December in Las Vegas: Sunny skies and holiday cheer
Las Vegas in December is full of festive things to do and see. Along the Strip, you’ll find an abundance of holiday lights and decorations. Las Vegas loves bright and sparkly things, and in December the city goes all-in with its seasonal displays.
December in Las Vegas also brings pleasant temperatures, and in the desert that generally means sunny skies as well. It’s a great time to take a drive to Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, where visitors can hike, bike or simply enjoy the striking desert scenery from their car. You’ll need to go online to make a reservation for timed entry to the scenic drive known as The Loop, which can get crowded during winter months.
For those out buying gifts in December, Las Vegas has a wealth of shopping options that also offer Santa photos, holiday décor, ice rinks and even once-a-day ‘snow.’ Check out Downtown Summerlin or Town Square, both of which are designed like small villages with an open-air layout that invites strolling and window shopping.
Every year the Bellagio Conservatory and Botanical Gardens transforms into a winter wonderland for the holiday season. A team of talented horticulturists and design staff create amazing scenes, with plants and flowers turned into creations like polar bears. The tree here is always quite impressive.
For more suggestions on what do in Las Vegas in December, scroll down to keep reading.
One of Las Vegas’ coolest new places to shop and hang out, The Linq Promenade features unique retail, dining, nightlife and entertainment venues as well as the world’s tallest observation wheel, the High Roller. The Promenade is home to a selection of boutique-style stores – you won’t find any big box operations here. When it’s time to refuel, you’ll find plenty of places to eat along the Promenade, like In-N-Out Burger, Gordon Ramsay Fish & Chips and Virgil’s’ Real Barbecue. The open-air design invites you to wander and explore. During any holiday, the Linq Promenade embraces the spirit of the season with loads of decorations, entertainment and events.
Recommended for Things to Do in December because: In December, the Linq Promenade features an abundance of holiday decorations along with stores, restaurants and attractions.
Terrisa’s expert tip: The newest addition to the Promenade is a zipline over the mall that will speed you along at up to 35 m.p.h. Buy tickets online to get a discount.
More than 2,000 visitors per day flock to this chocolate production facility where truffles, cremes, cherry cordials, peanut brittle, and other sweet treats are made. If you’re lucky, you’ll get to watch the confectionery delights being created, and you can pick up a free sample or a hand-dipped ice cream cone. Self-guided tours are free, although it might be tough to pass up a purchase after watching the sweets being made. For the serious chocolate enthusiast, an outdoor chocolate tasting experience is offered for $20 per adult and $10 for children. A wine and chocolate tasting is available for those 21+. The cactus garden is free and is billed as the largest cactus garden in the Southwest, with over 300 species of plants displayed over three acres. During the winter holidays, the garden is lit up to create a wonderful holiday light display.
Recommended for Things to Do in December because: With a free tour of its chocolate factory and a magnificently decorated cactus garden, Ethel M provides plenty of holiday cheer.
Terrisa’s expert tip: Reservations are required for the holiday display in the cactus garden during the 2020 season. Guests are also welcome to stop in as walk-ins to see if there have been any cancellations.
Nevada has a history rich with the stories of trains, and the Nevada State Railroad Museum is dedicated to preserving that heritage. In Southern Nevada, the Railroad Museum is just outside of Boulder City. Visitors can explore the grounds and the static displays, but the real fun is taking a ride on one of the historic trains. Guests can also get a more up-close experience with the Rail Explorers, which offers open air, pedal powered rides along the historic train tracks. If you like trains, this is the place to learn about them in depth. A stop at the Railroad Museum in Boulder City is a great addition to a trip out to see Hoover Dam, Lake Mead, or to explore the historic district in downtown Boulder City.
Recommended for Things to Do in December because: Visitors can see historic trains and even take a ride down tracks originally put down in the 1930s.
Terrisa’s expert tip: During the 2020 seasons, the historic trains are not scheduled to run, but the static displays are open and visitors can still ride the tracks via Rail Explorers, which are open-air, pedal powered cars.
Located at the far end of the Las Vegas Strip, Town Square is an open-air shopping and dining destination that always has plenty to see and do. In addition to a healthy mix of retailers and restaurants, Town Square also offers movie theaters, a children’s play area and a GameWorks. During December, guests can also spend some time with Santa – and that includes your four-legged friends, who can have their photos taken with Mr. Claus on Wednesdays. If you’re missing a white Christmas, the center offers Snow in the Square every weekday evening at 7 p.m. and also at 8 p.m. on weekends. Town Square’s village-like design makes it easy to stroll through the area to leisurely window shop and enjoy the festive holiday displays.
Recommended for Things to Do in December because: Town Square offers an open-air layout of shops and restaurants, plus holiday events including Santa and even snow.
Terrisa’s expert tip: Town Square is very close to the south end of the Las Vegas Strip, only about two miles south of Mandalay Bay and just down the street from the Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas sign.
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 late November through early January. You’ll find fire pits, plenty of places to sit, a menu of seasonal food, s’mores, and hot chocolate – not to mention a great view of the Las Vegas Strip. Entry into the Ice Rink area is free, but costs for ice skating are $20-$30 per day and include skate rentals. Guests can bring their own skates, but the same rates apply. Children under 18 must have an adult with them. Every Monday and Tuesday, visitors can also enjoy a movie like “A Christmas Story” or “The Santa Clause” during the rink’s Date Skate.
Recommended for Things to Do in December because: With a great view of the Strip, movie nights, fire pits and snacks, The Ice Rink creates a winter wonderland in the desert.
Terrisa’s expert tip: During the 2020 season, guests are encouraged to make advanced reservations for fire pit seating. Reservations are taken for parties of up to six guests.
At Glittering Lights, people can stay warm and cozy in the comfort of their vehicle while they drive through a spectacular holiday light show. With approximately 2.5 miles of lights, Glittering Lights pulls out all the stops to create a memorable (and sparkly) holiday experience. Guests can even buy cocoa from the Boy Scouts on site, who provide the concessions and deliver them to your car. Located at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Glittering Lights is an annual event that benefits local charities while giving visitors a gigantic dose of holiday cheer. Admission is charged per vehicle at $25-$35, but enthusiastic visitors can also purchase season passes if they anticipate coming back.
Recommended for Things to Do in December because: People can experience Glittering Lights’ dazzling holiday light show without ever leaving their vehicle.
Terrisa’s expert tip: Any cars in line at the time of closing will still get to drive through the display, so as long as you’re in line before they close, you’ll get to see Glittering Lights.
Part of the Mojave Desert, Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area is 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. From November to May, reservations are required for the scenic drive – a move designed to help stop long lines and over-crowding at this popular place. Picnic areas are located at the visitor center and at Willow Springs. Outside the scenic drive area, picnic areas and hiking trails can be found off Highway 159 at the Red Rock Overlook and in Calico Basin at Red Springs.
Recommended for Things to Do in December because: Fall and winter usually provide excellent weather for exploring the desert, and Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area is just outside Las Vegas.
Terrisa’s expert tip: In Las Vegas, winter is one of the best times to go explore Red Rock since temperatures are usually pleasant (sunny and around 60F), but winter can also bring rainy weather. Check the forecast before planning your outing.
The Spring Mountains National Recreation Area is part of the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest. Better known to locals as Mount Charleston, it’s 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 and snow play are the top draw – although some people just like a chance to visit the snow. The ski resort in Lee Canyon offers a wide variety of ski play on its slopes, in addition to skiing and snowboarding. Outside of the resort, visitors can enjoy marked snow play areas in Lee Canyon if they have their own sleds or tubes. Mt. Charleston is divided between two main areas, Kyle Canyon and Lee Canyon. Visitors will find two lodges with restaurants and rooms in Kyle Canyon, and Lee Canyon is home to the ski resort and snow play areas.
Recommended for Things to Do in December because: If you’re looking for snow, head out of town to Mt. Charleston to ski, snowboard or just enjoy the view.
Terrisa’s expert tip: Always check the weather before going to Mt. Charleston in winter. Conditions may require snow tires or chains, so make sure you’re prepared before you head out.
Downtown Summerlin is known primarily as a shopping destination, but it offers more than just stores. This busy area is also home to several restaurants, a movie theater, a baseball stadium and a practice facility for the city’s hockey team, the Golden Knights. During the winter holiday, the open-air shopping and dining area is decked out with plenty of festive decorations. Carolers entertain guests on the weekends. Visitors can rent skates and experience the Rock Rink, an ice-skating rink that plays holiday tunes. Next to the rink, a 40-foot Christmas tree adds extra cheer. A train circles the rink and the nearby tree, with rides at only $4. The Red Rock Casino is also just around the corner for those looking for more grown-up activities.
Recommended for Things to Do in December because: Downtown Summerlin offers shops, restaurants and plenty of holiday festivities, including an ice-skating rink.
Terrisa’s expert tip: Downtown Summerlin has an abundance of self-parking throughout its entirety, with an open, village-like design that makes it easy to park close to any store or restaurant. Valet parking is also available near the dining commons.
When the Bellagio introduced a conservatory and botanical garden to Las Vegas, it was before the city had heard of such a thing. Years later, this unique attraction is a favorite of both tourists and locals – especially during the winter holidays, when the talented staff creates a wonderland scene made primarily out of flowers and other plants. Look for gigantic polar bears, spectacular Christmas trees, toy trains and a host of other creations. Throughout the year, the team at the conservatory swoops in as the seasons and holidays change to create eye-catching scenes filled with rich details. You’ll find the conservatory just off of the front desk, with easy access to the parking garage so you don’t have to trek through the casino, an added plus if you have children with you.
Recommended for Things to Do in December because: The amazing holiday display at the Bellagio Conservatory and Botanical Gardens is a photo-friendly attraction the whole family will love.
Terrisa’s expert tip: For the smallest crowds, visit early in the morning – before 10 a.m. – and during mid-week. The winter holiday display in December is one of their most popular and the space can get full quickly.