150 Days in Vegas!
It just occurred to me that this will be my 15th year going to Vegas for the NFR. Multiply that by 10 days of rodeo each year, plus the days before/after, minus the years I flew in and out… and we’ll call it 150.
I don’t get too excited about Halloween anymore. Playing dress-up in Vegas for 10-14 days a year makes Halloween look like child’s play. I’ve got an entire section of my closet dedicated to sequins, fringe and fur and it’s AWESOME!
Everyone has their favorite must see, must do things when they come to NFR, and I want to share with you how I do NFR. I guarantee there are a few things here you haven’t done, and if not, then we should probably be friends.
Shopping: You can’t see it all. Just come to terms with that now.
Go to Cowboy Christmas. It’s at the Convention Center and is the biggest, oldest and hands- down best shopping venue during NFR. Literally 1/2 mile of vendors… on the first floor alone. Did I mention the Jr. NFR and Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation are here too? So bring the boys along, grab them a drink at the Pendleton Whiskey Bar when you arrive, and point them at the escalator to the RMEF on the second floor while you get your shopping on.
Where to shop at CC? OK ladies, here’s where it gets fun.
Two Bar West. I’ve been addicted to these bags for years. And this is the ONLY retail show they do, and we all know our local boutiques can only get their hands on a few bags a year from this brand. Texas made. Funky. Not budget friendly, but worth it. Splurge on one or two… then grab your man another whiskey before showing him your receipt.
Heritage Brand. Duh.
Great Blue Herron Furniture. Think sassy, urban, western. Is that a thing? Made in Austin, TX, this stuff is the real deal. If you’re looking for something a little different that will give people something to talk about you don’t want to miss this booth.
Sullivan Glove. The BEST leather riding gloves you will ever buy. You cannot outwork these gloves. I’ve had a pair 5 years and they still won’t quit. Also colored and fringe gloves so buy a pair for the barn, your trailer and your truck. You’ll thank me.
Tip: Best shopping times are 9-11am. I know, I know… you’re on Vegas time and that’s like 5am in the real world, but it’s a zoo from lunch-time on and a ghost town the first couple of hours.
South Point. My second fave shopping venue. Think World Series Roping, which is also code for… the boys will have something to do. There’s vendors around the arena, in addition to the adjoining atrium.
Where to shop at SP?
The Rowdy Rose. Clothes, accessories and purses you won’t find anywhere else. Legit statement pieces.
Yipiokya. Re-purposed clothing, accessories and home decor that's got that retro cool vibe. Great gifts. Be sure to check out her vintage rodeo shirts she gives face-lifts to. Everything is off the charts unique, the kind of stuff you won’t find anywhere else. Tell Julie to hold a Medium for me!
Ranch Cut Designs. Furniture and home decor that looks 10x more expensive then it is. Each piece is unique, hand made and FABULOUS. Joan has a knack for combining the unexpected, most pieces have a story behind them, and you are guaranteed to find something you can’t live without. I always do.
Sands Expo. Very similar to Cowboy Christmas in scope and size, with the addition of the iconic Luan’s Leathers. You tack fiends are already familiar I’m sure, so stop by and give my mom a hug as this will be her last year being a vendor in Vegas. End of an era for sure.
OK, now that we’ve spent all your money, let’s go eat.
I’m not going to waste your time with the typical Vegas strip joints. These are the good ones. My three favorites, and why.
FireFly. Tapas. Right down from the Convention Center. There’s two food items I dream about, and the stuffed dates from FireFly are one of them. I don’t like dates, or bleu cheese, but I LOVE this dish. Like, I’m in danger of foundering on these little morsels of Heaven kind of love. And the sangria. It’s a winner.
If the menu overwhelms you, just have the server bring you his favorites. You can’t go wrong. Unless you forget the dates.
Ferraro’s. I almost didn’t share this one with you. This is our secret, pre-NFR dinner spot for a few reasons. First, it’s 5-star Italian cuisine in the middle of ugly old Nevada. I just spent 5 weeks in Italy this year, and the food here is just as good, only cheaper. Tip: Order a bottle of Montalcino, Brunello red wine. It’s going to be expensive and it’s going to be worth it.
Second, it’s a 2 minute Uber ride from the Thomas Mack.
See, this is what you do. Come to Ferraro’s around 5:15, have a spectacular, relaxing carb-filled dinner, while the streets outside become a parking lot of cabs, shuttles and Ubers heading to the performance. At 6:45, grab your ride to the Thomas and Mack, which will now take mere minutes to get to. You’ll avoid all the lines, and slide into your seat at 6:58, relaxed and ready to watch the best rodeo in the World.
Herbs and Rye. It’s 10 min off the strip, and I bet you 20 bucks none of your friends have heard of this place either. It’s a legit speakeasy, that looks really sketch from the outside but so freaking cool inside. It’s like a time warp straight to the prohibition era. Don’t eat at a table, and don’t make a reservation. Go to the bar and go late.
The drink menu is organized by decade starting in the 1700’s. So cool! Pick one, or just tell your bartender what your favorite drink is and he’ll make you something that will surprise you. The drinks are great, the experience even better.
Next, and this is important, order the calamari.
Remember I said there are two food items I dream about? Well, this is the second. And I don't even like calamari! It’s unlike any calamari you’ve experienced, topped with the most delicious aioli sauce, prosciutto and pepperoncini… yumm!
Now that you’ve checked shopping, eating and rodeo off your list, what else is there?
Cirque Du Soleil! If you’ve never been to a VEGAS Cirque show, you’re in for a real treat. I’ve been to several, and I couldn’t pick my favorite if I had to. Impossible to describe! (If you've seen the Beatles one, let me know what you thought as that's the next one on my list.)
High Roller at the LINQ. The big ferris wheel looking thing on the strip, is actually the world’s tallest observation wheel, and is 30 minutes of awesome. Glass walls surround you, making you feel like you’re in a giant bubble over the strip. Do it.
Concerts. Because NFR is the second busiest time of the year for Vegas, it always offers huge acts. Obviously country if that’s your jam, and this year brings George, Reba, Brooks and Dunn, Tanya Tucker and Florida Georgia Line to name a few.
Me, I checked Lady Gaga from my list last year, and have my eyes on The Chainsmokers this year.
OK! That’s my highlight reel for doing Vegas during NFR. Tell me what I missed, and make sure and report back if you tackle any of my suggestions. Cheers to 150 days in Vegas, and hope to see you there!