Rodeo rides into town

Vegas goes country for 10 days every December as the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo hits the Thomas & Mack Center. This year’s rodeo runs Dec. 1 – 10 and will feature the best in roping, bull riding, barrel racing and more.

Don’t worry if you can’t get a ticket  – dozens of hotels around town will show live satellite feeds and there are parties, concerts, special events, dining specials and more to keep everyone entertained all week long.

Craig Morgan

Craig Morgan

Special Events

The party kicks off Nov. 30 with the 25th Annual Downtown Hoedown celebration on the Fremont Street Experience beginning at 6 p.m. Catch free performances from hot country acts including Hunter Hayes, Glen Templeton, Lee Brice, Craig Morgan, Exile, Lo Cash Cowboys and more.

The Cowboy Christmas Gift Show, the longest running gift show of the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, invades the Las Vegas Convention Center North Hall with more than 300,000 square feet of show floor and 400 vendors from across the United States and Canada. Products for sale include customized jewelry, Western wear, boots and spurs, furniture, original art, handmade crafts and pottery, as well as Official Wrangler NFR and PRCA merchandise. There is free shuttle service from the Cowboy Christmas Gift Show directly to the Thomas & Mack Center for each night’s rodeo. The show runs from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily and admission is free.

Mandalay Bay Hotel hosts the Cowboy Marketplace Gift Show Dec. 1 – 11 from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. daily.

Rodeo fans can meet all of their favorite ropers and riders during free autograph sessions at various hotels around town. All autograph sessions are free and run from noon – 2 p.m.  The Excalibur hosts the barrel riders Dec. 2; Aria has the saddle bronc riders Dec. 3; the Golden Nugget has the team ropers Dec. 5; Treasure Island hosts the bull riders Dec. 6; the steer wrestlers are at the Palms Dec. 7; Monte Carlo hosts bareback riders Dec. 8; and the Mirage has the tie-down ropers Dec. 9.

The girls of “Fantasy” at the Luxor will do a special 2012 Ultimate FANTASY calendar signing in The Rotunda at Excalibur Hotel and Casino on Saturday, Dec. 3 and Tuesday, Dec.6, from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. each day. The ladies will get in the rodeo spirit dressed in their cowgirl number outfits to sign their calendar. 

For the fourth consecutive year MGM Grand is “Home of the Champions” as the resort hosts more than 25 cowboys throughout the 10 days of competition.  The resort will offer guests the opportunity to watch the telecast live each night inside the 740-seat Hollywood Theatre.  MGM Grand is also hosting shopping inside its Marquee Ballroom.  The 90,000-square-foot ballroom will feature more than 60 of the most popular rodeo brands including Wrangler, Cinch, Roper, Ariat, Justin, Resistol, Stetson, Tony Lama, Circle Y Saddles, Classic and Cactus, among others.  Also on-site will be tack equipment, rope making displays and fashion shows.

Throughout the 10-day event, fans can visit the “Crown Royal Gold Buckle Zone” located at Centrifuge, the MGM’s entertainment bar featuring live music, dancing, shows, drink specials and drawings. All-Around World Champion Trevor Brazile’s Championship Gold Buckles and Saddles will be on display. 

A nightly live viewing party of the WNFR, hosted by trick roper Anthony Lucia, will be held inside the House of Blues Music Hall at Mandalay Bay.  Lucia will offer commentary throughout the evening’s performance while promoting drink specials provided by Bud Light and Jack Daniel’s.

Live complimentary entertainment will be available nightly inside the Mizuya Lounge at Mandalay Bay (Jack Daniel’s Lounge).  Ricky and the Redstreaks, long-time favorite of the western crowd, will perform nightly at 11 p.m.  Drink specials will be offered by Bud Light and Jack Daniel’s. 

The 6th Annual “Rodeo Vegas” event inside The Mirage Race & Sports Book will include nightly live broadcasts of all of the Wrangler NFR action as well as prize drawings and giveaways from Bud Light, Crown Royal and Wrangler, among others, throughout the broadcasts.  

 On Saturday, Dec. 10, The Mirage will host “The Official 10th Night PRCA World Champions Awards Show” and 10th Night After-Party.  The evening’s festivities, highlighted by a presentation of awards to the 2011 PRCA World Champions and recognition of all WNFR contestants, will include a red carpet arrival for all participants, a live performance by Frankie Ballard, exclusive prize giveaways, celebrity appearances and more. 

 The Pub at Monte Carlo will entertain fans with line-dancing lessons throughout the 10 days of WNFR performances.  Lessons will take place from 5:45-6:45 p.m., nightly with the exception of Sunday, Dec. 4 which will be held from 3-4 p.m.  The Pub will offer guests a happy hour from 3-6 p.m. Monday-Friday featuring $1 wings and sliders, 2-for-1 select domestic drafts and well drinks, as well as a Bud Light and a shot of Jack Daniel’s for $5.  An all-you-can-eat BBQ menu will be offered for $15.95.

Round-trip complimentary shuttle service from Monte Carlo to each WNFR performance will be provided to all rodeo fans. 

Excalibur and Circus Circus will both join in the 2011 Wrangler NFR action with nightly live broadcasts at the two resorts’ Race & Sports Books as well as inside select bars and lounges.  The Steakhouse at Circus Circus will offer early dining specials from 4-6 p.m. while The Garden Grill provides guests with a Prime Rib or BBQ Ribs all-you-can-eat menu for $15.99.

The Lounge at Excalibur along with Rock & Rita’s at Circus Circus will host nightly entertainment beginning at 9 p.m. with a variety of country music bands.  Crown Royal, Jack Daniel’s and Coors/Coors Light drink specials will be available at many of the bars and lounges at both Excalibur and Circus Circus throughout the 10 days of rodeo action.

The Gold Coast will host World Champion Bull Rider Gary Leffew’s Legendary Buck’n Ball. This free nightly rodeo after party will be held in the Arizona Ballroom at the Gold Coast, featuring live music by Members of George Strait’s Ace in the Hole Band, as well as local favorite Scotty Alexander; dancing; a mechanical bull; and drink specials for attendees. Doors open nightly immediately following the NFR performance.


Las Vegas turns into a who’s who of country music every year during the NFR. Dozens of the hottest acts in country bring their shows to town every December.

Bill Engvall brings his “Blue Collar Comedy” to Treasure Island Dec. 1, 8 -9. Tickets are $49.65 and up.

Ron White, another “Blue Collar Comedy” veteran, performs at the Mirage Dec. 2 – 3, 9 – 10. Tickets are priced from $84.49.

Popular singer Clint Black performs at the Golden Nugget Dec. 2 -3. Tickets are priced from $90.85.

Jake Owen performs at Green Valley Ranch Dec. 2. Tickets start at $44.95.

Brantley Gilbert performs at the Silverton Dec. 2 – 3. Tickets are $25.

LeAnn Rimes sings her dozens of hits at the Santa Fe Station Dec. 3.

B.J. Thomas sings Dec. 3 at Boulder Station. Tickets are priced from $20.

Pistol Annies (Miranda Lambert, Ashley Monroe and Angalenna Pressley perform Dec. 3 at House of Blues. Tickets are$27.50 and up.

Garth Brooks

Garth Brooks

Country superstar Garth Brooks brings his intimate stage show to Encore Dec. 2 -3. Tickets cost $247.50 and up.

Lee Ann Womack sings her country hits at the Orleans Dec. 2 -4. Tickets are priced from $33.

Travis Tritt brings his soulful country songs to the Golden Nugget Dec. 4 – 5. Tickets are priced from $68.85.

Country comedian Rodney Carrington performs his stand-up and hilarious songs at the MGM Grand Dec. 4 – 10. Tickets are $97.49 and up.

Country star Clay Walker sings his hits at the Golden Nugget Dec. 6. Tickets are $57.85 and up.

Tanya Tucker performs more than 30 years worth of hits at the Golden Nugget Dec. 7. Tickets are $46.85 and up.

Dwight Yoakam brings his mix of rock, honky-tonk and country to the Las Vegas Hilton Dec. 6 – 7. Tickets are $70.85 and up.

Chris Young performs at House of Blues Dec. 6 – 8. Tickets are $15.

The legendary Merle Haggard comes to the Golden Nugget Dec.  8 – 9. Tickets are $90.85 and up.

The Charlie Daniels Band plays at the Orleans Dec. 9 -10. Tickets are priced from $33.

Gary Allan performs at House of Blues Dec. 9 – 10. Tickets are $44 and up.

Nashville Unplugged takes over Green Valley Ranch Dec. 9. Admission is $5 and you’ll hear the stories behind the music from the songwriters themselves.

Joe Nichols wraps things up Dec. 9 at Santa Fe Station. Tickets are $40.85 and up.


Rockhouse Bar & Nightclub is throwing a 10-day party for NFR. From Thursday, Dec. 1, through Saturday, Dec. 10, a ticket stub will not only get cowboys and girls some rowdy fun, but also complimentary entry and $5 shots. Patrons will enjoy Bull Rider shots, a concoction of Jack Daniels and Red Bull, available for $5 all week. Jack Daniels’ sexy ladies will be on hand throughout the days to serve shots. Also, viewing parties will be shown on 28 high-definition television screens throughout the bar and patio.

Gilley’s Saloon and Dance Hall at Treasure Island, one of the hottest country bars in town, will be packed during the NFR. Grab some great barbecue for dinner and then burn it off on the dance floor or take a spin on the mechanical bull.

The mechanical bull at Stoney's.

The mechanical bull at Stoney's.

Stoney’s Rockin’ Country near the South Point Hotel, boasts a giant dance floor for two-stepping and line dancing action. There’s also a mechanical bull if you’re inspired by watching the rodeo.

If you’re in the northwest part of town, stop into Revolver at the Santa Fe Station for some dancing, drinking and mechanical bull riding fun.

Dylan’s Dance Hall on Boulder Highway is another favorite with the country crowd. The dance floor is packed nightly.

Studio 54 at the MGM Grand turns into “Saloon 54” for NFR.  Cowboys are invited to belly up to the bar for beer specials or challenge fellow partiers to a shootout in pool, air hockey, foosball or beer pong. Country favorite DJ Du (Duhamel Cassell) will begin the party nightly, keeping the crowd pumped for DJ Silver. Known for his unique brand of party rock, country-style music, DJ Silver has toured with Nashville legends Jason Aldean, Eric Church and Rascal Flatts. The finale for the 10-day celebration, Saturday, Dec. 10, will feature a special performance by Eli Young Band. 


PBR Rock Bar & Grill is the ultimate spot on the Strip for National Finals Rodeo fans to indulge in American-style comfort food like ribs and brisket, ride the hydraulic mechanical bull, and more from Friday, Dec. 2, until Sunday, Dec. 11. Guests can receive 10 percent off their entire dining bill by presenting their NFR ticket stub.

Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar & Grill at Harrah’s serves up country-style American food, country tunes and live bands. You never know when you might spot the man himself at the bar, so keep your eyes open.

Cabo Wabo Cantina in Miracle Mile Shops at Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino will be offering buck wild discounts for all NFR fans. Sammy Hagar’s Mexican cantina will go a little country from Thursday, Dec. 1 through Saturday, Dec. 10 by offering rodeo inspired deals.

Rodeo fans who visit Cabo Wabo Cantina in the Miracle Mile Shops at Planet Hollywood will receive 10 percent off their meal when they present their NFR ticket stub Dec. 1 – 10.

For all the cowboys who want a nice big juicy steak, Vegas has dozens of great steakhouses to enjoy. Try 35 Steak & Martinis at the Hard Rock Hotel, STK at The Cosmopolitan, Delmonico’s at the Venetian, Smith & Wollensky on the Strip or Gallagher’s inside New York – New York.


It’s not that warm in Minnesota. I know this from spending half my life freezing in the northern part of the state. So 20 years ago, I decided to thaw out and traded in scarves and mittens for tank tops and flip-flops (Take that, polar vortex!). I swapped snow for 300 days of sun a year. I may not have been born here, but there are hotels that haven’t lasted in Vegas as long as I have. The Sands, Hacienda, Aladdin, Desert Inn and the Stardust too. I've been to my fair share of implosion parties. (Yeah, that’s a thing.) As a writer for, I've applauded hundreds of shows, explored every major hotel in town and raised a few glasses at most of the city's bars and clubs. Now I'm the resident foodie here. I write about all things dining — from $3.99 shrimp cocktail at the Golden Gate to the finest sushi at Nobu, and everything in between.