How are Christmas and New Year’s Eve?

I am spending two weeks in Vegas, from December 23 to January 5. I am 59 years old traveling alone. Any suggestions as what to do? Also, what is New Year's Eve like?

Kevin McMahon


We are looking at coming to Vegas for New Year's. What is it like at that time of year? And can you recommend a great night out with food and dancing? Some comedy would also be great. We are both young-feeling 40-year-olds and have an open mind and want the Vegas excitement.

(Yorkshire, England)

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Let's begin with Christmas, for no other reason than it's first on the calendar. Unlike other vacation destinations which wind down considerably during the holidays, Vegas actually ramps up its service industry workforce in preparation for the crowds. Where a resort in Malibu or Miami might leave a skeleton crew around to help the few lonely guests left lumbering about, Vegas hires additional hands for the season because it's such a popular destination. Every mall is open, every restaurant is open, every show plays, every light lights and every casino is filled with cheery people. Expect to see a lot, and I mean a LOT, of Santa hats.

One thing to consider in this crowded time is to book everything early. Certainly get your air travel and hotel in advance because flights and rooms are cheap at the moment, but prices are climbing and last-minute travelers get gouged on holiday travel. It seems like hotels and airlines operate on the "Oh, you wanted to be spontaneous and at the last minute skip eggnog in your pajamas with your in-laws in favor of gambling and drinking on Christmas? Good. Pay up." philosophy.

You can save a few bucks getting show tickets and save a few headaches making dinner reservations well in advance as well. Another reader provided some excellent recommendations in answer to a similar question.

Of course, Vegas is all about excess and lights and the Christmas season is a perfect excuse to exercise both. All the major hotels put on Christmas tree displays, and even the crummy hotels put out a sad little Charlie Brown tree that sags and has a pitiful draping of ornaments... Golden Gate, I'm looking in your direction. If you're a fan of trees all bright and tinsel-ey, I suggest the Bellagio, Caesars Palace and of course the MGM Grand. A nice dinner in any restaurant at one of those hotels and a stroll down the Strip afterward is a plan that can't go wrong.

Downtown doesn't get hit as hard with the holiday spirit as the Strip, but the Fremont Street Experience does have a lovely display of schmaltzy holiday –- and oddly patriotic—themed -- animations.

The crowds are large and festive in the days leading up to Christmas, but you may notice something of a change right around Christmas Day itself. Many of the American tourists are gone, leaving Las Vegas largely to foreign, mostly European, visitors and locals. People are still in a good mood, and the change can be kind of refreshing. The crowd is there, they're happy and they go all out.

Quite to the contrary, we have New Year's Eve. Oh, it's still very, very crowded, but were Dante to witness New Years Eve in Vegas he might assign another level to his Inferno. It's a giant party, to be sure, but it's not for me and I usually don't recommend it to others. This is the time for druggies, drunks, loners, losers, pushers, partiers, ravers, freaks and geeks to rove in packs, consuming as many chemicals as will fit in their head, then assaulting and destroying.

I don't mean to scare you, but really, the city devolves into something just short of a riot. My first New Year's Eve in Las Vegas I had to physically pick up my girlfriend up and run her through a crowd because she was being harassed by a group of dopeheads and police were riding through the unwashed throng on horseback, thunking the hooligans on the head with their batons.

People were climbing traffic signals and leaping from them. Like stage-diving for the terminally stupid. There were fights. Cars were turned over. I'm not making any of that up. I swore off bringing in a new calendar in Sin City, even though I've been assured time and time again the Vegas police do a fantastic job these days of keeping the crowds orderly and much less third-world-riot-ey.

There are, of course, normal, safe, fun, happy people in Las Vegas on New Year's Eve. In fact, they comprise the majority of the people there. And these normal, safe, fun, happy people are generally smart enough to stay indoors, where there are ample security systems in place. But the misaligned also flock to the city, so just be aware.

My personal preference on what to do as the clock nears midnight? I recommend finding a gambling table in a nice casino and occasionally stepping to the foyer or MAYBE the sidewalk to watch the people and listen for the countdown. I can't advise getting into the thick of it and mixing it up. I can still taste the pepper spray.

Good luck.

2 responses to “How are Christmas and New Year’s Eve?”

  1. Steve the Texan said:

    Here's a link that may be helpful, Angela:

    * Las Vegas weather / What to pack

  2. Angela said:

    what is the Weather like in Vegas in December?

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