Magical Forest at Opportunity Village The Las Vegas charity again illuminates its West Oakey campus with awe-inspiring light displays at the annual event, which has become a local tradition. The kids can ride the Forest Express passenger train, brave the Avalanche slide and enjoy Boris the Elf’s 3D Experience—all before sitting down for a snap with Santa. Sunday-Thursday, 5:30-9 p.m.; Friday & Saturday, 5:30-10 p.m., $9.99-11.99.
Glittering Lights at Las Vegas Motor Speedway The annual event bills itself as “Nevada’s largest holiday drive-thru light show”—and while we don’t know of another mobile, Christmas light-viewing experience in the Silver State, Glittering Lights’ 2.5-mile course of yuletide illumination is worth your consideration. Through January 3; Sunday-Thursday, 5:30-9 p.m.; Friday & Saturday & holidays, 5:30-9 p.m.; $20.
Holiday Cactus Garden at Ethel M Desert landscapes aren’t the ideal canvas for a winter wonderland, but the local chocolate company accomplishes it every year. The gorgeous garden gets even more festive on weekends, with visits from Santa Claus (Friday to Sunday until Christmas, 5-9 p.m.) and entertainment from local school choirs (Friday to Sunday, 6-8 p.m.). Through January 1, 5-10 p.m., free.
Train Rides to Santa’s Cottage at Springs Preserve The little ones can take the train to see Santa, who will read holiday stories and hand out candy canes at the beloved botanical attraction. December 20-24, 11 a.m.-3 p.m., $4-$6.
Festivus Gathering at the Grand Bazaar Shops Fan of Seinfeld? Take pictures with the Festivus pole and participate in the parody holiday's "feats of strength" tradition by lifting a 100-pound dumbbell above your head. Those who complete the brawny challenge score a complimentary photo, Starbucks drink samples and Grand Bazaar Shops coupon books. Just don't forget to air your grievances (and politely ignore the fact that this holiday, meant as an alternative to commercialized Christmas, is being celebrated at an outdoor shopping mall). December 23, noon-4 p.m.
The Ice Rink at the Cosmopolitan Ice skating under showers of “snow” with breathtaking views of the iconic Las Vegas Strip—what more do you need? Well, we suppose the fire pits (and s’mores!) and hot toddies are the cherry on top of this quintessentially Vegas holiday experience. Taking to the ice? Save yourself some time before you go and fill out the required waiver online. December 11, 14-18, 3 p.m.-midnight; December 12 & 13, December 19-January 3, noon-midnight; free admission, $10-$15 skating access, $5 skate rentals.
Rock Rink at Downtown Summerlin Make a day out of your holiday shopping outings with some wintery fun. You can now practice that triple axel (or just staying on your feet) in the suburbs, as Summerlin’s retail epicenter also put up an ice-skating rink this year. Through January 18 (closed December 25); Monday-Thursday, 4-9 p.m.; Friday, 4-10 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m.-10 p.m.; Sunday, 11 a.m.-8 p.m., $15 includes skate rental.
Bellagio Conservatory The perennial garden’s holiday display is likely the most anticipated of the year, as the Strip resort seems to pull out its big botanical guns to really make the season come to life. This year’s installment took 34,000 flowers to create, and includes a 42-foot White Fir tree (with 7,000 lights and 2,500 ornaments), a 12-foot jack-in-the-box, polar bears made of white carnations, penguins peeking out of igloos, and two 12-foot snow globes. Let the photo ops begin. Through January 3, 24/7, free.
Mystic Falls at Sam’s Town The Boulder Highway hotel adds some holiday flair to its year-round faux nature display, where kids can take photos with Santa and take in the Sunset Stampede laser light show (at 2, 4, 8 and 10 p.m.). Santa photos: December 11, 17-18, 4-8:30 p.m.; December 12 & 13, 19-20, noon-8:30 p.m.; December 21-23, noon-8:30 p.m.; $14.95-$19.95.
The Nutcracker at the Smith Center Nevada Ballet Theatre brings the beloved Christmas tale to the Smith Center stage with a life-size Victorian dollhouse, a 100-foot Christmas tree, more than 100 cast and crew members and Tchaikovsky’s suite performed live by a full orchestra of Las Vegas Philharmonic musicians. December 12, 18, 19, 7:30 p.m.; December 13, 20, 1 & 5:30 p.m.; December 19, 2 p.m.; $29-$179.
A Christmas Carol at UNLV’s Judy Bayley Theatre Bah, humbug! UNLV’s Nevada Conservatory Theatre again reminds audiences of the meaning of Christmas, as Charles Dickens’ classic Christmas novel comes to life on the Judy Bayley Theatre stage. December 11 & 12, 8 p.m., $27.50-$33.
WinterFest at Henderson Events Plaza The City of Henderson’s annual holiday bash includes a Friday-night tree lighting ceremony (6 p.m.) and a Saturday light parade (5 p.m.), in addition to arts, crafts and food vendors, kids activities and live entertainment. December 11, 6-9 p.m.; December 12, noon-8 p.m., free.
December to Remember at the Neon Museum The Downtown institution invites families to the Neon Boneyard for some ornament-making, hot chocolate and carols sung by the Las Vegas Academy choir. Bonus: Take a photo with Santa in the museum. December 12, 2-6 p.m., free.
The Dock of Lights at Lake Mead’s Calville Bay The National Recreation Area puts on a nautical Noel, as boat owners at Calville Bay decorate their rigs with Christmas lights and displays. The little ones can also say hello to Santa and Mrs. Claus and warm up with some hot chocolate at this unique yuletide happening. December 12, 7 p.m., thelakemeadyachtclub.com.
Container Park’s 2-Year Anniversary The outdoor mall celebrates two years with a performance by the Zappos choir, arts and crafts (noon-5 p.m., with $5 Container Park purchase), and a viewing of Christmas Vacation. And if you’re of-age, enjoy $2 drink specials (2-3 p.m.) and visits from Drunk Santa and Elfzilla (9 p.m.). Container Park will also offer pictures with Santa from noon to 5 p.m. December 12, noon-10 p.m.
Night of Lights at St. Jude’s Ranch The annual event features hay rides through a winter wonderland, treats, games, face painting and live entertainment at the St. Jude’s Boulder City Campus. December 12, 5 p.m.
Jingle Bell Run at Pecos Legacy Park Get a head start on your New Year’s resolution or battle the holiday weight gain at this 3.1-mile race along Henderson’s Pittman Wash Trail. The run culminates with holiday music, a visit from Santa and—speaking of that holiday weight gain—hot chocolate, coffee and cookies for purchase. Get fit and festive! December 19, 9 a.m., $25-$30, cityofhenderson.com.
Container Park Santa Claus parks it Downtown every weekend to take photos with the little ones. And did we mention Oak & Ivy has a new seasonal cocktail menu? December 11, 18, 24, 5-8 p.m.; December 12-13, 19-20, noon-5 p.m.; free.
Downtown Summerlin Catch the nightly holiday parade (7 p.m.) before photos with St. Nick. Have a furry friend? Paws and Claus pet-photo night happens Thursdays 6:30 to 9 p.m. December 11, 10 a.m.-10 p.m.; December 12, 14-18, 20-23, 9 a.m.-10 p.m.; December 13, 10 a.m.-9 p.m.; December 19, 8 a.m.-10 p.m.; December 24, 8 a.m.-6 p.m.; $22-$48.
Fashion Show Mall The Strip-side shopping mall’s interactive, Shrek-themed “Adventure to Santa” program includes opportunities to explore Santa’s home and more. December 12, 10 a.m.-8 p.m.; December 13-20, 10 a.m.-8 p.m.; December 21-23, 8 a.m.-10 p.m.; December 24, 8 a.m.-6 p.m., $40-$74.
Silverton The man in the bright red suit flies a sleigh led by magical reindeer—did you really think he’s not a total outdoorsy badass? Instead of taking to the skies, Old St. Nick takes the plunge at Silverton, scuba diving in the resort’s aquarium to take photos and spread some under-the-sea holiday cheer. Saturday & Sunday through December, noon-1:15 p.m., 2:15-3:30 p.m., free.
Tivoli Village The kids can take photos with Santa in between train rides through the suburban open-air mall. Family members with paws are invited on December 16 from 5 to 8 p.m. for Tivoli’s pet-photo night. December 11 & 18, noon-4 p.m.; December 12, 21-24, 19, 9 a.m.-4 p.m.; December 13 & 20, 11 a.m.-4 p.m.; $10-$20.
Town Square The kids might not appreciate Santa’s Norman Rockwell-inspired digs as much as their parents, but photos with the jolly old soul and the Snow in the Square holiday dance shows (through December 23, Monday to Thursday, 7 p.m.; Friday to Sunday, 7 and 8 p.m.) might be right up their alley. Your dog or cat will likely also be unimpressed by the Rockwell house (especially those cats, let’s be honest), but they’re invited for photos every Wednesday until Christmas. Through December 11-19; Monday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-1 p.m., 1:30-5 p.m., 6 p.m.-9 p.m.; Sunday, 11-2 p.m., 3 p.m.-7 p.m.; December 20-23, 10 a.m.-9 p.m.; December 24, 9 a.m.-6 p.m.; reservations required through December 23, walk-ups only on December 24.