The first major rodeo of the year and held each January since 1906, the National Western is a Denver tradition. Filled to the brim with rodeos, livestock, and entertainment, this 16-day festival is more than just a rodeo. Considered the Super Bowl of livestock shows, the National Western is a major draw for serious stockmen. And spectators travel from near and far to view the thousands of cattle, horses, goats, sheep, and poultry competing for ribbons and prizes. Animals long associated with the Rocky Mountains are also on display, including bison, elk, llamas, and yaks.

The event kicks off its first weekend with two sell-out traditions: the Mexican Rodeo Extravaganza and the Professional Bull Riders (PBR) evening shows. Later in the week, there are several nights of PRCA-sanctioned rodeos, and every day is filled with fun activities, like mule pulls, national Angus bull and Hereford shows, cutting-horse contests, and ongoing activities and competitions at the livestock center arena.

The National Western Parade is another revered tradition. It kicks off the festivities with an actual cattle drive through the streets of downtown Denver. And the historic Brown Palace Hotel and Spa has a prize steer on display in the lobby throughout the event. The Denver Art Museum gets in the spirit with an amazing display of Western art, and Denver’s City and County Building remains festooned with its famous holiday lights throughout the stock show.

Speaking of after dark, the legendary Grizzly Rose Saloon and Dance Emporium features national acts nightly during the National Western. And sample some of the city’s great steak houses, including the Buckhorn Exchange, the city’s oldest restaurant. At the bar, order a Buffalo Bill, a whiskey and apple juice favored by Bill himself at this very bar whenever he’d pass through Denver. The Buffalo Bill memorial on top of Lookout Mountain off the Lariat Loop Trail is also worth a visit.

WHERE: Denver

WHEN: January 10–25, 2015

MORE: Denver Convention & Visitors Bureau,

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