The family-friendly guide to the 2023 Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo

File image of chicks (Canva/KPRC 2)

The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo is an overwhelming place to visit with kids — crowded, loud, expensive and with a seemingly infinite number of showstopping attractions that your children simply must experience. But the good news is there are ways to make the mega-spectacle manageable, affordable and fun.

The rodeo on a Saturday afternoon? Not unless you want to lose track of your 5-year-old. Try a weekday and arrive early. Plan to ride the Ferris wheel? For big discounts, purchase your carnival tickets now.

What follows is a family-friendly rodeo guide with suggestions on how to tackle the rodeo the right way.

📅 Key dates

March 1 and 15 - Family Wednesdays

The Rodeo will host Family Wednesdays on March 1 and 15 with discounts and free admission for seniors 60+ and children under 12 until noon.

March 2 - Sensory friendly experience

The rodeo will host a sensory friendly experience on March 2, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in select areas of the carnival to provide an accommodating rodeo experience for visitors with sensory sensitivities or challenges. During this time, there will be minimal lights and sounds in the carnival.

March 8 - Community Day

In addition to Family Wednesdays, The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo will host Community Day on March 8. Community Day discounts include free admission for all guests until noon; Buy one, get one rides and games in the Junction Carnival area until 4 p.m.; and discounted food and beverage offerings until 4 p.m.

📃 Itinerary

Heed this advice: Visit on a weekday (avoid Spring Break altogether) and arrive early. Gates open daily at 8 a.m. Be there when they do if you want an easy, breezy Rodeo experience sans the chaos and claustrophobia of the evening and weekend crowds.

Admission to the 350-acre event grounds is $20 per day for adults and $10 for children between the ages of 3 and 12. Admission is free for children 2 and under. Admission to the daily rodeo in NRG Arena starts at $25 and includes entry to all other activities on the grounds. If you plan to attend an event in NRG Arena, opt for these tickets.

8 a.m. - Watch a livestock show or rodeo event

File image of the annual Youth Breeding Rabbit and Cavy Costume Contest at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo (Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo)

Each day, the NRG Center and NRG Arena will host numerous livestock shows, some simultaneously. Throughout the 20-day event, tens of thousands of animals from dozens of species will be shown, including cattle, poultry, pigs, llamas, sheep and goats. Competitions begin at 8 a.m. See the daily schedule for competition times. From a rabbit costume contest to a donkey show, here are some quirky and cute rodeo livestock events great for kiddos.

9 a.m. - Enjoy animal encounters at Agventure

The livestock participating in the 2022 Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo (KPRC 2)

The Agventure experience in the NRG Center opens daily at 9 a.m. Notable exhibits and attractions here include a petting zoo, parakeet encounter, birthing center, pony rides, hatcheries, milking parlor, rabbit exhibit and a barn stocked with miniature livestock breeds. Milking demonstrations are offered at Agventure 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. on weekdays and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekends.

Before you break for lunch, swing by the miniature mutton bustin’ arena in The Junction and register your little cowboys and cowgirls for the popular activity. Mutton Bustin’ is held 11 a.m. and 7 p.m. daily. Registration opens at 10 a.m.

11 a.m. - Food and live music

Deep Fried Cookie Dough (Houston Rodeo)

Scour the food tents for delectable treats. Corn dogs, turkey legs, fried Oreos, fresh fruit cups, whatever strikes your fancy, you’re sure to find it if you look long enough. For suggestions, read our and highlights, read through our tasting guide. Once you’ve acquired the goods, mosey over to the Stars Over Texas Stage, claim a table and enjoy a live music performance or family-friendly show while you eat.

12 p.m. - Explore The Junction

An image released by RodeoHouston on Jan. 23, 2023. (RodeoHouston)

Explore The Junction, a family-friendly area that features animal and agriculture exhibits and classic carnival games and rides, including an antique double carousel.

Children ages 5 and 6 who weigh 55 pounds or less can participate in mutton bustin’ at the outdoor arena.

At the Fun on the Farm experience children can help with farm chores such as gathering eggs, planting and harvesting crops and milking a cow.

Other notable features of this area are a petting zoo, pony rides, and shows including pig races (11:30 a.m., 12:30, 1:30, 3:30, 4:30, 5:30, and 6:30 p.m. daily), Born to Buck, a mare and foal presentation (10 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily), and the Extreme Dogs show (11 a.m., 1, 4 and 6 p.m. daily).

Make your great escape

Once you’ve had your fill of rodeo fun, get the heck out of the area before the raucous evening crowds descend on NRG Park. You DO NOT want to get caught on Main Street in the evenings when commuter traffic mingles with rodeo traffic to create the most infuriating traffic jam hellscape you’ll ever experience. As someone who’s suffered through this seventh-circle-of-hell car-tastrophe numerous times, I really cannot stress this enough.

More on the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo:

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About the Author:

Briana Zamora-Nipper joined the KPRC 2 digital team in 2019. When she’s not hard at work in the KPRC 2 newsroom, you can find Bri drinking away her hard earned wages at JuiceLand, running around Hermann Park, listening to crime podcasts or ransacking the magazine stand at Barnes & Noble.