Celebrate the Holidays Las Vegas-Style
Ready or not, the holidays are upon us! And while November and December tend to be the slowest time of the year in Las Vegas, it’s also one of the best times of the year to visit. The Strip is a lot less busy so it’s a lot less crowded; hotel rooms are less expensive because there aren’t as many events in town; the weather is usually quite pleasant (although it does get cold at night); and the entire Las Vegas Valley lights up for the holidays. Everywhere you look there are Christmas trees, holiday lights, ice rinks, Santas, and more in celebration of the season, making this truly the most wonderful time of the year in Las Vegas! Check out some of my favorite holiday happenings below!
Certainly one of the most unique holiday lights displays in Las Vegas, GlitteringLights is a drive-through display that puts you right on the Las Vegas Motor Speedway racetrack, though you won’t be driving racetrack speeds. Drive your car through more than two miles of displays, including some very cool tunnels, or hop on the Santa Tram with a hot chocolate and bag of kettle corn in hand. If you hurry, you can also still sign up for the Las Vegas Children’s Charities PJ 5K & 1-Mile Walk that takes you through the Glittering Lights displays on foot this Sunday, November 24 at 3 p.m. Bring the whole fam and be sure to wear your favorite holiday pajamas or onesies!
The only modern classic Christmas carol, and guaranteed earworm for the last two months of every year, Mariah Carey’s holiday mega-hit “All I Want for Christmas is You” is as Christmasy as Santa himself. Once again, the iconic diva will be performing a special holiday-themed show at Caesars Palace for five dates only, November 22 through 30. If you miss this one, she’ll be back again with her regular residency, “The Butterfly Returns,” in February.
Start Thanksgiving morning with a festive run and maybe feel a little less guilty about the gorge-fest afterwards! The annual Las Vegas Turkey Trot is now in its 10th year and takes runners (and walkers, and casual joggers) through the six historic railroad tunnels that run through the Lake Mead National Recreation Area down to the Hoover Dam. You can sign up for a 1-mile fun run, 5K, 12K, and half or full marathon. No matter the length or speed of the run, this is a fun and scenic way to start your day!
Santa Claus is coming to the Sand Dollar Lounge on Spring Mountain Rd. in Chinatown from November 25 through December 31 as the historic blues bar transforms into “Miracle on Spring Mountain.” They’ll be serving holiday-themed craft cocktails in festive mugs and glassware from 4pm-4am daily, and there will be plenty of over-the-top decorations for your Instagram.
The Smith Center is going all-in on the holidays this year, with a touring production of Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas! The Musical November 26 through December 1, the Las Vegas Philharmonic’s “A Baroque Holiday—Handel’s Messiah” and family-friendly “A Classic Holiday” shows on December 6 and 7, and the Nevada Ballet Theatre’s beautifully-staged annual production of The Nutcracker December 13-24.
Las Vegas ventriloquist legend and all-around entertainer Terry Fator will once again bring a holiday theme to his residency at the Mirage from November 29 through December 30. In this all-new show, he’ll perform holiday classics, original comedic songs, and a lesson about a new holiday called “Juana,” in addition to all-new and updated celebrity impersonations and ventriloquism.
If you ever wondered what it would be like to see some 10,000+ Santas (and elves, and some reindeer, and a few Grinches) running through Fremont Street and all over Downtown Las Vegas, here is your chance! The Las Vegas Great Santa Run is happening on Saturday, December 7, and is an annual benefit for local Las Vegas charity Opportunity Village, which serves adults in the Las Vegas area with intellectual and related disabilities.
There are a lot of places in Vegas with makeshift “ice rinks” for the holidays now, but the original and most iconic is the Ice Rink at the Cosmo, which transforms the rooftop Boulevard Pool deck into a winter wonderland overlooking the Strip complete with an ice rink, 36-foot-tall Christmas tree, holiday-themed food and drinks, and roasted s’mores by the fire pit.
On Monday and Tuesday nights, they’re also screening holiday movies on the hotel’s giant digital marquee. It’s free to check out and there are skating discounts available for locals, hotel guests, and the military.
Most cities have holiday lights displays on massive evergreen trees. In Vegas, we string lights on cacti! Ethel M Chocolates in Henderson has a three-acre cactus garden decorated with over one million lights that is free and open to the public each night until 10 p.m. through January 5. They’ll also have food trucks, outdoor holiday movie screenings, and photos with Santa on Fridays and Saturdays. While you’re there, do stop into the chocolate manufacturer’s factory and store for some of the best hot chocolate you will ever have in your life (this is a chocolate factory, after all) and lots of sweet treats for holiday gifts.
Another fundraiser for the charity Opportunity Village (actually their biggest of the year), the Magical Forest is a Vegas holiday must for one and all. There are loads of things to do with the family, including carnival rides and games, train rides, food vendors, and the Magical Forest itself filled with holiday-themed animatronics and more than a million lights decorating hundreds of Christmas trees. New this year, and included in the standard ticket price, is a Santa-themed escape room and almost-nightly performances of Elf the Musical (based on the modern Christmas movie classic Elf). The Magical Forest is open November 29 through January 4.