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The only 4-year college in the state, the University of Wyoming was established in 1887 with the funding of Old Main, its first building. At that time, there were five professors, two tutors, and 42 students on the 20-acre campus, which included Prexy's Pasture, where the school's first president kept his cows. Today, the University of Wyoming has more than 2,000 faculty and staff members and an enrollment of about 13,000. The university has boomed along with oil and gas prices and the coal-bed methane market, with the legislature loosening the purse strings in recent sessions.

A campus tour is worth the effort, if for no other reason than to check out the campus architecture, which ranges from the solid sandstone castles of a century ago to the spaceship designs of today (stop at the Visitors Services Center, 1408 Ivinson Ave., for a map). To catch a glimpse of student life in Laramie, swing by Prexy's Pasture.

With no pro sports teams in Wyoming, the college's athletic programs take on special importance. Fans drive from all over the state to root for the Cowboys as they compete against Mountain West Conference foes. For event information and tickets, contact the ticket office (tel. 800/922-9461 or 307/766-4850; www.wyomingathletics.com).

The university plays an important role with its museum spaces, and most of the exhibits are free. Located in the Knight Geology Building, in the northwest corner of Prexy's Pasture, the Geological Museum (tel. 307/766-2646; www.uwyo.edu/geomuseum) has plenty of dinosaur fossils as well as some from mammoth, camels, and other extinct Wyoming denizens, not to mention a life-size T. rex statue out front. It's open Tuesday through Friday from 1 to 4pm, Saturday from 10am to 2pm, and Sunday from noon to 4pm. Also worth visiting is the Rocky Mountain Herbarium (tel. 307/766-2236; www.rmh.uwyo.edu), open Monday through Friday from 8am to 5pm (7:30am-4:30pm when school is out of session). The Insect Gallery (tel. 307/766-2298; in the Ag Building, just north of Prexy's Pasture) is primarily a research facility and a bit esoteric to the average visitor; call for current hours. The Centennial Complex (on the east side of campus, east of 15th St.) houses the UW Art Museum (tel. 307/766-6622; www.uwyo.edu/ArtMuseum), with works by Audubon, Charles Russell, Thomas Moran, and even Gauguin. It's open Monday through Saturday from 10am to 5pm (until 9pm Mon when school is in session). Also in this building is the American Heritage Center (tel. 307/766-4114; http://ahc.uwyo.edu), a top-notch research facility with extensive collections of Western-history materials and some unexpected archives, such as some of Jack Benny's papers, open Monday 10am to 9pm and Tuesday through Friday from 8am to 5pm.