We’re just a week in and I’ve already gone to the rodeo four times. Overkill? Probably for anyone who isn’t me. Each time I’ve had a completely different experience. (Well, most have included wine and all have included the concert!) You can spend hours shopping or riding rides at the carnival. You could eat Tex-Mex, pizza, BBQ, fair fare — you name it! You could dance the night away at the Hideout or one of the Corral Clubs or watch one of the dozens of animal races or shows. Point is: A month of rodeo will never, ever seem like too much to me. How about you?
Here are some other blog posts we’ve written about the rodeo:
Where to go before/after the rodeo
Avoid these rodeo faux pas
First-time rodeo goer’s bucket list
On one of my four visits, I got to show the world (sorta) my favorite rodeo activities! I took over Visit Houston’s Instagram page, and shared some shots on their stories/profile! Because I don’t want Instagram to have all the fun, I’ve decided to blog about it all here.
Here are my absolute favorite things to do at RODEOHOUSTON. Comment below to tell me yours!
The World’s Greatest Petting Zoo and livestock area
“Welcome Everyone — from the young, to the young at heart.” Happy to be the latter there, thanks World’s Greatest Petting Zoo. The petting zoo, which is in NRG Center on the first floor (on the opposite side of the stadium), is free but costs $3 for feed (or $5 for two servings). Definitely opt for the feed. The goats, sheep and friends will not look twice at you should you not have food aplenty. Warning: The goats will jump all up on you. There’s a huge sign out front that says, “not responsible for any ruined clothing.” Noted.
I love looking at all the livestock too. These animals are huge and so beautiful! But you can’t touch them. Hence the petting zoo.
Probably my favorite place on earth, let alone the rodeo. There are about 80 wines to choose from ranging from $24 to $120 a bottle. This is the best wine in RODEOHOUSTON and at the best price, usually. A glass of cheap wine in NRG Stadium will run you $10+, but you can choose from PLENTY of bottles under $30. All these wines on the list were a part of the Rodeo Uncorked competition, so they all won at least a silver award (and the menu indicates what award each wine got). Gnarly Head (pictured), for instance, won gold and is just $24. And was quite delicious, I might add.
The garden is huge, and there are tons of tables — finding a seat is still hard though. Warning: there are private tents, so make sure you’re not trespassing. There’s also usually live music, so sit back, buy a bottle and stay a while. Just so you know, you can bring any food inside the garden, but the only food you can actually buy from the servers there are cheese and Charcuterie plates.
Ps. My tip is to buy the SECOND cheapest bottle. I do honestly feel that even the cheap bottles are better than what’s served elsewhere (I mean, they WON awards), so don’t feel weird about ordering from the cheaper side of the menu.
By the food
I always tell myself that I’m going to eat before I go to the rodeo to save some cash
for alcohol, but I always “forget.” The carnival food is not usually my thing, but there are so many great options. If you’re a rodeo newbie, your life will forever be changed if you buy and eat fried oreos. I think I forgot how scrumptious they actually are until last weekend. I also had a corndog, but I REALLY wanted corn. However, the corn stand, as are some other stands, was cash only. BRING CASH, Y’ALL. Carnival ticket booths are also cash only. It may be 2017, but the bank of RODEOHOUSTON is a little behind the times.
If not carnival food, then what? I’ll tell you what: any of the dozens of vendors in the three food tents that line the side of NRG Center. Here, you’ll find restaurants from Berryhill and Chipotle to Sudie’s Catfish House and Pappa’s Barbeque. My absolute favorite meals are BBQ baked potatoes and fish tacos.
Not gonna lie, the Carnival always seemed to me to be more trouble than it’s worth, but if you go on a weekend day several hours before the show, you’ll have no lines and all the rides to yourself. We went Sunday at 2-3 pm and we didn’t have to worry about lines or crowds at all. I feel like I barely did anything, though, so I think more rides are in my future. My favorite ride was (obviously) the ferris wheel. There are three to choose from. I did the Grand Wheel, which was $6 per person and took you around 5 times. I got to see all of the rodeo grounds in one breath-taking view.
Channeling my mother for a sec: These rides don’t really feel too safe, so take that info with a grain of salt. And then ignore it, if you’re me, and ride the ferris wheel on a windy day. There are no seatbelts, by the way. Just a loop you pull over yourself across your body. Seems legit.
NRG Stadium at the show
Like I said before, I’ve made it to every concert each visit I’ve made to the rodeo this year. For one hour (starting at 8:45 pm on weekdays and 5:45 on weekends), the performers rock and/or roll on a rotating stage with lights, cameras and firework action.
I do love the concerts, but the show itself is a favorite too. Each night, 8 or so cowboys and girls compete to win money and advance to the rodeo finals in Las Vegas. For my rodeo novices, let me break it down for you. Here’s all the parts of the rodeo and my v technical descriptions:
- Bareback riding: Dudes ride bucking horses for 8 seconds. Score reflects the ability to stay on the horse and style points.
- Tie-down roping: One guy on a horse bolts after a calf and ropes him. Rope must be around the neck, then the guy jumps off the horse and wrangles the calf’s feet together and ties ’em up. Fastest time wins. (This is really hard to watch bc the calves kind of snap back hard when the rope catches them. Watch the screen because they do a good job hiding that part.”
- Steer wrestling: Similar to tie-down roping, but the dude just drops off his horse to wrestle him — sans rope. These are big dudes and big steers. Best time wins.
- Team roping: Two guys roping a steer: First one gets the horns, then the second gets the feet. Best time wins.
- Saddle bronc: Basically the same as bareback riding, but with a saddle, obvi.
- Barrel racing: WOMEN thing. Cowgirls loop around three barrels without knocking them over. Fastest time wins (always a close one!)
- Bull riding: Like bareback riding and saddle bronc on STEROIDS bc this animal is HUGE.
Not for money/contest; just your entertainment.
- Wagon races: Two sets of races with three wagons competing. Pick one and cheer it on!
- Calf scramble: Bunch of future farmers humiliate themselves for scholarships. Teens vs. calves. Only so many calves, so half or so of the teens go home empty handed.
- Mutton Busting: 5- and 6-year-olds ride sheep for as long as they can while we all laugh and cheer for them. Honestly, the best thing ever. You’ll laugh, they’ll cry and they always say they practice on their dad.
Other tips I have
- Come prepared. Pack hand sanitizer if you plan on hanging out around the grounds (bc port-o-potties and touching tons of things). Also wear a crossbody purse and comfy shoes! I clocked in 12K steps on Sunday.
- Bring cash! Cash-only parking, some cash-only food places, cash-only tickets for the carnival. You get the picture. Bring at least $40, because $20 goes straight to parking.
- Parking and getting there: It’s a struggle. My favorite lot is the yellow lot. I’ve never seen it full and there’s a tram that takes you to the front. It’s $20. The MetroRail is easy, but there are no park and rides. Some people I know uber to downtown, maybe grab a bite or a drink, then rail to the rodeo. There are park and rides on busses, but the lines get long and it costs money to park anyways. Finally, there’s the uber and cabs that make it easy getting there but…
- Getting out: It’s a greater struggle. Ubering and cabs might be the riskiest way to get home. For cookoff, uber surge was at like $80 at one point. A cab ended up being $35. Getting out of the yellow lot after the concert will literally test all your patience. Then there’s the traffic on Kirby after that. OYE. Go to the restroom before you leave, take some deep breaths and play some good music bc you’ll be a while. Rail will be a pretty smooth exit, and maybe you’ll continue the party downtown. Meander through the carnival or head to the Hideout to kill some time while the traffic dies down.
- You don’t have to sit in your assigned seats, but you do have to be nice to when you’re asked to move. No shame in trying to get a closer view of the show down in the 100s, but if someone tells you to move, move. Gold badge members don’t have seats, so they fill in where there are open spots. You can do this too if you want. Just know once the concert starts, you have to show your tickets to get into a 100 section.
- Value Wednesday is a thing, and you need it in your life.
- The rodeo’s website is great for all other tips and schedules! rodeohouston.com