HOUSTON, Texas - If you're headed out to Rodeo festivities, a few simple tips could save you time and money before you even arrive.
Rodeo volunteer Margaret Pinkston has been on the Gatekeepers Committee for more then a decade. As a gatekeeper, her job is to take tickets at the entrance and answer any questions visitors may have. Over the years, she has learned several insider tips and tricks that the general public may not know about.
THE RODEO HOUSTON APP
The Rodeo Houston app is a valuable tool. It has the daily schedule, in addition to live information on parking. Before you head out, check the app and it will tell you which lots are already filled up.
GETTING TO THE RODEO
There are many ways to get to the Rodeo, but Pinkston prefers driving and parking in the yellow lot because a tram will take you from there to the front of the NRG Center. For parents of little ones, the tram is very stroller-friendly, and you can even fit a double stroller.
Other affordable options include taking the METRORail, which is only $1.25 each way and free for kids 5 and under. It also drops you off at the front door of the NRG Center. If you've never used it, a convenient place to leave your car and hop on the METRORail is at Hermann Park because there is ample parking.
Pinkston said that she often sees people make the mistake of purchasing grounds tickets in addition to a concert ticket. When you buy a ticket to a concert, it includes the Rodeo, the concert, and everything on the grounds. You only need to show your concert ticket to enter the grounds.
If you do not plan on attending the Rodeo or a concert, admission is $15 for adults and children ages 13 and over. Tickets for children under 12 are $5. Children age 2 and under are free and do not require a ticket.
Every Wednesday, seniors 60 and over and children 12 and under get in free. Concert tickets are also cheaper on Wednesday nights. This year's Wednesday night lineup includes Little Big Town, Thomas Rhett and One Republic. On Value Wednesdays, there are $2 rides and games from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., along with a $2 food or drink item at select food stands in the Junction Carnival.
If you're feeding picky eaters, you can bring your own food and drinks onto the grounds. The only place you cannot take outside food and drinks is into NRG Stadium for the Rodeo and concerts.
The shortest line for restrooms tends to be on the second level of the NRG Center. Much of the action takes place on the lower level, but if you take the escalator up one flight of stairs, there is usually no wait and, as an added bonus, the restrooms are clean.
One of the most popular things for kids is the free petting zoo and low-cost pony rides inside the NRG Center.
However, Pinkston said if there's a long line inside, go outside near the kiddie carnival because there is another petting zoo and pony ride attraction that many people do not know about.
In addition to the concerts, there is free live music every night at the Rodeo in two different locations.
The Champion Wine Garden has live music outdoors every evening. There are no age limits to enter the Wine Garden, but you must be 21 years or older to purchase wine. Entry into the Wine Garden is free with a grounds or concert ticket.
Country artists or DJs play nearly every night at The Hideout, on the east side by the Astrodome. Just look for the big white tent. Admission is included with a grounds or concert ticket, but the tent is for adults 21 and up. Weekday performances begin at 10:15 p.m. and weekend performances start at 8:30 p.m.
The BBQ Cook-off might be over for this year, but if you plan on attending at least one night next year, you should consider buying a season pass. You can purchase the season pass for $35 on the Rodeo Houston website.
Many people don't realize that even if you have an invite to a particular tent at the Cook-off, you will still need an entry ticket that costs $15. If you plan on attending the Rodeo one other night and admission is $10, the season pass has already paid for itself.
With information from the Big Kid Small City blog