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Top places to experience the winter holidays in Las Vegas

by Susan and Simon Veness

Las Vegas is known for its glaring neon lights, but throughout the month of December, the twinkling glow of Christmas lights takes over the city, where more than two dozen festive experiences ramp up the holiday cheer.

Las Vegas holiday decor
Photos courtesy of Visit Las Vegas

Whether it’s a seasonal experience, specially-themed show, evocative ambiance, or just cheery décor in an iconic bar, Vegas visitors will find plenty of ways to celebrate the holiday season in the “city that never sleeps.”

Experiences

AREA15 has earned its reputation as a playground of ultra-immersive viewing experiences, and their holiday offering — Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas — inserts viewers straight into Halloween Town, surrounded by Jack Skellington’s obsessive quest to put his own spin on Santa’s role. The cult classic comes to life through 3-D projection mapping and customized lighting as guests enjoy a themed cocktail (ages 21 and up only) and special treats while viewing the movie.

The Ice Rink rooftop skating

The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas celebrates 10 years of sky-high skating as the resort’s rooftop Boulevard Pool is transformed into The Ice Rink. Roast s’mores around a fire pit, enjoy a classic holiday movie, or sip a seasonal cocktail with a spectacular view of the city.

Meet Santa Claus, hear Christmas stories, and cozy up with hot chocolate and cookies on the Nevada Southern Railway’s Santa Express train, with journeys on select dates through Dec. 22.

Take a holiday-themed tour with Rail Adventures pedal-powered rail bikes, and meet the Rail Explorer Elves (Friday night tours only) or take part in the Ugly Sweater Contests (Dec. 17-26), where prizes such as custom T-shirts and hat, or a gift card for a tandem rail bike tour, will be awarded to winners.

Holidays in Las Vegas The LINQ Promenade

The LINQ Promenade shopping and dining district becomes holiday central as revelers rock around the 30-foot Christmas tree, treat themselves to seasonal food and drink, and catch a brilliant yuletide light show on the High Roller giant observation wheel.

Get lost (temporarily) in Las Vegas Ballpark’s Christmas Light Maze and Village, then celebrate your escape with fanciful treats and an item or two at the Christmas artisan market. This “Enchant” event also includes a skating trail and photos with Santa.

Shows

The Tournament of Kings Arena gets a major holiday overlay as “Tournament of the Kings: ‘Twas the Knight” brings the majesty of a medieval winter wonderland to the Excalibur Hotel & Casino. Merlin the magician conjures up a frosty snowfall with seasonal music as its backdrop, while costumed cast members perform poetry. The dinner show runs through Dec. 17.

Weekends at Fashion Show Mall go full-on glam with the “Holiday Glow” fashion show, featuring acrobats and ballet dancers (Friday-Sunday through Dec. 24). Santa is also on-hand for photos at the Winter Wonderland walkthrough experience, daily through Dec. 21 (reservations required).

Holidays in Las Vegas shows

“Terry Fator’s A Very Merry Christmas” comedy show comes to New York New York Resort & Casino’s Liberty Loft, featuring a performance by the America’s Got Talent champion ventriloquist and his puppet friends.

Mannheim Steamroller’s music has become a Christmas tradition for many. The group will take to the stage at The Orleans Hotel’s Orleans Arena on Dec. 26, playing modern versions of holiday classics, accompanied by spectacular multimedia effects.

Ambiance

Sam’s Town Hotel and Gambling Hall makes merry with a wintery display and laser-light show at Mystic Falls Park, highlighting classics such as “Frosty the Snowman” and “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year.” Visitors can even send a letter to Santa via Santa’s Mailbox.

Bellagio Resort & Casino’s famous Fountains of Bellagio perform to popular holiday tunes under the evening sky, while indoors, The Conservatory & Botanical Garden transforms into a colorful “Holiday Time” world of lights, featuring thousands of carnations and poinsettias, and a 42-foot Mr. Shasta fir tree. Photo ops include a Swiss ski chalet and a present-filled Santa’s sleigh.

Holiday Time at the Bellagio Resort & Casino

Other resorts with Christmas theming include the new Resorts World Las Vegas’s “Holiday Escape at the District” displays and the Here Kitty Kitty speakeasy overlay of “Here Christmas Kitty”; The Venetian Resort’s “Season of Sparkle” street entertainment; a life-sized snow globe and season-inspired lighting throughout the Flamingo Wildlife Habitat in the Flamingo Las Vegas resort; and the ARIA Resort & Casino lobby, filled with whimsical, handcrafted pastry, chocolate, and fondant art displays, including a six-foot-tall gingerbread man made from 100 pounds of dark chocolate.

Many Las Vegas resorts have special dining and cocktail menus inspired by the season. The Ethel M Chocolate Factory also offers a chocolate tasting experience, Holiday Cactus Garden, and photos with Santa.

Bars and Lounges

Merry Crimson igloo at Red Rock Casino Resort & Spa

It’s a very “Merry Crimson” at Red Rock Casino Resort & Spa’s pool lounge, decked out in glamorous décor and dotted with photo opportunities. For the ultimate snow-scape experience, take your cocktails and fresh-made s’mores into one of the poolside igloos, where, as the resort says, guests can “jingle and mingle.”

The annual pop-up nod to winter, “Miracle on Spring Mountain,” brings live entertainment, specialty cocktails, and themed events, plus lots of holiday decorations, to The Sand Dollar Lounge, just off the Strip.

Finally, for an edgy, “Bad Elf” vibe, visit Silverton Casino Hotel’s Shady Grove Lounge and imbibe in a seasonal cocktail amid festive decorations inside an iconic 1950s Airstream trailer — and be sure to take plenty of selfies against the lounge’s fireplace and Christmas tree backdrops.

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