Las Vegas

From Pop-Up Bars to Ice Skating, No One Does Holiday Events Like Las Vegas

Make sure to check out all three "The Nightmare Before Christmas" experiences.

Photo courtesy of the Cosmopolitan
Photo courtesy of the Cosmopolitan
Photo courtesy of the Cosmopolitan

Viva Las Christmas, baby! While there’s never a shortage of over-the-top things to do in Vegas, spending the holidays in Sin City is an experience like no other, offering an adult-friendly alternative to the usual Kidsmas activities by way of endless Christmas cocktails, naughty Elf on the Shelf, and The Nightmare Before Christmas-themed pop-up bars, burlesque interpretations of classic Christmas icons, elegant holiday soirées, and really, a lot of booze.

So throw on your favorite ugly Christmas sweater and spread some cheer as you check out all the fun (mostly boozy, some artsy) holiday things to do in Vegas this year.

Photo courtesy of Genesis Palomo
Photo courtesy of Genesis Palomo
Photo courtesy of Genesis Palomo

Holiday Outdoor Activities in Las Vegas

Enchant Christmas: Las Vegas

November 24–December 31
Downtown Summerlin, $34 and up
This fully immersive frozen fairytale returns to the Las Vegas Ballpark with an ice-skating trail, a 100-foot all-white tree, and a Santa’s Magic Timepiece-themed light maze illuminated by millions of twinkling lights. Plus, visitors can shop at the tiny storefronts in the Christmas market, enjoy live entertainment, visit with Santa, and sip from a menu of Christmas cocktails. Plus, there are photo ops at every turn. New this year, an Enchant Dinner Ticket gets you a buffet dinner and a little reprieve from the busier areas (only select nights). The dinner menu includes crowd-pleasers like ham and cheese sliders, cornbread stuffing, meatballs, and green bean casserole.

The Ice Rink at the Cosmopolitan

December 2–January 2
The Cosmopolitan, Prices vary
One of the city’s most beloved holiday traditions is ice skating on a covered pool on a rooftop overlooking the Strip in 70-degree weather as Christmas movies like Elf and National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation play on a 65-foot marquee. Vegas, baby! Christmas-themed cocktails and rink-side fire pits for toasting s’mores, and periodic snow showers join the mix. For reserved seating, make plans to get cozy at The Chalet, an alpine-retreat-style lounge area with a communal fire pit, light bites, cocktails, and a dedicated server. The rink is open daily; Christmas movies are shown on the marquee most Mondays and Tuesdays at 7 pm through Christmas Day. Skate all day for just $20.

Winter at the Terrace at Green Valley Ranch

Ongoing
Green Valley, Prices vary
Winter at the Terrace, the seasonal pop-up at popular locals’ favorite Green Valley Ranch casino, returns with wintery cocktails served in cozy, heated igloos (with a food and beverage minimum), a hot chocolate cart with cocoa bombs and flavored marshmallows for customizable fun, and s’mores roasted over a fire pit. You’ve got all winter season (aka Vegas patio season) to enjoy the experience along with fireside punch and cocktails like the Snow Day (Patron Silver, Licor 43, coconut cream, and white cranberry) and Warm and Cozy (a rum and cider cocktail served hot). Reservations are recommended for igloos and fire pits.

Photo courtesy of The Feast of Friends
Photo courtesy of The Feast of Friends
Photo courtesy of The Feast of Friends

Holiday Dining and Drinking in Las Vegas

Miracle on Spring Mountain Pop-Up Bar

November 21–December 31
Chinatown, Free entry
Las Vegas’s original holiday pop-up bar Miracle on Spring Mountain is back for another round. The iconic Sand Dollar Lounge in Chinatown has once again transformed into a kooky Christmas-loving cat-lady-aunt’s living room with holiday cocktails in fun holiday mugs and barware (which you can buy), guest chef pizza pop-ups, and lots of Christmas cheer, plus a Hanukkah section for Jewish friends. Meanwhile, Miracle’s sister Christmas tiki bar Sippin’ Santa takes over the Sand Dollar inside DTLV’s Plaza Hotel and Casino also from November 21 through December 31.

The Golden Days of Christmas at the Golden Tiki

November 24-December 25
Chinatown, Free entry
Celebrate the Golden Days of Christmas at the Golden Tiki, a kitschy quasi-Polynesian paradise in the middle of Las Vegas’s Chinatown. Get Blitzen’ed on the extra-cheery Christmas tiki cocktails, which include a Pumpkin Batida made with coconut cream (it’s delicious) and a duck-fat-washed Cognac Negroni with hoisin ginger vermouth (it’s weird). Fun theme nights lead up to the big day, so get your ugly sweaters and Christmas onesies ready. Also, Golden Tiki opens at 2pm on Christmas Day, just in time to make your desperate escape from your family.

The Jingle Bell Ball at Circa’s Rooftop Legacy Club

December 1 at 9 pm
Downtown Las Vegas, $150
The Legacy Club’s series has served up some of the year’s best special events since kicking things off last year’s holiday party. So-with the swankiest rooftop cocktail lounge in Las Vegas hosting a holiday soiree with live music; festive small bites; and an open bar pouring holiday cocktails, wine, and beer-you won’t want to miss it. Unlike last year, this year’s holiday party is a dress-to-impress yuletide event, so pull out your finest “holiday chic” attire.

Bad Elf Pop-Up Bar at the Silverton Casino

Through January 1 at 5 pm
Silverton Casino, Free entry
Inspired by everyone’s favorite holiday menace, the Elf on the Shelf, the Shady Grove Lounge is full of “retired” shelf elves donated by fans from all over the country again this holiday season. As the Bad Elf pop-up bar, the Silverton Casino bar becomes a festive holiday scene popping with lights, oversized ornaments, and elves hanging from the ceiling. The Bad Elf Experience, just $25, includes two holiday cocktails, a chance to play the Bad Elf puzzle hunt, and a souvenir glass.

The Ski Lodge at Superfrico

Ongoing from 4 pm daily
The Cosmopolitan, Free entry
This “hidden” après-ski-cabin-style bar within Superfrico’s psychedelic Italian restaurant and performance space stays open 365 days a year, the holidays just feel like an extra-right time for this extra-wrong (in all the right ways) spot. Order cocktails from the seasonal “ski season” menu like the Yukon Cornelius, made with Bulleit Rye, cognac, Branca Menta, and vanilla bean foam, or the Kalikimaka, made with El Dorado 12-year rum, Crème de Banana, and Thai milk. You can also roast your own s’mores, order the “shotski” (3 Baileys-based shots on a ski) and hope you’re one of the lucky ones who spot a Yeti during your visit – one is known to roam around here!

Photo courtesy of Lost Spirits Distillery
Photo courtesy of Lost Spirits Distillery
Photo courtesy of Lost Spirits Distillery

Holiday Performances in Las Vegas

‘Elf the Musical’ at Las Vegas Little Theatre

December 1–17
Chinatown, $30
The heartwarming modern Christmas classic got the Broadway treatment and is now an equally heartwarming musical, and this year that musical is coming to the Las Vegas Little Theatre, an independent amateur theater company that has been operating since 1978.

Lost Spirits Distillery and Circus

December 15-24
AREA15, Tickets start at $49
If you want to get into the holiday spirit, look no further than Lost Spirits Distillery and Circus at AREA15. It’s already considered one of the best experiences in Las Vegas, and for the two weeks leading up to Christmas they’ll have special holiday-themed performances, including a very naughty Nutcracker and a NSFW Abominable Snowmonster. They are all within arm’s reach; just remember-no touching!

Holiday Performances at the Smith Center

Throughout December
DTLV, Prices vary
At Las Vegas’s world-class performing arts center, the holiday shows run the gamut, with everything from singing comedians to sultry crooners. Highlights include A Swingin’ Little Christmas, blending music and comedy from Jane Lynch (Sue Sylvester in Glee) and Kate Flannery (Meredith Palmer in The Office), and An Evening with Seth MacFarlane and Liz Gilles, when the Family Guy creator teams up with Gilles for to perform songs from their festive new album We Wish You The Merriest. The Nevada Ballet Theater puts on a truly magical production of The Nutcracker and the Las Vegas Philharmonic hits all the holiday classics in A Very Vegas Christmas.

Photo courtesy of  AREA15
Photo courtesy of AREA15
Photo courtesy of AREA15

The Nightmare Before Christmas Events in Las Vegas

The Nightmare Before Xmás Experience at Más Por Favor

November 22–December 28
Chinatown, Prices vary
Chinatown’s Más Por Favor has everything your Halloween-loving heart craves at Christmastime. The entire back room is covered in Nightmare decor, from the black-and-white parasols and screaming Christmas wreath hanging from the ceiling to Mr. Oogie Boogie in the corner. Special food and drinks include Frog’s Breath Pozole and Sandy Claws Tacos and clever cocktails served in festive Jack and Sally mugs.

The Nightmare Before Christmas Haunted Brunch Show at Nightmare Cafe

Sundays through December 17 at 11 am
DTLV Arts District, Tickets start at $34
If all you want for Christmas is Halloween, check out the holiday version of the year-round Haunted Brunch Show held Sundays at Nightmare Cafe. This dance-driven show pays homage to modern horror favorites with campy fun and plenty of audience participation, and the Nightmare Before Christmas edition promises visits from Sandy Claws and his fellow Halloween townsfolk. Brunch and drinks, like the Blair Waffle Project and Bloody Carries, are not included in the basic ticket price.

The Nightmare Before Christmas at AREA15

Through December 25
AREA15, $40
Immersive yourself in the world of Tim Burton and join the Pumpkin King on his travels to Christmas Town. Inside the Portal at AREA15, check out the immersive The Nightmare Before Christmas viewing experience, complete with wall-to-wall digital projections and some added lighting effects while the film screens on a huge projection screen with a legit killer sound system and a themed holiday cocktail menu. Tickets include one cocktail.Want more Thrillist? Follow us on Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, TikTok, and Snapchat.

Nicole Rupersburg is a freelance writer covering food, travel, arts, culture, and what-have-you. She winters in Las Vegas and summers in Detroit, as does anybody who’s anybody. Her favorite activities include drinking beer and quoting Fight Club.

Las Vegas

A Fresh Take on Italian Dining Opens in Southwest Las Vegas

A first look at Basilico Ristorante Italiano.

Photo by Louiie Victa, courtesy of Basilico Ristorante Italiano
Photo by Louiie Victa, courtesy of Basilico Ristorante Italiano
Photo by Louiie Victa, courtesy of Basilico Ristorante Italiano

You can’t be all things to all people. Yet a new Italian restaurant strikes an intriguing balance between authenticity and inventive touches while helping to shape the identity of a new community in the booming Southwest Valley of Las Vegas.

Basilico Ristorante Italiano is now open at Evora, a master-planned apartment development still under construction that won’t be finished for at least five years. The 160-seat restaurant follows the vision of chef Francesco Di Caudo, a Sicily native who draws on his heritage and experience throughout Italy to build a compelling menu based on traditional techniques and modern ingenuity.

“I come from a country where farm-to-table is nothing new,” says Di Caudio, while emphasizing the importance of ingredient sourcing and simple, straightforward flavor combinations.

Photo by Louiie Victa, courtesy of Basilico Ristorante Italiano
Photo by Louiie Victa, courtesy of Basilico Ristorante Italiano
Photo by Louiie Victa, courtesy of Basilico Ristorante Italiano

Just look at the appetizers. Americans are used to eggplant parmesan that’s breaded and fried without restraint. Di Caudo sticks to a traditional Sicilian recipe with the vegetable sliced thin, sizzled in a pan, and layered with tomato and basil. No mozzarella. On the other hand, the Smoked Cigar is destined to be a signature showstopper. Duck, foie gras, and porcini mushrooms are packed inside a thin, cracker-like shell, presented in a box, and dipped into a glass ashtray. The “ash” in the centre is a black sesame and truffle mix. Don’t be shy about double dipping.

The risotto is bound to be another conversation piece. The recipe uses Carnaroli rice, a starchy grain from North Italy that produces a creamy texture, balancing the saltiness of a parmesan broth with a sweet splash of chestnut honey. The real surprise is the inclusion of Lavazza espresso, manipulated to crackle in your mouth like Pop Rocks candy.

Photo by Louiie Victa, courtesy of Basilico Ristorante Italiano
Photo by Louiie Victa, courtesy of Basilico Ristorante Italiano
Photo by Louiie Victa, courtesy of Basilico Ristorante Italiano

All pastas are made in-house, from a parsnip cavatelli to a lamb and thyme tortellini in a broth filtered from braised prosciutto. Some dishes have a subtle Asian influence, including a hamachi crudo with pomelo (similar to yuzu), Hokkaido scallops with oxtail, and a planned octopus braised in dashi. The flavours come to life inside a sharp, contemporary dining room with deep red chairs and stone, wood, and marble touches. The wine collection is dominated by Italian labels, with a few California and Oregon picks thrown in to round out the list. Bottles are on display near the front entrance and inside illuminated square shelves. “It looks like a fancy restaurant, but when you sit down, I want you to have fun,” adds Di Caudio.

Photo by Louiie Victa, courtesy of Basilico Ristorante Italiano
Photo by Louiie Victa, courtesy of Basilico Ristorante Italiano
Photo by Louiie Victa, courtesy of Basilico Ristorante Italiano

The bar is the heart of the restaurant, ready to serve up to 16 people inside and dozens more via accordion-style windows that open wide to a covered patio. The outdoor space, temperature-controlled with overhead fans and heaters, effectively extends Evora’s open-air plaza with dramatic water and fire features. It’s a natural spot for tastings and special events with a covered stage for live music. Evora is rolling out in four phases, with the first 342 apartments ready by fall. There could be as many as 1,400 when it’s all said and done. Rent begins at around $1,800 for studios and one-bedroom units and goes up to $4,000 for two-story top-floor residences with a loft and Strip views. The community will include swimming pools, pickleball courts, a putting green, a dog park, firepits, EV charging stations, and pavilions equipped with audio and video features.

“Basilico matches the demographic for our apartments,” says Danny Sorge of Digital Desert Development, the company behind the community. “The term ‘youthful sophistication’ has been thrown around about the restaurant and Evora as a whole. It brings something new to the area.”

Rendering courtesy of Evora
Rendering courtesy of Evora
Rendering courtesy of Evora

The development follows a deliberate strategy to have the commercial tenants in place before the first residents move in, occupying a stand-alone building that strikes a commanding presence on the corner of Patrick Lane and Buffalo Drive. Lemon Tree Cafe & Market is already open as a European-style grocery store with plenty of room to sit down with a sandwich and glass of wine. Keep your eyes peeled for Taps & Barrels (a self-service beer hall), Tachi Ramen, and EVOQ hair salon in the months ahead, with more businesses to come. The timing couldn’t be better. The Southwest Valley is on fire right now, with the Durango hotel and casino and UnCommons mixed-use development taking shape as new attractions in 2023. The Bend, a long-promised shopping and dining district, has been in a holding pattern for years but holds promise in an area where everything is getting bigger and better.

Meanwhile, the team behind Evora is staking a claim with Di Caudio running the kitchen at Basilico. The chef’s recent collaboration with Chef Oscar Amador helped Anima by EDO score a recent James Beard Award nomination and reputation as one of the best new restaurants in Las Vegas. Di Caudio first came to Las Vegas to work at Zeffirino at the Grand Canal Shoppes-a gig he expected to last about six months before returning home. Instead, he stuck around and continued to build his reputation at culinary destinations like Sinatra at the Wynn and Ferraro’s off the Strip.

Ultimately, Basilico will be a restaurant to keep an eye on as it develops under Di Caudio’s guidance. The menu will shift and evolve based on the chef’s preferences and the availability of seasonal ingredients. Di Caudio is also planning a smaller menu and social hour for the bar area and a reasonably priced tasting menu with around 10 dishes served family style.

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Rob Kachelriess has been writing about Las Vegas in Thrillist for more than nine years. In addition, his work has appeared in Travel + Leisure, Leafly, Supercall, Modern Luxury, and Luxury Estates International’s seasonal publication. Follow him on Twitter @rkachelriess.

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