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The NFR Experience

By

The NFR Experience

The logo for the 2012 National Finals Rodeo.

Image © Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association
Every December, the top rodeo competitors in the world descend on the city of Las Vegas for 10 days of bulls, broncs and bling. The National Finals Rodeo is the focal point of Sin City for the first half of December, with cowboys, cowgirls and excited fans packing the Thomas and Mack Center. The NFR is one of the largest events hosted in Las Vegas, adding a host of new events to experience in one of the most exciting cities in the world.

The Tickets

The National Finals Rodeo may not happen until December, but tickets sell out months in advance. Every performance for the last 23 years, 230 individual rounds, have sold out well before the stadium gates open. The best way to get tickets is to sign up for the ticket lottery drawing. The lottery is held via mail, and compiles requests from people around the world. Tickets are then awarded to random recipients entered in the lottery, and tickets are sent through the mail. Out of more than a million yearly requests, a mere 40,000 are sent out due to the Thomas and Mack Center's small size. If you're not lucky enough to score a lottery ticket, try purchasing a "Mad Dash" pass. The "Mad Dash" pass allows fans to sit in any unclaimed balcony seat within the first 30 minutes of the rodeo. If the original owner shows up, you have to move to another open seat. If they never show up, the seat is yours for the evening.

Where to Stay

Las Vegas has hundreds of hotels to choose from, but staying at the right hotel greatly increases your chances of seeing your favorite cowboys and cowgirls outside of the arena. The Mandalay Bay, for example, is the official host hotel for the 2012 National Finals Rodeo, and offers rates as low as $60 for the duration of the NFR. Other hotels on and off the strip offer single night and package deals, but you need to book as early as possible to guarantee an affordable room. Many hotels also offer rodeo-themed events and specials during the National Finals Rodeo, and a number offer live simulcast of each nightly round if you're unable to find tickets for a particular round. One thing many travelers fail to keep in mind, and are ultimately disappointed with, are the long lines in popular hotels. While you may get to see your favorite performers up close and personal, a packed hotel equals longer lines and larger crowds.

Outside the Arena

While the focal point of the National Finals Rodeo happens in the arena, there are a host of other activities for rodeo enthusiasts to enjoy. Vendors are a large part of the NFR experience, and many set up shop in the Thomas and Mack Center for spectators to enjoy between events. Check your hotel, and those nearby, for free or cheap concerts and shows during the NFR. Artists take advantage of the large crowds, connecting with thousands of people and sharing their acts with happy, enthusiastic fans. The Fremont Street Experience goes country for the National Finals, putting on a free, country-infused light show. Many cowboys and cowgirls sign autographs at their host hotels, and will pose for pictures with their fans. If you're a foodie, be sure to pick up a current Las Vegas diners guide when you check in. These pocket-sized books detail the tastiest and most popular restaurants all over town, many of which offer cowboy-themed meals in honor of the festivities. When in doubt, ask the customer service desk or consierge at your hotel; they have the most up-to-date information on all the happenings during your once-in-a-lifetime National Finals Rodeo experience.

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