There’s nothing that excites me more than geography books. Okay, I’m lying. Weather books might excite me more. But geography books run a close second. As a child I obsessed over atlases and books about travel, and then as a teen I enjoyed perusing the pages of my parents’ copies of Condé Nast Traveler magazine, to which they had subscribed for several years when I was growing up.
Our family received a review copy of 50 Cities of the U.S.A., a beautiful coffee-table-sized book featuring a two-page spread of 50 different cities in the United States. They aren’t all capital cities, or even large cities, and not all 50 states are represented (sorry, West Virginia and New Hampshire!), but many of the cities featured in the book are often overlooked by other travel media. Now is your chance to learn something new, and perhaps even make a point to visit some of the attractions in the smaller cities.
For each two-page spread, there are dozens of fun historical tidbits, mini-biographies of famous residents, adorable artwork, and key facts and statistics. This information is presented on a backdrop of an artist’s rendition of a map of the city. In addition, each city’s pages include “A Day in…” with a one-day schedule of family-friendly activities that can be done in each of the cities. That section reminds me of the “Three Perfect Days” series that I read about every time I’ve flown United Airlines and read the Hemispheres magazine in the seat-back pocket.
I think this book will be perfect for children who know how to read. The facts featured are short and sweet, with vocabulary that’s designed to challenge younger readers without overwhelming them. There is some cursive writing font on each city’s spread, so parents might have to help kids read those particular words, especially if they haven’t had (or are never going to receive) cursive writing education in school yet.
To celebrate this week’s release of 50 Cities of the U.S.A., as part of the publisher’s “50 Cities Fun Fact Blog Extravaganza!,” GeekDad is featuring the city of Cheyenne, one of the 50 cities in the book. Be sure to also check out GeekMom Nivi Engineer’s feature about the city of Cleveland as part of the blog extravaganza.
Cheyenne is certainly one of the smaller cities featured in the book, with a population of 63,335. But hey, it’s not as small as Boise, so they can breathe easy that they aren’t the smallest city in this book. [Full disclosure, I’ve visited Boise and I had a very nice time.] Because Cheyenne sits at the crossroads of two major interstate highway arteries, the east/west running I-80 and the north/south running I-25, as well as a similar crossroads for the railroads, Cheyenne is an important location when it comes to commerce. It also has several attractions that will make you want to reconsider just blasting through on your next road trip.
- CHEYENNE FRONTIER DAYS – This 120-year-old annual festival celebrates western history with a parade, rodeo, and Native American music.
- LOONEY LAWS – An old state law says it’s illegal to wear a hat that blocks people’s view in a public theater.
- TERRY BISON RANCH RESORT – 30,000 acres of hills and grasslands provide a home to some 2,300 grazing bison.
- THE CHEYENNE BOTANIC GARDENS includes a walkable, meditative labyrinth, and “finger labyrinths” designed for the blind and non-walkers.
- F.E. WARREN AIR FORCE BASE – The area’s largest employer is the Air Force’s oldest continuously active installation.
- THE GREATER CHEYENNE GREENWAY connects parks for 37 miles of biking and has earned Cheyenne the name “Trail Town U.S.A.”
- THE PAUL SMITH CHILDREN’S VILLAGE includes a Secret Garden and a color-coded geodesic dome full of hexagons and pentagons.
- WIND POWER – Cheyenne’s high elevation makes it one of the U.S.’s windiest cities and a great producer of sustainable energy.
- VEDAUWOO RECREATION AREA – The ancient Sherman granite rock formations here were shaped by ice, wind, and water.
These are but a few of the 35-or-so quick facts just on Cheyenne’s pages. Multiply this by the 50 cities and your geeky kids can top off their brains with nearly 200 new facts about American cities.
I appreciate the focus on Cheyenne’s terrain’s attraction for wind power, and the legacy of Wyoming native Matthew Shepard, the young American whose brutal murder in 1998 brought national attention to hate crimes and prompted Congress to enact legislation to expand the definition of hate crime. In addition, visitors are drawn to Cheyenne’s Frontier Days at the end of July each year (grab hotel rooms early for this one!) and the natural beauty of the cosmic-looking Vedauwoo area that’s about 25 miles west of Cheyenne.
As an Air Force officer, of course I’m partial to Cheyenne visitors being able to see F.E. Warren Air Force Base, which is full of history. The base started as a frontier outpost established in 1867 to protect Union Pacific Railroad workers and became one of America’s nuclear missile bases during the Cold War. Visitors to the base can enjoy their museum, which is open to the public, but I recommend non-Department of Defense visitors call for base access information; in addition, during several days in the summer, visitors—after performing a cursory background check—can sign up to take more in-depth tours of the base’s missile mission.
Finally, if you’re a fan of railroading, Cheyenne is a must-see location! The Cheyenne Depot Museum tells the story of Cheyenne’s importance in the building of the Union Pacific side of the Transcontinental Railroad in the late 1800s, and it has several steam locomotives on static display. Visit the museum during their Depot Days in the month of May and you can tour their engine shops, where they’ve been working hard to restore Union Pacific “Big Boy” locomotives for tourist excursion operations throughout the country.
Is Cheyenne at the top of your list of places to see for a vacation? For many of us, maybe not, but between Frontier Days in July and Depot Days in May, it’s a well-visited attraction for many Americans who have interests in rodeo and railroading. I’ve visited Cheyenne many times (I live 3 hours away), and I always enjoy the history and natural beauty it has to offer. I recommend focusing your visits in the summertime. Cheyenne’s high elevation and routine blizzard conditions sometimes closes down interstate accesses to the city.
GeekDad was provided a complimentary copy of 50 Cities of the U.S.A. for review purposes. All opinions are my own.