CLAIM TO FAME “The Queen of the Cowtowns” sprang into existence with the arrival of the Santa Fe Railway in 1872, allowing first for the shipping of native buffaloes (slaughtered by the hundred thousands), followed by longhorn cattle driven up from Texas.
Bat Masterson and Wyatt Earp both dispensed frontier justice in this hard-partying, end-of-the-trail town, but “Gunsmoke’s” Matt Dillon was entirely fictional.
ACTIVITIES – Experience wild and woolly Front Street, circa 1876, as re-created at the Boot Hill Museum, on the site of the original Boot Hill Cemetery. See the remnants of Fort Dodge built in 1865, five miles east, and the ruts of the even older Santa Fe Trail nine miles west. Check out the resident herd of cattle at Longhorn Park.
BELLY UP – Miss Kitty’s Long Branch Saloon (inside the Boot Hill Museum) serves up beer and sarsaparilla in addition to a nightly chuck wagon dinner. Stick around afterward for the hour long, family-oriented variety show.
BED DOWN – The Dodge House Hotel, founded in 1873, is still in business, though not in the original building, which burned in the 1920s. ($114-139), 2408 W. Wyatt Earp Blvd., Ph. 620-225-9900.
LOCATION – 150 miles west of Wichita, Kansas
MORE INFO – Dodge City Convention and Visitors Bureau, Ph. 800-653-9378,