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