In 1906, Colorado’s first National Western Stock Show opened on January 29 and welcomed around 15,000 visitors over six days. National Western’s president and CEO, Paul Andrews, thinks the show’s founders would be proud of what their event has become: “A nationally recognized Super Bowl of livestock shows,” as he puts it. Today, the event draws around 630,000 attendees with 12 horse shows, Colorado’s largest agricultural trade show, and nearly 30 rodeos.
So, with all of that going on, where does one even begin? To help your family navigate this year’s Stock Show, we’ve compiled a list of popular events and tips for families.
Insider Tip: You don’t have to shell out a ton of cash to enjoy a little Western fun. “There are about 40 things every day that are free with basic admission,” says Andrews.
On a typical day, head to the stockyard to watch a livestock show before meeting National Western’s newest baby animals at the nursery in the Events Center Paddock. Next, head to the third floor of the Expo Hall to feed more than 60 barnyard animals at the petting farm or saddle up on a purebred Welsh pony—kiddos love this real-life carousel ($6 per ride). The third floor is also where you’ll find the annual Youth Art Show and all the food. Swing by the Ames Activity Pavilion—located in the south food court—for children’s entertainment, including Top Hogs performances, a magic show, and pedal tractor races.
Insider Tip: Look for the John Deere display, where curious kiddos can hop inside big rigs, combines, and farm loaders.
Must-See Events for Families
- Before you strap on your spurs, watch the Stock Show Parade, Thursday, January 4 beginning at noon at Denver Union Station. This kickoff event features marching bands, floats, and Longhorn cattle stampeding down 17th Street. Snag a spot in front of the Wells Fargo Center (1700 Lincoln St., Denver), where National Western serves up a barbecue lunch starting at 11:30 a.m. Meal tickets are $10.
- Held daily, rodeos feature both local and pro riders. On opening night, January 6, check out the Ranch Rodeo at 5:30 p.m., which is free with grounds admission. Go early for the BBQ Throwdown, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., with live music, grill giveaways, free samples, and a special kids’ zone.
- The popular Mutton Bustin’ event is technically the youngest rodeo of all, with children ages five to seven riding sheep out of a chute and into the arena. January 16 and 20, 6 p.m.
- Take little buckaroos to the Stick Horse Rodeo, where they can hop on a stick horse and compete in pint-size rodeo events such as barrel racing, bull riding, and steer roping.
- The Mexican Rodeo Extravaganza showcases Mexican-style bull riding, bareback riding, trick roping, and Mariachis—all choreographed by Jerry Diaz, a fourth-generation champion charro. January 7, 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. $30-$65.
- At the MLK Jr. African-American Heritage Rodeo, spectators gain insight into the history of America’s black cowboys. January 15, 6 p.m. $21-$40.
- Take a trip back to the Old West during the family-friendly Wild West Show. January 13, 5 p.m., and January 14, 4 p.m. $22-$45.
- See dogs perform impressive tricks and aerial stunts during Xtreme Dogs. January 15, 3 p.m., and January 16, 6:30 p.m. $21-$45.
Insider Tip: Family 4-packs can be purchased for most events, which include tickets, hot dogs, chips, and drinks for four. Prices vary.
- Check it Out:
- Located at the National Western Complex (4655 Humboldt St., Denver), accessible from I-70 and Brighton Boulevard.
- Need to Know:
- The 16-day show runs January 6 through 21, and is open weekdays from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. and weekends from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.
- Grounds admission is date specific and ranges from $2-$3 for ages three to 11 and $10-$20 for age 12 and up. Tickets can be purchased at King Soopers locations or at the National Western Box Office. On Fan Appreciation Day—the last day of the Stock Show, January 21—grounds admission tickets are discounted to $10 for adults and $3 for kids ages three to 11.