We may be on the naughty list (Remember what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, right Santa?), but that doesn’t mean Sin City doesn’t know how to celebrate the holidays. We’ve got crazy Christmas trees, miles of holiday lights, ice skating rinks, an army of Santas and snow! There’s no way to escape the holiday spirit when you visit Vegas in December.
With our miles and miles and miles of neon and sparkly lights, Vegas is ready to celebrate the holidays year-round. But that doesn’t mean we can’t turn the spectrometer up to 11 when December rolls around.
Longtime Vegas favorite Ethel M Chocolate Factory and Botanical Cactus Gardens has rolled out their holiday display covering their cactus gardens in lights and humorous holiday inflatables. Kudos for the team at the garden who every year brave those thorns to create the free amazing display. Be prepared for crowds as the display is a major locals favorite, but don’t worry, there’s plenty of chocolate to buy as well as visits from Santa (Fridays from 5 to 9 p.m. through Dec. 19) and performances by local choirs (6 to 8 p.m. on Thursday through Sunday).
If you are visiting Las Vegas (and have a car), Glittering Lights is a holiday lights extravaganza worth the trip. Located at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway (about 20 minutes from the Las Vegas Strip), Glittering Lights features 2.5 miles of lights in a custom display that you drive through. (Hey, we pioneered driver-thru weddings in Vegas, so this is right up our alley.) Tickets are $20 a car and the display is open from 5:30 to 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday. Friday and Saturday they are open from 5:30 to 10 p.m.
Each year the Magical Forest at Opportunity Village ups the wattage and offerings to create a holiday experience like no other. Plus this venerable local holiday tradition is also the largest fundraiser for Opportunity Village, which helps local residents with learning disabilities. This year features more than 3 million lights, Boris the Elf’s 3-D Experience, Rudolph’s Raceway, Magical Midway, Rod’s Mini-Golf, Cheyenne’s Enchanted Carousel, Avalanche Slide and the always popular Forest Express Passenger Train. And there are plenty of chances to get a picture with Santa. The Magical Forest is open from 5:30 to 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 5:30 to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Tickets are $11 for adults and $9 for children. Passes to enjoy unlimited rides and attraction access are $20 for adults and $18 for children.
Look out Rockefeller Center, Vegas has not one but three towering Christmas trees (plus a plethora of smaller ones) to get you into the holiday spirit. In a town that has elevated artificial fantasy to an art form, it’s no surprise that our first tree is a digital wonder. The Venetian has a towering 65-foot LED Christmas tree. More electronic extravaganza than traditional Douglas fir, The Venetian’s tree creates a stunning light display every evening worthy of a Vine video. Tonight, the Bellagio Conservatory lights its tree as part of the unveiling of the Conservatory’s winter decorations. The natural tree (usually a white fir) boasts more than 7,000 lights and 2,500 ornaments and is just part of the holiday extravaganza at the Conservatory. In downtown Las Vegas, Santa will help light the the 50-foot tree at the Fremont Street Experience on Dec. 9 at 5 p.m. A week later on Dec. 16 at 4 p.m. Rabbi Shea Harlig will be on hand to lead the ceremony to light the Grand Menorah.
The average temperature in Vegas during December may be 58 degrees Fahrenheit, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have snow. We just have to truck it in. On the Las Vegas Strip, The LINQ Promenade rolls out the white carpet (of snow) with Winter PARQ on Friday. Located behind the High Roller observation wheel, Winter PARQ will feature a 30-foot-tall snow-covered tubing hill. The hill will be open Monday through Friday from 4 to 10 p.m. and Saturday through Sunday from 2 to 10 p.m. Rides are $5 each or you can score an all-day pass for $20.
At The LINQ Promenade real snow (machine made) will fall every half hour in the evening beginning Dec. 8. There will also be holiday decorations and carolers. Our recommendation: get some hot chocolate from Ghiradelli Chocolates and a holiday cupcake or cookie from Sprinkles while you are there.
Head to downtown Las Vegas if you want your snow mixed with local holiday cheer and check out Winter Wonderland next to the Zappos.com pop-up store. There’s a sledding hill, snow play area, ice skating, Christmas tree lot, 50-foot Christmas tree, light show, food trucks and a lounge area with holiday videos projected on the wall. Winter Wonderland comes the closest to creating the feel of a small-town holiday fair. Winter Wonderland is open from 3 to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to midnight Friday through Saturday and 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Sunday. Prices vary from $5 to $10 for the various attractions.
As much as we would love to see the Bellagio Fountains freeze over to create the greatest sculptural ice rink in the world, the rules of science plus the lack of deep freeze temperatures in Vegas prevent this dream from coming true. Until then, we’ll enjoy two ice skating rinks at resorts on either side of the iconic fountains.
At The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, the Ice Rink at their Boulevard Pool (no they didn’t freeze the pool, they placed the rink over it) offers skaters a great view of the Las Vegas Strip. Afterwards relax on Adirondack chairs and enjoy a Campfire Delight – drink that is. On Thursdays you can break out the legwarmers for Throwback Thursdays and skate to music from the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s. The rink is open from 3 p.m. to midnight Monday through Friday and noon to midnight on Saturday and Sunday. You can skate all day for $15. Skate rentals are $5 per person.
At Caesars Palace you can strap on your skates and glide across the ice at Caesars Chalet Holiday Ice Rink while catching glimpses of the resort’s iconic fountains – can you say selfie? There’s plenty of holiday drinks and food, but we suggest heading over to Serendipty 3 after skating and grabbing a Frrrozen Hot Chocolate.
It’s no Vegas vacation for Santa. The big guy makes appearances at numerous holiday events including the aforementioned Magical Forest, Ethel M’s Chocolate Factory and Winter Wonderland, but that’s not all.
At Mandalay Bay Shark Reef Aquarium, Santa will be taking pictures and listening to children’s last-minute gift requests on select dates in December. Children will get a photo with Mr. Claus and a candy cane with their admission ($18 for adults, $12 for children ages 5 to 12). Even better, stick around until 4 p.m. and you’ll get a great photo op when Santa takes a quick dive in the aquarium to wish happy holidays to all of his aquatic friends.
Santa goes all Hollywood at the Fashion Show Las Vegas. The mall has partnered with DreamWorks to create a 2,000-square-foot interactive attraction. Guests will go on a holiday adventure with Shrek and Donkey as they journey to the North Pole to meet Santa. Bonus No. 1, the attraction is free. Bonus No. 2, you can make a reservation so you are not stuck waiting in line to see Santa. Bonus No. 3, the adventure includes a picture with Santa. The attraction is open 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday thru Saturday and 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Sunday.
There’s nothing quite as good as a few carols to get you in the holiday spirit. But why subject yourself to the muzak playing in the mall or off-key warbling in the shower. In Vegas, top shows roll out the holiday tunes from Motown to Elvis.
From Dec. 12 through Dec. 24, the vocal stars of Human Nature plus special guest Robin Meade perform the special show “Christmas, Motown and More” featuring songs like “Please Come Home for Christmas,” “Sleigh Ride,” “Silent Night – O Holy Night” and “Winter Wonderland” and Mowtown classics “My Girl” and “Reach Out I’ll Be There.”
At “Legends in Concert” celebrity impersonators provide a star-studded holiday singing “Jingle Bell Rock,” “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus,” “Santa Baby,” “Jingle Bells” and more. Our favorite, Bill Cherry as Elvis singing “Blue Christmas.”
Terry Fator brings the holiday laughs, celebrity impressions and amazing singing when he and his loveable puppets present “A Country Christmas” now through Dec. 25. This year’s show follows Walter T. Airdale as he celebrates Christmas in Vegas with Fator, Winston the Turtle, Emma Taylor and many other favorite characters.