Vegas Weekender: Cowboys, Santa and everything in between

Catch all the rodeo fun as well as holiday shows this weekend in Vegas.

Rodeo, we go!

cowboyThe Wrangler National Finals Rodeo at Thomas & Mack Center runs through Saturday, Dec. 10 so you still have a time to enjoy the festivities.

Mandalay Bay Hotel hosts the Cowboy Marketplace Gift Show now through Dec. 11 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. Admission is free.

The Cowboy Christmas Show at the Las Vegas Convention Center’s North Hall features Western wear, jewelry, art, boots and spurs, crafts and NFR merchandise for sale. The show runs from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. Admission is free. Complimentary shuttle service to the rodeo from the Las Vegas Convention Center is also available.

Fans can meet their favorite riders for photo opportunities and autographs. Monte Carlo hotel hosts bareback riders on Thursday, Dec. 8 and tie-down ropers make an appearance at The Mirage on Friday, Dec. 9.

And what’s NFR week without the shows and parties?

  •  Merle Haggard comes to the Golden Nugget Dec. 8 – 9 at 10 p.m.
  • Trace Adkins sings his hits at the Riviera on Dec. 9. at 10 p.m.
  • Charlie Daniels Band performs at The Orleans on Dec. 9 at 8:30 p.m. and Dec.10 at 8 p.m.
  • Joe Nichols sings at Sante Fe Station on Dec. 9.
  • Gary Allan performs at House of Blues Dec. 9 – 10, while “Nashville Unplugged” hits Green Valley Ranch on Dec. 9.

On Dec. 10,  The Mirage hosts “The Official 10th Night PRCA World Champions Awards Show.” This event features red carpet appearances, a live performance by Frankie Ballard, giveaways and more.

Studio 54 at MGM Grand transforms into “Saloon 54” on Dec. 10 with a special performance by Eli Young Band.


Barry Manilow performs his legendary hits Thursday, Dec. 8 at Paris Las Vegas.


Bill Engvall gets the crowd laughing at Treasure Island this weekend.

Laugh out loud with Bill Engvall at Treasure Island, Dec. 8 – 10 at 8 p.m. Ron White brings his blue-collar humor to The Mirage on Dec. 9 – 10 at 10 p.m. See Rodney Carrington at MGM Grand now through Dec. 10 at 10 p.m.

Dustin Ybarra from “Comedy Central” performs Dec. 8 – 10 at Playboy Comedy inside The Lounge at The Palms.  Show times are at 10 p.m., with an additional 8 p.m. show on Saturday.

The laughs continue with “Hangin’ with Mr. Cooper’s” Mark Curry at Las Vegas Hilton, now through Dec. 11 at 10 p.m.

Puscifer performs at the Palms, Dec. 10 at 9 p.m.

Holiday extravaganza

The Las Vegas Strip offers plenty to see and with festive shows, attractions and dining menus.

Harrah’s “Legends in Concert” showcases holiday tribute performances now through Dec. 25. Special tribute acts include Toby Keith, Elvis Presley, Carrie Underwood, Donna Summer and Michael Jackson, with Whoopi Goldberg as the emcee. Songs include “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” and “Santa Claus is Coming to Town.” “Legends in Concert” plays at 7 and 9:30 p.m. nightly (except Saturdays).

“Marriage Can Be Murder” at Fitzgerald’s Casino Las Vegas hosts a holiday-themed show now through Jan. 8,


Who can resist the polar bear (made completely of flowers) at the Bellagio Conservatory? The holiday display is up until Jan. 2, 2012.

The Bellagio Conservatory features its annual holiday display now through the New Year. Highlights include the towering Shasta Fir tree (measuring more than 40 feet tall) and a polar bear family made completely of flowers.

Pet lovers, rejoice: Bring your dog or cat to take a picture with Santa at Fashion Show mall, Dec. 12 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Hard Rock hotel spreads holiday cheer with festive fare and cocktails. These limited-time menus are available at 35 Steak + Martinis, Johnny Smalls, Pink Taco, LTO Pizza & More and Mr. Lucky’s Café.

From Dec. 13 through Dec. 25, enjoy Santa’s Helper Martini and the Drunken Elf at these participating locations.

The Drunken Elf features Absolut Vanilla Vodka, Crème de Menthe, Sambuca, muddled mint leaves and vanilla syrup and is topped with fresh mint sprig and gumdrops. 


Enjoy the limited-time Santa's Helper Martini at the Hard Rock hotel.

Santa’s Helper Martini combines Absolut Vanilla Vodka, white chocolate Godiva liquor, Kahlua and Crème de Menthe, garnished with a dollop of whipped cream, candy cane, cinnamon stick and a dash of cocoa powder. 

35 Steaks + Martinis features seasonal favorites including pork belly (garnished with sweet carrot perdue, rum raisins and eggnog buerre blanc), red kuri squash soup (gingerbread crisp and clove crème fraiche) and deep dish sweet potato pecan pie.

Johnny Smalls features unique tapas including lamb lollipops with port wine reduction, sweet potato tots with maple marshmallow dip, turkey dinner sliders with cranberry mayo and crispy brie lollipops with cranberry orange marmalade. 

Menu highlights at Pink Taco include caldo de res (slow-cooked beef with potatoes, carrots, corn, celery and rice and served in a broth and tortillas on the side), seafood relleno (Poblano pepper stuffed with a seafood blend and topped with a spicy cream sauce, alongside black bean rice) and open-faced tamale (filled with chili and cheese and topped with choice of chicken, beef, pork or shrimp). 

LTO Pizza & More offers traditional favorites such as butternut squash soup (rich and creamy roasted winter squash with gingerbread croutons), panzanella (Tuscan bread salad with plum tomatoes, shaved red onion, olive oil and basil) and roasted pumpkin ravioli (house made cheese and pumpkin ravioli finished in a chestnut, browned butter and sage sauce). 

Mr. Lucky’s Café offers holiday mixed greens (complemented by candied walnuts, Asian pear, bleu cheese and tossed in blackberry vinaigrette), oven-roasted turkey dinner (accompanied by candied yams, Yukon mashed potatoes, green beans, cornbread stuffing and cranberry sauce) and honey mustard-glazed ham (served with cornbread stuffing and house made cranberry sauce). 

At Koi inside Planet Hollywood, opt for holiday specials including fried wonton filled with kabocka (Japanese pumpkin) truffle with basil cream cheese aioli or foie gras and red kuri squash dumplings. Koi also offers a pumpkin pie with Amaretti Crumble, whipping cream and vanilla ice cream. Cocktails include the strawberry bellini martini, made with Absolut Vodka, Peach Schnapps, cranberry juice, champagne, strawberries and ginger snap.



Make sure to check out the Michael Jackson Fan Fest and "Michael Jackson The IMMORTAL World Tour" this weekend at Mandalay Bay.

The King of Pop lives on at the Michael Jackson Fan Fest. Fans won’t want to miss the chance to get an up-close look at Michael Jackson memorabilia and some of his personal belongings from Neverland Ranch. The first ever estate-authorized Michael Jackson Fan Fest is at Mandalay Bay through Dec. 14 in conjunction with Cirque du Soleil’s “Michael Jackson The IMMORTAL World Tour.”


Bundle up! Hosted every second Saturday of the month, the outdoor Vegas StrEATs Festival outside El Cortez downtown fulfills your appetite on Dec. 10. This monthly food truck, arts and music festival runs from 6 p.m.  to 2 a.m. In addition to the different food trucks, see local art and clothing vendors and dance to live DJ-spun music.

Rockhouse Bar & Nightclub at Imperial Palace throws its “Trade in Your Books” party in celebration of College Wednesdays, starting Dec. 14. For every unwanted book, students receive a Jaeger Bomb or tequila shot in return. Also, any student with a valid college ID receives a discounted open bar from 9 p.m. until midnight.


Visit “Sip & Spa” at Ravella at Lake Las Vegas. This Thursday, Dec. 8 enjoy Mimosas & Makeovers. Sip on a sparkling mimosa as one of the spa’s make-up artists perfect a glam or smoky eye on you.  Enjoy a mini treatment, cocktail, hors d’oeuvres and spa gift for $25 (or $10 for everything but the treatment).


Most folks take their Vegas jackpot winnings back home, but my dad decided to stay here instead. That’s how I left Seattle almost 20 years ago. I moved from greenery and rainy days to hot summers, palm trees and desert. As much as I love my hometown, I decided to stick around Vegas. This city just has so much to offer. You don’t even have to be a gambler, bar hopper or an all-night partier. I love Vegas for its awesome vegan-friendly spots, concerts, swanky hotel suites and spas so big, they’re like castles. The pool scene is not too shabby either, which is why I love taking stay-cations. Besides living it up -- Vegas style -- I’m hanging out with my handsome hubby, adorable baby girl, two cats and super-fluffy Shih-Tzu. I’m also a huge fan of '90s music, shows and movies. You can find me on Google+ and Twitter.