Festive and Fun Times: Las Vegas' 10 Best Holiday Attractions

Photo courtesy of Springs Preserve
Photo courtesy of Boyd Gaming
Photo courtesy of Gabe Ginsberg
Photo courtesy of Ethel M Chocolate Factory and Botanical Garden
Photo courtesy of Opportunity Village
Photo courtesy of MGM Resorts International
Photo courtesy of Fremont Street Experience
Photo courtesy of Las Vegas News Bureau
By Terrisa Meeks, Las Vegas Local Expert

The holidays in Las Vegas are filled with decorations and celebrations on a huge scale. This is a city that loves bright, twinkly lights and parties all year round, and the fall and winter holidays are no exception.

In late October, things start getting festive in Las Vegas and the celebratory mood stays until the Chinese New Year. The holiday season in Vegas is filled with parties, festivals, fireworks and decorations--lots of decorations. Plenty of local attractions off the Strip are also fun for families, and during Christmas Santa is usually easy to find.

The Bellagio’s Conservatory and Botanical Gardens changes with each season, and its Christmas and Chinese New Year displays are crowd pleasers, not to mention terrific photo opportunities. The elaborate floral designs will bring out the photographer in anyone.

New Year's Eve is always a great time in Las Vegas, with two major celebrations going on: America's Party on the Vegas Strip and Downtown Countdown on Fremont Street Experience. Crowds in both places brave the cold to be a part of these gigantic block parties. Downtown party-goers pay a cover and have several bands to check out, plus they enjoy an amazing light show on the overhead canopy. On the Strip, part of the entertainment is the crowd itself, which swells into streets at midnight to see the famous roof-top fireworks light up the sky for miles.

For more on these and other can't-miss events, read on for Las Vegas’ 10Best holiday attractions.

10. Dia de Muertos
Photo courtesy of Springs Preserve

The Springs Preserve is a well-known family destination with museums, gardens and trails, and it's also home to the popular annual Dia de Muertos, or Day of the Dead, celebration. Dia de los Muertos is a 3,000 year-old Hispanic tradition that honors loved ones who have passed away. The family-friendly event blends rich customs with exciting activities such as live theater and dance performances, mariachis, face painting, sugar skull decorating and an art exhibition. The Botanical Gardens are even decorated with entries from an annual altar contest. The Springs Preserve's annual Dia de Muertos celebration is held at the beginning of November. A nominal fee applies to attend the event.

9. Mystic Falls Park
Photo courtesy of Boyd Gaming

Every year Sam's Town Hotel & Gambling Hall's transforms its pioneer-themed Mystic Falls Park Light and Water Show into the Winter Wonderland experience. This year the attraction was given a make-over, and this year is debuting a new holiday look along with a new holiday show. The Christmas display gives visitors a peek inside Santa's workshop, where the elves are busy making toys and loading the sleigh. The nine-minute holiday laser light show features classic holiday tunes and runs daily every hour, beginning at 5 p.m. Cowboy Santa will be in the Park's gazebo on Thursdays and Fridays from 4 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. and on the weekends from noon to 8:30 p.m.

8. Glittering Lights
Photo courtesy of Gabe Ginsberg

Glittering Lights at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway has been entertaining people for years with its array of lights and sounds. Featuring more than 500 animated and sparkling displays and millions of lights, the 2.5-mile LED course is environmentally sound, but still full of vibrant lights. Glittering Lights also has its own radio station with a play list created just for the drive. This year, the display will be open November 11, 2016, through January 7, 2017. Admission is $20-$30 per vehicle. The course gets busiest from 6-8 p.m., so plan for a visit earlier or later in the evening to enjoy a less crowded experience.

7. Ice Rink at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas
Photo courtesy of The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas

Las Vegas may be in the desert, but that hasn't stopped the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas from putting in an ice skating rink from November 19, 2016, to January 1, 2017. You'll find fire pits, plenty of places to sit, and a menu of warm cocktails and comfort foods like a grilled cheese and tomato soup, s'mores, and hot chocolate. The Cosmopolitan promises skaters snow showers to complete this wintery holiday atmosphere, which also has a great view of the Las Vegas Strip. The cost for ice skating admission is $10-$20 and includes all-day skating access and skate rentals. Entry into the area is free. Children under 18 must have an adult with them.

6. Chinese New Year in the Desert
Photo courtesy of CNY

The Chinese New Year is on January 28 in 2017, and in Las Vegas there will be plenty of festivities to mark the Year of the Rooster. Displays will be up all over the Strip and in Chinatown to mark this important holiday. In recent years the celebration has grown more organized, and a schedule of events is now slated for all three days of the celebration, with each day's festivities held at a different venue. From January 27 through January 29, the LINQ Promenade, Downtown Container Park and the Fashion Show Mall will each host a schedule of activities like cultural performances, a Lions Blessing and Dance and other acts. A CNY restaurant week is also planned with details yet to be announced.

5. Ethel M Chocolates Holiday Cactus Garden
Photo courtesy of Ethel M Chocolate Factory and Botanical Garden

Ethel M Chocolates Holiday Cactus Garden has been one of Las Vegas' premier holiday attractions for the past 20 years, charming families with an incredible display of lights. The 3-acre Botanical Cactus Garden, located adjacent to the Ethel M Chocolate Factory, features more than 600,000 lights lit up for all to enjoy and attracts thousands of festive chocolate lovers each year. Open this season from November 15, 2016 to January 1, 2017, the annual event is free to attend, making it perfect for families. On the weekend evenings, Santa visits and local choirs perform. While a stop in the recently remodeled chocolate shop isn't mandatory, since they're open until 10 p.m., why not?

4. Magical Forest
Photo courtesy of Opportunity Village

The Magical Forest at Opportunity Village has been a holiday tradition in Las Vegas for years. Every year, the grounds are transformed into a winter wonderland scene, with hundreds of trees lit with millions of bright LED lights and whimsical decorations. Visitors wander the grounds, enjoying the sights and listening to holiday music, taking rides on the miniature train, and warming up with hot chocolate. Guests who visit the Magical Forest can take a spin on Cheyenne's Enchanted Carousel and hit a few rounds of golf on Rod's Mini-Golf course, or take photos with Santa in his workshop. Other can't-miss attractions at the Magical Forest include the Avalanche Slide and Boris the Elf's 3-D Experience. The Magical Forest is open this season from November 19, 2016, through January 1, 2017, and is closed on Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day.

3. Bellagio Conservatory & Botanical Gardens
Photo courtesy of MGM Resorts International

The Bellagio Conservatory & Botanical Gardens is one of Las Vegas' busiest places during the holiday season, delighting the crowds with beautifully designed exhibits. From September through January, the displays change three times for autumn, the winter holidays, and the Chinese New Year. One of the winter favorites is the polar bear family, made of white carnations. The Christmas tree is always a show-stopper, and the yearly variations in the displays offer something new each season. The airy atrium explodes with holiday cheer and makes a wonderful place for pictures. Displays for the Chinese New Year (2017 is the year of the Rooster) will go up early in the new year. Traditional good luck symbols are prominently featured, along with plants like bamboo and bonsai.

2. Downtown Countdown
Photo courtesy of Fremont Street Experience

The Downtown Countdown is full of music and entertainment, and it's not just on December 31--five days and nights of live entertainment on three different stages will get the party started early and keep in going into 2017. Performances are slated from several bands: Empire Records (90s music), 80s Station (new wave, old school hip hop, pop), Spandex Nation (80s hair and metal), Blue String Theory (rock and roll), Yellow Brick Road (Elton John and other classic rock), Alter Ego (rock), Voodoo Cowboys (country rock), The Garage Boys (rock), Tony Marques (country rock) and Zowie Bowie (vintage Vegas). Gates open at 6 p.m. Viva Vision will have a spectacular new light show featuring Green Day and a special light show at midnight to officially ring in the new year. Admission is $35 per person when purchased online by Dec. 25 and then increases to $40.

1. America's Party
Photo courtesy of Las Vegas News Bureau

New York City has Times Square, Las Vegas has America's Party. Each year, over 300,000 people visit Las Vegas to celebrate the New Year with a massive block party that culminates in a spectacular fireworks display set off of the top of various casinos up and down the Las Vegas Strip. The seven properties that usually participate in the annual event, from north to south, are the Stratosphere, The Venetian, Treasure Island, Caesars Palace, Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino, ARIA and MGM Grand. The closer it is to midnight, the more crowded the streets get. Be sure to arrive early for the best vantage point when the fireworks go off!