You may have visited Las Vegas before but have you visited during the spectacle that is “Cowboy Christmas”? Without a doubt, Las Vegas is a surreal and fun experience in its own right but add to that a host of Cowboys, boots and buckles, stir in some rodeo, live country music and a huge shopping opportunity and you cook up every western enthusiasts dream break.
From the end of the first week to the middle of December it would seem that all the cows from The Panhandle to the Mid-West on up to northern Montana have been abandoned. Any self-respecting Cowboy has shipped into Las Vegas for the National Finals Rodeo. For a few hours each night you can leave your hotel and pop over to the nearby Thomas & Mack Centre to watch some of the World’s best Rodeo riders competing to be World Champion in their chosen event and even aiming for the All Around Title, in 2014 that honour went to Trevor Brazile. If you do want to go, I advise that you hunt down your tickets at the Convention Centre very early on in your holiday because they can be hard to come by.
While being in the live arena is hard to beat for atmosphere, watching on the live feed gives you an entirely different perspective. Close up shots of the chutes give you a view of those brave (mad?!?) young things, tying themselves to 1200lbs plus of muscle that make up a very cross bull, or a cow horse --totally focused and waiting for the release of the steer that it will hold on a taut rope in the tie down event. Way down the entrance approach you will see the barrel horses, ridden by a rare breed of Cowgirl, coming at you backwards, sideways and any which way they can to get on those barrels as quickly as possible. It doesn't matter which event it is, those horses sure know their job, and the level of riding and roping you will witness is second to none.
The MGM Grand is known as the “home of the Gold Buckles” because more Gold Buckle winning cowboys stay there than any other hotel on the strip. As such, it puts on a great show for the duration of the event with the live stage graced by some fabulous country music artists. It will certainly put you in the mood for a bit of two-stepping. Man, those Cowboys can dance!
I haven’t even touched on the serious side of the event yet – shopping! It’s vast and in four, yes four venues! The Convention Centre and The Venetian is the largest two venues, followed by The Mandalay Bay and a smaller area actually at The MGM Grand. All the top brands are there and offers galore available; things like three for two, freebies are thrown in and discounts if you have the confidence to ask. There are fabulous work shirts, jeans, equipment and endless lifestyle items from furniture and artwork to beautiful jewellery abound. It’s not so much the show clothes or tack side of things although Dale Chavez are there, and some others selling great conchos etc. All of which bring us full circle to those staple requirements of The Cowboy. Custom hats from the great Greeley Hat Works, buckles, belts and boots. Oh the boots, every style colour and make imaginable.
Some useful bits of information and other things to see and do:
- Breakfast at Denney’s, a typical American Diner, or the Avenue Cafe inside the MGM Grand was found to be good value.
- Use the hop on, hop off monorail, it covers the length of The Strip and stops just about everywhere you are likely to want to go. Most importantly it saves your feet for the all important shopping. Believe me, you will be grateful when you see the size of the shopping halls.
- Pretend you are Gill Grissom from the CSI Las Vegas programme and ride the roller coaster at New York, New York.
- Watch the beautiful fountains of the Bellagio Hotel at night.
- Enjoy a Gondola ride at The Venetian.
- Visit Fremont Street for a taste of “old” Las Vegas; you can still imagine Frank and the boys there.
- Have a little gamble, even if you are not into that sort of thing, just so you can say you did.
- Best high-end food experienced was the revolving restaurant at The Stratosphere.
- Enjoy a few drinks in the Margarita Bar; after all, it really is five o’clock somewhere.
- Do your research and book the trip of your choice to the Grand Canyon.
- Travel out with empty suitcases.
- Take your most comfortable shoes.