If you’re coming to Vegas for Chinese New Year, then you’re in for a treat.
Chinese New Year falls on Monday, Jan. 23. Vegas celebrates with larger-than-life displays, traditional dances and headlining acts. And since it’s the Year of the Dragon, this stirs up plenty of excitement on its own. Regarded as the mightiest of signs in Chinese astrology, the dragon symbolizes traits such as ambition, prominence, passion and success.
The dragon is viewed as a powerful king made from multiple parts of animals including the tiger, fish, snake and eagle. According to the Chinese zodiac, individuals born in the Year of the Dragon tend to be powerful and often have a sharp tongue. In addition, those who possess this sign are said to be risk takers, aren’t afraid to face challenges and embody colorful personalities. They are also known to be artistically gifted.
Through March 4, the Bellagio Conservatory offers its breathtaking colorful dragon display.
“We always display the animal of the year, [so] the expectation is there and we always do a beautiful show,” said Andres Garcia, director of horticulture for the Conservatory.
The five dragons on display represent five elements — water, fire, metal, wood and earth.
“A fun fact is we used over 20, 000 scales to make them,” said Garcia. “Each scale was hand-painted one by one and the colors are so beautiful.”
This year, the majestic centerpieces are two animated blue Chinese dragons wrapped around a cylinder of water (pictured on right). These dragons blow steam from their nostrils and playfully swat at an oversized iridescent red pearl hanging above them. According to Chinese folklore, the pearl represents wealth, good luck and prosperity.
Nearby, you’ll see two dragons (green for earth, gold for metal) by the garden’s zigzag bridge. The bridge leads to a striking Ming Dynasty-style gazebo. Steps away, two other dragons (brown for wood, red for fire) are joined by silk red lanterns and gold leafed I-Ching coins, a traditional Chinese money symbol.
In addition to the dragons and lanterns, guests can see a pool of koi fish.
“We have a marine biologist on staff, so [the fish] are nowhere near danger,” said Garcia.
For the first time ever, there will be live, complimentary musical performances at the garden, 5 p.m. – 6 p.m. daily. These musicians will play authentic Chinese instruments including the erhu, ruan and pipa.
“We are full of surprises,” Garcia said. “Guests don’t have to fly to their countries to celebrate Chinese New Year. It’s going to attract a lot of people.”
Palazzo goes big with a fire-breathing dragon
This Chinese New Year, the Palazzo features a new visitor. A first in Vegas, you can see a red and gold dragon breathing real fire at the waterfall atrium inside The Shoppes at Palazzo. From Jan. 23 through Feb. 5, the 128-foot dragon will shoot fire and smoke from its mouth 1 p.m. and 5 p.m., daily (2 p.m. on Jan. 23, Chinese New Year Day).
Spanning the entire atrium, the 8,000-pound dragon will hang above the ground fountain. Constructed by a team of 60 designers from all over the world, this dragon took more than a year to create.
“The dragon is the most powerful of the zodiac signs [so] we had to create something that Las Vegas would never forget,” said Dana Beatty, director of horticulture for The Venetian and The Palazzo. “The enormous size of the dragon will be the biggest thrill to our guests.”
Beatty said in addition to the massive dragon, the entire garden features the art of Feng Shui. The garden’s east bed represents the water elements, complete with a red and gold bridge over a stream with live koi fish. The west bed represents earth elements with metal coins, large boulders, 35-foot bamboo trees and Amstel King Ficus Trees to represent wood.
“There is incredible detail to the gardens during Chinese New Year,” said Beatty. “Instead of using large blocks of color, we designed the gardens to resemble an oriental forest. This [encourages] our guests to stroll around and enjoy the beauty of the plants, rocks, trees and mosses. It has a festive and soothing feel.”
Beatty added that there are more than 1,000 plants in the gardens, including tangerine trees, red Phormium, Kalanchoes, yellow monkey grass, red kangaroo paws, chrysanthemums, maiden hair ferns and red sedum.
A secret friend to the dragon, a rooster will sit to the west of the ground fountain. The two zodiac signs are compatible with one another and together bring harmony, wealth and lucky relationships.
Get a behind-the-scenes look at the Palazzo’s dragon here.
Dance the day away
Symbolizing good luck and prosperity for the upcoming year, the dragon dance is an important ritual of Chinese culture.
On Monday, Jan. 23 at 1 p.m., celebrate Chinese New Year Day at the Venetian and Palazzo with a ceremonial dragon dance complete with firecrackers. This dance begins at the Venetian’s porte cochere and makes its way through the Palazzo. The colorful spectacle will feature a parade of dancers and musicians dressed in elaborate costumes.
On Feb. 3, students from Meadows Elementary School perform a Chinese dragon parade at the Forum Shops inside Caesars Palace. The parade features red and gold costumes (Chinese colors of joy), drums and firecrackers (to keep evil spirits away) accompanied by two large and colorful dragons. The students will also sing four songs in Chinese, with English translations. Show begins at 10 a.m.
On Tuesday, Jan. 24, Crystals at CityCenter showcases a traditional dragon dance with Kung Fu artists and Chinese performers. Select Crystals retailers will feed the dragon cabbage and give it a red envelope with money. Both customs represent good luck and prosperity in the upcoming year. The dance is scheduled to begin at 1:30 p.m.
Dragons aren’t the only animal gracing us with their presence: If you’ll be here for this major holiday, you’ll have the chance to see traditional lion dances, too. See the dance troupe, Yau Kung Moon perform traditional Chinese lion dances at Aria, Bellagio, MGM Grand and The Mirage. Yau Kung Moon, which translates to “style of flexible power,” is considered one of the most respected martial arts, dragon and lion dance organizations in the world. The group practices a traditional Southern Shaolin Kung Fu system that carries more than 1,000 years of history.
Introduced to the United States in the 1960s, Yau Kung Moon is considered one of the pioneers of Northern and Southern lion dancing. Known for its trademark gold uniforms and innovative routines, Yau Kung Moon is the first U.S. team to compete in the 1990 Invitational World Lion Dance Festival in Malaysia. The group also finished as the nine-time undefeated Chinese National Lion Dance Champions.
Enjoy free Yau Kung Moon lion dance shows held at the following resort’s main valet and porte cochere:
- Aria: Tuesday, Jan. 24 at 1 p.m.
- Crystals: Tuesday, Jan. 24 at 1:30 p.m.
- The Mirage: Tuesday, Jan. 24 at 4 p.m.
- MGM Grand: Wednesday, Jan. 25 at 1 p.m.
- Bellagio: Wednesday, Jan. 25 at 6:30 p.m.
Caesars Entertainment properties will also hold lion dance ceremonies:
- Jan. 27: 5 p.m. at Harrah’s Las Vegas; 6:15 p.m. at Imperial Palace; 7 p.m. at Flamingo and 10 p.m. at Rio.
- Jan. 28: Noon at Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino; 1 p.m. at Paris Las Vegas; 2 p.m. at Bally’s and 5 p.m. at Caesars Palace.
See Chinese Mandopop star Wakin Chau at The Colesseum at Caesars Palace, Jan. 28 – 29 at 8 p.m. Chau has released more than 40 records in Mandarin, Cantonese and English. He has also held numerous and successful international concert tours.
If you’re here for this spectacular weekend, don’t forget to tell people Happy Chinese New Year by saying, “Gung Hay Fat Choy!”