Location: Venues throughout Austin, USA. The trade show is in the Austin Convention Center.

Dates: Dates vary in early to mid-March

Description: Here’s further proof that things really are big in Texas, with a music festival so large it has almost single-handedly earned Austin the title of ‘live music capital of the world’. Started in 1987, it brings the music industry and performers together for 10 days – bands come to be discovered and music execs come to discover. During the day, industry buffs head to the Austin Convention Center to talk shop at a trade show, and by night more than 1200 acts perform at 50 or so venues across the city. Coupled to the music festival, SXSW has swelled in recent years to include a film festival and conference and a festival for interactive media.

Essentials: Registering for a Platinum Badge (around $800 to $1100, depending on how far ahead you buy it) gets you into all three trade shows, conferences, screenings, clubs and VIP lounges. A Music Badge ($500 to $650) allows entry into the music conference, trade show and nightly gigs.

Local Attractions: If you want more live music just spend an ordinary day in Austin, where bands regularly play at supermarkets, record shops – even at the airport. The Texas State Capitol is 5m taller than the US Capitol.

More Info: sxsw.com

Location: Thomas and Mack Center, Las Vegas, USA

 

 

Dates: Starts in the first full week of December

 

 

Level of Participation: 3 – attend the hoedown and gift show and hope for the rare chance to attend the rodeo

 

 

Description:

 

It could be argued that Las Vegas is a never-ending festival, a glorified fairground where the lights never go down. But there are moments when even Vegas outshines itself, and the 10-day National Finals Rodeo (NFR) is prime among them.

 

 

The big bronc of rodeo competitions, the NFR sees Vegas taken over by cowboys ready to ride and wrestle their way towards immortality. Known on the circuit as the ‘Superbowl of Rodeo’, NFR ropes in the season’s top 15 competitors (based on the ProRodeo world standings) in each of professional rodeo’s seven events: bull riding, saddle bronc riding, bareback riding, calf roping, steer wrestling, team roping and barrel racing. At stake are not just their bones and pride, but around US$5.5 million in prize money, which even by Vegas standards is real currency.

 

 

First held in 1958, the NFR spent almost three decades being hosted by different US cities. In 1984 it was held at the Thomas and Mack Center for the first time and has been staged there every year since.

 

 

Running in conjunction with the rodeo is the Cowboy Christmas Gift Show in the Las Vegas Convention Center. No simple gift shop, the show contains around 400 stalls to help transform you into the cowboy or cowgirl of your rustling dreams. You’ll find boots, spurs, belt buckles as big as saucepans, and hats large enough to house small families. There’s also the Downtown Hoedown, a free honky-tonk party at the Fremont Street Experience, staged on the eve of NFR and featuring a host of big-name country musicians.

 

The toughest thing about NFR is not the cowboys but getting a ticket. Most tickets (around 100,000 of them) are allocated to riders and sponsors, leaving little more than 40,000 for the public. Such is the demand that tickets sell out more than a year in advance. It’s said that around 1 in 25 people who apply for tickets are successful.

 

Essentials: The rodeo is held nightly, beginning at 5.45pm or 6.45pm. If you missed out in the ticket ballot, the box office sells returned same-day tickets starting each morning around 10am. Cheaper ‘Mad Dash’ find-a-seat tickets let you scramble around to find no-show seats in the balcony area, with at least a guaranteed view of the action from the standing-room-only concourse.

  

Local Attractions: The Strip is hedonic heaven and you can spend days (or weeks) bouncing from casino to casino. If Vegas gets too much, head to its edge to discover Red Rock Canyon, an outdoor playground for local climbers and cyclists.

 Source: Worldnomads.com

More Info: www.prorodeo.com

 

 

 

 

 

Location: Fair Grounds, New Orleans, USA

Dates: Last weekend of April and first weekend of May

Description: Where else would you want your jazz than in the city that spawned it? After Mardi Gras, ‘Jazz Fest’ is New Orleans’ second-biggest reason to party, a feel-good musical smorgasbord served up on more than 10 stages across two weekends.

Jazz Fest began as a celebration of the city’s 250th birthday in 1968, an event that attracted musicians such as Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington and Dave Brubeck. After struggling with poor attendance, it moved to the Fair Grounds in 1972 and began showcasing different musical forms in addition to its staple jazz. The event boomed and continues to do so, with headline acts in 2007 alone including Norah Jones, Van Morrison, Harry Connick Jr, Rod Stewart, ZZ Top and Steely Dan.

The Fair Grounds are open 11am to 7pm, but Jazz Fest continues well into the wee hours in bars and clubs throughout the city.

Essentials:
 The festival schedule comes out in January, and it’s wise to make reservations early – entry is by daily tickets. Bring comfortable shoes, sunscreen, a hat, some water and a blanket for chilling out between concerts.

Local Attractions:
 Jazz up your day further by visiting the New Orleans Jazz National Historical Park in the French Quarter, recounting the history and culture of the music.

More Info:
 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival ( +1…; www.nojazzfest.com)