Boot Hill Museum: Discover the Wild West Legacy

We first visited the Boot Hill Museum in Dodge City, Kansas, in 2018. At that time, we heard about an upcoming big museum renovation. So, when we returned to Dodge City in 2024, we were anxious to see the changes.

From what we could tell, there weren’t many changes to the exhibits we saw on our first visit. But, there was a huge new addition, which I’ll talk about in a minute. First, we’ll explore exhibits that we remembered from our first visit and still exist.

Great Museum Exhibits that Haven’t Changed

Front Street

Front Street replica at Boot Hill Museum

The front of the original museum is a recreation of Dodge City’s historic Front Street. A facade made up of businesses such as a general store, drug store, saloons and more line a wooden boardwalk. Although the original Front Street was in a different location, the museum was built to look as close as possible to the original. An 1885 fire burned down all but three buildings on the original street.

Inside, many of the museum’s 60,000 artifacts are exhibited as the businesses they came from: a printer, jail, funeral parlor, and apothecary among them. The museum also includes a large gun collection and an exhibit on Dodge’s City’s legendary lawmen, including Bat Masterson and Wyatt Earp.

Apothecary in the old section of the Boot Hill Museum

When you’re ready to rest awhile, have a seat in the saloon and sip on a sarsaparilla. Or head down to the ice cream parlor for a cone.

Boot Hill Cemetery

Climb the hill (ramp) up to the original Boot Hill Cemetery. This area was originally the outskirts of town on the highest point in the city. Boot Hill Cemetery is where they buried trouble makers and people who were unknown to anyone in town. Legend says they were buried without a coffin and still wearing their boots. The burial ground lasted only about six years before the bodies in those unmarked graves were moved.

Today, just a small part of the cemetery remains, as part of the museum.

Boot Hill Cemetery with grave markers and a small stone walking path

The Boot Hill Museum Expansion

In May 2021 the $6 million museum expansion opened and is fantastic in its innovative approach. We’re talking hands-on interactive exhibits—lots of them. Audiovisual presentations… photo ops… and very cool holograms that come to life and talk to you with the press of a button.

Connie sitting on a chair in front of holograms in the new section of the Boot Hill Museum
I sat in a comfy chair as I watched famous Old West characters come alive in holograms.

In a bison stampede exhibit, the floor shakes and the deep rumble grows louder as the bison come closer on the screen.

Bull in the new section of the Boot Hill Museum with a video showing on a screen above it.

Although the original museum exhibits are interesting, the immersive experience makes a visit to the museum entertaining as well as educational.

More Entertainment: Gunfight and Long Branch Variety Show

Because our 2018 visit to the Boot Hill Museum was in the fall, we didn’t get a chance to experience the seasonal gunfight or Long Branch Variety Show. So, we looked forward to seeing it on our return trip.

The gunfight was cute, much like we’ve seen in other western towns and always entertaining. Immediately after the gunfight, we got in line for the variety show and dinner. The roast beef dinner was delicious, and the variety show with Miss Kitty and the show girls was fun, a perfect ending to the evening.

If You Go…

The Boot Hill Museum is part of the National Park System but is managed by a separate organization. It’s open year-round (except Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day). However, the twice-daily gunfights and the variety show are seasonal. Visit the website for further details, including hours and admission.

Other articles in this issue of Midwest Wanderer Explores…

Exploring the Kansas Gunsmoke Trail in Wichita
Exploring the Kansas Gunsmoke Trail in Dodge City
Exploring the Kansas Gunsmoke Trail in Hays
Exploring the Kansas Gunsmoke Trail in Abilene
Wild West Wichita Comes Alive at Old Cowtown Museum
The Keeper of the Plains and Mid-America All-Indian Center
Time Travel at the Wichita-Sedgwick County Historical Museum
Home of Stone: The Mueller-Schmidt House—A Living Heritage
Boot Hill Distillery: Soil to Sip in a Historical Location
Historic Fort Hays: Tracing the Footsteps of Frontier Defenders
Cowtown to Carousels: Explore the Dickinson County Heritage Center

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