Las Vegas in December
The days grow shorter and the nights grow colder (oh so much colder) as winter arrives in the desert, but there’s still plenty to keep you warm here in this city that truly never sleeps. So charge your mug with mulled wine, grab a gingerbread cookie, draw closer to the fire and read on for our guide to December vacations in Las Vegas.
Visiting Las Vegas in December
Average Temperature: 46°F • Average Rainfall: 4 days/mth • Average Sunshine: 7 hours/day
Twinkling lights, a holiday feel and maybe, just maybe, a light dusting of snow. That’s Las Vegas in December, when temperatures plummet to near-freezing and locals drag duffle coats, scarves and thick woolen mittens out of storage. This is when you’ll find hotels decked out in all their festive glory: think grand lobbies festooned with thousands of fairy lights and cacti dressed in tinsel and other shiny holiday baubles. The December cold will keep you indoors most of the time, though hardy souls can still brave hikes around the Grand Canyon’s South Rim as well as its diminutive sibling, the Red Rock Canyon. It’s worth wrapping up to head out and see the Strip’s Christmas lights in all their glory. And the chilly weather is equally unlikely to dissuade you from going to see the Bellagio’s dancing fountains in action, still one of the best free things to do in Vegas in December, as in any month.
December’s hotel prices are reasonable, with a hike if you’re staying for Christmas, and some fairly astronomical pricing on the 31st, when half a million revelers descend on Sin City to see in the New Year.
Things to do in December
It should go without saying that Las Vegas has some of the best indoor entertainment on the planet but, if you want to get (sort of) out and about during the day, we recommend a spin on the hop-on hop-off bus tour. It’s a great way to see a bit of the city with minimal effort, and visits iconic landmarks including the famous ‘Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas’ sign, the Mob Museum, the Strat hotel and, of course, those unmissable Bellagio fountains. You can hop off anywhere you like to start filling your Instagram feed with wintry Vegas selfies, or stay on for the full two-hour loop to get a proper introduction to Sin City. A nighttime bus tour also operates to allow you to experience the Strip at its illuminated best, with a bonus stop and walking tour at the Fremont Street Experience.
Come in from the cold and check out some of Vegas’s best museums. The Mob Museum takes a look at the history of organized crime in the US, with a permanent collection that includes old rifles, wiretap recordings and flapper dresses – there’s even an underground speakeasy serving Prohibition-inspired cocktails. Head to the Neon Museum to be dazzled by hundreds of historic neon signs (where else but Vegas?) and get your culture fix at the Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art. There’s also a beautiful pinball museum (with playable machines, so bring some quarters) and a museum that charts the utterly mesmerizing and quite terrifying history of atomic testing in the Nevada desert.
Fancy trying your luck in the casinos? Catch some old-school Vegas vibes on the slot machines at the iconic Caesars Palace, go for glory at The Golden Nugget or plan a (legal) heist on the blackjack and roulette tables at the Mirage and the MGM Grand, both of which featured in the movie Ocean’s Eleven.
Concerts in Las Vegas in December often take on a holiday theme, and you’ll be able to catch Sin City stalwarts Cirque du Soleil and the Blue Man Group in a number of different venues. Check listings for the likes of the Colosseum at Caesars Palace and the T-Mobile Arena for big-name rock, pop and comedy legends.
December is also a great time to do your Christmas shopping in Las Vegas, with Black Friday sales ongoing at the major malls – Las Vegas Premium Outlets, The Grand Canal Shoppes at The Venetian, the Fashion Show Mall – especially in the early part of the month.
What’s on in December?
What’s on in December? It might be quicker to list what’s not on in December, but here goes anyway. It’s holiday season so hotels and attractions go all out in their efforts to out-Christmas each other. And that means just one thing: a Santa’s sackful of sensational seasonal must-sees. And, as free things to do in Las Vegas in December go, the first of these may just edge out the Bellagio fountain illuminations....
Ethel M Cactus Garden
While pine trees may be de rigueur elsewhere in the States at this time of year, here in Vegas it’s all about the cactus. And nowhere does holiday decorating better than the folks here in the grounds of the famed Ethel M Chocolate Factory, where the three-acre cactus garden gets an annual December makeover that includes more than half a million twinkling lights and a family of animated reindeer. It’s open until around 10PM throughout December and quite the most magically festive experience in town.
Ice Skating at the Cosmopolitan
For sheer Christmassy vibes, The Cosmopolitan’s rooftop runs the bejeweled cacti a very close second. High above the Strip, this winter wonderland boasts firepits, cocktails, s’mores, holiday movies and stellar views of the neon skyline. Oh, and did we mention the 4,200 square foot ice-skating rink? There are even guaranteed snow showers throughout the evening, thanks to the resort’s very own snow machines!
Great Santa Run
Not just bags of fun but also raising sacks of cash for great causes is the Great Santa Run, which takes place every December in downtown Las Vegas. Join thousands of fellow Santa Clauses on this fun run. Your entrance fee gets you a five-piece Santa suit, finisher’s medal and swag bag and you can choose to run 5k or just one mile. Kids aged three and under go free.
New Year Celebrations
If you can swallow the eye-watering hotel prices in Las Vegas on New Year’s Eve, then you’re in for one helluva fun time, as revelers take to the Strip in their hundreds of thousands to brave the winter chill and ring in the New Year with wild boozy abandon. The whole of the Strip – from Mandalay Bay at the southern end to the Strat’s cloudbusting SkyPod four miles north – closes to traffic at dusk, allowing the party to kick off in earnest. By mid-evening, the streets are seething with merry-makers, all ready to have a good time and enjoy an epic fireworks show, the likes of which only a city as flamboyant and hedonistic as Las Vegas can pull off with such unparalleled bombast.