How I Survived the NFR and Las Vegas


Going to the National Final Rodeo (NFR) sponsored by Wrangler was on our bucket list for years. My husband and I wanted to go but it always seemed out of reach. This year was different. During mid-summer and on a whim, we decided to go and began to plan.

I searched for the best hotel and ticket deals online. After much agonizing, I booked the hotel with the help of a friend’s discount, with our Alaska Air deal booked a flight, and Googled rodeo tickets. When I saw the prices I slammed my laptop lid closed and nearly cried. No way could the rodeo tickets cost more than everything else!

A couple days later, I got back on, browsed a bit, and clicked a buy button. We were on our way.


December 2nd came and we were on the plane, headed for the National Finals Rodeo and Las Vegas. Tall casinos, Hard Rock Café, The Bellagio fountain show, warmer weather than Northeast Washington. I could hardly stand it.

Day one. We arrive Friday afternoon and it was cold. Scarf and gloves cold. I checked my ticket to make sure we were in Nevada. My husband hailed a cab and we made our way to the Marriot. After checking in, we had a quick dinner on the strip before the rodeo––Chili’s has the best Margarita chicken!

With food in our bellies, it was rodeo time. We hustled back to the hotel room, dodging irritating promotional people, and I changed into my fancy cowgirl boots. The Thomas and Mack Center at UNLV was a forty minute and with the frigid weather, we decided to take a cab.


The rodeo was simply amazing as the crowd was respectful and as my husband stated, “They moved things right along.” One of the highlights was to watch Shane Proctor win bull riding. He’s from our area and one of our sons helps at his clinic for youth every year.

Our initial plan was to take a cab back to the hotel, but with huge lines we decided to hoof it. We are both active and knew the walk would be simple and pleasurable. Halfway through, I was thankful I’d packed gloves and a heavy scarf. By the time we arrived back at the hotel, my face and ears were iced over and my feet were killing me. Again, I checked our tickets to make sure we were in the right state.

Day Two. We walked the strip, watched the Bellagio fountain show, and took in Cowboy Christmas. When it was time to walk to the rodeo, my left heel throbbed. I pulled up my big girl panties and boots and anything else I thought qualified as “big girl” and took that first painful step. I was tired of getting nickel and dimed in this over-sized town and it was my idea when I book the room we could walk. The weather was gorgeous that Saturday and I was bound and determined to enjoy it. I remembered feeling like a colt’s first few spring rides at the start of the vacation and by day three, I felt like I was rode hard and put away wet with all the walking we did.


Overall, we had a splendid time. I did come up with a handful of dos and don’ts I’ll gladly share with you:


  • Walk the strip and gaze at the architecture. It’s stunning.
  • Go see Caesars Palace and other casinos. We don’t gamble but had a great time gawking, seeing everything we’d watched in the movies.
  • Take in the fountain show at the Bellagio Casino and Hotel which starts at noon.
  • The NFR is a must!
  • Stop and listen to the street musicians.
  • Take in Cowboy Christmas at the Las Vegas Convention Center.
  • Eat at the Hard Rock Café. The Mango drinks and barbecue chicken are fabulous.



  • Look people in the eye who promote any and everything on the streets. They’ll try and suck you in––hook, line, and sinker.
  • Keep walking when people try and hand you info or cards.
  • Wear comfortable shoes/boots, NOT pretty ones.
  • Check for the best deals before you go.
  • Always take taxis or shuttles. Walk as much as you can, even if you rent a car.
  • Set aside two hours for Cowboy Christmas because it will take you two days.
  • Leave the house without telling your bank you are headed for Nevada. And tack on California and Arizona and maybe New Mexico for the vendors at Cowboy Christmas. Your credit card will be denied, as ours was, and you’ll have to have them hold your purchases while you call the bank, like I did.


If you have attended the WFNR in Las Vegas, NV, please share how you traveled, your favorite hotels and restaurants, tips for planning your trip, and the best packages you have found. How did you get your NFR tickets, through hotels or third-party vendor?  

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  1. Loved reading this, Carmen. I, too, dislike Las Vegas, but now feel as if I walked along with you–and Shanna too!

  2. Fantastic blog! Thanks for sharing that useful information. WFNR Las Vegas is also on my bucket list. Maybe someday…

    1. carmenpeone says:

      It worth checking off that bucket list. Thank you for stopping by!

  3. Wow! It sounds like a lot of excitement, Carmen.

    Is “Cowboy Christmas” a show or a sales venue?

    1. carmenpeone says:

      Darlene, Cowboy Christmas is a bunch of vendors both huge like Wrangler to small shops. They do have good deals.

  4. Gayle Gresham says:

    We went in 1995 and stayed at the Tropicana (is it still there?) We bought a package through a travel agent. Ready to go back again, hopefully to watch our daughter-in-law’s sister in the barrel racing!

    1. carmenpeone says:

      Gayle, I think it is still there. It sounds familiar. Thank you for sharing!

  5. Taking notes, ladies. Hopefully will make it next year (despite totally hating Las Vegas, I have to add, but this is worth it!)

    1. carmenpeone says:

      The rodeo is worth it, Andy. And so is Cowboy Christmas. Shanna’s comments make me now want to go back and see more!

    1. carmenpeone says:

      Paty, it is well worth attending!

  6. So glad you got to go, Carmen! We absolutely love attending the NFR and look forward to it each year.
    I’d add on things to see: the Bellagio Conservatory – it’s beautiful during the holidays and free! Also, the holiday decorations at the Venetian are spectacular.
    Definitely wear comfy shoes. Take the tram from Bellagio down to Mandalay Bay for the Roper Christmas show and more vendor fun.
    Rodeo tickets are expensive and we buy them from the official resale website. This year we found another rodeo to attend during the afternoons (Cinch Chute-Out at the Orleans Arena). The tickets prices were very reasonable and the athletes competing were top-notch (even got to watch Fred Whitfield win!).

    1. carmenpeone says:

      Shanna, Thank you for all the add-ons. I had no idea I could do those things. Next time! What would your hotel recommendations be? How did you fin the Cinch Chute-Out? Local paper? From a friend?

      1. Hi Carmen!
        We always stay at either the Vdara or The Platinum because both are smoke-free properties and there aren’t casinos in the hotels either, which makes them quiet! The first thing we usually do when we get into town is pick up all the free “things to do” guides. Also, sign up for emails from the NFR – they’ll let you know about fun stuff going on, too. One of those emails is how I first heard about the Chute-Out.
        I forgot to mention that the tram is free. 🙂 They also have free shuttles from the big hotels to the Cowboy Christmas show. There are also a few places in town to find Cowboy Church on Sunday mornings.

        1. carmenpeone says:

          Thank you, Shanna. This is valuable information and I hope it helps someone get there quicker.

  7. What a great blog, Carmen. I’m so glad you “bit the bullet and went.” Although Las Vegas isn’t one of my favorite places, there are some neat things to do. I had several occasions to go there with the Red Cross–our staffing headquarters are there. I also went there for a couple of disasters. Surprisingly, sometimes their hard rains actually rearrange the sandy soil, along with homes….

    1. carmenpeone says:

      Mary, I’m glad I went too! My better half wants to go back for the college tournaments…we’ll see. I much rather go again for the rodeo, catch that one night and do other fun things the other night. And perhaps stay one more night. My dad grew up in Nevada, those rains can be brutel. Thank you for sharing about your time in Vegas and bless you for your work with the Red Cross. Tubob made such an impression on me.