Rodeos, ghost towns, saloons, oh my! If you’re into the Old West, Las Vegas is the place to be, partner. You don’t have to be a cowboy yourself to enjoy the good ol’ cowboy culture. Nevada and Las Vegas both celebrate the rich Western history of the area, and we’ve even modernized some of it into “New” West culture with our neon cowboys and more. From Las Vegas rodeo competitions to the Pioneer Saloon, this take on a Vegas vacation is sure to be a unique one.
After a successful mining town popped up in Goodsprings in 1910, the Pioneer Saloon followed shortly in 1913, – and was likely one of the first bars in Nevada. The current brick building you see today was established when Goodsprings was a booming mining town and lead, silver, copper, zinc, and gold could easily be found in the area. As mining picked up, so did the need for a drink. Stop by to see some evidence of an Old West brawl that took place – the tin walls of the bar feature three bullet holes from a card game that turned deadly.
Did you know that Nevada has over 600 ghost towns? During the 19th century, Nevada’s population boomed under the mineral rush out West, but towns were then abandoned once the rush died down. While some of these ghost towns may require a road trip from Vegas, these ghost towns show Nevada’s rich Old West history, from abandoned mines to rustic saloons. Many of these ghost towns are located in Northern Nevada and are certainly worth the visit at some point, but for a shorter trip there are a few ghost towns nearby that make for an interesting day trip.
Ever want to actually be a cowboy? Wild West Horseback Adventures lets you experience the desert on horseback that allows you to imagine what the cowboys and pioneers must have seen while taking the paths they took. Just a short trip from Las Vegas, Wild West offers a number of experiences to enjoy the landscape. Wake up early just like the cowboys did on the Maverick Breakfast Ride, or live out your own Western film dreams and ride off into the sunset on the Wild Wild West Sunset Dinner Ride.
How often can you say you went to Vegas to see a western rodeo? Known as the Super Bowl of Rodeo, the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo championship is filled with the best of the best in the sport from bareback riding to barrel racing. Held annually since 1959 – and since 1985, every December in Las Vegas – the NFR is one of the richest and most prestigious rodeos, and it showcases the very best cowboys, barrel racers, and livestock in the world. On top of the actual rodeo, there are a number of NFR events happening around Vegas from December 1-11. Expect to see viewing parties, shopping, hoedowns, and exciting performances from hit country artists.
This year, you can really immerse yourself in the Las Vegas rodeo activities by attending Gary Leffew’s NFR Bucking Ball. From December 2-11, free NFR Las Vegas viewing parties will be open to the public at the Downtown Las Vegas Events Center for a bucking good time. Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights will be filled with live music from top local artists where you can show off your two-step skills out on the dance floor, enjoy specialty food and drinks, and have a truly wild time while cheering on the Las Vegas rodeo events taking place.
Featuring more than 500,000 square feet of show floor and 350+ exhibitors from across the country, Cowboy Christmas during NFR Las Vegas is one of the largest and most exciting shopping experiences for cowboys and rodeo enthusiasts alike. Leave extra space in your suitcase to bring home your goodies, as you’ll find some beautiful custom-made jewelry, western wear, boots and spurs, furniture, original art, handmade crafts, home goods, and more at this impressive event. Once you’re done, check out the Boot Barn Western Super Store and Kemo Sabe too.
NFR Las Vegas goes big, and it doesn’t stop at entertainment. With big Country names like Reba, Brooks & Dunn, Shania Twain, Little Big Town, Easton Corbin, Joe Dee Messina, George Strait, Brantley Gilbert, Dierks Bentley, Josh Turner, Jason Aldean, and so much more, the NFR is one of the best places to be for country fans. You can catch other acts from artists such as Journey and Nelly as well. On December 1, the Fremont Street Experience is hosting a free NFR event – the Downtown Hoedown – featuring Jordan Davis, Frontmen of Country, and Diamond Rio.
Old West Las Vegas meets the New West where cowboys and neon merge! Two of the biggest Las Vegas icons are giant neon cowboys Vegas Vic and Vegas Vicky – and yes, they are officially married. Put up in 1951, Vegas Vic now resides on Fremont Street and offers visitors a polite wink as a welcome to Downtown. Put up in 1980, Vegas Vicky now has her new home in Circa Las Vegas. You can even grab a drink with her at her very own bar! We recommend ordering the Leg Kick, an homage to Vickie’s signature move and a fun twist on a whiskey sour.
A hearty steak and a stiff class of whiskey might make you feel like you’re being transported to the Old West in Vegas. While a fancy steakhouse might not be where a pioneer would have eaten, a nice steak would certainly be on their menu. Try out Andiamo Steakhouse, Barry’s Downtown Prime, and Golden Steer fit for any cowboy. Once you’re done, drink like you’re in a Wild West saloon and dance to country music at one of the many Las Vegas bars such as Stoney’s, Gilley’s Saloon, and Coyote Ugly Saloon.
Even though Las Vegas is a fairly young city, the area still has a very rich history before the neon signs and flashing lights came to town. Old West Las Vegas culture is very much present and a fun way to experience some of the Western roots of Nevada. Whether you decide to explore ghost towns, chase a hearty steak with a stiff whiskey, or cheer on the best cowboys around today at NFR Las Vegas, be sure to add these activities to your list the next time you visit. Book your room at Golden Gate Hotel, where we combine Las Vegas history with modern fun.