Las Vegas During the NFR - One Woman's Experience of Las Vegas during the NFR
LAS VEGAS DURING THE NFR
One Woman’s Experience of Fabulous Las Vegas during the NFR
I am just a girl who loves rodeo. So if you are questioning if going to the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas is for you, I will just let my experiences speak for themselves. I spent seven days in Vegas this year, from round 3 to round 10. And in this time I was able to experience way more than I ever imagined.
Night one I got off a plane with a father determined to make it to see George Strait 5 minutes before the start of the concert. He rushed us to the concert, checked our bags into a random hotel and arrived as the opener was about to play. Feeling like I was finally able to relax as we walked up to the stadium I asked my dad “where are our seats?” Turns out dad didn’t even have tickets.. Minutes before the king of country was about to walk out on stage.
We go through two sets of faulty tickets before finally getting in with the third set of tickets we tried to purchase. In a roundabout way, we accidentally got ROW C for George Strait! We made eye contact. It was such an incredible night! -- Now I can’t promise that you will get as lucky as we did, but we paid $100 a piece to get into that concert with seats that were worth at least 7x that. He played at least 25-30 songs and had a show that lasted about 3 hours (just him, remember we missed the opener)!
Now let’s talk NFR performance experiences.
Every night there are at least a half a dozen hotels that have live viewing parties of the NFR performance. These parties normally have giveaways, the South Point has free snacks and every one is filled with rodeo fans like you. So if you make it to Vegas, it’s not like you have to buy tickets to the Thomas & Mack every night. That’s an experience I would recommend at least once because it is incredibly thrilling to be there, but don’t feel like you would have to go every night to get the experience. The viewing parties are normally projected onto three or four giant screens with seating sometimes for hundreds. They are live streamed so you still have the rodeo announcers and the real-time experience. I went to different hotels viewing parties every night that I wasn’t at the performance. Last year at the Mandalay Bay viewing party I won a sweatshirt and a jacket. They have entries to win a truck at the South Point, give away a saddle at the Mirage and much more! All of these viewing parties are free too, so you don’t even have to gamble to win in Vegas during the NFR!
Going to the Performance.
The night I went to the performance at the Thomas & Mack this year was military appreciation night, which means a lot to me with my significant other serving in the US Air Force. They did a tribute to service dogs that was absolutely beautiful. A dog handler who served two tours with this dog, who was so good at sniffing out bombs he had a bounty on his head, was able to be reunited with this dog and adopt him.
They always put on an amazing show, the light show, the fireworks, and of course, the rodeo. You better go to the bathroom before the rodeo because there are no commercials here. The NFR is such an efficient rodeo packed with non-stop action. Let alone the opportunity to be in the same arena as some of our biggest idols. It’s something you definitely have to experience.
After the Performance.
After the NFR performance All of the round winners go to the South Point for their gold buckle ceremony after the performance. They go on stage, introduce their families, watch their ride, talk to the crowd a little bit and receive their go round buckles. This is an opportunity to get to know all of the winners at a little bit more of a personal level. Then there is a free concert in that same room after the bull riding buckle is given out. They had performers like Cody Johnson and Aaron Watson there this year. For Aaron Watson I held the bow to his fiddle players fiddle as he played the fiddle against it, and then somehow my dad got us backstage after the concert. For free, we hung out with the band and got pictures with Aaron Watson! Please know that I am not endorsing for everyone to go and try to get backstage to concerts in Las Vegas.. This just goes to show that anything can happen, to normal people!
The Gold Buckle Ceremony is just one of the many after parties of the NFR. There are parties and performers everywhere. They are not lying when they say it is the city that never sleeps. The MGM has a place they call the Gold Buckle Zone where they have NFR contestants on stage doing crowd participation games and things like that. People were pulled up on stage by athletes like Junior & Sage to compete for who could ride the best air bull. They have a live band and DJ afterward. This year I won a Gold Buckle Zone tumbler and a roper hat there!
Now Vegas is full of nightlife experiences like jumping off the Stratosphere, the High Roller Ferris Wheel and zip lining Fremont street. But those I will let you look up on your own. You can make Vegas as adventurous as you want to. I just want you to realize how much this city turns into a cowboy town in December. There are artists like Reba McEntire, swing dancing in bars all around the city and “cowboy deals” all over the restaurants.
The NFR brings 5 major trade shows into town; Cowboy Christmas is at the Las Vegas Convention Center with two stories and thousands of vendors of western shopping. This could be a full day or two experience for you. Then there is Mandalay Bay convention center, The Sands Convention Center (which will be moved to The Rio next year), South Point, and a downtown location at the Plaza Hotel. You can get all your Christmas shopping and beyond done here in Vegas.
As your shopping, there are NFR related events at all of these trade shows; live TV shows with Flint Rasmussen and Anthony Lucia, famous rodeo competitors signing autographs at different sponsor booths all the time. Most of the time you walk down the isle of Cowboy Christmas you will see at least one contestant, past or present, walking to their next signing.
There are also a lot of different opportunities to see other competitions or compete out in Vegas yourself during the daytime. There is the Junior NFR at the Convention Center, the All In barrel race at the New Orleans, a large roping event at the South Point, the Bullfighters Only finals, and many more. Watching these events during the daytime is always an incredible experience as well. Events like the Junior NFR introduces you to future NFR athletes at a young age.
What’s holding you back?
Book your flight & hotel early and you can find a steal of a deal. Going to Las Vegas during the NFR is the ultimate cowboy/cowgirl experience. You can watch the finals live, run into some contestants as you’re shopping, stop and get their autograph, experience some incredible live country music, have western shopping like no other, and much more. I am just a normal girl who met over a dozen rodeo contestant, got backstage to a country star, third row for a country legend, and shopped until I dropped. Las Vegas during the NFR is a big city full of cowboys and cowgirls just like you. I hope everyone gets to experience it once and when you do, stop by and visit the Kimes Ranch booth in any of their trade show locations. You won’t regret it.