Experiencing the Houston Rodeo with Food Allergies can be a challenge! Especially as the parent of a small child with both food and environmental allergies. Our most recent experience taught us so much. Read on for tips to help you navigate (and enjoy) the Houston Rodeo with food allergies.
The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo is one of Houston’s most significant, most widely attended events. People travel from all over the country to participate in the festivities, but everyone knows the main attraction is the adventurous, award-winning food!
For people managing severe food allergies, I’m sure visiting attractions like the Houston Rodeo sounds like a nightmare. Tons of allergens, people, hands, allergens on people’s hands. While all of this is true, when equipped with the right tools experiencing the Houston Rodeo with Food Allergies (and small children) can still be fun!
Here are a few things to know before you go!
This year (2023), there are three public parking lots. They are MASSIVE lots, making it easy to lose your vehicle if you don’t pay close attention to where you park. We parked in the YELLOW LOT and took advantage of the TRAM that services the north side of NRG Stadium and the Yellow Lot. The Trams are run by Rodeo committee members offering visitors free rides to and from parking lots and the grounds, as well as to and from NRG Center and NRG Arena.
The Yellow Lot opens at 6:00 am and costs $25 to park. They DO NOT ACCEPT CASH!
Walking is STILL very much involved. If you are attending with small children, bring their strollers or wagons. You will need them. I also suggest ensuring that you wear comfortable shoes. While cowboy boots are cute, having sore, tired feet are not.
WHAT TO BRING
It’s best to pack SMART and LIGHT.
The Houston Rodeo has a very lax bag check policy. I took my regular purse, which happens to be this 14.5″ Soft Utility Square Backpack from Universal Thread™. It allowed me just enough space to pack our essentials. I will more than likely need a bigger bag when/if I decide to take both girls, but this backpack was great for one kiddo. Here are the things I suggest you bring with you when Experiencing the Houston Rodeo with Food Allergies.
- Safe foods and snacks. I’ve learned that Emory prefers her routine. Given that we visited the rodeo on a school day (Thursday), I packed Emory’s regular lunch as if she was going to school. Her lunch consists of Boar’s Head Maple Glazed Honey Coat Turkey Breast slices (cut into the shape of hearts – yes, I’m that mom.) Organic carrot sticks and pretzels. Her snacks included: Annie’s Organic Fruit Snacks, small bags of chips, and assorted crackers.
- Thermoflask Insulated Stainless Steel Water Bottle. Water at the rodeo is $5. You can save this money by bringing your own. I suggest an insulated thermoflask to ensure your water stays cold. Plastic bottles of water will get warm (and gross) very quickly.
- Cleaning Wipes & Hand Sanitizer. We preferred finding a restroom to clean our hands with actual soap and water before eating but also packed a variety of different wipes that we used for various purposes. We used these wipes to clean surfaces (seating and eating areas) and these wipes to clean hands, and wipe faces before and after eating.
- Allergy Bracelet. We purchased Emory’s allergy bracelet from Allermates (get 10% off your order using code BAM10) when she returned to school following the pandemic. She doesn’t leave home without it. It’s always helpful to have when attending events where her allergens (and strangers) may be present.
- Medications and ointments. We manage environmental allergies in addition to food allergies. Before leaving home we administered a dose of Zyrtec and packed her Benadryl, and topicals (Benadryl cream and Aquaphor). *It is wise to always pack your EpiPen if prescribed.
WHERE TO EAT AT THE RODEO
I’ve been to the rodeo before, so I knew there weren’t going to be many allergy-friendly options for Emory. Before we visited, I reviewed the Houston Rodeo Dining Guide in an attempt to familiarize myself with the options. I made notes of the stalls that served fries, cotton candy, sausage on a stick, corn, grilled chicken, and snow cones. When we arrived, I at least had a reference point should Emory want to eat something outside of her lunch.
Here are some of the issues we faced:
- While most of these researched food stalls served items safe for Emory to consume, they served them alongside foods that were unsafe for her. For example, those places that served fries didn’t have dedicated fryers. The grease used the fry french fries was the same grease used to fry gluten-containing items.
- Most meats (i.e. sausage or grilled chicken on a stick) were handled using the same tongs as foods that contained dairy and/or egg and prepared on the same cooktop as foods containing allergens.
- The food stalls are so busy, and the lines are so long waiting in them to inquire about ingredients only to learn that most, if not all, food items run the risk of cross-contact wasnt how I preferred to spend our time. We’d rather be having fun!
There is a Chick-fil-A on-site. It’s located inside NRG Center near the ‘AGVENTURE’ petting zoo. Because it’s sort of off the beaten path, the line was manageable. This was the only “truly” safe food option, given our familiarity with their ingredients.
So what did Emory eat? A mango snow cone from Kona Ice*, and on our way out, we grabbed a bag of cotton candy.
*In hindsight, I am not sure how safe the snow cone was given that they provide you with a cup of Ice and a self-serve syrup station at the base of the truck. As I watched twenty or so children press those buttons, I started having second thoughts about my choice. Emory didn’t like it, so she gave it to me.
BEST TIME TO VISIT
Experiencing the Houston Rodeo with small children is best done in the morning. We arrived on site around 9:00 am. This gave us time to park, walk, use the restroom, eat our lunch, and visit the petting zoo before the ticket booths and food stalls opened at 11 am.
By the time we had seen the animals (Emory didn’t enjoy that at all!) we were ready to go play! The lines for the kiddie rides weren’t bad, but if you plan to split your time between kiddie and adult rides, it’s best to get started early.
To help prioritize your visit, check out these important time-related details:
- The public parking lots are open at different times. Familiarize yourself with that before you decide where to park. The Yellow lot opens at 6 am.
- AGVENTURE Petting Zoo opens at 9:00 am. It’s best to get there early to beat the lines for attractions. There is a goat petting exhibit and pony rides towards the back. These lines get very long very quickly.
- The Ticket Booths, Carnival Rides, Games, and Food Stalls open at 11:00 am. Everything except food requires tickets. There are plenty of ticket stalls available. Some are operated by actual people and other are automated and only take credit cards!
Experiencing the Houston Rodeo with Food Allergies can be fun, it just takes an additional level of planning. I hope this guide assists you in navigating (and enjoying) the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo.
Have questions that I didn’t address? Drop a comment or reach out to me via social media – @BlackAllergyMama on Facebook and Instagram. If I don’t have an answer I am happy to find one for you!