Travel

Saddle Up in This Western Mountain Town You're Missing Out On

Giddy up in the mountains, drink beer in town.

Visit Sheridan, Wyoming
Visit Sheridan, Wyoming
Visit Sheridan, Wyoming

The wild west still lives in Sheridan. Brick and stone may have replaced the old wooden structures in town-once full of brothels and saloons-but the brownish Bighorn Mountains still hover just behind the buildings, where the Tongue River carves out a canyon of adventure.

This Wyoming town boomed in 1892 thanks to the arrival of the railroad and, later, coal mines. Today, you can see the legacy of the American West on the historic Main Street, where you could order some of the strongest brew or a juicy steak inside a building over two centuries old.

“Cowboy culture is still in the community’s blood” says Shawn Parker, executive director for Sheridan County Travel & Tourism. Though he quickly adds that Sheridan has also evolved to feature “all the creature comforts of a vibrant modern community,” with its current restaurant scene and cultural venues. From century-old rodeo bars to the actual rodeo, here’s where to saddle-up in town.

Visit Sheridan, Wyoming
Visit Sheridan, Wyoming
Visit Sheridan, Wyoming

Play in the great outdoors

From Sheridan, it’s a fairly quick drive to reach some of Wyoming’s natural wonders. The city is situated amid the Bighorn National Forest, a forest reserve no more than 45 minutes from pretty much anywhere in Sheridan County. Amid its many hiking trails, head up the forest’s beloved route, Steamboat Point. From its perch, you’ll get rewarded with lookout views of rocky green and yellow cliffs all around you.

For more diversity of scenery, check out Tongue River Canyon Trail. The whole stretch is nearly 10 miles one way, but many people hike portions before heading back. The first half of the hike runs parallel to the river, passing by limestone canyon walls, rock-facing cliffs, and the Eye of the Needle arch. Meander along Ponderosa pine groves and wildflower meadows, heading as far as Sheep Creek, a bisecting tributary that is often a turnaround point.

Bighorn National Forest also crosses with Medicine Wheel Passage Scenic Byway, which runs the length of Wyoming’s highway 14A. The road provides access to three trailheads known for their waterfalls: Paradise Falls, Porcupine Falls, and Bucking Mule Falls. Its most significant site is Bighorn Medicine Wheel, an ancient Native American ceremonial site where limestone boulders form a circular alignment measuring around 80 feet in diameter.

Of course, winter sports lovers can enjoy some slope time. About an hour west from Sheridan, Antelope Butte Mountain Recreation Area in Shell provides skiing and snowboarding along with summertime hiking and bike racing.

Luminous Brewhouse
Luminous Brewhouse
Luminous Brewhouse

Sip on locally made suds and spirits

Named for a family whose ties to Sheridan date back to the 1800s, Koltiska Distillery began in the early 2000s with a KO 90 high proof liqueur. Now owned by the family’s fifth generation, Koltiska offers a winter-mint liqueur and a vodka as strong as the cowboys who drink shooters of the stuff. Stick around for the distillery tour and you might just get a sip.

Just around the corner, Luminous Brewhouse is a newer operation begun by two at-home brewers and regular dads. With flagships including their orange wheat Stratus, and coffee stout Black Mountain, the brewery rotates seasonal and limited releases. They also offer house-made root beer and a nitro mocha cold-press coffee.

For more sustenance with your drinks, check out the brat- and hamburger-slinging Smith Alley Brewing Company. The Drunken Peach is a can’t-miss, a specialty burger topped with peach slices soaked in a sweet bourbon sauce. Their wide beer selection includes a light lager “White Knuckle,” along with flavored hard seltzers that add to their spin on cocktails.

As a longtimer in town, Black Tooth Brewing Company opened its taproom and brewery in Sheridan in 2010 and has grown into a large scale production with an extensive medal-winning portfolio. Their light and slightly lemony 307 Lager, named for Wyoming’s area code, became federally trademarked as the state’s official beer in 2022.

Sheridan WYO Rodeo
Sheridan WYO Rodeo
Sheridan WYO Rodeo

Go to street festivals and a rodeo

From June through September, Sheridan’s 3rd Thursday street festival ushers in a party on its downtown Main Street. Try your hand at ax throwing, visit the numerous food trucks, listen to live music, or see the kiddos get their faces painted.

In July, the Sheridan WYO Rodeo brings in contestants from around the world to compete and also features a grand parade, a carnival, and tailgating party. During colder months, there’s a winter rodeo version that often includes skijoring (in which a skier is pulled by a horse, dog, or motor vehicle); 2022’s event was adapted due to mild weather, but still pulled through.

Visit Sheridan, Wyoming
Visit Sheridan, Wyoming
Visit Sheridan, Wyoming

Eat a hearty meal

Sheridan’s dining scene is filled with fixings reflecting cowboy grub or modern cuisine. For simple fare, head to PO News & Flagship Cafe, an old-timey eatery that looks a bit like a country store-and in fact even includes an 1800s tobacco shop on half the property. Their popular Egg-in-a-Hole breakfast holds two slices of Texas toast within an egg-filled center.

You can get your standard biscuits and gravy, waffles topped with a blackberry and raspberry sauce, or chipotle pesto avocado toast at The Cowboy Cafe. Stick around for dinner and you’ll find spicy elk sausage, around 10 different burgers, and a mean green chile steak. But lest you be satisfied with all that, know the joint is famous for their homemade pies-plus it has some pretty cool t-shirts to bring home as a souvenir.

If you’re torn between homey fare or something more refined, check out the New American menu at Frackelton’s Fine Food and Spirits. Start off with steamed edamame covered in Chinese five-spice infused sea salt, then move on to the fried cheese ravioli with a butternut squash puree and candied walnut and bacon crumble topping. Finish with the New Zealand Green-Lipped Mussels in either a coconut green curry broth or a garlic shallot white wine sauce.

Inside a former rail depot, the Welcome Market Hall is where you can begin your morning with perhaps not only biscuits and gravy or short rib chilaquiles but also a Benedict Italiano that puts sopressata, Molinari Pepperoni, and a basil chiffonade atop toasted English muffins. If you stop by later in the day, you could go for shoyu beef ramen, burgers from the grill, or artisan pizzas, such as a prosciutto fig or chicken calabrese. There’s also a cafe, wine shop, and cocktail bar.

Sandra Foyt/Shutterstock
Sandra Foyt/Shutterstock
Sandra Foyt/Shutterstock

Drink at Sheridan’s oldest bar

Cowboys and ranchers have been conducting business over cold ones at The Mint Bar since 1907. The only pause was during Prohibition, when there was a “hiatus”-meaning you could find a speakeasy in the back.

Past its neon outdoor sign, the bar is a living museum. Walls are lined with historic photos, cedar shingles marked with cattle brands from all over Wyoming, plus menagerie of taxidermy, with mounts of elk and caribou on display.

Other watering holes around town offer similar laid-back atmospheres. For an unassuming neighborhood spot, unwind at No Name Bar during daily happy hour specials or while listening to live music. Find a game of pool or darts at Sutton’s Tavern or billiards at Rainbow Bar.

Visit Sheridan, Wyoming
Visit Sheridan, Wyoming
Visit Sheridan, Wyoming

Immerse yourself in theater

Arts are plentiful in Sheridan year-round, with its downtown sidewalks lined with public art installations. You’ll also find the WYO Theater, an Art Deco wonder and a performing arts and events center.

Meanwhile, the Sheridan Civic Theater Guild is a community theater group that performs in the Carriage House of a historic mansion. Known as the Trail End State Historic Site, this Flemish Revival estate was once owned by Wyoming Governor and U.S. Senator John B. Kendrick and his family; their “smart tech” home had electric lighting, an elevator, and telephones-pretty nifty for the early 1900’s.

About 20-minutes from Big Horn, The Brinton Museum is situated in an old ranch and offers a vast collection of 19th, 20th, and 21st century Western and Native American art. See Winold Reis’ gorgeous portraits of members of the Blackfeet Confederation. Order a BLT or gluten-free pancakes at the museum’s bistro, where the outdoor patio offers a backdrop of the Bighorn Mountains.

Bison Union Coffee Company
Bison Union Coffee Company
Bison Union Coffee Company

Lasso up some gear

You know a cowboy store is legit when it’s mostly known for selling rope and “Sheridan-style” saddles with intricate carvings on the leather seats. In case you’re not in the market for a new horse saddle, you can also find Western boots and trucker or flatbill hats at King’s Saddlery & King Ropes. There’s also a museum in the shop: the Don King Museum is a vast treasure trove of Western and country memorabilia from around the world, including old wagon coaches and guns. In 1984, the store welcomed Queen Elizabeth II while she was on vacation visiting Royal Family friends in Wyoming-which explains why you’ll spot her picture on display.

Head to Bison Union for shirts, earrings, keychains, and patches all emblazoned with their signature bison design. Owned by a husband-and-wife-duo, the store offers knick-knacks and even blends its own coffee. Inside, head to the coffee bar to try signature blends such as “Ranch Hand” and “Smokehammer.”

You might not think of surfing when you hear Wyoming, but that’s only because you’ve probably never encountered the glorious art of river surfing. But you’ll find much more than boards at Surf Wyoming, a bright and fun shop offering wares like custom embroidery, screen prints, beanies, and beautifully crafted mugs.Want more Thrillist? Follow us on InstagramTwitterPinterestYouTubeTikTok, and Snapchat!

Michele Herrmann is a contributor for Thrillist.

Travel

Ditch your Phone for ‘Dome Life’ in this Pastoral Paradise Outside Port Macquarie 

A responsible, sustainable travel choice for escaping big city life for a few days.

nature domes port macquarie
Photo: Nature Domes

The urge to get as far away as possible from the incessant noise and pressures of ‘big city life’ has witnessed increasingly more of us turn to off-grid adventures for our holidays: Booking.com polled travellers at the start of 2023 and 55% of us wanted to spend our holidays ‘off-grid’.  Achieving total disconnection from the unyielding demands of our digitised lives via some kind of off-grid nature time—soft or adventurous—is positioned not only as a holiday but, indeed, a necessity for our mental health. 

Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, an accommodation collection of geodesic domes dotted across a lush rural property in Greater Port Macquarie (a few hours’ drive from Sydney, NSW), offers a travel experience that is truly ‘off-grid’. In the figurative ‘wellness travel’ sense of the word, and literally, they run on their own independent power supply—bolstered by solar—and rely not on the town grid. 

Ten minutes before you arrive at the gates for a stay at Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, your phone goes into ‘SOS ONLY’. Apple Maps gives up, and you’re pushed out of your comfort zone, driving down unsealed roads in the dark, dodging dozens of dozing cows. Then, you must ditch your car altogether and hoist yourself into an open-air, all-terrain 4WD with gargantuan wheels. It’s great fun being driven through muddy gullies in this buggy; you feel like Laura Dern and Jeff Goldblum in Jurassic Park.  As your buggy pulls in front of your personal Nature Dome, it’s not far off that “Welcome…to Jurassic Park” jaw-dropping moment—your futuristic-looking home is completely engulfed by thriving native bushland; beyond the outdoor campfire lie expansive hills and valleys of green farmland, dotted with sheep and trees. You’re almost waiting to see a roaming brachiosaurus glide past, munching on a towering gum tree…instead, a few inquisitive llamas trot past your Dome to check out their new visitor. 

To fully capture the awe of inhabiting a geodesic dome for a few days, a little history of these futuristic-looking spherical structures helps. Consisting of interlocking triangular skeletal struts supported by (often transparent) light walls, geodesic domes were developed in the 20th century by American engineer and architect R. Buckminster Fuller, and were used for arenas. Smaller incarnations have evolved into a ‘future-proof’ form of modern housing: domes are able to withstand harsh elements due to the stability provided by the durable materials of their construction and their large surface area to volume ratio (which helps minimize wind impact and prevents the structure from collapsing). As housing, they’re also hugely energy efficient – their curved shape helps to conserve heat and reduce energy costs, making them less susceptible to temperature changes outside. The ample light let in by their panels further reduces the need for artificial power. 

Due to their low environmental impact, they’re an ideal sustainable travel choice. Of course, Tom’s Creek Nature Domes’ owner-operators, Cardia and Lee Forsyth, know all this, which is why they have set up their one-of-a-kind Nature Domes experience for the modern traveller. It’s also no surprise to learn that owner Lee is an electrical engineer—experienced in renewable energy—and that he designed the whole set-up. As well as the off-grid power supply, rainwater tanks are used, and the outdoor hot tub is heated by a wood fire—your campfire heats up your tub water via a large metal coil. Like most places in regional Australia, the nights get cold – but rather than blast a heater, the Domes provide you with hot water bottles, warm blankets, lush robes and heavy curtains to ward off the chill.

nature domes port macquarie
Photo: Nature Domes

You’ll need to be self-sufficient during your stay at the Domes, bringing your own food. Support local businesses and stock up in the town of Wauchope on your drive-in (and grab some pastries and coffee at Baked Culture while you’re at it). There’s a stovetop, fridge (stocked as per a mini bar), BBQs, lanterns and mozzie coils, and you can even order DIY S’More packs for fireside fun. The interiors of the Domes have a cosy, stylish fit-out, with a modern bathroom (and a proper flushing toilet—none of that drop bush toilet stuff). As there’s no mobile reception, pack a good book or make the most of treasures that lie waiting to be discovered at every turn: a bed chest full of board games, a cupboard crammed with retro DVDs, a stargazing telescope (the skies are ablaze come night time). Many of these activities are ideal for couples, but there’s plenty on offer for solo travellers, such as yoga mats, locally-made face masks and bath bombs for hot tub soaks. 

It’s these thoughtful human touches that reinforce the benefit of making a responsible travel choice by booking local and giving your money to a tourism operator in the Greater Port Macquarie Region, such as Tom’s Creek Nature Domes. The owners are still working on the property following the setbacks of COVID-19, and flooding in the region —a new series of Domes designed with families and groups in mind is under construction, along with an open-air, barn-style dining hall and garden stage. Once ready, the venue will be ideal for wedding celebrations, with wedding parties able to book out the property. They’ve already got one couple—who honeymooned at the Domes—ready and waiting. Just need to train up the llamas for ring-bearer duties! 

An abundance of favourite moments come to mind from my two-night stay at Tom’s Creek: sipping champagne and gourmet picnicking at the top of a hill on a giant swing under a tree, with a bird’s eye view of the entire property (the ‘Mountain Top picnic’ is a must-do activity add on during your stay), lying on a deckchair at night wrapped in a blanket gazing up at starry constellations and eating hot melted marshmallows, to revelling in the joys of travellers before me, scrawled on notes in a jar of wishes left by the telescope (you’re encouraged to write your own to add to the jar). But I’ll leave you with a gratitude journal entry I made while staying there. I will preface this by saying that I don’t actually keep a gratitude journal, but Tom’s Creek Nature Domes is just the kind of place that makes you want to start one. And so, waking up on my second morning at Tom’s —lacking any 4G bars to facilitate my bad habit of a morning Instagram scroll—I finally opened up a notebook and made my first journal entry:

‘I am grateful to wake up after a deep sleep and breathe in the biggest breaths of this clean air, purified by nature and scented with eucalyptus and rain. I am grateful for this steaming hot coffee brewed on a fire. I feel accomplished at having made myself. I am grateful for the skittish sheep that made me laugh as I enjoyed a long nature walk at dawn and the animated billy goats and friendly llamas overlooking my shoulder as I write this: agreeable company for any solo traveller. I’m grateful for total peace, absolute stillness.” 

Off-grid holiday status: unlocked.

Where: Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, Port Macquarie, 2001 Toms Creek Rd
Price: $450 per night, book at the Natura Domes website.

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