We’ve been going to the NFR for about 10 years. Every year it seems like we learn something new about something going on during the rodeo, even though we both spend a significant amount of time on the internet, and social media. However, we’ve learned a lot by talking to people, some trial and error, and we’d like to help you plan your trip to the NFR. It seems like every time we’re waiting for an NFR shuttle, there’s someone near us who is on their first trip to the NFR, and they generally have all kinds of questions. Should we take the bus? Is Cowboy Christmas worth it? What about the other Western Shopping Shows? What if you’re not staying at a hotel with a bus route? Where can we find good food that’s not at Strip prices?
For my first blog, lets talk about Cowboy Christmas. Last year was a huge year as Cowboy Christmas moved to the South Side of the convention center, and NFR experience started bus services from select hotels to the convention center. While moving to another side of the convention center may sound like just a logistical thing, it is ever so much more. Take it from the event planner I used to be. It was HUGE!
We stayed at the Mirage for our first 3 nights, because we love to watch the excitement of the NFR after party! We’re boomers (that’s a nice way of saying we’re in the 55+ generation) – so we rarely stay out till midnight, but it’s fun to watch people and the concert. We arrived on Wednesday evening, and decided to go to Cowboy Christmas as our first stop on Thursday morning. We knew where the rodeo shuttles left – so we got some coffee and went to the shuttle stop around 9:15am to try and be on the first bus to the Convention Center. Sure enough, there was a bus waiting, perfect timing.
Cowboy Christmas was bigger than I could’ve imagined. After attending Cowboy Christmas the past few years, I had some expectations about booths that I wanted to visit, so my first concern was to try and get the “lay of the land”. What I found was an exhibit hall that felt like it was a three miles long and a whole new layout from the Cowboy Christmas of the past few years. The Starbucks near the entry was doing great business before the doors opened so we got some caffeine and got ready to experience the “new” Cowboy Christmas. Here’s some tips for you as you experience Cowboy Christmas for the first time!
1) Wear shoes that support your feet. The first day we went, I was wearing my Ugg Boots which I love because they are so warm and comfortable. However, about an hour into our morning at Cowboy Christmas, my back was aching. We sat down for a little while, and I texted a friend and she said – what shoes do you have on? The next day I wore my Cowboy Boots, and had no more issues with back aches no matter how long we talked! Cowboy Boots, a great pair of tennis shoes, anything that is made for supporting your feet is what you need to walk on the cement floors and experience Cowboy Christmas. (There is carpet on top of the cement, but for the most part – the floor is hard.)
2) Cowboy Christmas is not something you can experience all at once or in just a few hours. We tend to go to Cowboy Christmas at least 2-3 times, and we’re planning on going more in 2016 because they’ve expanded the events happening in the arena. If you have only 3 hours, take your time and experience ¼ or 1/3 of the booths. Don’t “speed-read” through the booths – you’ll miss things. I know this because it’s happened to me. Only when I slowed down enough to look in every booth, and process that booths products did I actually start to appreciate the wide variety of vendors at Cowboy Christmas. I loved sitting in the truck cab in this pic, and I had no idea how really big some of the “outfits” are before I crawled in this truck. You want to have time to actually see all the interesting retail items, and you also want to have time in case one of your favorite rodeo athletes is signing autographs in a booth and has time to chat!
3) Don’t miss the stages and the “shows” that are happening throughout Cowboy Christmas. Find the schedule (either on NFRExperience.com or by the actual stage at Cowboy Christmas) and schedule around the shows you want to see! Flint Rasmussen does his “Outside the Barrel” show every day at noon, and he has great guests and a lot of “behind the scenes” knowledge that will enhance your enjoyment of the NFR – whether you are at the Thomas and Mack, or watching at one of the hotel viewing parties in Vegas! Shop for 2 hours, grab a beverage and a snack and watch one of the shows on the Rodeo Live stage, and then shop for another hour or two before you go back to your hotel to get ready for the rodeo!
4) Check the schedule of what’s happening at the Cowboy Christmas Arena. We happened on the youth bull riding event – and I’ve never seen anything so cute! I read somewhere that this year they are planning a Junior NFR. There’s lots of opinions out there about when kids should start their rodeo careers, but no matter what you believe, checking out this rodeo arena should be on your list.
5) Booth Numbers are there to help you! Don’t assume that only the booths in the front are worth visiting! There are great booths all the way to the back of the exhibit hall!! Just start at one end and start going up and down aisles. Make a note of where you are when you start getting worn out (or your arms are full of packages) – so you can start there when you come back. That’s why they put the aisle numbers there – so you can find things. Just look up – remember you were at row 2800 – and then you can start there next time. If I find something I may want – but I’m not sure if I “really” want it – I grab my phone, and take a pic of the booth number, and then I can just look back at my phone, and know the booth numbers I’d like to visit again.
6) It’s important to note — that this is one shopping trip that Mike doesn’t mind tagging along with me! This is not a shopping mall for women only! There is just so much to look at including trucks, trailers, clothing, the whole Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation show upstairs, plus the shows and adult beverages if you want one! If you’re tired and need a break, there are areas to sit (and food and beverage stations) — and there are TV’s playing the previous night’s NFR Performance!
Do these hints help? I hope so. Would love to hear your favorite part of Cowboy Christmas!