The two holiday season events I look forward to most are presided over by a couple of guys who make it seem like they just happened into these things. They don’t act or speak or feel like the Las Vegas Christmas mascots they might be.
Chet Buchanan, of course, is a local radio institution, the leader of the Morning Zoo on KLUC 98.5-FM and the weather-impervious titan who lives on a 30-foot-tall metal scaffold for 12 days each December for the station’s annual Toy Drive, which begins its 18th session December 3 in the parking lot at NV Energy on West Sahara. Buchanan will collect toys, bikes, gift cards and other stuff on behalf of HELP of Southern Nevada, to benefit local families and nonprofits.
• His friend Mark Shunock has only been in Las Vegas four years, but has quickly become one of our leading philanthro-tainers, mostly through his infinitely fun Mondays Dark monthly show, which benefits various local charities throughout the year. The big third-anniversary show goes down December 19 at the Joint at the Hard Rock Hotel. It’s always a cavalcade of Vegas entertainers having at least as much fun as the audience, and Shunock will also announce the 11 charities with which he’ll work next year, when he moves Mondays Dark to his new venue, the Space. That’s some Christmas mascotry right there. A few more favorite events:
• The Las Vegas Philharmonic goes Home for the Holidays in Reynolds Hall at the Smith Center, playing selections including pieces from Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker and Sergei Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf narrated by Oscar-, Emmy-, Tony- and Grammy-winning actress and singer Rita Moreno. Pre-matinee entertainment includes a make-your-own ornament bar sponsored by Zappos and performances by the Clark County Children’s Choir or Nevada School of the Arts Chamber Orchestra. December 3, 2 & 7:30 p.m.; December 4, 2 p.m.; $30-$109; lvphil.org.
• We don’t get a lot of Winter Wonderland around these parts, but our pop-up ice rinks come the closest to Norman Rockwellian, classic-Americana Christmas action. The Ice Rink at the Cosmopolitan’s Boulevard Pool offers awesome Strip views, movie nights and occasional snow showers; it’s open through January 1 from 2 p.m. to midnight Mondays-Fridays and noon to midnight Saturdays and Sundays. (Admission to skate costs $20, or $10 for locals.) You can also find seasonal rinks at the Park at T-Mobile Arena and Downtown Summerlin, and if skating is a spectator sport for you, the SoBe Ice Arena at Fiesta Rancho presents its annual holiday show on ice, Destination North Pole, featuring local figure skaters of all ages December 3 at 5 p.m. and December 4 at 1 p.m. (tickets run from $10-$15).
• The KLUC Toy Drive and Mondays Dark will both benefit from the return engagement of Christmas at My Place with Broadway veteran/Jersey Boys vocalist Travis Cloer. With a nine-piece band and loads of special guests, Cloer will Christmas you up and also provide the first real look at the Space, the new charity-based arts complex. December 9, 8 p.m., $30-$50, thespacelv.com.
• Locals obliged to put in some Strip time entertaining out-of-town holiday visitors know the go-to is still the Bellagio, and not just because of the fountains. The Conservatory & Botanical Gardens are also free, open around the clock and, come December 2, home to a polar bear family, animated toy soldiers, a twinkling 42-foot White Fir tree and trains covered in red and white roses rolling through a station coated with crushed walnuts. 702-693-7111.
• This year marks the 25th season of Opportunity Village’s Magical Forest, the epitome of a Southern Nevada holiday tradition. Opening nightly at 5:30 p.m. through January 1, the family-friendly park includes hundreds of decorated trees, the Forest Express train, Cheyenne’s Enchanted Carousel, the Avalanche Slide, Rudolph’s Raceway, photos with Santa and other rotating nightly entertainment. $10-$12, 6300 W. Oakey Blvd., 702-225-9627.