Las Vegas in December: Sightseeing, Events and Things to Do

Photo courtesy of Photo courtesy of Geri Kodey
Photo courtesy of Springs Preserve
Photo courtesy of U.S. Bureau of Land Management
Photo courtesy of MGM Resorts International
By Terrisa Meeks, Las Vegas Local Expert

December in Las Vegas bring mild temperatures and generally sunny skies, making it one of the best times of the year to get out and explore the desert. December is also filled with the signs of the approaching holiday, from decorations to Santa-filled events.

The Bellagio Conservatory and Botanical Gardens turns itself into a winter wonderland for December, complete with giant decorations and crowds of people. The amazing creations in the garden are the work of dedicated horticulturists and design staff, who regularly transform the space into something magical.

Many people are shopping during December, and Las Vegas is home to a wealth of stores. The Grand Canal Shoppes is filled not only with shops, but it also features wandering entertainers, gondola rides and many wonderful restaurants.

If you live in cooler climates, it might be a little chilly this time of year, but in the desert, December is a wonderful time to go for a hike. Dress in layers, and before you know it, you’ll be peeling outer layers off as the desert sun warms you up.

Still thinking about what to do when you’re in Las Vegas in December? Check out our recommendations for ideas on more things to do.

10. The LINQ Promenade
Photo courtesy of The LINQ

One of Las Vegas' coolest new places to shop and hang out, The LINQ features more than 30 unique retail, dining, nightlife and entertainment venues as well as the world's tallest observation wheel, the High Roller. THE LINQ is home to boutique-style stores like 12A.M. Run, a cool sneaker boutique offering a wide array of limited edition shoes for men, women and toddlers. When it's time to refuel, you'll find plenty of restaurants at the Promenade, like Guy Fieri's Vegas Kitchen and Bar and Virgil's' Real Barbecue. If you feel like bowling and listening to music, head over to the Brooklyn Bowl. During any holiday, the LINQ Promenade embraces the spirit of the season with decorations and events.

9. Wrangler National Finals Rodeo
Photo courtesy of Wrangler National Finals Rodeo

The National Finals Rodeo is the rodeo world's biggest event, and each year it comes to Las Vegas in December. The city fills with fans decked out in cowboy boots and hats. From December 7 to December 16, 2017, rodeo's star athletes--both human and four-legged--will tests their skills each evening. Held at the Thomas and Mack Center at UNLV, the NFR is almost a week and a half of standard rodeo events: bareback riding, roping, barrel racing and everyone's favorite event, bull riding. Tickets can be hard to come by, so if you'd like to attend, check into tickets as early as possible.

8. The Smith Center for the Performing Arts
Photo courtesy of Photo courtesy of Geri Kodey

The Smith Center, in Downtown Las Vegas, aims to bring culturally recognized performers to the city. Jazz artists, dance troupes, and critically acclaimed theater productions are the kinds of shows you can expect to see at the Smith Center. Adjacent to Fremont Street in the new Symphony Park development, the Smith Center brings a new caliber of performers to Vegas. In a city known for its entertainment acumen, the addition of the Smith Center rounds out the city's offerings, which have traditionally been headline acts and stage shows. Residents and visitors will be pleased with the new variety of artistry at The Smith Center. Check the center's website for a listing of upcoming events.

7. Great Santa Run
Photo courtesy of RVwithTito

Every year, thousands of runners dress up like Santa and run through Downtown Las Vegas and along the Strip, all to raise money for a local charity, Opportunity Village. The Las Vegas Great Santa Run says it's the largest gathering of Santas in the world, which is easy to believe since the race attracted close to 9,000 Santas in 2016. Participants can run (or walk) in the 5k or one mile. On December 3, 2017, the race kicks off in Downtown Las Vegas with entertainment beginning at 8 a.m. with music and a Zumba class. Registration includes a five-piece Santa suit. Registrations costs start at $45 for adults, $25 for kids 6-12, $15 for 2-5 years of age, and $10 for pets.

6. 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 20, 2017, to January 10, 2018. You'll find fire pits, plenty of places to sit, a menu of seasonal food, s'mores, and hot chocolate. The Cosmopolitan promises skaters snow showers every 30 minutes to complete this wintery holiday atmosphere, which also comes with 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.

5. Springs Preserve
Photo courtesy of Springs Preserve

Located just three miles from the famed Las Vegas Strip, the Springs Preserve is an award-winning 180-acre family destination dedicated to exploring green-living, desert life and Las Vegas' vibrant history through botanical gardens, interactive science and nature exhibits, animal shows and trails. Comprising 110 acres of display gardens, natural gardens, wildlife habitat, walking and biking trails and educational resources, the Springs Preserve's Botanical Gardens features more than 1,200 species of native and desert-adapted plants housed in several themed areas. Indoor experiences include exhibition galleries dedicated to showcasing art and traveling exhibitions of local and national significance, learning centers and the Nevada State Museum.

4. Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area
Photo courtesy of U.S. Bureau of Land Management

Part of the Mojave Desert, Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area is located just past the western edge of Las Vegas, about 17 miles from downtown Las Vegas. The area is home to spectacular scenery, mostly notably the colorful rocks and dramatic cliffs that give a backdrop to the 13-mile one-way scenic drive known as "The Loop." Numerous hiking trails and scenic overlooks are located along The Loop, so even visitors who don't want to hike can easily enjoy the area's scenery. Stop at the visitor center to get a full history of the area, from its geologic origins to the animals that live there. Picnic areas are located at the visitor center and at Willow Springs, and outside the scenic drive at the Red Rock Overlook and in Calico Basin at Red Springs.

3. Mount Charleston
Photo courtesy of Terrisa Meeks

The Spring Mountains National Recreation Area is part of the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest. Better known to locals as Mount Charleston, it is located just 30 minutes from downtown Las Vegas and encompasses more than 316,000 acres of remarkable beauty and surprising diversity. During the winter months, skiing is a top draw; when the weather warms in the valley, hiking trails here become incredibly popular. Other activities include horseback riding, mountain biking and rock climbing, camping and picnicking. You might encounter all kinds of wildlife, but some of the most sighted animals are mountain blue birds, deer and wild horses. The area is home to more than 50 sensitive plants and animals, some of which are found nowhere else in the world. Two lodges with restaurants and rooms are in Kyle Canyon, and a ski resort and snow play areas are in Lee Canyon.

2. Grand Canal Shoppes
Photo courtesy of Grand Canal Shoppes

Cobblestone walkways, an illuminated painted ceiling, and a quarter-mile-long Grand Canal combine to make a beautiful backdrop to shopping at Grand Canal Shoppes at The Venetian | The Palazzo. The picturesque retail center features more than 160 signature stores with dozens of the world's premier luxury brands, including Diane von Furstenberg, Tory Burch, Burberry, Dooney & Bourke, Guerlain, Harley Davidson, White House Black Market and Michael Kors. It's also home to more than a dozen restaurants, many led by award-winning chefs like Wolfgang Puck and Emeril Lagasse. Wandering street performers entertain the crowds and you can even get ride on a gondola through the Grand Canal, complete with singing gondolier.

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

Before the Bellagio, not many people in Las Vegas really knew what a conservatory was. Then everyone learned that "conservatory" is another way to say "fascinating indoor garden display," and the Bellagio's Conservatory and Botanical Gardens have been captivating visitors ever since. As the seasons and holidays change, the staff of the Conservatory swoops in and adds things like gigantic polar bears made out of carnations for Christmas, or lanterns and the year's animal for the Chinese New Year. This area of the Bellagio, which is directly off of the front desk, is frequently choked with visitors snapping pictures from every angle, especially during the holiday season. It's also one of the few areas of the Bellagio receptive to visiting children. Arrive early in the day to encounter the fewest people and get the best pictures. Open 24/7.