10 Ways to Find Holiday Magic in Las Vegas

How to spend the holidays in Las Vegas: 2018 edition

Get into the holiday spirit in December in Las Vegas. Resorts up and down the Strip showcase the best of the season with an ice skating rink, holiday shows, snow (snow!) and Santa Claus making his much-anticipated arrival from the North Pole ahead of Christmas day. Shopping, holiday decor and even hot chocolate make it a season to remember with family and friends. Get off the Strip for lighted cacti and illuminated racetracks. Best of all, holiday shows replete with songs of the season that can melt Scrooge’s heart. Here, 10 ways to celebrate the holidays in Las Vegas.

"The Nutcracker"

No holiday season seems right without “The Nutcracker” performed on pointe. The Nevada Ballet Theater fills the stage with glittering holiday cheer as Tchaikovsky’s beloved score takes the stage. When Clara goes in search of a one-of-a-kind key to unlock a box that contains a priceless gift, she discovers a golden thread that leads her to a strange and mysterious world led by a soldier named Phillip and a group of mice who help her unlock the mystery of the holidays. Dec. 8, 14-15, 20-22, 7:30 pm; Dec. 9, 15, 16, 22-23, 2 pm. Tickets start at $29. Reynolds Hall at the Smith Center, 877.893.2003

Cosmopolitan Ice Rink

Let it snow! Not something you expect to hear in Vegas, but if you’re at the Cosmopolitan, that’s just what you’ll experience. It’s part of the winter wonderland that centers on the Boulevard Pool, transformed into a 4,200-square-foot ice rink. Rent a pair of skates and take a few turns around the rink. Afterward, roast S’mores and sip hot chocolate (or something a little stronger) as you watch the snow fall (every 30 minutes every Friday through Sunday from 7 pm-midnight). The ice rink is open M-F, 3 pm-midnight; Sa-Su, noon-midnight; and from Dec. 21-Jan. 6, daily, noon to midnight. Tickets are $10-$20. The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, 702.698.6797

Christmas lights

Glittering Lights

It may take place at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, but you won’t want to race through this display, the largest holiday drive-through light show in Nevada. Literally millions of lights twinkle along the 2.5-mile route. You can journey through it in your own car or take the open-air Santa Tram and leave the driving to someone else. Open nightly at dusk through Jan. 6, 2019. M-Th, 5-9 pm, F-Su, 5-10 pm. $20 per vehicle, anytime pass, $30 per vehicle; fast pass, $50 per vehicle; Santa Tram, $20 per person; Santa Tram and treat, $25 per person. 702.222.9777 

Santa at the Shark Reef Aquarium

Before heading back to his workshop at the North Pole, Santa makes a visit to the Shark Reef Aquarium, donning SCUBA gear. Santa dives into the Shipwreck waters to visit his underwater friends on Sa-Su from 10 am-4 pm. Admission $18 adults, $12 kids 5-12. Mandalay Bay, 702.632.4555

’Twas the Knight

Even the “Tournament of Kings” gets into the holiday spirit with a winter wonderland. Merlin summons snowfall on the kingdoms while the cast performs holiday-inspired music, poems, dance and songs. Bonus: Eating Cornish hens with your hands. M & F, 5:30 pm; W-Th, Sa-Su, 5:30 and 8 pm. Additional shows Friday, Dec. 21, and Monday, Dec. 24, at 5:30 & 8 pm; and Tuesday, Dec. 25, 5:30 pm. Tickets start at $75.38. Excalibur, 702.597.7600

Human Nature on stage

Human Nature Rockin’ Holiday Jukebox

The four boys from Australia perform holiday shows that celebrate the sounds of the season and, of course, some of the classic jukebox songs that have audiences on their feet nightly. In addition, expect to hear some new material from the group’s forthcoming CD, “Romance of the Jukebox,” just out last summer from the quartet. Dec. 1, 4-7, 13-15, 18-22 at 7 pm and Dec. 16 & 23 at 2 pm. Tickets are $49.95-$99.95. Human Nature, The Venetian, 702.414.9000

A Very Terry Christmas

Ventriloquist Terry Fator and cast will celebrate the holidays with comedy, singing, celebrity impersonations and ventriloquism, featuring classics including “Winter Wonderland,” “Sleigh Ride” and “White Christmas” plus you’ll learn all about “Juana,” a new holiday guaranteed to make you laugh. M-Th, select Friday and Saturday shows, 7:30 pm. Tickets are $59.99-$149.99. "A Very Terry Christmas," The Mirage 702-792-7777

Legends in Concert Holiday show

Tributes to Aretha Franklin, Bruce Springsteen, Garth Brooks and Bruno Mars take over “Legends in Concert” through Dec. 30 at the Flamingo. The iconic show commemorates its 35th anniversary with its annual holiday show with local youth choirs and performing arts groups participating. The show opens with Brian Setzer Orchestra’s rendition of “Jingle Bells” and ends with the entire cast performing “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year.” Times and dates vary. A special $35 ticket is available by using the code LC35. Flamingo Las Vegas, 702-777-2782

Bellagio Conservatory & Botanical Gardens

Bellagio Conservatory & Botanical Gardens

Enter the conservatory and botanical garden at the Bellagio and find yourself in a magical holiday world. Each season the horticulturalists and designers transform the 14,000-square-foot space with seasonal plants and decorations replete with furry friends, ornaments and even snow for breathtaking backgrounds for selfies. Free. Open 24 hours. Holiday decor stays up through Jan. 6. 702.693.7111

Cactus Garden Holiday Lights

Each year, the cactus garden at the Ethel M Chocolate factory in Henderson becomes a riot of shining color as the three acres of cacti are covered in thousands of lights. Open nightly, 5-10 pm through Jan. 6. Santa visits every Friday through Sunday from 4-9 pm through Dec. 15, then nightly from 4-9 pm through Dec. 23. Free. 2 Cactus Garden Drive, Henderson, 702.435.2655

Susan Stapleton
About the author