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Winter season in Bellagio Hotel Conservatory & Botanical Gardens on December 04 ,2014 in Las Vegas. There are five seasonal themes that the Conservatory undergoes each year.
Photograph: Sgutterstock/ Kobby Dagan

The 15 best Christmas events in Las Vegas this year

Ready for the best of Christmas in Las Vegas? Expect jousting, fountains, glittering lights and a scuba-diving Santa

Written by
Todd Peterson
&
Sarah Feldberg
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Yes, Las Vegas might be smack-bang in the middle of the desert, but this is no ordinary place. Christmas in Vegas is an experience and then some, one packed with all the madness that Sin City is famous for. It isn’t all about hedonism, though, and plenty of family-friendly events are happening in Vegas over the festive period. 

The best Christmas events and shows in Las Vegas are every bit as bombastic as you might assume. Sin City goes all out, make no mistake about it, with Santas running riot through downtown and cacti curiously transforming into Christmas trees. This place is perpetually illuminated, but the lights shine a little brighter during the holidays,

RECOMMENDED: Christmas in Las Vegas guide

Best Christmas events in Las Vegas

  • Hotels
  • The Strip

Every year, the Cosmopolitan transforms its fourth-floor outdoor pool into a skating rink for the holidays, with help from an ice-making machine that turns out 4,200 square feet of frosty skating surface. The wintery spectacle is enhanced by regular snow flurries, Monday date skate with holiday movie doubleheaders, a menu of seasonal cocktails and snacks, and s’mores kits for roasting over open fire pits. Don’t even try to resist the holiday spirit. Nov 15–Jan 12.

  • Museums
  • Special interest
  • The Strip

Christmas trees are so overrated—especially when you’re in the desert. For a Southwest take on the holidays, head to the festive cactus garden at Ethel M Chocolates Factory, which features some three acres and 300 species of cacti festooned with half a million lights. Santa visits on weekend evenings when local choirs also perform. While you’re there, pop into the newly renovated factory store and tasting room to pick up some stocking stuffers for the sweet tooth in your life. Nov 4-Jan 1.

 

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Nothing says “Christmas is coming” in Vegas like the National Finals Rodeo. The 10-day event, which has been running for more than 30 years, is the annual crown jewel for rodeo fans and reminds visitors that Las Vegas is an Old West town at heart. If you’re not properly outfitted for the event or want to put some Western flavor under your Christmas tree, head to Cowboy Christmas at the Las Vegas Convention Center, where more than 300 vendors are eager to supply all your cowboy—and -girl—gear. Dec 1–10.

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Golden Knights Ice Hockey
Photograph: Sam Morris/Las Vegas News Bureau

5. Golden Knights Ice Hockey

Hockey in Vegas has been an unqualified success, despite the team’s failure to make the playoffs last season (for the first time in franchise history, no less). The 2022/23 season has started off well, and the Christmas period sees a lot of big games taking place at T-Mobile Arena. The St Louis Blues are in town on December 23, while the wretched Arizona Coyotes are the opposition two days earlier. Vegas home games are some of the most exciting in hockey, so don’t miss out.

Opportunity Village is one the most recognized charitable organizations in the Vegas Valley, and its Magical Forest is a beloved holiday tradition in its 31st year. The popular annual attraction features trees decked with millions of lights and interactive entertainment like an enchanted carousel, avalanche slide, mini-golf, Santa mugging for photos in his workshop, and the Forest Express passenger train from which to view it all. Proceeds benefit local adults with intellectual disabilities, so go ahead and spring for the unlimited ride pass. Nov 25-27, Dec 1-4, 8-11, 15-31. Closed Christmas Day.

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It’s time for the running of the Santas! Join more than 9,000 sprinting Santas at this annual 5k fun run and one-mile walk, where registration comes with a five-piece red suit and proceeds go to local organization Opportunity Village. Vegas is still aiming to top 10,000 jogging Clauses and claim the world record, so sign up, suit up and run off those holiday cookies. Dec 3, 8am.

You don’t have to wait for the holidays to appreciate the Neon Museum’s amazing collection of vintage Vegas signage, but everything’s brighter with some extra holiday cheer (and live caroling by the Las Vegas Academy choir). Start with ornament-making and Santa snapshots, then at 5pm, head into the Boneyard for hot cocoa and an after-dark stroll past the city’s illuminated history. Dec 10, 10am–12pm; free.

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  • Attractions
  • The Strip

Watch the dancing waters set in time to such seasonal tunes as “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas”, and “O Holy Night.” If this doesn’t make you feel all Christmas-y inside, nothing will.

Does it get any more festive than watching a medieval jousting tournament while devouring a feast with your bare hands? Okay, it isn’t the most traditional of Christmas traditions, but you can’t visit Vegas without enjoying a visit to the Tournament of Kings. 2022 sees the return of the holiday-themed version of the event. Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean tinsel on the jousts, but it does mean festive food and plenty of cheer. Nov 23 - Dec 25

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Mandalay Bay Shark Reef Aquarium is one of the highlights of Las Vegas, especially if you are into magnificent beasts that reside in the deep waters. Around Christmas, one of these beats seems to resemble the jolly man in the red suit, although no presents are to be seen. Scuba Santa is a fun addition to the aquarium over the festive period, so keep your eyes peeled for one of the most unusual Christmas sights you will ever encounter.

  • Hotels
  • University District

The indoor park at Sam’s Town is at its very best over Christmas when the trees sparkle with lights, the fixtures get a coat of faux snow, and the laser-light show is set to a familiar holiday soundtrack. This year, the nine-minute Winter Wonderland show has been refreshed with updates to the sound, lighting, and water effects, and all new seasonal decorations will transport you to Santa’s workshop. The big man himself, appropriately themed as Cowboy Santa, stops by from Thursday to Sunday.

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Christmas and twinkling lights go together like magnet and steel, and this immersive drive-thru is a joyful experience you’ll never forget. Millions of beautiful lights give the 2.5-mile-long course a truly magical feel, proving once and for all that speedway can be festive. We never said it couldn’t, but some naysayers might be out there. Get to Glittering Lights through November to quash those cynical thoughts. 

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  • Things to do
  • Cultural centers

Vegas takes its Christmasification seriously, never missing an opportunity to light up an oversized tree or wrap something in garland. Of course, the Park between Monte Carlo and New York is no exception, getting the full holiday treatment during the festive period: 60-foot fir decked with 3,000 ornaments, a skating rink with seasonal refreshments, strolling carolers, Santa photos and enough twinkle lights, and fake icicles to make you actually feel a little chilly. 

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