Consult our Las Vegas events calendar to find the best things to do in Las Vegas. It’s fitting that the spiritual home of gambling should host the World Series of Poker (held each summer), but there are also plenty of worthwhile events outside the casinos, including concerts and arts festivals. Those looking for an adrenaline rush won’t be disappointed: Venture beyond the Strip for races, rodeo competitions and other events involving extreme sports, fast cars and beer.
NASCAR Weekend Las Vegas Motor Speedway
One of the biggest auto-racing weekends of the year, the Vegas leg of NASCAR’s appearance sees thousands of enthusiasts descend upon the city. Visitors should book accommodation well in advance.
Date early Mar.
7000 N Las Vegas Boulevard, at Speedway Boulevard, North Las Vegas (1-800 644 4444, lvms.com).
Monster Jam World Finals
Bring out your inner 13-year-old with this feast of automotive carnage, featuring an array of giant trucks with enormous wheels; the 2013 champion, known as Grave Digger the Legend, was a 1,500-horsepower beast with 66-inch wheels. The pit party is also worth a look.
Date mid Mar.
Sam Boyd Stadium 7000 E Russell Road, at Boulder Highway, South-east Las Vegas (1-702 739 3267, monsterjam.com).
St. Patrick’s Day
Vegas more than makes up for its lack of Irish heritage on St. Patrick’s Day. There’s a parade in downtown Henderson and a three-day party at New York New York’s Nine Fine Irishmen bar, which sprawls on to the casino’s mini-Brooklyn Bridge. Elsewhere, Hennessey’s Tavern on the Fremont Street Experience celebrates with music, drink and “Irish nachos.”
Date 17 Mar.
Around Las Vegas.
Extreme Thing Festival
Extreme sports, such as skateboarding, BMX and wrestling championships feature here, along with extreme body modification, chiefly piercing and tattoos. And extreme music: punk, lots of it. Expect teenage aggression.
Date late Mar.
Desert Breeze Skate Park 8275 W Spring Mountain Road, at S Durango Drive, South-west Las Vegas (1-702 455 8200, extremething.com). Bus 203.
Viva Las Vegas
In order to dance to old-school rockabilly bands from all over the world, check out the burlesque competition and shop for the perfect 1950s cocktail dress at the swap meet, you’ll have to buy a ticket. However, the breathtaking hot-rod car show is worth the price of admission. Wear Sailor Jerry tattoos and Brylcreem to blend in.
Date Easter weekend.
Orleans Hotel & Casino, 4500 W Tropicana Avenue, at S Arville Street, South-west Las Vegas (1-562 496 4287, vivalasvegas.net). Bus 103, 201.
More than 100 international wine-growers participate in this fundraiser for UNLV. There are auctions of wine-themed art and vintage crates, but the real treat is chatting with the growers and sampling the wines. Designated drivers are thoughtfully provided.
Date mid Apr.
Paris Las Vegas 3655 Las Vegas Boulevard South, at E Flamingo Road (1-702 946 7000, unlvino.com). Bus Deuce, 202.
Clark County Fair & Rodeo
For a taste of hometown Southwestern life sans glitter, drive north for all kinds of ropin’, ridin’, country music and carnival fun.
Date mid Apr.
Clark County Fairgrounds, on I-15, Logandale (1-888 876 3247, ccfair.com).
Great Vegas Festival of Beer
Nevada and national breweries unite in displaying their boozy wares at this one-day event. Sample suds from locals such as Triple 7 Brewery, or national craft beer-makers like Anchor and Goose Island. Enjoy your beer with a soundtrack from local and regional musicians, along with gastropub food from several eateries. Designated drivers are thoughtfully provided for a nominal fare.
Date late Apr.
Sunset Park 2601 E Sunset Road, at S Eastern Avenue, South-east Las Vegas (1-888 718 4253, greatvegasbeer.com).
Local restaurants unveil their latest attempts to outdo each other in this industry festival of culinary hedonism. Expect a full-blown onslaught on the senses from exotic food, drink and spectacle.
Date late Apr/early May.
Location varies (1-702 878 2313).
Cinco de Mayo
The city’s Mexican community comes together in a show of pride with all-day dancing, mariachi bands, fireworks and traditional cuisine. Festivities also take place at the Fremont Street Experience.
Date weekend closest to 5 May.
Lorenzi Park, 3333 W Washington Avenue, at N Rancho Drive, North-west Las Vegas (1-702 229 6718). Bus 106, 208.
Instituted in 1935 to attract tourists to the area after the completion of the Hoover Dam, this revived celebration of Las Vegas’s beginnings plays up the city’s Western roots while also including golf and poker tournaments, trap-shooting contests, rodeos, art auctions, trail rides and a Downtown parade.
Date mid May.
Various locations (1-702 870 1221, elkshelldorado.com).
Las Vegas Brews and Blues Festival
Check out regional blues musicians while sampling some of the finest beer around. A portion of ticket sales usually goes to charity, and the entry fee includes a “sampling mug” plus unlimited drafts.
Date early June.
Las Vegas Springs Preserve 333 S Valley View Boulevard, at Meadows Lane, North-west Las Vegas (1-702 822 7770, vegasbrewsandblues.com). Bus 104, 207.
Vans Warped Tour
Record-breaking temperatures at the 2013 music tour didn’t keep fans away, and not much else will either. The all-day event features tons of bands in a variety of styles—punk, hardcore, thrash—all of them loud, performing on multiple stages.
Date mid/late June.
Location varies (vanswarpedtour.com).
Electric Daisy Carnival
EDC has been a huge hit for Las Vegas since relocating here from LA in 2011. More than 110,000 people attended the three-day event in 2013, making entrance to and from the Speedway a nightmare. Electronic music fans could care less, as EDC draws some of the biggest names in the biz, with plenty of other psychedelic entertainment besides.
Date late June.
Las Vegas Motor Speedway 7000 N Las Vegas Boulevard, at Speedway Boulevard, North Las Vegas (electricdaisycarnival.com).
World Series of Poker
It’s a matter of conjecture whether the popularity of poker fueled the popularity of this two-week tournament or vice versa. Either way, the WSOP is loved worldwide. In 2010, more than 7,000 competitors took part and $8.9 million was awarded to winner Jonathan Duhamel.
Rio 3700 W Flamingo Road, at S Valley View Boulevard, West of Strip (1-702 777 7777, wsop.com). Bus 202.
Black & White Party
Affordable but still satisfyingly posh, the city’s main AIDS fundraiser brings the community together with black-and-white costumes, food from the best chefs in town, and risqué amusements such as a spanking booth.
Date late Aug/early Sept.
Location varies (1-702 382 2326, afanlv.org).
Las Vegas Pride
Vegas’s weeklong LGBT celebration begins with events ranging from pool parties to dinner and brunch gatherings, before culminating with a parade that gets larger every year. Local celebrities such as Frank Marino turn out in force, as the parade winds through Downtown, and then hit various spots throughout the city for post-parade parties.
Date late Aug/early Sept.
Various locations (1-866 930 3336, lasvegaspride.org).
Las Vegas Harvest Festival
Hundreds of artisans from across the country bring their hand-blown glass, silver jewelry and jars of chutney to this fair.
Date early Sept.
Cashman Center 850 Las Vegas Boulevard North, at E Washington Avenue, Downtown (1-415 447 3205, harvestfestival.com). Bus 113.
San Gennaro Feast
So popular it is staged three or four times a year, this Italian-American outdoor festival is mostly about the food, but it also includes carnival rides and a traditional procession.
Location varies (1-702 286 4944, sangennarofeast.com).
The area’s largest classic-car show takes over downtown Henderson for three days in September with hundreds of classic vehicles, from fully built custom hot rods to a well-preserved hearse used when the Mob ran Vegas.
Date mid/late Sept.
Henderson (1-702 643 0000, superrun.com).
Greek Food Festival
One of Las Vegas’s few true ethnic festivals. Enjoy three days of folk dancing, retsina and souvlaki with a boisterous crowd.
Date late Sept.
St John the Baptist Greek Orthodox Church 5300 S El Camino Road, at E Hacienda Road, South-west Las Vegas (1-702 221 8245, lasvegasgreekfestival.com). Bus 102.
Las Vegas BikeFest
Even non-bikers can enjoy the classic Harleys, the demo rides and “Artistry in Iron” master-builder championships at this get-together for the black-leather set.
Date late Sept/early Oct.
Cashman Center 850 Las Vegas Boulevard North, at E Washington Avenue, Downtown (1-866 245 3337, 1-702 450 7662, lasvegasbikefest.com). Bus 113.
Life Is Beautiful Festival
This music/food/arts fest in Downtown Las Vegas was first held in 2013. Although the music was a huge draw—headliners included local acts who have become national stars like the Killers and Imagine Dragons, as well as Kings of Leon, Beck and others—food proved popular as well, with top-rated chefs such as Hubert Keller, Michael Mina and Tom Colicchio participating.
Date late Oct.
Various locations (lifeisbeautifulfestival.com).
Colorful lasers, roaming characters, performances and several haunted houses. It’s too scary for small children—only kids who are 12 and older are allowed in.
Date Oct up to Halloween.
Adventuredome at Circus Circus 2880 Las Vegas Boulevard, between Desert Inn Road & W Sahara Avenue (frightdome.com). Bus Deuce, 108.
Age of Chivalry Renaissance Festival
Chivalrous battles, costumed maidens and other displays of questionable historical accuracy. We recommend the roast turkey leg with a stein of mead.
Date mid Oct.
Sunset Park 2601 E Sunset Road, at S Eastern Avenue, South-east Las Vegas (1-800 745 3000, lvrenfair.com).
Professional Bull Riders Tour
It isn’t as prestigious as the National Finals Rodeo, but this competition provides a more affordable chance to rub shoulders with the world’s finest bull riders and their fans, and see some of the action up close.
Date late Oct.
Thomas & Mack Center 4505 S Maryland Parkway, at E Tropicana Avenue, University District (1-719 242 2800 information, 1-800 745 3000 tickets, pbr.com). Bus 109, 201.
Nearly every nightclub and bar hosts a fancy-dress party for Halloween, many overflowing with grown-ups playing naughty dress-up. The Fetish & Fantasy Ball reigns supreme for debauchery, dazzling costumes and Vegas-calibre spectacle.
Date 31 Oct.
Around Las Vegas.
Vegas Valley Book Festival
Local authors, historians and poets get a chance to shine in this three-day celebration of bibliophilism that brings local literary heroes and such names as Chuck Palahniuk to town for readings, signings, debates and panel discussions.
Date late Oct/early Nov.
Various locations (vegasvalleybookfestival.org).
Rock ’n’ Roll Las Vegas Marathon
Beginning in the afternoon, the marathon course starts near the Luxor and has a rock ‘n’ roll theme, with bands playing along the route. If you’re not cut out for going the full distance, there’s always the half-marathon. (A new event, the half-of-the-half, was added in 2013.) If you want to run, register online; the earlier you do so, the cheaper the fee.
Date mid Nov.
Around Las Vegas (1-800 311 1255, runrocknroll.competitor.com).
Motor Trend International Auto Show
A chance to see all the shiniest new models and prototypes from the world’s automobile manufacturers before anyone else, though sadly you can’t drive them away. Free parking is available at the Convention Center.
Date late Nov.
Las Vegas Convention Center 3150 Paradise Road, at Convention Center Drive, East of Strip (1-702 892 0711, motortrendautoshows.com). Bus SDX, 108.
National Finals Rodeo
Cowboys and girls from far and wide set Vegas ablaze for nine days as part of this massive annual event. Tickets are distributed by lottery a year beforehand, but you can watch proceedings on TV at the Gold Coast. Stock up on Western duds during the event, and then party at Sam’s Town after.
Date early Dec.
Thomas & Mack Center 4505 S Maryland Parkway, at E Tropicana Avenue, University District (1-702 260 8605, nfrexperience.com). Bus 109, 201.
The most spectacular festive event in the region is the annual Light the Night display in the cactus garden at Ethel M Chocolates in Henderson. The space is dotted with millions of lights, while carol-singers reel off all the festive favorites. Be sure to get yourself into the factory before 7pm for free chocolate samples. Other events around the city bring good cheer in similar ways during December. A drive-through trail called A Gift of Lights winds through the whole of Sunset Park (E Sunset Road, at S Eastern Avenue, East Las Vegas). The Magical Forest at Opportunity Village (6300 W Oakey Boulevard, between S Jones Boulevard & S Torrey Pines Drive) contains a castle, giant candy canes, a forest of decorated trees and two million lights. And numerous watercraft sail around Lake Mead as part of the Parade of Lights.
Around Las Vegas.
New Year’s Eve
Las Vegas Boulevard and Fremont Street become absolutely rammed on New Year’s Eve, a night filled with parties, one-hit celebrities, air displays, fireworks and general chaos. Room rates soar. To be honest, the whole thing is probably best avoided.
Date 31 Dec.
Around Las Vegas.
African-American History Month
The West Las Vegas Library houses a permanent collection of artifacts, photographs and documents relating to African-American history in the West. During February, its theater hosts a celebration of African-American community and culture in the region, with spoken word, dance, theater and music.
West Las Vegas Library 951 W Lake Mead Boulevard, at Concord Street, West Las Vegas (1-702 507 3980, lvccld.org). Bus 210, 214.
Chinese New Year Celebration & Asian Food Festival
The Chinese New Year celebrations in Vegas are actually pan-Asian; they also celebrate Japanese, Tahitian and Thai culture. Expect traditional lion and dragon dances and a feast of Eastern delicacies.
Date late Jan/mid Feb.
Las Vegas Chinatown Plaza, 4255 Spring Mountain Road, between S Valley View & S Decatur boulevards, South-west Las Vegas (1-702 221 8448, lvchinatown.com). Bus 103, 104, 203.
High Rollers Scooter Weekend
Rockers on motorbikes had better steer clear: This weekend of mod rock and showing off is for sharp-looking multi-mirrored scooters and the aficionados who love them.
Date mid Feb/early Mar.
Various locations (lvscooterrally.com).