Road Journals Blog—Downtowns in smaller cities can be depressing. Empty storefronts. Crumbling buildings. Poor lighting.
Downtown Casper, Wyo., has none of this. I’ll go so far as to call it vibrant.
I was there the week before Christmas, and despite temperatures close to zero, people packed the streets. The gourmet grocery Market and More  was crowded with people sampling jams, crackers, torta, and brownies.
Donell’s Candy —owned by the same family for more than three generations—had a line out the door. Their homemade ice cream was tempting, but most people were there for family-sized bags of flavored, multihued popcorn, which I could smell from two blocks away. Visitors could see the kitchen abuzz with workers filling clear bags with the stuff.
Lou Taubert Ranch Outfitters  has been a Casper institution since 1947. The sign out front informs passersby of the 10,000 boots in stock, widths AAA to EEEE. It must be a crime that I’ve lived in Wyoming for more than a decade and don’t own a single pair of cowboy boots. (It’s not that I don’t want a pair, it’s that I’ve never been able to find any that can comfortably accommodate my unusually high arches. I’ve vowed to come back under a less regimented schedule to see if Lou is up to the challenge.)
I was surprised by the number of jewelers—how many can a four-block stretch accommodate?—but was even more impressed by the movie theaters. In the age of 24-screen megatheaters, Casper supports four old-school movie houses, all downtown and within a three-minute walk of each other.
Casper’s downtown is so vibrant, in fact, that it keeps numbers of people from flocking to the city’s lone mall. Despite being some 70 degrees warmer on this chilly winter day, the indoor Eastridge Mall can’t match the crowds of downtown—and has not a single theater of its own.
Dina Mishev wrote about Casper for the September/October 2011 issue  of VIA.
This blog post was first published in September 2011. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.