We’re not exactly a Norman Rockwell painting of seasonal bliss, what with the desert and the urban grit. But Las Vegas does have some staples for getting into the holiday spirit, from Ethel M’s cactus garden strung with lights to Bavarian feasting (and spanking) among evergreen garlands at Hofbräuhaus. But you already know about that. This year, we’re going a little unconventional with our guide to feeling the joy of Thanksgiving and Christmas, whether it’s eating turducken on a bun or soaking in the wisdom of A Dick Johnson Christmas Carol.
NO AVERAGE (TURKEY) DAY
Chicken sausage, duck breast and a turkey patty are decked with cornbread stuffing, house gravy and cranberry-Boursin cheese relish. That’s right, cheese relish. ’Cause if you’re charging $18 for a burger, it better hit you in the face with holiday flavor. BLT Burger does the Franken-stein dish known as turducken right—on a big ol’ bun. November 24-30. Mirage, 702-792-7888.
Comme Ça doesn’t care if you’re on a diet. And you shouldn’t either, because its Thanksgiving menu is crazy. Like, Musquée de Provence pumpkin soup, smoked heritage turkey, roasted chestnut agnolotti with sage butter and salmon caviar, stuffing spiked with foie gras and cranberry, and pan-fried Brussels sprouts with Pedro Ximénez and hazelnuts crazy. Never conventional, the Cosmo’s French bistro outdoes pumpkin pie by infusing its flavor in beignets with accents of huckleberry and orange. Face. Melted. November 27, $59. Cosmopolitan, 702-698-7910.
Benihana isn’t really a holiday haunt, but the Japanese performance-cooking outpost concocted a Spiced Cranberry Mojito to quench your Thanksgiving thirst. Stop picturing a cheap vodka-cran with sad mint leaves! This is Grey Goose, sour mix, fresh ginger, cranberry juice and simple syrup swirled with Cointreau and a few dashes of McCormick Cinnamon Sugar, then garnished with fresh mint and actual cranberries. Classy. Through November, $8.95, Westgate Las Vegas, 3000 Paradise Road, 702-732-5111.
You know your next-day turkey sandwich could use some pinto bean purée, chipotle aioli and pickled onion. That’s how they roll at Tacos & Tequila, Luxor’s unsung hero of Mexican cuisine. The turkey torta ($13) is great for lunch, but dinner goes bigger with turkey breast topped with mole poblano and a side of Cotija mashed potatoes and grilled zucchini, yellow squash and mushrooms ($16). Finish it off with T&T’s pumpkin flan, a dream of dark caramel, egg custard and cinnamon made bonkers with tequila cajeta sauce ($7). Who needs green-bean casserole? November 26-30. Luxor, 702-262-5225.
JUST YULE IT
A Dick Johnson Christmas Carol
You know what happens to Clara and her Nutcracker. And you definitely know what happens to Scrooge when he takes a haunted journey through his past, present and future. But we’ll bet you’ve never even heard of Dick Johnson, the best detective in town and a bona fide Christmas hater. While his story is loosely based on Charles Dickens’ classic, Poor Richard’s Players are sure to infuse the redemption tale with edge, humor and a victory dance in a much cooler nightgown. December 5-6, 11-13, 8 p.m.; December 7 & 14, 2 p.m., $14-$19. Onyx Theatre, 953 E. Sahara Ave. #16B, 702-732-7225.
Clocks fashioned from old car pistons. Soft-sculpture faces. Scarves and jewelry for dogs and people. Wooden birdhouses, beaded rosaries, quilted table runners and hand-painted ornaments special enough to be passed down through generations. These are just a few of the vendors onboard for the 40th edition of Boulder City’s 100 percent handmade holiday bazaar, put on by its Community Club and raising funds for nonprofits like Emergency Aid and Lend a Hand. Sip on hot coffee or cocoa and nibble on cookies while you shop, or line up for a session with Santa from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. No mall for you! December 6, 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Boulder City Recreation Center, 900 Arizona St.
Always wish you could be one of those kids on the Polar Express? Well, you can’t. But you can wear your fancy pajamas on a night train courtesy of the Nevada Southern Railway. We’re talking hot cocoa and cookies, story time and a visit from the Man in Red. If you arrive early, you can ride the Yuletime Xpress to the railroad museum’s bone yard or watch the 139-year-old Eureka do some chugging. December 5-6, 12-13, departures at 5 & 7 p.m., $14-$20. Nevada State Railroad Museum, 601 Yucca St., Boulder City, 702-486-5933.
It’s a Liberace Christmas
The jewel-encrusted musician looked like a Christmas elf, so it’s only right that he is the inspiration for an evening stuffed like a stocking with a buffet feast, cocktails and a festive performance by Daryl Wagner of Legends in Concert. The classical pianist is known for impersonating Mr. Showmanship and promises to make worn-out carols new and glittering. Waaaaay glittering. The “cavalcade of joy” includes a cast of 16 (think dancing Liberace Rein‘dears’) singing, waltzing and wearing the hell out of their very, very bedazzled costumes. And if turkey and cornbread stuffing are too pedestrian, order some collard greens egg rolls. Liberace totally would. December 6 & 18, 7-9 p.m., $40 general admission; $55 VIP admission includes buffet & prime seats close to the stage. Ron DeCar’s Event Center, 1201 Las Vegas Blvd. S., 702-384-0771.
Ellis Island makes its secret-recipe eggnog once a year, only 3,000 bottles. And all of them sell. Grab one for $30, or better yet, order a $6 serving inside the independent casino (or any Village Pub location in the family). You could even ask to be nogged while you’re playing blackjack ... next to Elvis. 4178 Koval Lane, 702-733-8901.
For Mexican-Americans, the iconic holiday flavor isn’t pumpkin or peppermint. It is tender cornmeal stuffed with red pork, green chicken, maybe cheese, definitely love. The tamale represents the familiar warmth of making comfort food with family, and Las Vegas restaurant Doña Maria’s has been perfecting the dish for three decades. If you want a delicious tangent, go for the pineapple and raisin. 910 Las Vegas Blvd. S., 702-382-6538; 3205 N. Tenaya Way, 702-656-1600.
Lost City Museum Holiday Open House (drive time: approximately 1 hour)
Anasazi Indians settled a corner of Southern Nevada long ago, and the relics weren’t discovered until 1924. Archaeologists excavated a 5-mile stretch of sites threatened by the waters of Lake Mead, and a museum was built to honor the “lost city” in 1935. Check out artifacts and exhibits under traditional sun-dried adobe brick in a pueblo-revival style, with twinkling lights, garlands and live music by New Zealand guitarist Zilla Johnson and flute jammers the Zephyr Recorder Consort. Buy gift baskets in the raffle for a double-whammy: thoughtful present for a loved one + thoughtful museum donation. December 6, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. (entertainment through 1:30 p.m.), free admission. 721 S. Moapa Valley Blvd., Overton, 702-397-2193.
Little America North Pole Experience (drive time: approximately 3.5 hours)
Who knew that Flagstaff, Arizona, is where Santa actually lives? Just a few hours from Vegas, the Little America Hotel turns its 500 acres into a wonderland of lights, and if you book the North Pole Experience, you’re in for a tour of Santa’s Toy Hall of Fame, interactive toy building with the elves, sugar cookies and snowman soup at Mrs. Claus’ Bakery, classes at Elf University and more. This is for all of you wearing bad holiday sweaters without a hint of irony. Through December 27, $38-$55. 2515 E. Butler Ave., Flagstaff, AZ, 928-779-7900, northpoleexperience.com.
Mountain Staycation (drive time: approximately 1 hour)
Las Vegas’ escape of choice is Mount Charleston, especially at this time of year. With the promise of actual trees and real snow above 7,700 feet, it’s a charming seasonal scene in your backyard. Rent a cozy log cabin (complete with central fireplace and stunning mountain views) on Christmas Day for $260, or go earlier in December for a sweeter price. Thanksgiving is sold out, but you can always do a day trip for the turkey feast with hot buttered rum. 5355 Kyle Canyon Road, 702-872-5408.