Off to Wyoming and you have no idea what to expect? No biggie, it happens all the time. Wyoming is kind of the quiet one when it comes to the nation’s fifty siblings. To help, though, we dug through a bunch of old boxes, travel brochures and pretty much all of the Internet to put together this little guide for you. It’s packed with all the stats, facts, history and main attractions you need to start your life in Wyoming off on the right foot.
No matter where you choose to move in Wyoming, you can find affordable home insurance within our trusted network. So let’s start with some formal introductions.
Hi, We’d Like for You to Meet Wyoming
But you can call it The Cowboy State. This nickname became a thing when Wyoming first adopted a cowboy and bucking bronco as its state symbol. The symbol came about as an homage to the days of the Wild West and the many cowboys who still grace the state. Its official nickname is The Equality State, after becoming the first state to grant women the right to vote in 1869.
In 1872, government-led expeditions helped establish Yellowstone National Park as the country’s very first national park. And that’s even before Wyoming was a legit state in the Union—that didn’t happen until 1890. Since then, Wyoming has grown, but remains a very open, spread-out state that still holds on to its free-range cowboy ways.
The state is the tenth largest in the nation, but it has the smallest population, with only 573,720 people calling it home—making it the second-lowest in population density. But hey, who doesn’t love a bit of elbow room? The state isn’t all cowboys, ranchers and rodeo clowns, though. So let’s talk a bit about the job opportunities waiting for you to arrive.
Maybe you’re planning to pack your career along for the ride, or maybe you just want to start this new adventure in Wyoming with a whole new career path. Either way, we want to give you a quick look into the job scene around here, starting with some numbers.
Wyoming’s unemployment rate is a couple ticks under the national average, sitting at 3.9% according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Minimum wage here currently ties the federal minimum at $7.25/hour, according to minimum-wage.org, with plenty of room to go up from there.
As far as specific career fields are concerned, some of the fastest-growing jobs in Wyoming include: personal care assistant, registered nurse practitioner, medical receptionist, front desk clerk, preschool teacher, assistant manager, bartender and groom. But when it comes to the seriously big bucks, the highest-paid positions include: OB/GYN, nurse anesthetist, surgeon, CEO, dentist, sales representative and optometrist.
See, plenty of diverse jobs around here. And, as far as we know, none of them require proficiency in lassoing.
The next thing you'll want to lock down when moving to a new state is a place to live. Now although sleeping in an open field and looking up at the Wyoming sky is an incredible sight, you’re probably thinking more along the lines of a house.
To start with, the median home value in The Equality State is $220,900, with homes on the market currently listed for an average of $250,000. And home values have risen an impressive 5.6% over the past year, too. But if you’re just looking to rent, or at least until you get situated, the median rent price for a house is about $1,100/month.
Existing properties in the state are approximately middle-aged. Most homes still standing here were built between 1970 and 1979. As far as new construction goes, there's a bit of development in/around Gillette, but the most is sprouting up around the state capital of Cheyenne, in the state's southeastern corner.
Now, don’t worry, we haven't forgotten about our apartment-seeking friends out there. Thanks again to our friends at Zillow, we found out you can rent a one-bedroom in Casper for about $816/month, which seems to be the highest. In Cheyenne, Laramie and Cody, you’ll only be paying between $578/month and $630/month.
Out here there are as many reasonable housing options as “yeehaws!” it seems, which is one less thing to worry about on this adventure of yours. But you’re probably still asking yourself, “What are Wyomingites all about?”
The spirit of the Old West is alive and well in The Cowboy State, and ranching is a way of life here. So when you see the jeans, boots and cowboy hats moseying down main street, these aren’t some posers or wannabes, they’re the real deal.
Local Wyomers (we made that nickname up) describe themselves as neighborly and supportive. The state seems to be full of nice people who have a real sense of community—even if it is extremely spread out. In fact, the entire state pretty much has that small-town feel to it. People here have their quirks, but they mainly enjoy lives that are "slow, quiet and simple" according to a few such locals. There's just no sense of urgency here, and stargazing is a perfectly acceptable and chill way to end a day.
For the stereotypical American teenager, however, we can certainly see how the state might seem a bit too small, as one teen mentioned. Wyoming isn't really known for its amenities and attractions, so the usual teenage adventures definitely require a bit more creativity. One local summed up the state's atmosphere as being very "Little House on the Prairie," but hey, that's how they like it.
But it's not all stargazing and horse riding around here. Wyomingites stay active in other ways, including hiking, sledding, skiing, fishing, camping and something called "ice blocking." We looked it up, and basically it's just people sitting on/riding large ice blocks down a hill, racing to the finish. Wild, huh?
When it comes to the food around here, you'll find locals eat what they raise, and take full advantage of the food that comes straight from the state they love. Meats like elk and bison, fish, chicken, they love it all—and they love it all fried. Including the house specialty, Rocky Mountain Oysters—feel free to Google that one on your own.
And everything goes perfectly with a side of fry bread, or you can just throw your whole meal on top of the fry bread and wolf it all down like a taco. Now that you’ve whetted your appetite a bit on the local scene, let’s talk a bout a few trivia tidbits to help break the ice with your new friends.
Cowboy State Trivia
The state's official website says that a visit here will allow you to "release your own inner freedom and sense of adventure." And if that isn’t vague enough to sound awesome to you, we don’t know what is. It’s kind of like in the movie City Slickers when the guys are looking to find ‘that one thing,’ so they head off to a dude ranch to learn to lasso, ford rivers and chew tobacco. Either way, we’re game.
We mentioned Yellowstone a bit earlier, and we probably will again, but this gem of a national park placed sixth on National Geographic's "The Top 10 Most Visited National Parks." In 2017 alone, the park drew more than 41 million visitors. It's not surprising that so many people would flock to check out the lush forests, hot springs, geysers, canyons, rivers and hundreds of different animals that roam the area.
In other natural phenomena, the state is also home to the country's first-ever official national monument, Devils Tower, which was granted its title in 1906.
Wyoming's entire state population is smaller than many of the 'big' cities in the US. Cheyenne, however, is the state's largest city and has its fair share of to-dos, including a downtown area. The state's also home to the smallest town in the country, Buford, with a reported population of…wait for it…one. That's right, one.
Wyomingites point out that due to the sparse population, gas stations are few and far between—if you're taking a road trip through the state, be sure to stop at any gas station you see, because who knows when you’ll pass another.
Can't-Miss Wyoming Fun + Activities
No matter if you're into star gazing or rodeo clowning, Wyoming has quite a bit of fun to offer.
Here’ are just a few of the state's main attractions:
- Devils Tower: Located in the town of the same name, Devils Tower has many mysteries surrounding its origin and formation. The theories about the mountain's unique shape have not been proven to date, but there are some pretty interesting tales spun by locals. One such theory proposes that the mountain is the neck of an extinct volcano, while other theories tend to be much, much stranger.
- Bighorn Medicine Wheel: Located not far from Lovell, this Native American-made circle of stones was used to predict astronomical events. The formation of stones arranged in the shape of a wheel with 18 spokes sits at the summit of Medicine Mountain. The formation is an accurate predictor for the summer solstice, and is used for rituals among various groups, including New Agers, Wiccans and Pagans, alike. It’s even been named a national historic landmark.
- Hole-in-the-Wall Outlaw Hideout: In Kaycee, this hideout was used by infamous outlaws like Jesse James, the Logan Brothers and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Located in the Big Horn Mountains, the hideout was used from the 1860s until 1910 to lay low for a spell when the heat was on them. The steep climb made it a perfect hideout from authorities, with a great view of the rolling plains and canyons below to see if they'd been followed. Today, the hideout is part of the Willow Creek Ranch, and is accessible by dusty roads and a foot trail.
- Wyoming Frontier Prison Museum: This former prison in Rawlins closed in 1981 and was reopened as a museum in 1988. Having first opened in 1901, the prison saw its fair share of riots, escapes and hangings. Train robbers, horse thieves, murderers and femme fatales made up many of its inmates over the years—13,500 were imprisoned here, 14 of whom were executed. Today, visitors can tour the grounds, sit in the gas chamber, look through artifacts from prison life, and read detailed prisoner profiles.
- Hell's Half Acre: This 300-plus-acre canyon is located about 40 miles west of Casper and is known for its unique, spiky landscape and gorgeous views. The area was also used as an intergalactic backdrop in the cult-classic American military science-fiction film Starship Troopers in 1997, showcasing the land as an alien bug planet. So there’s that, too.
Pros and Cons of Living in The Equality State
Wyoming may be one of the most misunderstood states in the country, so wouldn’t it be nice to hear some more details straight from the mouths of people who know it best? We’ve gathered together some pros and cons we found from real-life Wyomers, just for you.
Pro (as told by authentic Wyoming locals):
- Low cost of living: Wyoming comes in 15th in the nation for median family income ($72,460), and is high above the national average—higher than two-thirds of the country. There's also no pesky income tax in this state, so locals rejoice harder than most come payday. Plus, we’ve already talked about the affordability of the housing here, so let’s chalk that up as a win.
- No traffic: The fact there aren't many people in Wyoming does wonders for the traffic situation. And with most things being so spread out, the views for the drive are pretty incredible at times.
- Epic views: If you're into hiking or horseback riding, you can see some really incredible sights in this state. The most obvious example is Yellowstone National Park, which features plenty of national landmarks worthy of postcards and office-lobby paintings. One beloved landmark is the Grand Prismatic Spring, which features a geyser, a hot spring and some pretty vibrant colors.
- Air quality: The cities of Cheyenne and Casper were ranked as having the best air quality in the nation by the American Lung Association in 2018. Categories evaluated included ozone, year-round particle pollution and short-term particle pollution.
Cons (as told by authentic Wyoming locals):
- Scary fatality statistics: Wyoming topped (or bottomed, depending on how you look at it) the list of the "Most Dangerous U.S. States to Work in 2018." The state consistently ranks as having the highest number of workplace fatalities in the nation, and also the highest number of fatalities by cattle/moose. Now, considering it’s the home of cowboys and ranch hands, that seems pretty likely.
- No big cities: With only a couple of cities in the state with populations reaching over 10,000, it's safe to say that there aren't any true big cities around these parts. While many people love the slower pace of life here and its laid-back nature, out-of-staters may think of this as a downside.
- “Everything's so [sic]ing far away”: This is a more ‘mildly put’ direct quote we borrowed from a local. Many others also chimed in about just how long it takes to get to other places in this state. One local talked about having to drive several hours to take their kids to in-state school competitions.
We know you came here to get the lowdown on all things Wyoming, and we don’t want to disappoint. That’s why we’re finishing this puppy off with a treat—a list of the wackiest, jaw-droppingest laws still in existence in the state.
Here are a just few:
- Failing to close a gate could land you a $750 fine. Probably a scolding from the missus, too.
- You can't take pictures of rabbits from January—April without an official permit. But the rest of the year, rabbit pic hunting season is on!
- You can't take pictures of pollution. This law's actually fairly new—Wyoming just wants to keep its clean image untarnished.
- You can't scout for wildlife using drones during hunting season. Seems like cheating, anyway.
- You can't take, wound or destroy a fish using a firearm. Again, also cheating.
Hit the Trails for Wyoming
And that’s Wyoming for you. Now obviously we probably didn’t tackle all of your questions, but we hope to have set you down the right path and crossed off a number of the big concerns on your mind. We dished about history, the job scene, housing, the people and even got your sights-to-see list started on the right foot.
The next step is all yours. So good luck, and make sure you're covered with an affordable home insurance policy.
NOTE: if you decide Wyoming isn't right for you, we've covered the other states, too, to help you find the perfect spot. If quiet, starry nights aren’t your jam, have you thought about New York City?