FYI: This post has been updated with 2020 details!
If you’re a Houstonian, forget Christmas, THIS is the most wonderful time of the year! Rodeo Houston is kicking off with the cook off Feb. 27-29!
New to town? Cook off is one huge party, and Houston companies/cook off teams all buy tents — big ones, little ones, it’s a mix. The tents are all private, so you’ll need a wristband to get into those, but there’s great food and drinks and music that’s open to the public to celebrate the launch of rodeo season.
PSA: Even if you have a wristband, tickets to get in are $20. Committee members can get in with a +1 for free, just like the regular rodeo.
Here’s everything you will need to know before you go!
1. You don’t need wristbands, but you’ll want them. It can be tough to get into a good tent, but you gotta just network leading up to the weekend. Radio stations do giveaways, friends will ask who’s free, etc. And, if all else fails, you can definitely have a good time in the common areas and just buy your own drinks and food. Just like the regular rodeo, everyone needs to pay to get on to the rodeo grounds — unless you’re a committee member. $15 a night or $35 for the weekend. More deets here.
2. Bring your dancing shoes. Some tents are a party, with live music and a dance floor. Dress accordingly.
3. Do not fear the jello shot from a stranger. In any other circumstance, I’d say pass on the jello shot from the middle-aged man in the “Kiss the Cook” apron, but at cook off, I’d say it’s pretty standard practice.
4. Bring hand sanitizer and some tissues, ladies. My biggest fear is alive and well at cook off: Port-o-potties. Prepare yourself mentally and physically for the evening.
5. Parking sucks as bad as the rodeo. In theory, cook off has fewer people than a big show at the Rodeo, but, since the setup is IN the NRG Center parking lot taking up all the parking spaces that could have been, I highly recommend Uber/Lyft. Plus, it should be easier to catch a ride home since not everyone will be leaving at the exact same time. There’s also the MetroRail!
6. Keep your friends close. Not sure why, but one year I had AWFUL service. Don’t lose your loved ones!
7. Look down. OK, this probably shouldn’t be advertised, but, let’s just say “a friend of mine” found tickets to a really cool tent on the ground and she may or may not have used them to get in, despite them looking like wet garbage. You guessed it, the friend is me, and I have no regrets.
8. Pace yourselves. Every tent has free food and drinks, and if you’re trying to hit up a few spots, you will need to pace yourself! Don’t guzzle beer and make small plates! Plus, by the way, there are cops everywhere… don’t get arrested.
9. Network. This whole cook off thing is full of business men and women from all different industries. You’ll be surprised who you’ll meet — you might be in line at the bar with a CEO or at least an SVP of a company you wanna work with/at.
10. Play eye-spy with It’s Not Houzies. Last year, I practically through these babies out into crowds. (Kidding). But seriously, if you see someone out there with blonde hair and an It’s Not Hou koozie, it’s probably one of us. Come say hi!
Need an after party? The carnival is open, and we also have some fun recommendations here.