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Rodeo finals are coming to Las Vegas, and tickets are scarce. You can still attend rodeo-watching parties and barrel-racing contests — for free

Rodeo finals are coming to Las Vegas, and tickets are scarce. You can still attend rodeo-watching parties and barrel-racing contests — for free
It’s hands versus horns as Olin Hannum wrestles a steer during the 2017 National Finals Rodeo. Plenty of action will be found inside and outside the arena when cowboys ride into Las Vegas starting Dec. 6. (David Becker/Las Vegas News Bureau)

The National Finals Rodeo returns to Las Vegas in December in what is one of the city’s biggest attractions of the year, returning the sprawling desert oasis to its Wild West roots. The rodeo sells out every year, and this year is no exception. But here are events, some free, around Vegas where you can experience the rodeo vibe.

The finals are the season-ending championship event for the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Assn. that have been held annually since 1959. The rodeo has found a home at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas since 1985.

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Last year's hosts at the Orleans Hotel & Casino's live show were, from left, celebrity cowboy Dan Miller, world champion Don Gay, rodeo announcers Bob Tallman and Boyd Polhamus, and world champion Joe Beaver.
Last year's hosts at the Orleans Hotel & Casino's live show were, from left, celebrity cowboy Dan Miller, world champion Don Gay, rodeo announcers Bob Tallman and Boyd Polhamus, and world champion Joe Beaver. (Phillip Kitts / Boyd Gaming)

With tickets scarce, a great choice for catching the roping and wrangling on TV is the Orleans Hotel & Casino. A couple miles west of the Strip, the resort will provide a bounty of rodeo-related activities including free, family-friendly viewing parties starting each evening at 6:30 in the Hawthorne Room.

Also nightly, the Orleans will host National Finals Tonight, a live show featuring world champion rodeo stars Joe Beaver and Don Gay, along with cowboy celebrity Dan Miller.

The hosts and their guests will recap the night’s action during conversations each evening at 10:30. Plan to arrive early at the pop-up Honky Tonk Saloon (near Bailiwick All-American Pub & Eatery); admission is free, and the place gets packed.

Award-winning rodeo clown Justin Rumford will take the stage nightly at the Orleans Hotel & Casino for “Rump’s Rodeo Party,” a show that combines a rodeo viewing party with plenty of laughs.
Award-winning rodeo clown Justin Rumford will take the stage nightly at the Orleans Hotel & Casino for “Rump’s Rodeo Party,” a show that combines a rodeo viewing party with plenty of laughs. (Phillip Kitts / Boyd Gaming)

The saloon also is where professional rodeo clown Justin Rumford holds court nightly at 6. Rump’s Rodeo Party will blend a viewing party with humor and entertainment provided by Rumford and guests. Admission is free.

Info: The Orleans Hotel & Casino, 4500 W. Tropicana Ave., (800) 675-3267

Shawnna Payntier puts her horse through its paces during last year’s barrel racing competition at the Orleans Arena.
Shawnna Payntier puts her horse through its paces during last year’s barrel racing competition at the Orleans Arena. (Creedence Futtrell)

Inside the Orleans Arena next-door, the All In Barrel Race is scheduled to coincide with the rodeo events taking place on the other side of the 15 Freeway. Admission is free for the barrel racing action, which will be spread out over nine days.

The Core Arena in downtown Las Vegas will host rodeo competitors who want to practice their roping skills. The new arena will then become a year-round equestrian center.
The Core Arena in downtown Las Vegas will host rodeo competitors who want to practice their roping skills. The new arena will then become a year-round equestrian center. (Plaza Hotel & Casino)

National Finals Rodeo participants will polish their roping skills in the new Core Arena in downtown Las Vegas. The outdoor equestrian center opens Dec. 6 at the Plaza Hotel & Casino and will be a year-round venue.

Bulls from a Montana ranch will be transported to Las Vegas during the National Finals Rodeo so participants can practice.
Bulls from a Montana ranch will be transported to Las Vegas during the National Finals Rodeo so participants can practice. (Plaza Hotel & Casino)

During the rodeo, 200 horse stalls will be provided at the Core. Nearby, bulls from Copper Spring Ranch near Bozeman, Mont., will be penned as they await the chases.

Morning and afternoon team-roping practices will be held each day, but viewing is restricted to Plaza hotel guests.

Info: Core Arena, Plaza Hotel & Casino, 1 Main St., (800) 634-6575

Veteran country singer Ray Wylie Hubbard will be among nine headliners performing at Golden Nugget in downtown Las Vegas during National Finals Rodeo.
Veteran country singer Ray Wylie Hubbard will be among nine headliners performing at Golden Nugget in downtown Las Vegas during National Finals Rodeo. (Golden Nugget)

Country music fans can get their fix a couple of blocks away, along Fremont Street at the Golden Nugget. Nine acts will perform various nights between Dec. 6 and 14, including Ray Wylie Hubbard (Dec. 9), a longtime entertainer making his Las Vegas debut; Lonestar (Dec. 12); John Michael Montgomery (Dec. 8); and Tanya Tucker (Dec. 7). The shows begin at 10 p.m., following that evening’s live rodeo action. Tickets start at $49.

Info: Golden Nugget, 129 Fremont St., (702) 385-7111

Known as the “cowboy comedian,” Chad Prather will bring his homespun humor to Treasure Island for a Dec. 7 show.
Known as the “cowboy comedian,” Chad Prather will bring his homespun humor to Treasure Island for a Dec. 7 show. (CP Productions)

Cowboy comic Chad Prather will perform a single night of stand-up Dec. 7 at Treasure Island. Best known for his rants from the front seat of his pickup, Prather will take the stage at 10 p.m. Tickets from $35.95.

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Info: Treasure Island, 3300 S. Las Vegas Blvd., (800) 944-7444

Keri Sheffield of Florida takes her first walk after being crowned Miss Rodeo America 2018 during the December 2017 pageant at The Tropicana.
Keri Sheffield of Florida takes her first walk after being crowned Miss Rodeo America 2018 during the December 2017 pageant at The Tropicana. (The Tropicana)

More than 30 Miss Rodeo America contestants will take the stage at the Tropicana from Dec. 2-9, when a new winner is crowned. The competition, now in its 64th year, judges contestants on horsemanship, among other skills.

Ticket prices vary by event and may be purchased online until Friday.

Info: Tropicana Casino-Hotel, 3801 S. Las Vegas Blvd., (702) 739-3626

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