Holiday Guide: The Quintessential Thanksgiving in Wyoming

The Thanksgiving season is a truly unique time of year, a crossroads of autumnal transition and the impending blanketing of snow and blinking lights. Warm feelings swarm in households as turkey and homemade pies and families mix & mingle. Thanksgiving is beautifully stark in Wyoming: a tangible contrast of harsh landscape, icy air, and the cozying of loved ones and hot food. During this week of feast and giving thanks, Wyoming hosts a number of activities to keep the spirit going! 

1. The Rose, Jackson, WY

A well-balanced cocktail the night before Thanksgiving is a great amuse-bouche for the gorging to follow. But amongst the milieu of bustling kitchens, wine-scented chatter and houses brimming with food and love and chaos, the Rose is a chic oasis. This classy, modern-lit and immaculate cocktail lounge resides in the historic Pink Garter Theatre. Art Deco aesthetic emanates throughout, with dark woods, rounded curves and leather booths that equally soothe and engender conversation. 

2. Big Hollow Food Co-Op, Laramie, WY

The turkey is simultaneously misunderstood and inevitably linked to American history (not only terms of a November holiday). Benjamin Franklin preferred it as the national bird, they’re surprisingly wily and make for challenging game, and turkey wasn’t likely consumed at the original Thanksgiving (cod and wild small game was much more prominent). That said, the best places in Wyoming, and anywhere, are always, local, organic markets, in community-owned co-ops where applicable. This Laramie food co-op is a great, member-owned and organic market is the store for a delicious, guilt-free gobbler. 

3. The Bread Basket, Cheyenne, WY

Easily the best breads, cakes and pastries in Cheyenne, this humble operation rivals any statewide. While their sandwiches are stellar, built upon house-made rolls, their ovens really start cranking-out beautifully tasty treats during the holiday season. Cookies, brownies, cakes of all sorts, while excellent, play second fiddle to the fresh-fruit and seasonal pies. When the snow beings to fly, so does the flour and powdered sugar. Winter never tasted so sweet. 

4. Plains Indian Museum, Cody, WY

Thanksgiving should involve honoring First Nation peoples. The vibrancy and resilience of these tribes is impressive, and on proud display in Cody. Housed within the renowned Buffalo Bill Center of the West, this well-researched dedication to the area’s First Nation tribes is equally-singular. For less than $20 ($12 for youth), this sleek museum weaves together the stories, tribulations, and triumphs of these diverse peoples. The displays do a wonderful job of not only enlightening, but also showcasing these people’s gorgeous products of art and efficiency.

5. Opening Day at Jackson Hole Ski Resort, Jackson, WY

Permanently marked on the calendars of locals, celebrities, and local celebrities, opening day at the Jackson Hole Ski Resort is a holiday indeed. Thanksgiving is always associated with food and family and some semblance of conviviality, if not fun. But for others in the snowy reaches of the West, this time of year equals time for fresh turns on new powder. And though $80 per lift ticket is no small price-tag (still better than the industry norm of $100), the mountain’s varied terrain, inimitable environs and often excellent snow more than compensate. Burn off some stuffing and gravy with some moguls and glades. 

6. University of Wyoming vs. San Jose State

Football at the University of Wyoming is taken rather seriously. The Cowboys always have a competitive schedule, battling nearby juggernauts in Colorado (CSU, CU, etc.), but always guaranteeing at least an entertaining spectacle. The week prior to Thanksgiving, the team hosts division rival Fresno State. And while this year’s holiday game is away (San Jose this year), curling up on the couch with family with a steaming beverage in hand (liquor optional) amidst the incomparable aromas of roasted bird, sage and butter & onions. 

Throwback to when the cowboys upset the 13th Boise State Broncos 30-28

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7. Christmas Parade, Casper, WY

People of all ages can’t help but be enchanted by the nostalgia of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. But in Wyoming, there are a handful of excellent small-town celebrations preceding the Big Meal (a significant point of pride is the University of Wyoming’s Marching Band having been invited to past Macy’s Parades!). In Casper, residents spend the week of Thanksgiving enjoying a charming cavalcade of floats and vehicles draped in lights and the browns & oranges of fall foliage: an early celebration of Christmas. It’s small-scale, yes, but the intimate town and healthy smattering of smiling faces makes it even greater.

8. Food Bank of the Rockies, Mills, WY

It’s darn right paradoxical for Thanksgiving to not involve giving thanks. If for only one day a year, this holiday week otherwise characterized by gluttony, shopping and inebriation is the perfect time for donating one’s time. The Colorado-based Food Bank of the Rockies is one such ideal organization with which to get involved (half of the recipients of its generosity are children!). The website is chock-full of opportunities, from petitioning legislatures to volunteering at the warehouse to load and distribute meals for hungry families. If one can’t pardon a turkey, they can at least donate one.

9. Annual Turkey Trot, Jackson, WY

If a manageable and meaningful charity run is on the Thanksgiving menu, one might as well do it in some of the most beautiful environs in the Lower 48. This fun 5K run/walk is the perfect metabolism kick-starter. It gets the furnace burning for all that turkey, stuffing and gravy. Just $15 grants entrance, a commemorative t-shirt and some hydration afterwards. November is National Diabetes Month, so proceeds appropriately benefit the St. John’s Diabetes & Metabolism program. 

10. JCPenney, Cheyenne & Casper, WY

Black Friday is, well, interesting. An embodiment of both the successes and excesses of Americans, it has blossomed into a yearly riot about which businesses arrange their entire season. They’re of course the WalMarts, Best Buys, and other of the megastore ilk with outrageous deals. And there’s a handful of mom-and-pops shops following suit. But for a good semblance of excellent prices and some sense of locality is JCPenney. The store was founded in Wyoming and offers some mind-blowing deals.  

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