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    9 Ways To Cowboy Up At The College National Finals Rodeo In Casper, Wyoming

    Cowboy Up in the Cowboy State

    As a Montana girl, it's likely no surprise that I love all things cowboy. Heck, if I'm being totally honest, I've even dated a cowboy or two in my day. A couple of years ago, I had the chance to head to Casper, Wyoming, with a girlfriend from California where we both attended our first-ever College National Finals Rodeo (CNFR). For me, it was like revisiting a favorite pastime, while my friend was in awe for most of that night's 90-minute performance.

    Over the last several months, I've had a few more opportunities to visit Casper and it's quickly become one of my favorite places in the West. With this year's CNFR quickly approaching - and because I feel like it's my due diligence to share the awesome world of the West and everything that comes along with it - here are 9 WAYS TO COWBOY UP IN CASPER.

    1. Attend CNFR

    Visit Casper / Via visitcasper.com

    Every year, 400 college cowboys and cowgirls come to Casper, Wyoming, to compete in the College National Finals Rodeo in events that include saddle bronc, bareback, bull riding, tie-down roping, steer wrestling, team roping, barrel racing, breakaway roping and goat tying. It's a fantastic introduction to the sport for many beginning rodeo fans and it has daily performances June 8-15, which makes it easy for folks traveling through Wyoming to see these athletes in action.

    Also, as a total sidenote (and because I have to brag about these cowboys and cowgirls), rodeo athletes are not often thought of in the same way as more traditional athletes, but these guys and gals are the best of the best. Plus, you may even see some of them at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas.

    2. Visit Lou Taubert Ranch Outfitters

    Visit Casper / Via visitcasper.com

    If you're anything like me, you love a good cowboy store. But I'm talking about a legit, real Wyoming cowboy store. Meet my favorite Western store in Wyoming - Lou Taubert Ranch Outfitters. A few reasons I love this place so much (and why they take all my money every time I visit Casper): 1) They have 10,000 pairs of cowboy boots IN THE STORE. Um, hello. 2) They have an on-site hat shaper. And while this sounds like a silly thing, a good hat shaper (especially when you have a face as large as mine) makes a huge difference. 3) Lou Taubert's is 100 years old this year. As someone with a family business in Montana, I love the crap out of other family businesses and this one is at the top of my list.

    3. Go Sneakin' to The Beacon

    Truth: every first-time visitor should go to The Beacon. It's a legit honkey tonk bar and dance hall and if you want to spin around the dance floor, this is the place to do it.

    4. Fish the North Platte River

    Tia Troy

    So, I get that fishing may not seem like a cowboy thing to do, but trust me when I tell you that some of my favorite fishing memories are with cowboys. My cousins and I grew up going fishing in Montana's mountain streams with my Grandpa Don - who was a cowboy in the truest sense of the word - and our longtime family friend Jimmy Lee, a mountain man who used to disappear into the mountains for weeks at a time. My fondest fishing memories are with these two cowboys. All of this to say, you've got to fish the North Platte River. I've fished a variety of rivers throughout the West in my lifetime and the North Platte River remains at the very tip top of my list.

    My favorite folks to fish with: Ugly Bug/Crazy Rainbow Fly Fishing and The Reef Fly Shop/North Platte Lodge.

    5. Eat a Steak, Because You're in the West Dang It

    Wyoming and steak go together like Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid, Buffalo Bill Cody and Annie Oakley and Woodrow and Gus, from my favorite Western of all time, Lonesome Dove. (Fun, totally irrelevant fact: watching Lonesome Dove on Saturday mornings with my Grandpa Don was also where I learned some other life facts, like what a prostitute was.)

    For a tasty steak in Wyoming, head to FireRock Steakhouse or Silver Fox Steakhouse. Both places are delicious and serve up the best steaks in Casper.

    6. Visit the National Historic Trails Interpretive Center

    Tia Troy

    Wyoming has long been the Wild West and has impressive history that includes American Indian Tribes, emigrants, pioneers and early settlers. That history is beautifully told at the National Historic Trails Interpretive Center. Oh yeah, and it's free.

    One other way to cowboy up is to take a horseback ride or wagon ride on the Oregon Trail with Historic Trails West with Casper's cutest cowboy, Morris Carter.

    7. Get Down at the Hoedown

    Visit Casper / Via visitcasper.com

    While I didn't think of the name for the Downtown Hoedown, I certainly appreciate it. It's new this year, so I can't tell you much about it, but it looks to be a kick-in-the-pants good time with live music before that night's CNFR performance, plus mechanical bull riding and food trucks.

    8. See Charlie Russell at The Nicolaysen Art Museum

    Growing up in the West, I love (like love, love, love) Western artists, including Charlie Russell. Sitting in the middle of Wyoming is The Nicolaysen Art Museum, which happens to be a ridiculously gem of a place that's also home to a gallery of Western Masters that include pieces from Russell, Remington and Moran.

    9. Take a Backroad

    Tia Troy

    I'll stand by this fact until the day I day: some of the most amazing destinations are found on backroads. One of my favorite places in Natrona County is Fremont Canyon. It's located off a backroad, is stunningly beautiful and is something you'd never expect to find in this part of Wyoming.

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