Cowboys. Cowgirls. Cattle. Horses. Leather. Sweat. Dirt. Mud. Blood. Guts. Glory. In a word: rodeo. No other spectator sport comes as close to the real-world hardships and triumphs of working people. And the people have spoken—there are 30 million rodeo fans in the United States, according to the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA), and more than 600 professional rodeos are held annually throughout the U.S. and Canada. Pick one (or several) and immerse yourself in the Western lifestyle.

And save money while you’re at it.

“During tough economic times, people tend to look toward local and traditional means of entertainment, such as stock shows, rodeos, fairs, and events that are suitable for the entire family,” says PRCA Chairman Keith Martin, also president and CEO of the San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo. “Rodeos have been a part of American culture for over 100 years and continue to be a premier source of value and family entertainment.”

Despite the sagging economy and widespread belt tightening, rodeo attendance has been robust in 2009, and several professional rodeos have even set attendance records. The 2009 La Fiesta de los Vaqueros in Tucson, Ariz., for instance, saw a 31 percent increase in attendance numbers over the previous year.

Here are five top rodeo destinations—and some other great events—to help plan your next vacation.

  • Wrangler National Finals Rodeo – Las Vegas, Nevada
  • Calgary Stampede – Calgary, Canada
  • National Western Stock Show, Rodeo and Horse Show – Denver, Colorado
  • Cheyenne Frontier Days Rodeo – Cheyenne, Wyoming
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