Christmas in Las Vegas
Christmas in Vegas? Although the thought of Vegas as a holiday destination does not typically come to mind as most see nothing more than a dry & dusty brown desert and man made casinos, the city surprisingly offers a number of wonderfully festive displays & fun events if you happen to be planning a December vacation. Although I would not necessarily recommend running and booking a holiday Vegas vacation, these holiday attractions simply are a nice bonus if you are already planning a trip around this time.
Vegas sees a big surge in visitors the week between Christmas & New Year’s as many residents in nearby states decide to enjoy a little time off in Sin City. Despite the hefty crowds & outrageous hotel prices during this period, the cooler temperatures, gorgeous casinos holiday displays, and huge NYE party complete with fireworks and a closed-to-vehicles Strip (one of 2 times a year The Strip closes!), makes a visit well worth considering. Below are a few of the best holiday attractions to check out!
Bellagio Gardens Christmas display
One of the most gorgeous and top rated holiday displays in the city is the famous Bellagio Gardens seasonal winter wonderland which has gained world wide recognition. In fact, you have probably seen it featured on the Travel Channel at some point. Each season, the 14,000 square foot floral garden is transformed into a breathtaking winter wonderland. Not surprisingly, this exceptional display also draws exceptional crowds. So get here early in the morning to enjoy this work of art to yourself.
The center piece is a 42 foot tall Christmas tree with 7000 lights, which is surrounded by a variety of festive displays. Recent festive touches have included 14 foot toy soldiers, massive snow globes featuring holiday scenes, and polar bears made completely out of flowers (the mother being made out of 12,000 carnations!). Walking through the gardens this time of year is a magical experience that will have you reminiscing over childhood Christmases long ago.
The Wynn Atrium Holiday Display
Although less busy and not as talked about as Bellagio’s famous display, the gorgeous setup at The Wynn really is the hidden gem here that gives the Bellagio a run for their money. The gold and silver theme at The Wynn is absolutely enchanting. One of the most amazing sights is a magical winter wonderland village in which a gold train carrying presents circles around – it’s so dazzling that it is hard to take your eyes off of it!
Over 30 beautifully decorated trees and golden poinsettias create an elegant holiday setting like no other in Vegas. It’s free and much less crowded than the Bellagio, so really there is no reason not to check it out if you happen to be in town! And of course, while you are here you will also get to see the amazing carousel and hot air balloon which are constructed solely from flowers. Together the 2 creations use over 110,000 flowers!).
While you are here, The Wynn is home to some of the best restaurants in Vegas (Lakeside is a must!). And their buffet, hands down, offers both the best food and the best ambiance of any buffet on The Strip.
Holiday Lights at Ethel M. Chocolate Factory
It’s a bit of a drive (about 20 min or so from The Strip), although the impressive light display at Ethel M. Chocolate Factory in Henderson is well worth the detour off The Strip. Not only is this wonderful holiday activity completely free (Update – admission is now a $1 as of 2022 but goes towards a local food bank), visiting also gives you the unique opportunity to explore a local attraction in a quiet and less touristy setting. Every once in a while, a welcome break from the crazy Strip is in order! Although it is hard to leave all The Strip’s excitement, it can also get quite exhausting after just a day!
The cactus garden is gorgeous: a unique holiday display that you will not find anywhere else in the country really. While you are here you can also test out some chocolate, take a self guided tour of the factory (if you time your visit right, you will get to see chocolate being made right before your eyes!), and even reserve a seat for a tasting room experience (must reserve beforehand online). Visiting Ethel M around the holidays is one of the best free things to do in the Vegas area, so do yourself a favor and take the time to experience this wonderfully unique holiday experience on your Christmas/New Year’s visit.
Winter Parq at the Linq Promenade
Winter Parq at the Linq Promenade is a festive month long celebration featuring nightly snowfall, a High Roller light show, and a free holiday themed show. The Linq Promenade is one of many dining, shopping, & entertainment complexes along The Strip. There are more than 40 shops and restaurants to explore. And of course, if you want to spend a few bucks you can enjoy fabulous views of The Strip via the High Roller. At 550 feet, it stands as the world’s tallest observation wheel. The Promenade is one of the best areas to stroll around as it is less stuffy than the indoor malls & it is not overly congested. The 30 foot tall Christmas tree & various festivities make it even more of an attractive choice this winter season.
The Venetian & Palazzo holiday displays
Although not as extravagant as the displays found at The Bellagio and The Wynn, these 2 resorts are still worth a walk through for a glimpse at the beautiful set up which includes over-sized ornaments, golden snowflakes hanging from the ceiling, reindeer displays, a beautiful Love Sculpture by artist Laura Kimpton and 1000’s of gorgeous plants including traditional Christmas poinsettias.
A few other Vegas area holiday activities to check out if you have extra time. Also be sure to check out my 40 must-do’s in Vegas and the most relaxing things to do in Vegas (you will need recovery time after putting up with the massive holiday crowds.
*Ice skating at The Cosmopolitan
More and more warm weather destinations have been setting up ice rinks as part of their winter lineup of holiday activities, giving both locals and tourists the unique opportunity to enjoy a timeless activity not typically available in these warmer areas. Although quite a different experience in a desert setting, ice skating in Vegas is a real blast with such amazing high energy surroundings. The added benefit of not completely freezing your butt off (be aware night temps are much colder than you would expect with temps often dropping into the 40’s!) makes this activity even more attractive in Vegas.
The large 4200 square foot real ice rink at the beautiful Cosmopolitan offers a truly unique setting for ice skating where you can glide along while surrounded by the dazzling lights & energy of The Strip. And if you are craving more of a traditional winter recreational experience, you are in luck as it snows every half hour! You can even roast S’mores by the fire and order specialty holiday drinks! Ice skating at the Cosmopolitan is an exhilarating winter experience in Vegas and a definite add to your Vegas bucket list if you don’t mind shelling out a few bucks.
*Special holiday buffets
Most of the mid-upper end resorts offer special holiday buffet menus for Christmas as well as the week leading up to New Year’s. Although the pricing is a bit higher than normal, the food selection is a bit more extravagant as well. I recommend The Wynn, Caesars Place, and the Aria for the high quality food, beautiful settings, & interesting selection.
*Las Vegas Motor Speedway Glittering Lights
This drive thru light show is one of the biggest holiday events in the state, featuring millions of colorful lights and displays. Quite pricey, although worth it if you are looking for more holiday activities to add to your itinerary. My advice: check out the freebies first, then save the Motor Speedway as an extra backup. I am personally not a fan of drive-thru shows – big waste of money in my opinion.
*Special Holiday shows
Along with the regular lineup of shows, you will also get to choose amongst a number of special holiday productions. A few of the highly regarded selections include A Very Terry Christmas (featuring Terry Fator, winner of America’s Got Talent), the Nevada Ballet’s The Nutcracker, the annual Legends in Concert holiday show, and many more.
*Bellagio fountains with holiday music
Around the holidays, the dancing fountains of the Bellagio move in tune to classic holiday favorites! A wonderful show is made even more wonderful with the addition of classic Christmas songs! For this one, you need to get here before Christmas as the song selection reverts back to the normal playlist right after the 25th.
Vegas is home to one of the most extravagant and popular NYE celebrations in the world. In this 24/7 party city, it’s hard to imagine an even bigger celebration, however, NYE in Vegas is just that. Along with this being one of only 2 days that The Strip closes to vehicle traffic (the other being the fantastic Rock N’ Roll Marathon), there is also a massive fireworks show along with a never ending lineup of special parties and nightclub events to attend.