The Houston Livestock and Rodeo Show is more than a little bull riding and prized pigs. It’s a nearly month-long event with back-to-back headlining concerts, a full-on carnival, and rodeo competition — all in one place. The event attracts millions of people over the course of several weeks and is believed to be the largest livestock show in the United States, if not the world.
What to Expect
People. A lot of them. Roughly 2.5 million people visit the Houston rodeo every year — sometimes multiple times — in order to participate in the many attractions. Families and individuals come from all over the state to take in the concerts, livestock shows, and carnival attractions.
Artists and bands are booked every night of the rodeo, ranging from top-name country stars to Latin pop singers to classic rock. The full concert lineup is typically released in January, and tickets go on sale shortly after.
A rodeo competition takes place before the entertainer gets onstage, typically starting at 6:45 p.m. on weekdays and 3:45 p.m. on the weekends, with concerts beginning two hours later.
Livestock and Horse Shows
Farmers, ranchers, and youth from all over the world come to exhibit their livestock in hopes of bringing home the coveted award of Houston Champion. The Houston Rodeo has some of the largest horse show events in the world, including "cutting" — where the horse and rider must drive a particular cow away from the herd to the center of the arena — speed events like barrel racing, and jumping competitions.
Carnival and Attractions
The rodeo has a large carnival filled with rides, games, and — of course — delicious carnival food. The pride and joy of the carnival is the La Grande Wheel, the Western Hemisphere's largest Ferris wheel.
A sizable kids area, known as The Junction, has a wide variety of kid-friendly activities, including camel and pony rides, petting zoos and pig races.
Pre-show Events and Competitions
Before the rodeo kicks off, there are a number of pre-show events and activities that are ticketed or free for the public. These include a massively popular Bar-B-Que competition, a 5K rodeo run, Best Bites Competition among some of Houston's best restaurants, a wine show, an auction, and a parade.
Fun agriculture-related competitions for Houston students also take place during the rodeo, including a science fair, beef quiz bowl, and ag-robotics contest.
Where It Is
The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo is located at NRG Park, near the Kirby exit off of the 610 South Loop and along the METRORail Red Line train.
Getting to the park is fairly straightforward, but you'll want to budget plenty of time to navigate traffic, find a parking space and get inside.
Once you enter the park, activities are spread throughout the massive grounds, so be sure to check the event map to find out where to go. All major concerts and rodeo competitions happen inside NRG Stadium, just off of Kirby Drive, with entrances to the stadium located off of McNee and Westridge.
Pro Tip: Download the event's Visitor Guide and Mobile App on your smartphone before you go to have easy access to the day's scheduled events, maps, and dining options.
When It Is
The rodeo is held at the end of February through mid-March each year in Houston. In 2019, the show took place February 26–March 17. In 2020, the show will take place from March 3 - 22.
How to Get Tickets
To gain access to NRG Park during the rodeo, you'll need either a concert/rodeo ticket, a day pass or a season pass. Tickets and special packages can be purchased in advance online or through the RodeoHouston Mobile App.
In order to get into the concert and rodeo competition, you must have purchased a ticket for that specific event. However, a concert ticket will give you the same access as a day pass, allowing you to get into all other activities in the park on the day of the concert, including the carnival.
Kids under age 2 are admitted for free.
Pro Tip: Be sure to buy your concert tickets early, as the best shows sell out weeks in advance.
Where to Park
Parking for any event at NRG Park can be fairly tricky, but the Houston Rodeo, with its size and scope, makes it particularly challenging. On-site permit parking is typically reserved for those participating in the rodeo, such as exhibitors and volunteers, and are not available for purchase by the general public.
That being said, public parking is available at three designated lots near NRG Park, and trams regularly take visitors to the park grounds from the lots and back for free.
What to Wear
The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo is the one time of year that Houstonians go all out and embrace their Texan roots. Cowboy hats — a rarity is typically seen only in Hollywood depictions of Houston — are everywhere, and cowboy boots are worn with everything from torn jeans to dresses.
While Country Western attire is encouraged, the most important thing to remember when dressing for the rodeo is the weather. Wear layers that can be added on in the cold or air conditioning and removed in the heat. And be sure to wear shoes you'll be comfortable walking and standing in for hours at a time.