One nice nod to history is the fact that the sign still reads: “The Gilpin Hotel.”
Delta Saloon • Virginia City, NV