Las Vegas, aka Sin City, is known for its bright lights, extravagant attractions and wild party atmosphere. The city has a world-renowned reputation for fun including; gambling, shopping, entertainment, and extreme nightlife but people often wonder if Vegas slows down in the winter months?
Is it worth going to Las Vegas in December? Yes, there are plenty of events and locations to go to in Las Vegas that are specifically primed for December’s holidays as well as winter in general. Las Vegas has a subtropical desert climate, so the winter weather in December is extremely mild compared to some other parts of the country.
Many people may assume that since it’s cold outside, there might be some closures or even just less activity going on in Las Vegas. This couldn’t be farther from the truth; during December, flocks of tourists and vacationers travel to Las Vegas to experience the holidays and genuine Vegas vibe that’s in full swing during the winter months.
In fact, Business Insider just declared Las Vegas as one of the 25 most festive cities in the world to visit for the holidays. (source)
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What to Do in Las Vegas in Winter
Las Vegas, as well as several nearby areas, provide an abundance of events and activities that are perfect for visitors in winter. In Las Vegas the show always goes on, whatever the month. Let me tell you about some of the special things happening in December.
Las Vegas’ December Events
Just because it’s colder out doesn’t mean that there isn’t anything to do in this desert town. Travelers don’t stop coming during this time. More people are coming to Las Vegas in December than ever before.
As usual, there are an abundance of concerts and shows in December. If you’re a sporting fan, then you’ll want to check out the annual Las Vegas Bowl football game along with the Rock ‘N Roll Las Vegas Marathon. The marathon is one of the oldest marathons in the United States (source). Both are big events that take place in December.
Vacationing in Las Vegas during December is a great way to celebrate the holidays. There are many holiday activities taking place in town and if you’re here at the end of the month you can even take part in the Las Vegas New Year Celebration that takes place on the Strip each year. Branded as America’s Party it’s one of the largest New Years Eve celebrations in the country. (source)
Quick tip: If you want to travel to Las Vegas at any point in December, make sure you book as early as possible as it’s a busy time of year and the best rooms fill up fast.
Holiday Activities in Vegas
This is a town that knows how to celebrate holidays. There are plenty of holiday activities around the city to choose from. Here are a few examples.
- Fremont Street Experience: This is a Christmas extravaganza that lasts for the entire month of December. In addition, you will find many of the hotels on Fremont Street offer live shows and holiday-themed entertainment all month long.
- Fountains of Bellagio: At the famous Bellagio Fountains you can dance along to classic holiday tunes as you watch the synchronized display of water shoot hundreds of feet into the air. Also, you’ll find many wonderful holiday displays and activities taking place in and around the various hotels close to the fountains.
- Mystic Falls Park: Mystic Falls is an indoor waterfall and nature display at Sam’s Town Casino (off-Strip) that has free shows year-round. During the holidays Mystic Falls transforms into a winter wonderland and features an animatronic laser show where it actually starts snowing. It is well worth a visit!
- Lake Mead Christmas Parade of Lights: One night a year in December, boats decorated with lights for the holidays sail across an area of Lake Mead near the town of Boulder City (just outside of Las Vegas). You can view the Christmas ships from either the marina or Boulder Beach. The marina restaurants are open for the festivities and have plenty of food and drink specials. Check here for this year’s schedule.
- Santa run: Every year, thousands of runners dressed as Santa run through Downtown Las Vegas and all along the Strip. You’ve never seen so many Santa’s in one place! This is a fun charity event and all proceeds go to benefit Opportunity Village programs. You can find this year’s schedule here.
This event is believed to be the largest gathering of Santa’s in the world. In 2016 there were about 9,000 Santas. These Santas walk or run one mile. The race kicks off in the downtown Fremont Street area of Las Vegas at 8 a.m. with pre-race entertainment.
The registration includes a five-piece Santa suit for you to wear. The costs are $15 for 2-5-year-olds, $25 for 6-12-year-olds, and $45 for adults. Pets can even join in on the fun for $10.
Visiting Mount Charleston from Vegas in December
If you’d like to get away from the bright lights and noisy festivities of Las Vegas for a while, then there is an option for a quieter winter vacation to nearby Mount Charleston. Mount Charleston is approximately 45 minutes from the Strip and sits at 7,510 feet. In December you can expect snow and the small town of Mt. Charleston (pop. 357) boasts a nice lodge well as nearby snow parks and skiing.
Once here, you can play at the ski and snowboard resort or just drink some hot chocolate by a cozy fire in the lodge. You can even take a winter sleigh ride through the tall pine tree forest.
When snow covers the ground here, you will see a part of greater Las Vegas that many people have no idea even exits.
December Lodging in Vegas
Just about all Las Vegas casinos and hotels have special December holiday packages available. Vacation packages such as these typically cover ground transportation, lodging, airfare, and a wide assortment of dining and entertainment options.
Holiday resort deals can be found at resorts throughout the Las Vegas Valley so you don’t need to confine yourself just to the Strip.
Again, you’ll want to book early for the best holiday deals. See what packages are currently available at vegas.com.
Does Las Vegas Have Winter Weather?
Contrary to what you may have heard, Las Vegas isn’t hot all year long. It does cool off during the winter months. Being in a high desert location means that while the days can be nice, the temperatures can really drop at night.
|December||60°/ 27°||1 day|
|January||59° / 28°||1 day|
|February||66° / 33°||1 day|
One of the coolest months in Las Vegas is December. Many times December temperatures will make you want to gather around a fire instead of lounge by a pool outside.
Make sure that you wear enough layers of clothing to be comfortable in the 50-60-degree range during the day. Be sure to add a few more layers at night as some evenings will get down to 40 degrees or colder. Having said that, if you’re coming from many other places in the country, these are downright balmy temperatures for winter months.
How to Pack for December / Winter in Las Vegas
The weather is fairly predictable, so you can be pretty safe in what you decide to pack. Here is a good list to start with, including some warm-weather gear, just in case you need it! Definitely plan for wearing some layers in the evenings.
- Khakis or jeans
- Skirt or shorts
- Bathing suit and some cover item
- Tank tops and t-shirts
- Dressy blouse or collared shirt
- Light jacket or sweater
- Sunscreen, even when it’s cool out
Fun Fact: You won’t see many Las Vegas locals wearing shorts in the winter months. However, it’s always easy to spot a tourist from a much colder part of the country because it’s 60 degrees outside and they’re wearing shorts. I guess for many people an average Las Vegas winter day feels like a really nice spring day back home.
What to Do in Vegas in December
One of the best times to go to Las Vegas is in December. You can take a day trip to Mt. Charleston and come back to the city by night, so you can ski in the mountains and party on the Strip in the same day.
If you want to relax by the pool, then you might want to put away your bathing suit and get a sweater to enjoy a nice cocktail by the water instead of an ice-cold swim. Most pools are not heated in Las Vegas during the winter but you can find some heated swimming pools at the bigger hotels on the Strip.
We have a list of all the heated Las Vegas pools that are open in the winter on our website here.
Taking in a show is always a good idea when you’re in Las Vegas. When you plan a trip, you should compare prices of tours and attractions so that you can find the best shows in Vegas for the best deals at times that fit your schedule. Our Las Vegas Visitor Resources section can help you find show tickets at the best prices.
During the magical times of the holiday season, you will see many buildings transform inside and out to bring out the holiday spirit in everyone. There will be carolers and festive holiday music all around you in December.
One thing you can try is taking a ride on the High Roller. The High Roller is a slow turning observation wheel. It takes about 30 minutes to go around once.
Each of the 28 fully enclosed cabins can hold up to 40 people and every cabin has its own tended bar. At 550-feet in the air, you can see iconic landmarks, the Strip, and downtown from the world’s highest observation wheel. Check for times and prices at vegas.com.
Real Bodies at Bally’s
Here you can get an up-close look at the human anatomy. Over 20 human bodies have been preserved, dissected, and put on display. This exhibit will educate you and make you think about your body in an entirely new way.
There are 11 galleries where you will explore the inner workings of the human body. This will show you what your body goes through to stay alive on a day to day basis. It may make you think twice about that all-you-can-eat casino buffet!
You will see firsthand the synergy between hunger, breathing, the rhythm of the heart, thought, motion, and love that goes into making everybody unique.
Hours and tickets can be found here at vegas.com.
The Big Bus Las Vegas Tour
This is one of the best ways to not only get around the city but to observe the sights with a great view. The tour guides will give you expert knowledge that you will be hard-pressed to find anywhere else. The Big Bus Tour runs the length of the Strip all the way to Downtown Las Vegas.
Some things that are covered in the tour:
- The Golden Nugget hotel and casino
- Miracle Mile
Las Vegas Big Bus Tour information can be found here.
Tour the Hoover Dam
One of the number one attractions for people visiting Las Vegas is Hoover Dam (website). Every year about 1,000,000 people will take a guided tour inside the depths of Hoover Dam. It’s touted as being the “greatest dam ever built.”
Your expert guides will again provide great background knowledge into this incredible feat of engineering. After the tour, you will have a couple of hours to yourself to walk across the dam to the Arizona side and experience it from every angle as well as visit the gift shop.
There are informational videos located in the power plant, theater, exhibition hall, and visitor’s center. Find out everything you need to know about visiting the Hoover Dam in our article here.
Take a Trip to the Grand Canyon
On one of your days, you can get away from Las Vegas entirely and visit the Grand Canyon. December is a great month to visit the Grand Canyon as this is just about as uncrowded as the canyon rim will ever get. You’ll be visiting either the south or west rim; along the way you will see many other sights such as the:
- Bypass Bridge
- Hoover Dam
- Lake Mead
- Bighorn sheep habitat
- Black Canyon
- Joshua Tree Forest
You can rent a car and drive yourself or take one of the many guided road tours available from Las Vegas. You can even choose between several different helicopter or airplane tours.
Via air you can experience the amazing views of the Grand Canyon and be back in Las Vegas in time for lunch or dinner. There are even some combination flight/ground tours where you fly to the Grand Canyon and then drive to the various sites and viewpoints.
You can find all the information you’ll need to book one of these tours here.
Stratosphere Observation Deck
You can get the very best views in all of Las Vegas when you’re on top of the Stratosphere Observation Deck. This is currently the tallest freestanding observation tower in all of America. (source)
You will find yourself 1,149 feet above the ground, and you’ll get a 360-degree view of the Strip when at the top.
For an additional adrenaline rush, you can challenge yourself by getting on the thrill rides at the very top of the tower.
- The Big Shot: You will be shot into the air at 45 miles per hour, reaching a height of 160 feet above the Stratospheres observation deck. Which is already almost 900 feet above the ground.
- The X Scream: A massive teeter-totter structure that will dangle you 866 feet above the ground over the edge of the tower.
- Insanity: A giant mechanical arm that extends over the edge of the Stratosphere Tower. You will be spun at speeds up to 3 G’s. Wild!
If you’d like to see the view but don’t want to go outside on the observation deck you can visit the Stratosphere Tower Air Bar. It’s located on the 108th floor, has amazing views of the Strip and is by far the highest bar in Las Vegas.
The Mob Museum
If its the seedy side of Las Vegas’ criminal underbelly you’re after, you can check out the Mob Museum. For decades, famous mobsters like Bugsy Siegel and others ran this town and their stories are remarkable.
Famous Las Vegas Mobsters
- Meyer Lansky
- Frank Costello
- Lucky Luciano
- Bugsy Siegel
You can immerse yourself in the comprehensive history of Las Vegas’ crime bosses in this interesting museum. There are hundreds of artifacts and interactive exhibits to enjoy. You will have your mind blown when you hear about the sinister facts and some of the jaw-dropping stories that are told within the Mob Museum. (website)
CSI: The Experience
CSI: The Experience (modeled after the TV show by the same name) is a fully interactive attraction that will allow you to test your skills as a detective and crime solver.
Located at the MGM Grand, there are three main crime scenes for you to work your way through. You will examine all the evidence and use your best deductive reasoning skills to find the culprit.
The building contains about 12,000-square-feet of forensics for everybody to enjoy. This includes re-creations of crime scenes and props, as well as a crime lab that allows you to use the latest advances in forensic techniques to help you solve the crimes.
Sound intriguing? Learn everything you need to know about this attraction here at vegas.com.
Gene Woods Racing Experience
One of the best places in the United States to race in super-fast-go-karts is at the Gene Woods Racing Experience. You can spend a whole day here while enjoying fierce driving competition with high-octane excitement.
At the track, you will learn everything you need to know about racing. You’ll be instructed on the basics of how to race around the track at top speed using high-level maneuvering. The track is a half-mile long, which gives you about 15-18 laps to battle your family and friends as well as overconfident strangers.
On some days, you may even be able to meet the racing legend himself. Gene Woods is sometimes at the track to give tips and stories to newer racers that need some help.
There are now actually two locations available. The first is the classic race experience located near the Strip and the second location is an indoor track featuring super-fast all-electric go-karts.
Tip: I am usually able to find discount tickets for the Racing Experience here.
Ice Skating at the Cosmopolitan
During winter, the Cosmopolitan Hotel and Casino turns its 4,200 square foot Boulevard pool into a real ice skating rink where visitors can take part in one of the most iconic activities of the holiday season.
Right after you’re done skating around on the rink, you can head inside and relax by the fire, get some soothing refreshments or even roast s’mores over the fire. In December, if you’re REALLY lucky, you may get to see some actual snow falling while you’re inside feeling all cozy and comfy.
(If you’re wondering does it ever snow in Las Vegas you can find out by reading our article here.)
This is one of the most festive experiences you can have in Las Vegas. December is the perfect time to come and experience the thrill of ice skating on a Las Vegas pool!
Skiing at Lee Canyon, Las Vegas
If you travel an hour from downtown Las Vegas, you will find a great little ski area. Visit the Lee Canyon area for snowboarding, skiing, and tubing. (website)
If you aren’t the best skier, don’t worry because the Lee Canyon ski resort offers lessons with professional instructors. They’ll teach you what you need to know to have fun on the slopes.
Downtown Container Park
This is a fairly new outdoor shopping mall concept within Las Vegas that is built from 41 metal shipping containers. The park has a bunch of restaurants and shops, as well as many family-friendly events for the season. These include:
- Jazz sessions
- Silent disco
- Art shows
World-class shopping abounds in Las Vegas. Whether you’re looking for souvenir shops for your kids or you’re on the hunt for high-end boutiques, you will be able to shop until you drop in Las Vegas.
Want to know where the best shopping malls are? Here’s an article we wrote about where to find the best shopping malls on the Las Vegas Strip.
Only in Las Vegas will you find the world’s largest permanent circus. Circus Circus Hotel & Casino has free circus acts performing throughout the day. These acts will blow your mind! Featured acts include:
- Trapeze artists
Each act lasts about 10 minutes, and the shows take place every half hour, starting at 11.a.m. These performances are free, so you can come and go as you please with no fussing over money.
Save on Admissions into Attractions
If you plan on going to Las Vegas in the winter, then you should be sure to get the Go Las Vegas Pass. The Go Las Vegas pass will let you save up to 55% on admission to over 35+ of the best attractions in town instead of just paying at the gate. You can get the Go Las Vegas Pass here.
It’s important to note that winter/holiday events may be ticketed separately and are not always covered by the Go Las Vegas pass.
Wrangler National Finals Rodeo
Considered to be the world’s premier rodeo event, the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo comes every December to Las Vegas and plays to a packed stadium. You will see all the fans dressed up in their favorite cowboy hats and boots as well as some of the best rodeo performers in the world.
This event is held at the Thomas and Mack Center at UNLV and lasts for about a week and a half. Some of the events that are held here are:
- Bareback riding
- Barrel racing
- Bull riding
It can be pretty hard to grab a spot at this event without some prior planning, so try to come up with tickets as soon as possible. You can visit the ProRodeo website for more information.
If you can’t make the rodeo, then you can still check out the Cowboy Christmas. Cowboy Christmas is an annual western-themed shopping festival that’s free and open to the public. It’s held at the Las Vegas Convention Center. Visit the Cowboy Christmas website here for more information.
Rather than being a slow time of the year in Las Vegas, December is a busy month full of special holiday and winter activities for all ages and interests. Winter and particularly the month of December is a wonderful time to plan your trip to Las Vegas.