Wyoming’s epic landscapes have attracted visitors for decades. Hence, it is no wonder that Devils Tower gained its pop culture fame in Steven Spielberg’s 1977 film “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.” The movie became an instant cult classic internationally. Most notably, this film stands out in a world of manmade facades and special effects as a landmark crafted by none other than Mother Nature. The tower stands at 264,262 meters and hosts an otherworldly appearance.
Today, the otherworldly pull and Hollywood fame of Devils Tower has made it a cultural phenomenon. With the funds from the film’s creation, the landowners were able to open a campground and restaurant to host fans of the landscape and the movie. Campers are welcome to hike and climb the tower 24 hours a day, and at night they are treated to a showing of “Close Encounters” on a screen at the base of the landmark. Visitors leave with a new appreciation for the unique rock formation and a deepened curiosity about our place in space.
For more information on Wyoming, visit TravelWyoming.com.
An epic tale of survival and revenge, the early 2016 film “The Revenant” tells the story of frontiersman Hugh Glass (played by Leonardo DiCaprio). Glass was a trapper in South Dakota, where he was mauled by a grizzly bear and left for dead by his companions. Fueled by revenge and the will to survive, he crawled for six weeks to the nearest settlement, Fort Kiowa, near present-day Chamberlain.
Today, you can follow the route Glass took through the South Dakota wilderness and be amazed just how he lived to tell the tale.
Start your journey in the northern South Dakota town of Lemmon. You can almost hear the roar while looking at renowned artist John Lopez’s sculpture in the Grand River Museum. Lopez used scrap metal to recreate the battle between Hugh Glass and a grizzly bear. Want to know more? Just head to Lopez’s studio in downtown Lemmon. Not only can you see more of Lopez’s work, you’re also likely to catch the sculptor himself at work.
For other famous South Dakota Films such as “Into the Wild,” “National Treasure: Book of Secrets,” “Dances With Wolves,” “Armageddon” and “Hidalgo,” visit https://www.travelsouthdakota.com/shows-films-shot-south-dakota.
For more information on South Dakota, visit TravelSouthDakota.com.
Discover the great Western town experience of Fort Hays Town Square in Rapid City, South Dakota, made famous by a free tour of an iconic film set. “Dances with Wolves” is an American epic Western film first released in 1990 starring recognizable names like Kevin Costner and Graham Greene. Visitors to Fort Hays can see the original buildings used in the movie inside the South Dakota Movie Museum, which includes remnants of more than 50 other movies filmed in South Dakota.
This self-guided tour includes visiting artisans creating handmade tools, ropes, bricks, tin plates and knives, and even panning for Black Hills Gold at the Gem Shop. Be sure to explore it all, including the view you can find overlooking Black Hills National Forest and all the photo-worthy moments in between.
Fort Hays is also home to Mount Rushmore Tour Company, featuring sightseeing packages to top attractions in the Black Hills like Mount Rushmore, Crazy Horse Memorial, Custer State Park and Needles Highway. The Fort Hays season runs mid-May through the beginning of October. Whether you’re a fan of the Old West, scenic tours or even just Kevin Costner himself, there’s lots to love about a visit to Fort Hays.
For more information on Rapid City, visit VisitRapidCity.com.
Some stories are too good for the big screen. They’re for the history books.
One icy morning, a ranch hand ran to the Billings County Sheriff claiming a boat had been stolen, a severed rope and a red mitten as proof. The idea of pursuing armed and dangerous thieves on a flooded and ice-filled river was a life-threatening task. However, this sheriff lived for rugged adventures. His name was Theodore Roosevelt.
In the 1888 book “Ranch Life and the Hunting Trail,” he recounts the tale of battling the Missouri River through rolling clay buttes and zero-degree weather. When they approached the camp, Roosevelt wrote, “For a moment, we felt a thrill of keen excitement and our veins tingled as we crept cautiously toward the fire.” Using the element of surprise, all three thieves were apprehended. The trip took 36 hours and 300 miles – all for a replaceable boat – and was only made possible with Roosevelt’s undying sense of justice and need for adventure.
Stories like these tested his resolve, and are part of the reason he said, “I would not have been president if it had not been for my experience in North Dakota.” Today, you can visit the area where this happened at the Elkhorn Ranch in Theodore Roosevelt National Park.
For more information on North Dakota, visit NDTourism.com.
Popular American singer Jimmy Buffett, best known for songs “Margaritaville,” “Come Monday” and “It’s 5 O’Clock Somewhere” (with Alan Jackson), includes Montana locations in several of his songs.
In “Come Monday,” he sings about missing his girlfriend in Montana: “Remember that night in Montana when we said there’d be no room for doubt.” He refers to her “enjoying the scenery, I know that it’s pretty up there.”
Buffett has also written songs about the small town of Livingston because of his visits to family there. His sister married Livingston author Thomas McGuane, who asked him to write the music for his 1975 film “Rancho Deluxe.” Buffett performed the song “Livingston Saturday Night” in the film. It’s chorus includes “rocking and a rolling on a Livingston Saturday night“ and refers to this town’s wild bar scene.
Many believe “Cheeseburger in Paradise” refers to a small burger restaurant called The Pop Stand just south of Livingston near Paradise Valley. Mark’s In & Out Burgers, an iconic Livingston drive-in (still in existence), also might have been an inspiration.
Other Montana references include “Ringling,” about a small town of that name located north of Livingston, and Missoula in his song “Miss You So Badly.”
For more information on Montana, visit VISITMT.COM.
Idaho is a refuge for the rich and famous, most notably Ernest Hemingway. The acclaimed Nobel Prize-winning author frequented Sun Valley and Ketchum for 20 years before buying his Ketchum home in 1959.
For a taste of Hemingway’s Idaho experience, visit the Sawtooth Club for a craft cocktail and stop by the Sun Valley Lodge for the atmosphere that fueled his writing and editing of “For Whom the Bell Tolls.” Pay your respects at Hemingway’s grave at the Ketchum Cemetery.
Wondering which season is best to visit? Take a page from Hemingway himself and travel in autumn. As the Hemingway Memorial inscription reads, “Best of all he loved the fall, the leaves yellow on the cottonwoods. Leaves floating on the trout streams and above the hills.”
Movie lovers may recognize the charming, historic town of Wallace as the setting of the 1997 natural disaster film “Dante’s Peak.” The small-town USA main street and tree-lined mountains provided an idyllic backdrop for the movie about the eruption of a dormant volcano. When visiting Wallace, be sure to take a guided silver mine tour and see the city’s “Center of the Universe” declaration – proudly displayed on a manhole cover downtown.
For more information on Idaho, visit VisitIdaho.org.
Fans of the Paramount TV series “Yellowstone,” starring Kevin Costner, Cole Hauser, Kelly Reilly, Luke Grimes and Wes Bentley, have been showing up in Western Montana trying to get a glimpse of the life of John Dutton and his – shall we say, complicated – family and their Yellowstone Ranch.
Before season four began filming, the entire production was relocated to Western Montana, where Dutton’s ranch resides – also known to the locals as Chief Joseph Ranch. Different locations and various businesses have been utilized for filming around Missoula and the Bitterroot Valley south of Missoula.
For those fans who have asked for locations to visit on their next trip to Western Montana, we’ve got you covered. Please be respectful of those who live and work at these establishments as you are fulfilling your Yellowstone fan dreams through the region. See the self-drive itinerary including the “Train Station” here. And for those who really want to take your Yellowstone fandom to the next level, overnight stays are allowed at Chief Joseph Ranch when they are not filming the show.
For more information on Western Montana’s Glacier Country, visit GlacierMT.com.
Fargo was absolutely put on the map by the 1996 namesake film “Fargo,” written and directed by the Coen Brothers. The dark comedy movie depicted a frozen tundra with a hilariously unprepared police department trying to solve a crime.
The “Fargo” woodchipper scene goes down as one of the most infamous murder scenes in cult classic cinema history. Although the film wasn’t actually shot in Fargo (you’ll notice it looks nothing like the movie), you can still visit this original movie prop (and its stunt double) at the Fargo-Moorhead Visitors Center.
For more information on Fargo-Moorhead, visit www.VisitFargoMoorhead.org.
Denver is one of the best cities for beer lovers, with more breweries than any other U.S. city and the second-highest number of breweries per capita!
With so much emphasis on foodie culture, it’s no surprise that Denver also hosts some of the best food and drink festivals in the West, including the annual Great American Beer Festival and the Denver Food and Wine Festival. Get a taste of our local flavors by exploring our Denver Beer Trail Denver and the many brewery tours!
Additionally, with numerous food and beverage awards to its name (including a few from the uber-prestigious James Beard Foundation), Denver has quickly become a dining destination for foodies. You’ll find plenty of fine dining options at nationally ranked and recognized eateries, along with international cuisine from around the globe and local favorites like green chile at restaurants and diners across The Mile High City.
Denver is a metropolis of ever-evolving tastes, its forward-thinking dining landscape filled with restaurants from gifted chefs whose culinary magnetism, passion and fortitude fulfill our city’s lust for great food.
For more information on the Official Gateway City of Denver, visit VisitDenver.com.