Like any good Texas girl, I was obsessed with horses and my red Roper cowboy boots when I was growing up. I didn’t realize “cowgirl” was probably not a realistic career option for a city girl like me until way into adolescence. But there’s no reason not to relive the dream every year at the San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo, happening February 12–March 1.
San Antonio’s is one of the largest rodeos in the country, but don’t be daunted about taking the kids. I first took my son to the rodeo before he turned one, and he had a blast. There’s something for every age at the rodeo; it’s about as family-friendly as San Antonio gets. It’s also a great cause that has committed almost $12 million to scholarships and grants for youth. So slip on your boots and cowboy hat, grab the fam, and get ready for some classic San Antonio fun!
Side note for city slickers: Held at the AT&T Center, the rodeo includes daily competitive PRCA rodeo performances, livestock shows, concerts, and a fairgrounds with food, shopping, rides, and live music.
When I was in law school in Michigan some years back, I mentioned the rodeo to one of my classmates, and she clearly had no idea what I was talking about. She was from Chicago. I have to admit, my explanation of “cowboy show with concerts” was pretty weak. The truth is, whether you are new to San Antonio or have been here for generations, the rodeo is a great opportunity to introduce your family to the beautiful western heritage and tradition of our State. Rodeo actually began as a competition between neighboring ranches to see who could complete livestock tasks the fastest and most artfully. It has deep roots in Texan and Mexican culture. Pretty darn special and definitely something to be celebrated. Here are some of my favorite events:
WESTERN HERITAGE PARADE
On February 7, the weekend before the rodeo, drovers drive a herd of Longhorn cattle right down Houston Street at the Western Heritage Parade. The cattle are followed by cavalry units and covered wagons. The cattle drive begins at 11:00 A.M. at Christus Santa Rosa, and children’s games and activities are available from 9:00 A.M.–1:00 P.M. in Alamo Plaza. Admission is FREE.
We have a hard time persuading Papito to leave the petting zoo every year. Not that I blame him. Kids can pet, feed, and cavort with goats, sheep, llamas, deer, chicks—you name it. What’s not to love?
LITTLE BUCKAROO FARM
Like the Petting Zoo, the Little Buckaroo Farm is an opportunity to get up close and personal with animals, but it also has a number of educational and interactive exhibits meant to teach kids where their food comes from. There’s a live beehive, an indoor garden, and kids can even try goat-milking. Generally opens at 10:00 A.M., but check times before you go, as they may vary.
It is so much fun just to explore the grounds, checking out the displays and animals. I love seeing the pride that people take in their animals and trades. Papito is young, but I hope one day he notices it too.
Ah yes, the food, the fun, the funnel cake… Tons of rides for everyone, including toddlers in Lil’ Partner Land. Rides aren’t free, so if your child, like mine, can’t get enough of carousels and insists on riding over and over, you might want to consider a ticket pack. There are many different options here. The Carnival is open Monday–Thursday from 4:00 P.M.–close, and Friday–Sunday and President’s Day from 11:00 A.M.–close. (“Close” is not specified, as the carnival may remain open after the grounds close at 10:00 P.M., weather permitting.)
Welsh ponies + rides + babies. Seriously, do I really need to say more?
Apart from nightly concerts in the AT&T Center, there is live music all day, every day, from country western to Tejano to Reggaeton at various stations on the rodeo grounds. Find the schedules here.
The Youth Rodeo is a three-day, all-youth competition that serves as a less-crowded daytime option for exposing younger children to traditional rodeo events. Events include speed and roping competitions such as barrel racing, pole bending, goat tying, tie-down roping, ribbon roping, breakaway roping, and team roping.
February 14 is an entire day dedicated to kiddos. Children are treated to arts and crafts, games, demonstrations, sweet treats, and educational activities—all included with your rodeo or grounds ticket.
Yep, we’re definitely looking forward to the San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo this year! What are your favorite rodeo traditions?