Utahns can better Vegas in winter—minus the desert heat

By Kathleen Curry and Geoff Griffin

Part of the allure of Las Vegas is that it offers things that you can’t find back home. During the winter months, perhaps the biggest draw is the Nevada sunshine. With average daily highs around 60 degrees and night-time lows staying above freezing, the short drive or flight to Vegas is a no-brainer from December through February. In addition to all of the usual shows, restaurants, clubs and nightlife that are on display year-round and 24/7, Las Vegas is also home to unique events during the winter months. Head south for sunshine and consider these options.

Since you’re going for the rays, why not soak them in with some outdoor recreation? Hoover Dam and Lake Mead National Recreation Area are just about an hour’s drive away and offer a paddler’s paradise.

Consider canoe and kayak adventures along the 12-mile stretch of the Black Canyon on the Colorado River (beginning at the base of Hoover Dam), biking the historic tunnel trail and kayaking at Lake Mead—all with Desert Adventures

And if you’d rather leave the driving to somebody else, call Pink Jeep Tours. They’ll pick you up at your hotel and take you as far away as the Grand Canyon and Death Valley. Ride in style in a specially designed pink “Tour Trekker” with up to 10 guests.

Chinese New Year
Chinese New Year, also known as Lunar New Year, begins on Feb. 5, 2019, to celebrate the Year of the Pig. There will be celebrations around the city for two weeks, including traditional decorations, dining, dancing and ceremonies, highlighted by the Las Vegas Spring Festival Parade on Saturday, Feb. 9. The procession starts at the intersection of Fremont Street and 11th Street, and goes through the downtown area and the Fremont East Entertainment District before ending at a full-day festival held at the Downtown Container Park, an area of shops and restaurants housed in shipping containers.

While Salt Lake is home to the NBA’s Jazz basketball team, to experience another North American pro sports league—the NHL—you need only take a short drive or flight to Las Vegas to see the Golden Knights in action. The Knights surprised everybody by making a run to the Stanley Cup Finals during their very first season in 2017-18. They also made a splash with their pre-game parties held just off the strip outside of the T-Mobile Arena. Vegas-style pre-game shows and a drum corps are outfitted to light up while they play.

The Knights have a total of 21 home games from December through February, including Dec. 22 vs. Montreal, Dec. 23 vs. Los Angeles, Dec. 27 vs. Colorado and Jan. 1 vs. Los Angeles again. Games are also scheduled on Martin Luther King Jr. and Presidents Day weekends.

The T-Mobile Arena will also play host to the highly anticipated UFC 232 on Dec. 29. The night will be highlighted by a light-heavyweight title fight between Jon Jones and Alexander Gustafsson and a women’s featherweight title fight between Amanda Nunes and Cris Cyborg.

In a town full of concerts, stars and venues, perhaps the biggest splash this winter will be made by Lady Gaga, as she begins a Las Vegas residency on Dec. 28 at MGM Park Theater with two very different shows available to her fans. Lady Gaga Enigma will have the sort of over-the-top theatrics you’d expect, while a few Jazz & Piano dates will focus on standards such as those she did with Tony Bennett in 2014 as well as piano-only renditions of her own songs. Enigma runs Dec. 28, 30, 31; Jan. 17, 19, 24, 26, 31; and Feb. 2. Jazz & Piano will run Jan. 20 and Feb. 3. Lady Gaga will also make appearances in the same theater with the same shows in May, June, October and November.

America’s Party
Finally, no discussion of Vegas in winter is complete without a mention of a New Year’s Eve celebration so big it has its own name: “America’s Party.” The Strip shuts down and 300,000 people gather along the four-mile stretch to watch a fireworks show at midnight. Enjoy choreographed displays launched from nearby rooftops. Tips: The upper floors of parking garages are great places to view the fireworks. For the best views, ride the High Roller Observation Wheel, or plant yourself in the Foundation Room atop Mandalay Bay or the SkyFall Lounge on the 64th floor of the Delano Las Vegas. Be prepared for crowds and cool temps. It’s permissible to consume alcoholic beverages on the street as long as they’re not in metal or glass containers. For public transportation along the Strip, take the Las Vegas Monorail, trains run until about 3 a.m.

Off the Strip, another option is to spend NYE downtown at the Fremont Street Experience. Tickets to the event get you into a party that includes 12 bands on three stages, an EDM stage with dancers and aerialists, light shows on the world’s largest video screen featuring bands and a year in review, roaming entertainment and onstage pyrotechnic displays. Concerts run from 6 p.m. till 3:30 a.m. Tickets purchased before Christmas for this adults-only event are $35 and will increase after that date.

Let the Nevada sunshine lure you south of Salt Lake and across the state line. When it’s cold and frigid in northern Utah, remember that you’re a mere six-hour drive from the hottest events in the Entertainment Capital of the World.


The Fountains at Bellagio

Holiday lights, Vegas style

Compiled by Anna Kaser & Jerre Wroble

Visiting Las Vegas this time of year, you’ll find no shortage of holiday cheer. And here you thought that Sin City wouldn’t be the kind of place to take the kids for a drive at night to see the pretty lights. Wrong! Check out a few of Vegas’ more colorful holiday shows (many of which are free).

Bellagio Fountains and Conservatory
A must-see attraction whenever you visit Las Vegas, the Fountains at Bellagio pull out all the stops for the holidays when more than 1,000 fountains, lights and music are choreographed around classic holiday tunes. The free shows run daily with shows beginning in the afternoon and running every 30 minutes. Then at 8 p.m. (7 p.m. on Sundays), the shows run every 15 minutes until midnight.

Also, from Dec. 1-Jan. 6, the gardens at the Bellagio Conservatory become a winter wonderland of twinkling lights, poinsettias and a 40-foot-high Christmas tree with more than 7,000 lights and 2,500 ornaments. Enjoy live holiday performances nightly from 4:30-6 p.m. at the Victorian Gazebo in the South Garden. Admission is free. The Conservatory is open 24 hours a day from Dec. 2 till Jan. 6. (JW)

Bellagio Hotel & Casino, 3600 S. Las Vegas Blvd., Las Vegas
702-693-7111, Bellagio.com

Glittering Lights
Glittering Lights, located at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, is one way to keep warm while enjoying the holiday lights. Over the years, Winterland Inc., which produces the show, has become a leading company for drive-through light parks. With tickets ranging from $20 to $30 per day, you can take a whole carload of kids on a 2.5 mile course through the speedway, intertwined with more than 3 million LED lights—a holiday experience they won’t soon forget. (AK)

Las Vegas Motor Speedway, 7000 Las Vegas Boulevard North
Las Vegas, 702-222-9777, GlitteringLightsLasVegas.com

Winter PARQ at the LINQ Promenade
The LINQ Promenade is a popular open-air entertainment and shopping district located between The LINQ Hotel & Casino and Flamingo Las Vegas. During winter months, its walkways become a winter wonderland of carolers, holiday music and decorations. Catch the hourly light shows made up of thousands of LED lights set to popular music, the 35-foot tree, and the High Roller Observation Wheel that stands at 550 feet tall. A holiday show with singers, dancers and show girls takes place on the Fountain stage nightly from 6:30-10:30 p.m. throughout most of December, where it “snows” every hour from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. (AK)

LINQ Promenade, 3545 S. Las Vegas Blvd., Las Vegas
702-322-0550, Caesars.com/linq/promenade/things-to-do

Holiday Cactus Garden
Open nightly from 5-8 p.m., Ethel M. Chocolates Factory, owned by the makers of M&M’s candies, adorns its three-acre cactus garden with more than a million holiday lights. This colorful (and free) celebration features chocolate houses and sculptures, live chocolate demonstrations, photos with Santa, choir performances, balloon artists and more. Only a 15-minute drive from the Strip, Ethel M’s is the perfect quick getaway for the whole family. (AK)

Ethel M’s Chocolates Factory, 2 Cactus Garden Dr., Henderson, 800-438-4356, display open through Jan. 1, EthelM.com