Want to introduce your kids to the authentic history of the American West? This Laramie History Itinerary for Kids and Families can help you and your family to learn about the “wild west” history of the area in a fun, engaging way.
History, like most subjects, is best experienced first-hand. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to find opportunities to encounter history in a way that is captivating and interactive. As parents, we love to see our kid’s natural curiosity come alive. It is amazing to watch a child’s eyes light up as they connect to their world in a deeper way. This Laramie history itinerary is designed to engage school-aged kids with the fantastic history of Wyoming and the Laramie Area.
Before embarking on this itinerary, consider reading some books about the history of Wyoming and the Laramie area. There are many books for kids of all ages that will spark their interest and provide them with important background information. There are also many fantastic online resources. Wyohistory.com has an education page that directs readers to great resources on a variety of topics.
University of Wyoming Geological Museum
Learning about topography in the Augmented Reality Sandbox.
First on the itinerary is the Univesity of Wyoming Geological Museum. Why not begin the journey through Wyoming history with a little prehistory?! Kids of all ages love dinosaurs and the UW Geological Museum will not disappoint. The museum boasts a variety of displays, including a 75-foot Apatosaurus skeleton, and “Big Al,” the most complete allosaurus skeleton ever found. Additionally, they have many other skeletal and fossil remains, rocks and minerals, a working fossil prep lab, an augmented reality sandbox, and much more. This museum is a great place to start because it helps kids gain perspective on how places change over time. It is also extremely engaging (because dinosaurs) and will set a great tone for your other stops.
The museum is located on the UW campus in the Geology Building. It is open daily, Monday - Saturday from 10:00 to 4:00, and admission is free. Occasionally the museum has family days and other special events. More information can be found on the museum webpage and Facebook. Plan on about 1-2 hours for this museum, depending on the ages and interests of your kids.
University of Wyoming Anthropology Museum
Colby Mammoth Kill Site (photo courtesy of the UW Anthropology Museum)
The University of Wyoming Anthropology Museum is the second stop on the itinerary. The Anthropology Museum is also conveniently located on the UW campus, just a short distance away in the Anthropology Building. The UW Anthropology Museum has exhibits across three floors of the Anthropology Building.
The anthropology exhibits focus on the evolution of humans from Africa to prehistoric migration to the New World. It also has exhibits on specific elements of Wyoming archaeology, hunter-gatherer cultures around the world (including Native Americans of the plains), and other world cultures. Kids will love the displays about the evolution of the bison and the archeology of the Vore Buffalo Jump. The exhibits of hunter-gatherer life are also particularly fascinating to anyone with an interest in these unique cultures.
The Anthropology Museum is only open during the regular University of Wyoming hours, Monday through Friday, from 8:00 to 5:00. There is no fee to view the exhibits. Plan on about 1 to 1 1/2 hours to visit this museum.
Historic Laramie Union Pacific Railroad Depot
Historic Train in Heritage Park (photo courtesy of the Laramie Railroad Depot).
Next stop, the history of the railroad! At the Laramie Railroad Depot, history jumps forward to the advent of the railroad. The progress of the railroad is one of the main reasons that Laramie was founded. The Depot is a fun place to learn about the history and impact of the railroad on Laramie and the west in general. The Depot was built in 1924 to replace the original depot which burned down. The museum houses railroad tools and memorabilia, as well as scale models of some of the trains and engines that would have passed through. Children will especially enjoy seeing the actual snow train, steam engine, bunk car, and caboose in Heritage Park (immediately adjacent to the Depot).
In addition to the museum itself, Heritage Park is a great place for a picnic, not to mention that its proximity to downtown means there are tons of great lunch (or dinner) places nearby. It is also just a short distance from the footbridge, a great vantage point for viewing trains.
The Laramie Railroad Depot and Museum is only open on Mondays from 9:00 to 2:00, or by appointment (with 24 hours notice). Tours can be booked on the museum website and are free of charge. Also, check out their Facebook page for upcoming events and photos.
Laramie Plains Museum
Exhibit inside the Ivinson Mansion (photo courtesy of the Laramie Plains Museum).
The fourth stop on the itinerary is a must-see. No Laramie History Itinerary would be complete without a tour of the Ivinson Mansion at the Laramie Plains Museum. With the railroad came settlers, among them Edward and Jane Ivinson. The Ivinsons left an indelible mark on Laramie's history, from their early dry goods stores to their later banking, education, medical, and religious endeavors. To this day, the local hospital, a street, and other organizations still reflect the Ivinson name.
The Laramie Plains Museum is housed in the three floors of the exquisite Ivinson Mansion. The mansion was built in 1892-93. It has since been carefully restored with period turn-of-the-century furnishings and decor. School-aged children and teens are sure to find a glimpse into turn-of-the-century life fascinating. The artifacts provide not only information about the Ivinsons themselves, but also about general life in this period of history. Additional exhibits in the museum display photographs and facts about significant historical figures, women’s suffrage, and others.
Exterior of the Ivinson Mansion (photo courtesy of the Laramie Plains Museum)
The Laramie Plains Museum also has beautiful grounds, a line cabin furnished as a 19th-century schoolhouse, and a carriage house converted to a museum store. The Laramie Plains Museum offers guided tours from 11:00 to 4:00, Tuesday through Saturday. Plan on about 1 1/2 to 2 hours. The Laramie Plains Museum does charge admission: adults $10, adult AAA $8, seniors $7, students and military $5, families $25, and children under 6 are free. For more information on tours, pricing, exhibits, and events, please see the museum webpage and Facebook page.
Wyoming Territorial Prison Historic Site
The Wyoming Territorial Prison is the last stop on this Laramie history itinerary for kids and families. The prison grounds house a museum gift shop, the original stone prison building and stockade, the prison broom factory, and many historic buildings and exhibits.
Prison Exterior (photo courtesy of the Wyoming Territorial Prison).
Kids will love getting a “convict identity” when they tour the prison. This prison housed some of the wild west’s infamous outlaws--including Butch Cassidy. It is fascinating to hear their stories and get a glimpse into life in the “big house.”
A 1/4 mile walking trail follows the Big Laramie River to a scenic overlook and provides opportunities for nature and wildlife viewing. Interpretive signs with interesting information about the local flora and fauna are located along the trail. Fishing opportunities are available on the Big Laramie River as well.
The prison is open year-round, but hours and days of operation vary by season. Self-guided tours are always an option when the museum is open. However, guided tours are also available from June through September. Admission for adults is $7, youth ages 12-17 are $3.50, and kids 11 and under are free. There are more details about exhibits and events on the prison website and Facebook page. Plan on about 2 hours to explore this terrific site.
Visiting these five amazing museums and historic sites is a perfect way to help your kids learn about and explore the prehistory and history of the Laramie area. This Laramie history itinerary will guide your family through the unique natural and human history of the area and provide plenty of opportunities for deep discussions and further investigation. Plan your educational family trip today!
You may also like: Top 5 Museums for Kids in Laramie, Top 5 Tips for Hiking with Kids in the Laramie Area, and The Best Restaurants for Kids in Laramie.
Note: Leah Veinbergs is an independent writer and the author of the blog Two Little Time. She is contracted by Visit Laramie. Views and opinions expressed here are her own and do not reflect those of the Albany County Tourism Board.