Cowboys will invade Las Vegas this week when the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo rides into town. Several related events, including a Christmas Cowboy marketplace and themed cocktails, will make boots and Western shirts the perfect attire on and off the Strip.
Single-event tickets for certain rodeo events were still available as of last week, but the rodeo itself — which runs Thursday to Dec. 16 at the Thomas & Mack Center at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas — traditionally sells out.
The good news is dozens of bars, lounges and restaurants throughout Las Vegas will be carrying the action live on big-screen TVs.
Gilley’s Las Vegas, the honky tonk joint at Treasure Island known as a home to the two-step, whiskey and a mechanical bull, will offer live broadcasts, and food and drink specials.Gilley’s will also an autograph session with bull riders from noon to 2 p.m. Dec. 13.
Not all the live rodeo action will take place at the Thomas & Mack Center. There will be plenty of excitement — from barrel racing to bull riding — during the Cinch Boyd Gaming Chute-Out from Thursday through Saturday at the Orleans Arena. Some of rodeo’s biggest names will be competing, including Wade Sundell, who this year won the $1-million prize at the American rodeo. Sundell will show off his saddle bronc riding skills during next month’s event. Tickets start at $30.
Roping is the name of the game from Saturday through Dec. 17 at the World Series of Team Roping at the South Point Arena. The richest roping event in the world, it boasts a purse of $11 million. Best of all for rodeo fans, all the action is free.
Johnson — a native of tiny Sebastopol, Texas — was a horse-riding prison guard before becoming a semi-professional bull rider. He exploded onto the country music scene with a Top 10 hit album in 2014.
Johnson’s shows begin at 11 p.m. each evening in the South Point Showroom. Admission is free.
Nightly free entertainment is also scheduled Thursday through Dec. 16 at MGM Grand, which is billing itself as Home of the Champions. Among the big names staying there is world champion cowboy Trevor Brazile, who has 23 National Finals Rodeo gold buckles.
A gathering spot called the Central will be branded the Gold Buckle Zone, with live entertainment nightly beginning at 5 p.m.
The resort will also host autograph sessions featuring Brazile and other rodeo stars from 10-11:30 a.m. Friday and Dec. 15. Tie-down roping contestants will appear at a different session noon to 2 p.m. Saturday.
All will be held in the hotel’s main lobby.
Popular country band Parmalee will entertain at SLS on Sunday with tickets starting at $22.50. Throughout the National Finals Rodeo, the hotel will also be providing free shuttle service to and from Thomas & Mack.
The five-block-long entertainment district will be a sea of cowboy hats on Wednesday as the National Finals Rodeo kick-off party gets underway at 4:30 p.m. Throughout the evening, bands will perform on three stages. The line-up includes Neal McCoy, Kip Moore, Carly Pearce, Drake White and the Big Fire and Chancey Williams & the Younger Brothers Band.
The marketplace, the National Finals Rodeo-sanctioned shopping spot, is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily from Thursday through Dec. 16. The exhibit halls are transformed into a massive mall of all things rodeo and Western. Beyond the expected clothing and accessories, the more unique offerings include wine racks fashioned from antlers and Bible covers made of cowhide.
There’s no admission charge.
The Cosmopolitan’s mixologist Mariena Mercer has concocted a ten-gallon hat’s worth of cocktails with cowboys in mind.
Acting Single, Drinking Double: Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel whiskey, ginger syrup and ginger beer.
Friends in Low Places: Jack Daniel’s honey whiskey, Giffard vanilla syrup, pineapple juice and lemon juice.
Southern Gentleman: Jack Daniel’s Gentleman Jack, Amaro Meletti liqueur and ancho chai-masala syrup.
Bourbon is the suggested adult beverage to pair with the Tomahawk steak at Hard Rock’s MB Steak. The Tomahawk, a 36-ounce cut intended for sharing, costs $99. The restaurant’s “rodeo flight” will include 1-ounce pours of three high-end bourbons. It’s priced at $29.