The Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo(HLSR) is one of my absolute favorite things about living Houston and one of the best run events I have been to in the world.
On my first visit here I was struggling to make a connection with the city I was about to move to and was lucky enough to be invited along to the Rodeo one night. I had done a bit of research before arriving and discovered that this was no low-key event!
The HLSR is the largest Rodeo in the world, attracting over 2.5 million visitors a year and involving some 26,000 volunteers. It runs everyday & night for 3 weeks and comprises real life cowboys & cowgirls competing in world class Rodeo events, swiftly followed by a world class concert where you can see anyone from KISS to Keith Urban perform in front of a 70,000+ crowd.
This was the taste of Texas and USA I was looking for and I hadn’t even found the famous Longhorns in the Livestock Center!! I did however stumble upon The Hideout after things had finished up in the stadium and after ordering a jack n coke and watching the local cowboys two-step in a real life hoedown, you couldn’t wipe the smile from my face. This is one fabulous event.
The 2013 HLSR kicks off this weekend and I am still planning my schedule but these days I especially love taking out of town visitors and seeing the smiles and the amazement on their faces of being in one of the world’s biggest metropolises where horses and cows are paraded through the city and cowboys are as impressive on the dancefloor as they are on a 2,700 lb bull.
What: The HLSR features championship rodeo action, livestock competitions, concerts, a carnival, pig racing, barbecue, International Wine Competition, shopping, sales and livestock auctions. The HLSR was first organized in 1931 “for charitable, educational and scientific purposes to encourage and promote the breeding, raising and marketing of better livestock and farm products at public fairs and to promote and maintain research and educational functions within the livestock industry”. To this day the majority of the proceeds go toward student education in the agriculture and livestock industry.
There are also many Rodeo lead up events from early February that have become very popular including the famous World’s Championship Bar-B-Que Contest.
When: Usually the first 3 weeks of March, in 2013 it runs Mon Feb 25th – Sun Mar 17th. Grounds open weekdays at 9am, with the Rodeo on ion the stadium at 6.45pm and the concert approx. 8.30pm-9.45pm. On weekends the grounds open at 9am, the Rodeo kicks off earlier at 3.45pm and the concert 5.30pm-6.45pm.
ZZ Top in 2012
How: One day, three days or Everyday!! most people decide when to go based on the concert performer that night. Here is the 2013 Concert schedule.
The Livestock Show is best seen during the day when exhibitions and competitions are on. Weekends are very popular with kids and families so try getting there a weekday if you can or get there early.
There is so much to see and do everyday and the Daily Schedule link makes planning your day easier.
Tickets: You can buy individual tickets or season tickets via the official Rodeo Houston website, however many of the tickets are taken up by HLSR members or season ticket holders and are resold on ticket sites such as Stubhub for slightly inflated prices. Tickets range from Lower, Middle and Upper Levels for the best value but if you want to get right amongst the dirt and action splash out on one of the Chute or Action seats right down the front. See my preferred place to watch under Rodeo & Concert info. Reliant Stadium seating map.
Transport: If you don’t have a seat that gets you into one of the private parking lots, there is plenty of public parking – if you’re happy to fight Houston traffic! However, the light rail is a great option from Downtown or by leaving your car at Hermann Park or the Museum District. Taxis are also the way to go so you can enjoy a few drinks at the Champion Wine Garden and The Hideout after the Rodeo.
What Else!: The massive Carnival outside the stadium with every ride you can imagine runs late into the night and there is plenty of Southern style food and BBQ to keep you satisfied. The Champion Wine Garden is a great addition too to gear up before or unwind after the Rodeo action inside the stadium. And have I mentioned The Hideout yet…?! I love it and more on that below.
The Rodeo & Concert:
The main Rodeo events take place every evening in the huge Reliant Stadium. Be sure to be seated on time as once the first event kicks off they go through very quickly. Events alternate at either end of the stadium. At one end(south) is the Timed events including Tie-down roping, Team roping and Steer wrestling. The other end (north) showcases the Rough Stock events such as Bareback riding, Saddle Bronc riding, Bull riding and Women’s Barrel racing. This is my preferred end to view the action from, including seats up towards the center of the stadium where you get a better view of the concert. Rodeo 101 & Scoring Information.
Two of the most popular events on the night showcase the kids strutting their stuff.
Mutton Bustin’, is everyone’s favourite where 5 and 6-year-olds ride on top of a sheep for 8 seconds. The reactions and interviews of the kids are priceless. If your kid fancies themselves they can sign up outside in Kids Country where they run Mutton Bustin during the day.
The Calf Scramble is my favorite event featuring 14 calves and 28 students who must try to capture one of the calves, put a harness on it and bring it back into the “winners square” in order to claim the win. This is as hard as it looks!
Livestock & Horse Show:
Located in Reliant Center, adjacent to the stadium, the world’s largest livestock show highlights world-class livestock and exhibitors in two show arenas. Check out Champions Row in Reliant Center to see the best of the best – with all Grand and Reserve Grand Champions from the junior market shows on display. Also look for the newborn livestock that are bred to delivered this time of year, get your picture taken atop of a Longhorn and get your Rodeo outfit sorted at one of the hundreds of shopping outlets. 2013 Livestock Schedule.
The Horse Show takes place at Reliant Arena, in the south east corner of the grounds. It is one of the most prestigious horse shows in the world and holds many varying horse competitions over the 3 weeks.
The Hideout, located on the east side of the famous Reliant Astrodome has to be on your schedule after things finish up inside the stadium. Look for the big white tent with live music pumping out of it from talented local Texan musicians. This place is the real deal so order a drink and watch some amazing dancing and have a spin yourself. It’s the best place to try it! Open 6pm-12/1am. Admission included with your Rodeo ticket. Hideout 2013 Concert Schedule.
HLSR Lead Up Events:
Some of the other major events during the HLSR lead-up in February to consider getting to include:
World’s Championship Bar-B-Que Contest: Thursday Feb 21st – Saturday Feb 23rd This is one event you have to experience whilst in Houston. The World’s Championship Bar-B-Que Contest, also known as “The Cookoff,” started in 1974 and for 3 days, 350 teams and 250,000 people cook, eat and sleep famous Texas BBQ. This is a series comp too with winners announced on the Saturday evening. An invite into a cook-off tent is considered a “Hot Ticket,” as most are for members or by invitation only. Whilst the event is open to the general public for $10, those that get there way into the tents are spoilt with unlimited world class BBQ food and an open bar. So get your feelers out and try to get in a cook-off team tent – it is the biggest party you will ever go to!!!
Go Texan Day: Friday Feb 22nd The Friday before the Rodeo Parade is also known as “Go Texan Day,” where the business population of Houston is encouraged to dress in Western attire, such as jeans, cowboy boots and cowboy hats.
Salt Grass Trail Ride: Friday Feb 22nd Traditional trail rides, which start in different areas of Texas and end in Houston have been going since 1952. The Trail Rides are a long tradition with the rodeo and gather at Memorial Park to camp for a rest and party before the big Annual Rodeo Parade through Downtown Houston the next day. The longest ride comes from Hidalgo, Texas, some 386 miles away on the Mexico border and head off on Feb 3rd.
Rodeo Parade: Saturday Feb 23rd The first Rodeo Parade was headed by Mounted Police and various dignitaries on the city, county, and state levels, who also rode horseback. Decorative floats and thousands of men and women on horseback juxtapose Downtown’s skyscrapers and freeways, filling the streets with hoof beats and marching bands. A must do event! See the tips for best places to watch and times here.
ConocoPhillips Rodeo Run: Saturday Feb 23rd Each year, the ConocoPhillips Rodeo Run helps kick off the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo with a 10K race and 5K fun run/walk, cowboy boots optional. There are winner for best costumes. Check here for race times.
So what’s your favourite thing about the Rodeo? Please add any tips on how to get the best out of Rodeo time in Houston below.