These watering holes are full of history.
The Wild West evokes names like Buffalo Bill, Wyatt Earp, and Annie Oakley. And while you can visit iconic locations like the O.K. Corral, you might be surprised to learn that historic bars are the best places to find this time period’s history. Some have been around longer than the states where they’re located.
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Million Dollar Cowboy Bar
WHERE: Jackson, Wyoming
Walk around Jackson Hole’s town square and you can’t miss the neon cowboy sign signaling this establishment, perhaps the second most photographed landmark after the antler arch. Silver dollars sit underneath the bar top and saddles replace stools. Opened in 1937, the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar earned the first liquor license in Wyoming after Prohibition. Knobbled pine covers the bar, along with painted scenes of the Western landscape and mounted longhorns. This town is the wealthiest in the state, so the name makes sense, especially after a major expansion to the bar in the 1940s when the “Million Dollar” was added to the name.
INSIDER TIPBands play nearly every night of the week and they offer two-step dance lessons weekly during the summer. Order a Million Dollar Cowboy Bar Beer, made locally by Grand Teton Brewing.
The Mint Bar
WHERE: Sheridan, Wyoming
Open since 1907, The Mint Bar is the area’s oldest watering hole. Formerly The Mint Cigar Company and Soda Shop, it had a Prohibition-era speakeasy in the back room. Today, the walls are lined with the cattle brands of locals who have passed through the doors over the years, along with mounted animal heads and black and white photos of life in Sheridan. A neon sign of a bucking cowboy welcomes visitors. You might even hear a local talk about a time they’ve seen a real horse at the bar.
WHERE: Deadwood, South Dakota
Like a real-life Westworld, Deadwood is full of people dressed as the most notorious Wild West characters. Other establishments have ties to the act, but Saloon 10 holds the chair where Wild Bill Hickock allegedly was shot during a poker game, thereby cementing his cards in history as the “Dead Man’s Hand.”
INSIDER TIPCatch one of the reenactments during the summer months as you order a drink from the state’s largest whiskey selection. The walls are covered in artifacts like masks of the town’s most notable names and a termesphere, a painting on an orb.
WHERE: Bardstown, Kentucky
While not technically in the West, Kentucky’s oldest watering hole has a history that rivals its western counterparts. Abraham Lincoln and Daniel Boone are said to have imbibed at Talbott Tavern and the walls still have bullet holes from when Jesse James left his mark. Built in 1779, the tavern served as an important stagecoach stop, especially for its accommodations and beverages. Today, it’s an essential stop for travelers on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, so be sure to sample the state’s most famous product.
WHERE: Prescott, Arizona
Built in 1877, The Palace was built in a saloon-filled street called Whiskey Row. Miners, politicians, and legends like Wyatt and Virgil Earp and Doc Holliday were patrons before going to Tombstone. It’s known as the oldest frontier saloon in Arizona and has the original 1880s bar, which was salvaged from a fire. Grab an Arizona craft beer or their Doc Holliday cocktail. The Palace also has a full restaurant and a dinner theatre.
WHERE: Columbus, Nebraska
The white clapboard building with the saloon sign hanging over the front was first built in 1876. Glur’s Tavern claims the title of “oldest continuously operated tavern west of the Mississippi.” Frequented by “Buffalo Bill” Cody during his visit to the town, locals still tell the story about how he paid his tab in 1883 with a $1,000 bill. He was in Columbus for the funeral of a Pawnee Indian Scout leader and friend of his Wild West show. Now on the National Register of Historic Places, come by for a hamburger and a football game on the TV.
WHERE: Tombstone, Arizona
Opened as Golden Eagle Brewing Company in 1879, the saloon now known as Crystal Palace is one of Tombstone’s first. Travelers stopped here for “good whiskey and tolerable water.” A second story was added to the building as offices for U.S. Deputy Marshal Virgil Earp and others. Stop in for a drink before your visit to the O.K. Corral.
No Scum Allowed Saloon
WHERE: White Oaks, New Mexico
The town of White Oaks was once the second largest town in the Territory, a center for gold mining in the 1800s. Today, it’s more of a ghost town, but you can still visit the streets where Billy the Kid stole horses and shot up the town. The appropriately-named No Scum Allowed Saloon is in a brick building built during the gold rush days. It’s open on weekends for live music.
The Historic Montana Bar
WHERE: Miles City, Montana
One of the state’s oldest watering holes, this bar first opened in 1908 with steer heads on the wall, Italian tile floors, and a sleek wooden bar. The iconic neon sign in the shape of the state welcomes imbibers to The Montana Bar. A mounted Big Horn Sheep sits in the window while behind the bar is a 1914 cash register. Western art lines the walls.
WHERE: Denver, Colorado
Denver’s oldest restaurant is also its most storied drinking establishment, earning the first liquor license after Prohibition, still on display. Henry H. “Shorty Scout” Zietz met “Buffalo Bill” Cody as a child and soon became a member of his group. He would go on to become a memorable character of the Old West after Chief Sitting Bull gave him the nickname. Since 1893, the Buckhorn was frequented by Zietz’s notable friends, railroad workers, miners, Indian chiefs, and presidents. Today, the walls are covered in memorabilia, from the rare taxidermy to the flag from Teddy Roosevelt’s presidential envoy train.
INSIDER TIPVisit the second floor Victorian lounge to admire the ornate white oak bar, brought from Germany in 1857.
Silver Dollar Saloon
WHERE: Leadville, Colorado
After lead carbonate was found in Colorado, miners went east from California to make their fortunes in the town now known as Leadville. Originally built in 1879, the tavern on this site has seen illegal bootlegging operations, gambling, and gunfights. Oscar Wilde once drank here, along with Doc Holliday, who lived in the town from 1883 to 1887. History covers the walls of the Silver Dollar Saloon, with black and white photos from the Old West to a rope used in the town’s last hanging.
WHERE: Lander, Wyoming
This former hotel, brothel, and boarding house has been quenching the thirst of locals since 1908. Lander Bar is a favorite hangout for locals and those just passing through for regional whiskeys and beers. They also have one of the best burgers around.