Wrangling a Good Time at the San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo

It’s time to rodeo, San Antonio, so saddle up and join in the fun! The San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo and its celebration of all things cowboy runs through February 24th this year, and you don’t need a hat or boots to have a good time. Really.

Mamas and babies of all sorts can have fun at the rodeo.

The rodeo has a fantastic array of family activities, most of which are free. Sure, it’s all things livestock and ranching, but it’s also all things Texas, so you’ll see wildlife, snakes, armadillos, every variety of food on a stick, funnel cake, carnival fun, tractors, and more.

Hellooooo, it’s rodeo time!
Getting up close with our dairy friends.

Locals call it “the rodeo,” but it’s actually two things, and it’s all in the official event name, San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo. Rodeo performances happen each night, when talented cowboys, cowgirls, and amazing horses compete in barrel racing, bull riding, roping, bronc riding, and more. Each night (and matinee events on Saturday and Sunday) ends with a concert. The stock show portion is what runs all day, every day, showcasing different animals throughout the event. From swine, sheep, and goats to Brahmas, Holsteins, mini-Longhorns, and more, there’s an array of animals to see and admire throughout the stock show.

Mom Tip: The rodeo/concert option makes a great San Antonio date night, so don’t hesitate to leave the littles at home and enjoy a night out. Because if your little is like mine, it’s tough for them to sit through the rodeo and a concert. We’ve found that it’s best to do the grounds with kids, do the rodeo/concerts on our own.

Martina McBride playing at the rodeo.
Making new friends at the rodeo.

This year, the rodeo runs through February 24th. Hours vary, but you can see the details here. Note: hours/activities are different on weekdays vs. weekends. If the carnival is your thing, it doesn’t open until 4:00 P.M. most weekdays (not including Fridays). The grounds open at 8:00 A.M., but most of the fun isn’t available until 10:00 A.M., even on weekends, and the carnival opens at 11:00 A.M. on Friday/Saturday/Sunday. To be sure you know all that’s going on while you’re there, pick up a daily schedule/grounds map from the easy-to-find volunteers/booths throughout the grounds. You can also check out the daily schedule to see what’s going on.

If you haven’t been to the rodeo before, get ready to see the grounds around the AT&T Center and Freeman Coliseum in a whole new light. The area that usually seems like miles of parking lots bustles with activity during the rodeo. Did you know there’s a cattle barn, horse show arena, horse barn, auction barn, swine barn, and more surrounding the home of the Spurs? And all of those buildings come to life during the rodeo. If it sounds daunting, it’s not. The grounds are easy to navigate, and there are volunteers everywhere to help you.

Admission: It’s good to know the distinction between the rodeo and the grounds. The action that happens inside the AT&T Center is a different ticket versus standard grounds admission. A rodeo ticket admits you to the grounds, so you don’t need to buy both, but a grounds ticket does not admit you to the action inside the AT&T Center.

Getting behind the wheel, tractor style.

Tickets for rodeo performances can be purchased here. Grounds admission to the rodeo is $10 for adults, $5 for children ages 3–12, and free for children 2 and younger. Seniors (65 and older) are $5. Guests with military IDs get in free every day (and it’s not just the military member—dependents are free too, even littles too young for an ID card).

If you’re up for a weekday visit, check out Two Dollar Tuesdays: fairgrounds admission, carnival rides, and select food items are only $2 all day long every Tuesday. There’s a long list of food items that are $4 on Tuesdays, too, so get your fill of rodeo flavors.

Friday, February 22nd and President’s Day (Monday, February 18th) are Dollar Days, so grounds admission, rides, hot dogs, popcorn, and sodas in the carnival area are only $1 each. The discount is valid 8:00 A.M.–6:00 P.M. Yes, that means you and the littles can get in for $1 each, then enjoy carnival rides, hot dogs, popcorn, and sodas for $1 each. (FYI: the $1 food options are located in the carnival area, not throughout the grounds.) Details on the special offers can be found here.

Parking: Parking in the AT&T Center lots is $10, and as with all events at the AT&T Center, there are private lots available that have varying prices. Park & Ride is available on weekends. Details on parking can be found here. And if you want to have all of this info at your fingertips, there’s an app for that! You can download the San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo app here.

The rodeo grounds are somewhat divided into areas, the grounds map is easy to follow, and volunteers are everywhere to answer your questions. Everything in the Family Fair is detailed on the map, and it has a good guide to all that you can see re: animals and agriculture. You’ll also see where to find food options, including free sampling conducted daily on the grounds. (Don’t miss the dairy samples in the Dairy Center, courtesy of H-E-B, or the General Mills sampling booth, sure hits with littles, as well as the Chuck Wagon sampling, where you never know what new products and coupons are being offered.)

Don’t worry–there’s way more than hay to chew on at the rodeo.
Cotton candy!! Can you say sugar rush?!?

Food: Of course the rodeo offers anything you can eat on a stick, huge turkey legs, ears of corn, and random finds like gator (on a stick, of course), Greek gyros (no stick), pizza, Chinese food, kettle corn, and funnel cake. The food court is huge, so you’re sure to find something you like or want to try, like cornbread waffles. On Dollar Days, hot dogs, popcorn, cotton candy, and drinks can be purchased for $1 each in the carnival area. Most of the carnival rides aren’t small child-friendly, but there is a carousel and pony rides and a few others that smaller littles can enjoy. There are also carnival games that never fail to lure us in.

FYI, all food and drink booths accept cash—credit/debit cards are accepted at the vendor’s discretion. ATM machines are located throughout the grounds if you need to get cash. Carnival rides require tickets, and ticket booths are located at the entrance to the carnival.

Checking out baby chicks in the Animal Adventures area.

Exhibits and Activities: So what is there to see? The barns feature a variety of livestock, including bulls, goats, pigs, longhorn cattle, horses, and more. You can walk the barns and see whatever is being shown at the time, all proudly raised and cared for by kids hoping to earn scholarship money. (The rodeo has given away $198 million in scholarships since its inception.) Walking the barns is a fun way to connect with what fuels the stock show. But please mind your manners and don’t touch the animals—they aren’t for petting, and some of the animals could get easily get spooked. Do talk with the owners/caretakers—they’ve worked hard to get their animals to the show. And check out Animal Adventures to learn more about agricultural animals in general.

Mom Tip: When our son was little, we would always take our stroller. There’s a lot of walking around the grounds, and it makes it easier on little legs. Both strollers and wagons are welcome, and there’s stroller parking outside of events/activities that don’t allow strollers. Now that he’s older, we make sure he wears shoes that fit the occasion. Even if it’s warm, the rodeo is not a place for sandals, unless you want to deal with straw, sawdust, and the more-than-occasional animal poop. Closed-toe, comfortable shoes are best. Your shoes/stroller may roll through some animal deposits. It all rolls off, but watch the wheels before you toss the stroller back in the car. Strollers can’t be taken into the AT&T Center, so if you’re going to the competition or a performance, leave your stroller in the car.

Cowboy Boot Camp has games and activities for kids to enjoy.

While you’re in the Texas Wildlife Expo, don’t miss the Texas Zoo, with animals usually seen in the wild across our state, including a bobcat, coyote, and an ocelot, which is endangered in Texas. This year includes Scales, Tales and Teeth, with alligator wrestling, and the ZOOfari show, with exotic and native animals. You’ll also find the Petting Zoo—filled with goats, sheep, donkeys, llamas, deer, chickens, and a wallaby or two. You can get up close and personal on a more than an eight-second ride at the pony rides or learn more about horses in general at Horse Discovery.

Yes, that’s poop.

Good to know on the petting zoo area: there can be a line to get in, but it moves quickly. You can’t bring in food, drinks, or your stroller. There’s a hand-washing station to clean up when the petting’s done. And while the staff works to clean up after them, like all of the other creatures at the rodeo, the animals do their business when and where they want to, so watch where you and the littles walk.

Mom Tip: Like most moms, I’m usually armed with hand sanitizer, but for the rodeo, I make sure I’m fully stocked. There’s a ton to see, do, and touch, and no one wants animal germs. There are also hand sanitizer stations throughout the Family Fair area.

Another favorite for kids is Little Buckaroo Farms. Designed to help kids understand where their food comes from, it highlights farms/gardens, as well as chickens and eggs, beehives, and more. Our little likes to take a basket, gather fake produce, and then get an H-E-B (the Buckaroo sponsor, of course) bandana and goodies. You can also enjoy a magic show, Agricadabra.

One of our favorites in the Family Fair area is the Swifty Swine Pig Races, and yes, it’s just what it sounds like. Similar to a naked toddler on the run, the pigs are much faster than you think. They also squeal really loud. Races are scheduled throughout the day, but get your seat early: the stands always fill up to watch the likes of Tony Porker and Hamu Ginobili race to the finish line.

New this year and sure to thrill: Trickline Collective professional slackliners doing tricks and flips and Off Axis Acrobatic Stunt Show, sure to inspire some trampoline tricks. On second thought, maybe skip those if you have daredevils in training?? There’s also Extreme Dogs stunt show and exhibition bowman performing archery trick shots for those aspiring Katnisses out there.

With all of that food and fun to explore, it’s time to get some dirt on your boots—or your tennis shoes! Saddle up and enjoy the San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo to make memories with your little cowhands.

An Army brat who came to Texas for college and ultimately managed to make the Lone Star State her permanent home, Dawn became a mom “AMA” (advanced maternal age), giving her the opportunity to use a stroller vs. a walker as she navigates the world of motherhood. Her growing up way too fast native Texan loves all things Star Wars, Legos, dinosaurs and keeping his parents on their toes. When she’s not busy parenting the original strong-willed child, Dawn runs Tale to Tell Communications, a San Antonio-based PR and marketing agency. An award-winning writer, Dawn also contributes to San Antonio Woman, Rio Magazine and Texas Lifestyle Magazine. She and her family enjoy exploring all that San Antonio has to offer, going on adventures and playing tourist together as much as possible. Favorite Restaurant: Clementine Favorite Landmark: The beauty of the River Walk, especially La Villita Favorite San Antonio Tradition: Celebrating anything and everything with color, music and food