Each December a herd of some 120 qualifying cowboys—and cowgirls— make their way to Vegas to compete in rodeo’s main event—the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo (WNFR).
This rodeo is considered the world’s richest and most prestigious rodeo—and it’s not an easy ticket to come by. Every performance for the past 23 years has been sold out, and many spectators are season ticket holders, so seats are limited. Your best bet is to sign up for the ticket lottery. If you don’t win, purchase a “Mad Dash” ticket, which allows you to enter the concourse and wander around; seats in the balcony are fair game, unless the original ticket holder claims them.
Even if you don’t make it into the Thomas & Mack Center for a rodeo performance, the WNFR transforms the look and feel of the “Entertainment Capital of the World,” as thousands of rodeo fans decked out in jeans, boots, and cowboy hats fill hotels, casinos, restaurants, shopping malls, and showrooms. Many of the brightest stars in country music also perform shows in Vegas during the Wrangler NFR.
Book a stay in one of the official host hotels, and chances are you’ll get a glimpse of the competing cowboys and cowgirls, too. You can even make a night of it by attending the post-rodeo buckle presentations. Many of these host hotels also offer concerts by top names in country music and provide free shuttles to the Thomas & Mack Center. One favorite attraction is the Equestrian Center at the South Point Hotel, Casino & Spa, located just off the Strip. And Benny Binion’s World Famous Wrangler National Finals Rodeo Bucking Sale allows fans to get a close-up view of great bucking horses and bulls, plus it raises funds for the ProRodeo Hall of Fame. The Cowboy Christmas show at the Las Vegas Convention Center is also extremely popular.
“We love the Western atmosphere of rodeo, horses, and ranch life,” says JoAnne Owens-Nauslar, from Lincoln, Neb., who along with husband Raymond has attended every WNFR since 1981. “I love to see what the ranching families are doing to diversify.”
WHERE: Las Vegas
WHEN: December 3–12, 2009
MORE: Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority, http://visitlasvegas.com