One of the more interesting and kid friendly places we visited this summer was the Wyoming Territorial Prison outside Laramie, Wyoming. Totally restored and sitting on 197 acres, it was built in 1872 as a federal prison and operated as such until 1890 when it became a Wyoming State Prison (1890-1903). It is one of the three territorial penitentiaries that still exist in the West and the only one that has survived intact. The most infamous convict to grace it’s interior was Butch Cassidy who served a sentence here for two years.
After arriving at the Visitors Center where friendly Wyoming Folk answer all your questions with smiles upon their faces you exit out a side door onto the immense grounds. After a short walk you arrive at the Warden’s House which was built by the convicts in 1875. Restored to that era there is a lot of the past for the kids to see and experience. including the clothes worn during that time period and how houses were set up.
The prison itself is amazing. Clean, fresh and fully restored; visitors can enter the cells, see the kitchen, and visit a very informative museum. My children learned a lot about the Old West and how people were treated while incarcerated back in the “Good Old Days” and each child was given a convict to look for and learn about. Murderers, horse rustlers, forgers, and con artists (both men and women) were all housed within the prison’s massive stone walls. The clanging shut of the old iron doors is one sound I won’t soon forget.
My kids loved the Broom Factory which served as an industry for prison labor. Began in 1872 it supplied broom throughout the United States and had an amazing output of some 720 brooms per day. The machinery inside is interesting and you can even doing some making of your own.
Throughout the grounds there are coaches and prison paddy wagons for kids to climb over and on. For youngsters who have been cooped up in a car it is the perfect way to burn up some energy. There is also an 1880s Ranch Building display with lovingly interprets ranching during that time in the Wyoming Territories. A huge nature preserve with walking trail can also be found on the grounds.
This is one place you and your family will love. It’s worth the ride!
Open daily May 1 – October 31 from 7am-8pm