Gillette is a coal mining town with a population of about 30,000. Because of the coal, oil, and natural gas production, the city calls itself the energy capital of the nation.
Gillette started as a tent city called Donkey Town in the 1890s, when a railroad line was built. For Edward Gillette's surveying work, the company who owned the line named the town after him. The early days of Gillette were rough, with over a dozen saloons and no church. There are stories of cowboys burning down the jail they were in to flee, a shootout downtown that killed a man, and outlaws in a showdown with officers. Despite all that, it never reached "Wild West" levels of violence and outlaws.
After law and order took hold in Gillette, it became a quiet and small ranching town, until major coal mines were developed in the 1970s. A major boom happened and the rough days returned. The majority of the housing during that time was mobile homes until the city stepped in. They focused on turning Gillette into a city based around families, and succeeded in restoring order.
Throughout its history, Gillette has been a launching point or a place to rest along a journey. Photographer William H. Jackson and painter Thomas Moran went to Devil's Tower in 1892 by horse drawn wagon, using Gillette for their round trip. Today the city still promotes itself as a good place to stay when traveling between the Black Hills and Yellowstone National Park.
Other historical tourism that continues today is hunting. From the early days for many decades there was a great pronghorn hunt that hunters from around the country came to participate in. The pronghorn are still everywhere and they make their way into town regularly.
Gillette is a blue-collar city where you will find large sunburned men sporting bushy beards in work clothes. Mixed with the tradesmen and miners are the occasional ranchers, clean shaven with their cowboy hats and shiny belt buckles. Women also dress casually, many still in their work hoodies and nurse scrubs. Suits, dresses, and ethnic clothes are a rare sight.
Politically, Gillette is one of the most Republican places in the country. Bumper stickers read "if you don't like coal don't use electricity" and signs with coal trucks tell residents to stay strong. People openly discuss their dislike of Democrats while also being cautious of Republicans.
With the mining related jobs, ranch history, and western ideas, come the trucks, and not of the small Japanese kind. A car feels small, sandwiched between all the pickups, SUVs, haul trucks, and semi-trucks on the road and in the parking lots.
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Windy, cold, and dry. These are the words visitors use to describe Gillette. Keep water handy if you are from a humid climate and always have winter clothes for any season besides summer.
Located between the Black Hills of South Dakota and Yellowstone National Park, Gillette is an excellent place to stop if you are traveling I-90 East or West. Highway 59 connects the town with Montana to the north and Douglas, Wyoming, to the south.
Watch out for deer on the road especially at night and early in the morning. Sometimes there are carcasses on the side of the road from previous collisions. The saying about a deer in the headlights is real. They will stare at the lights and not move. The pronghorn seen everywhere usually don't stop and get out of the way.
Flying directly to Gillette is expensive. If you plan to rent a car or have a ride, a cheaper option is to fly to Casper, Wyoming or Rapid City, South Dakota. Casper and Rapid City are about 2 hr away by car.
- 1 Gillette-Campbell County Airport (GCC IATA), 2000 Airport Rd, e-mail: email@example.com. Gillette-Campbell County Airport has non-stop service on Delta to Rock Springs and Salt Lake City and United to Denver. All parking including long term is free.
A simple town layout, but if you are still lost, use your phone or ask a local (they are very friendly!)
'Grid' Downtown is marked by
- N-S roads being named, for famous people in the area, as well as Gilette Ave.
- W-E roads are numbered, and called streets. The numbering amplifies with increasing south distance from Gilette Ave, and matches the address code as well. The numbering ends around 15th Street.
Gillette is best navigated by car. Parking in the city is free and street parking is plentiful while all business areas have parking lots. One-way streets are rare. Rentals are available at the airport and near the downtown area.
- Avis, 2000 Airport Rd Ste 143 (At the airport.), ☎ . M-F 9AM-11:30PM, Sa 4PM-9PM, Su noon-5PM and 10PM-11:30PM.
- Enterprise, 603 E 2nd St, ☎ .
- Hertz, 2000 Airport Rd Ste 145 (At the airport.), ☎ , fax: . M-F 9AM-11:30PM, Sa noon-5PM, Su noon-7PM and 9PM-11:30PM.
- Rent-A-Wreck, 513 E 2nd St, ☎ . M-F 9AM-6PM, Sa 9AM-5PM. Regular car rentals despite the poorly chosen company name.
While some bike paths do exist they are better used for recreation than as a main form of transportation. There are few bike lanes and outside of the summer there is no guarantee it won't snow.
Taxi service in Gillette is slow because of the distances they take passengers. It can take up to an hour before they pick you up. Since the services don't give an exact time you will be waiting outside in the heat or snow for a while.
- 1 Eagle Butte Coal Mine public viewing area (North of the Gillette-Campbell County Airport on Highway 14-16.). Daylight hours. See a working coal mine with haul trucks and other heavy equipment in action. The outdoor visitor area has large chunks of petrified wood, a huge coal haul truck tire, and a platform to see the mine west of the highway that splits it. Free.
- 2 Festival of Lights, Saddlehorn Rd (In the CAM-PLEX park.), ☎ . November-January. Feeling the holiday spirit? Then this massive drive-through Christmas lights display is for you. It has dozens of animated displays, a light tunnel, and many thousands of lights. A short range radio station is setup at the park that plays Christmas music so don't forget to tune in. Free.
- 3 Overlook Park, 2901 Goldenrod Ave (In the Foothills area). 7AM-11PM. One of the highest points in the city for a great view of Gillette both during the day and at night. Free.
Gillette has over 140 sculptures across the city picked by the Mayor's Art Council. Several buildings have large murals including one downtown and another on one of the L&H buildings. On the outskirts of town two water towers in Sleepy Hollow have been painted based on the story Legend of Sleepy Hollow.
- 4 Avenues of Art, On Gillette Ave downtown and 4-J from Lakeway Rd to Boxelder Rd. While large sculptures and statues are spread across the city many pieces are concentrated on the Avenues of Art. The highest concentration is on 4-J and on Gillette Ave. The 4-J sculptures are best seen by using the bike and foot paths. The sculptures downtown are best seen by walking. The quality varies as much as the subject matter does. Free.
- 5 Heritage Center Art Gallery, 1635 Reata Dr (At the CAM-PLEX in the Heritage Center building. Use the door near the Energy Hall. Once inside go through the second door on the left.). M-F 8AM-5PM. The quality of art in the gallery can vary greatly, but since it is right around the corner from the ticket office it is worth a quick look if you happen to already be at the CAM-PLEX. Other than events you will find it empty so you can look at the art in peace. If you enter the Heritage Center on the door next to the Energy Hall directly on the left are pamphlets, maps, and other things for visitors. Free.
- 6 Campbell County Rockpile Museum, 900 W Second St (Next to the large rock pile off Hwy 14/16), ☎ , fax: , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. M-Sa 9AM-5PM. Named after the rock pile next to it which was a landmark this county museum has fossils, Indian artifacts, antique settler items, mining exhibits, and plenty of local history. It hosts events and has a rotating exhibit room. Don't forget to walk outside to the annex building to see the larger displays. Free.
- 7 Energy Equipment Park (Near the CAM-PLEX multi-events center.). A large outdoor display of retired coal mining, oil drilling, and agricultural heavy equipment. You can take your photo with a coal haul truck from Jacob's Ranch Mine the size of a house or dragline buckets you could drive a car into. The plaque for one of the tires says it was the largest tire in the world in the early 1990s. Free.
- 8 Gillette Post Office, 301 S Gillette Ave. Philatelic (stamps, postal history, and postal related) fans can see the old Gillette Post Office in the downtown area. It is the only place in Gillette on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places. Free.
Coal mine tours, frisbee golf courses, free city pool, Campbell County Recreation Center (the rec center), AVA Community Art Center, etc.
- 1 CAM-PLEX, 1635 Reata Dr, ☎ , fax: , e-mail: email@example.com. The CAM-PLEX event center hosts RV and motorcycle rallies, many rodeos including the National High School Finals, concerts, gun shows, car shows, flea markets, fireworks displays, conferences and the county fair.
- 2 Dalbey Memorial Park, 900 Edwards St, ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. 7AM-11PM. Come to the park to fish or ice fish at the Gillette Fishing Lake. A large frisbee golf course goes around the lake. Take a stroll across the lake on Dalbey Bridge or sit and bird watch the many geese and ducks. Signs warn of high bacteria counts so don't plan to swim in it or let your pets in the water. Fishing in Wyoming requires a license which is sold at Rocky Mountain Discount Sports, FCA Country Store, Sportsman's Warehouse, or Walmart. Free, Fishing $14/day nonresident.
- 3 Brew Fest, Gillette Ave (Downtown). Regional and local breweries show up and offer their beer right on the street with live music playing in the background. You can hold your craft beer in one hand and play oversized Jenga or cornhole with the other because drinking is allowed in public for the outdoor event. Or use that free hand to get some food from local vendors. Free.
- 4 Charity Chili Cook-off, 1635 Reata Dr (At the CAM-PLEX Central Pavillion.). Local businesses, groups, the college, and others try to win your vote with samples of chili and salsa. The Central Pavillion is over 40,000 square feet and it is completely filled with over 30 booths and a large crowd. While orderly the lines are long so spend time talking to locals while waiting. Booths are sorted by last year's rankings; booth 1 will be the previous year's winner. The quality of the chili starts off great then tapers off to just good. Beer is available at extra cost and a few booths offer free beer tickets for stunts one of which is eating a whole ghost pepper. Money from the event goes to local charities such as the YES House and Council of Community Services. $10.
- 5 Cupcake Wars, 2101 S 4-J Rd (At the Campbell County Public Library). Over a dozen booths of homemade cupcakes are setup each with its own theme and flavor. Tastes range from unbelievably good to what were they thinking. After you clear a plate or two of cupcakes vote who had the best booth and taste. $5.
- 6 Donkey Creek Festival, 300 Sinclair St (At the Gillette College behind the main building to the Technical Center.), e-mail: DonkeyCreekFestival@gmail.com. Named after the creek next the Gillette College this two day long festival that stretches from the Gillette College Technical Center to the concert behind the Gillette College main building. Events include a disc golf tournament, car and motorcycle show, 5K run and walk, Avenue of Art reception and exhibit, laser tag, and a concert. Vendors line most of the area from the college to the technical center selling yard statues, knick knacks, and overpriced snacks. A beer garden near the stage allows drinking in the gated area with a close view of the bands playing. Signs encourage photography, but ban video recording. Free.
- 7 Gillette Gun Club Gun Show, 1635 Reata Dr (At the CAM-PLEX Central Pavillion.), e-mail: email@example.com. Every year the gun club hosts a weekend long gun show at the CAM-PLEX. The building it is hosted in is 42,000 square feet and the vendors use most of it. Wyoming is extremely gun friendly. No permits are required at the state level to purchase and own a gun nor register with the state, but federal laws still apply. $5 a day/$10 weekend pass.
- 8 New Years Eve Buck & Ball Rodeo, 1635 Reata Dr (At the CAM-PLEX Wyoming Center.), ☎ . Dec 31-Jan 1. Every year the CAM-PLEX hosts the Buck & Ball rodeo. See cowboys from around the region ride bucking broncos and bulls. After the rodeo a ball is held with live country music until the new years starts. $30.
- 9 Show & Shine, 211 W 2nd St (Near the Frontier Auto Museum along S Ross Ave.), ☎ . Classic cars with their hoods popped line the street. Free to attend with vendors on site. Free.
- 10 Bell Nob Golf Course, 4600 Overdale Dr. 18-hole par 72 championship course. Operated by the county.
The old advice of locals has always been to travel to Rapid City, South Dakota to shop. That advice is becoming dated as more shops have opened up over the many years it has been repeated.
The major shopping areas are along East and West Lakeway Rd, South Douglas Hwy (Hwy 59), E 2nd St, and S Gillette Ave in the downtown area.
- 1 Gillette Avenue (Downtown), Gillette Ave, ☎ . The downtown area has a variety of local businesses, cafes, restaurants, and bars. Prices are higher than the chain stores around the city, but they sell things you won't find elsewhere. Some of the buildings are traditional architecture and there are several statues and a mural in the area. Before you go ask the Campbell County Rockpile Museum for their free walking tour pamphlet that explains the history of each building.
- 2 Walmart Supercenter, 2300 S Douglas Hwy, ☎ . 24 hr. The same as other supercenters it is a combination of a grocery store, general goods store, pharmacy, deli, and tire center. It sells cooked hot food during the day. The pharmacy and deli are not open 24 hr. Several other shops are inside including a salon, check cashing, and fast food. If you only need a big selection and lowest prices this is the place to go, but if you want anything beyond that try other stores.
Gillette is known for coal not food. Despite that there are several local restaurants and cafes worth eating at.
- 1 Humphrey's Bar & Grill, 408 W Juniper Ln, ☎ . Humphrey's Bar & Grill has a wide selection of beer, big portions for lunch and dinner, and a few unique food creations.
- 2 Jo-Bawb's BBQ, 601 E Boxelder, ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. 11AM-6:30PM. Briskets, pulled pork, ribs, and sides are served to take home from this unassuming tiny building. The down to earth man and woman running the place know their meats and how to cook them. They offer samples if you are unsure.
- 3 Pizza Carrello, 601 S Douglas Hwy, ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. M-Th 11AM-9PM, F-Sa 11AM-10PM. Pizza Carrello now has their own restaurant with a bar that looks new and clean. They still use a wood fired oven which makes pizzas that have a completely different flavor compared to anywhere else in the city, but at a higher price. While the alternative crowd is still visible families and couples are also showing up. $6-13 personal pizza.
- 4 Prime Rib Restaurant and Wine Cellar, 1205 S Douglas Hwy, ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. M-Th 11AM-10PM, F 11AM-10:30PM, Sa 4PM-10PM, Su 4PM-9:30PM.
- Roberto's, 10698 S Douglas Hwy, ☎ . 5AM-3PM. If you are traveling on Highway 59, just south of Gillette there is a little cafe called Roberto's. Simple, cheap, delicious Mexican and American food.
Gillette is a hub for groceries in the area because of the distance to nearby cities.
- 5 Albertsons, 2610 South Douglas Hwy, ☎ . Albertsons has the best seafood section in town and high prices on everything to match. A sushi maker works in their deli and makes amazing sushi rolls that are sold ready to go in containers. The only supermarket with a liquor license.
- 6 Don's Supermarket, 2610 South Douglas Hwy, ☎ , fax: . Don's is the local supermarket operating only in Campbell County. They have friendly staff and retro style counters and signs from several decades ago. While the owners probably don't consider that a selling point it really feels like stepping back in time.
- 7 Smith's Food & Drug, 906 Camel Dr, ☎ . 24 hr. Usually has the best stocked and kept produce section.
On Gillette Ave downtown there are 3 local shops with desserts all next to each other.
- 8 Alla Lala Cupcakes and Sweet Things, 204 S Gillette Ave, ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. $1.50-2.45 each cupcake.
- 9 Breanna's Bakery, S Gillette Ave. Doughnuts, cookies, and fudge. Also sells a variety of regular breads. Prices are slightly higher than chain store bakeries, but worth it for the better taste.
Gillette has over 1,000 hotel rooms, many motels, and a few campgrounds one of which is in the middle of the city. There are usually plenty of rooms even during summer events. Prices go up and down in the same cycle as the boom and busts come and go.
- 1 Best Western Tower West Lodge, 109 N US Hwy 14-16, ☎ , toll-free: , fax: . Check-in: 2PM, check-out: noon.
- Holiday Inn Express Hotel & Suites, 1908 Cliff Davis Dr, ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Check-in: 3PM, check-out: noon. Must be 21 or over to check in.
- 3 La Quinta Inns & Suites, 450 E Boxelder Rd, ☎ , fax: . Check-in: 3PM, check-out: noon. Completely nonsmoking, pool, and free wireless internet. $82-93.
- 4 National 9 Inn, 1020 E Hwy 14-16 (From I-90 take exit 128, go west ½ mile), ☎ . Check-in: 3PM, check-out: 11AM. Amenities include large cable TV, daily newspaper, guest business center, room service, 24-hour coffee bar, outdoor heated pool (seasonal), high speed internet, in-room microwave, and refrigerator. Restaurant, lounge. $49.59, kids 12 and under free, pets $7 pet.
- 6 Green Tree's Crazy Woman Campground, 1001 W 2nd St. Free WiFi, trees, hot tub, and sauna.
- 7 High Plains Campground, 1600 S Garner Lake Rd (Across Garner Lake Rd from the CAM-PLEX.), ☎ , e-mail: HighPlainsCamp@yahoo.com. Propane, laundry, gas, full hookups, tenting, and groceries.
There is little to worry about in Gillette. Violent crime is rare and visitors are not targets. It is safe to go around the city without fear.
The only threat to visitors is theft. The best deterrent is to not leave things behind and lock your doors. Thieves will check for unlocked car doors.
- 2 Gillette Police Department, 201 E 5th St (Next to City Hall downtown.), ☎ , fax: , e-mail: email@example.com.
- 3 Campbell County Sheriff's Office, 600 W Boxelder Rd (the Sheriff's Office is in Gillette as it is the county seat), ☎ .
- Holy Resurrection Orthodox Church, 610 S Kendrick Ave (Downtown area.), ☎ , e-mail: Holyresurrectiongillette@gmail.com.
- 4 Open Door Church, 111 E 2nd Street (Downtown area.), ☎ . Open Door Church is a nondenominational christian church.
- 5 Queresha Masjid, 1410 Country Club Rd (The mosque is a converted house on a long private driveway off Country Club Rd.).
- St. Matthew's Church, 900 Butler Spaeth Rd, ☎ , fax: . The Catholic church is part of the larger St. Matthew's Catholic Community.
- 6 Campbell County Convention and Visitors Bureau, 1810 S Douglas Hwy (A small trailer in the north-east corner of the Flying J parking lot on Highway 59 just off of Exit 126), ☎ . The visitor's center is a great place for information.
If you are headed East be sure to visit Devils Tower National Monument on your way into the Black Hills National Forest. Mount Rushmore National Memorial is over-rated, but Custer State Park, the Needles Highway, and the various caves of the Black Hills National Forest are all worth checking out.
If you are headed west take Hwy 16 on into Yellowstone National Park. Watch out for buffalo!
|Routes through Gillette|
|Billings ← Buffalo ←||W E||→ Moorcroft → Rapid City|
|Yellowstone N.P. ← Sheridan ←||W E||→ Moorcroft → Rapid City|
|Yellowstone N.P. ← Buffalo ←||W E||→ Moorcroft → Rapid City|
|Miles City ← Jct W E ← becomes ←||N S||→ Douglas → Ends at|
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