Seasonal events in Las Vegas

Las Vegas creates its own seasonal magic year-round
Andrea Bennett
June 15, 2023

It’s easy to think of Las Vegas in two seasons: pool parties and no pool parties. The Vegas Valley isn’t completely seasonless, but it doesn’t exactly experience the blazing fall foliage of New England or the snow conditions of the Mountain West. Still, you can experience a full range of climates in the Valley, you just must do a little legwork. The Las Vegas landscape stretches from the arid desert valley of the city north to the Spring Mountains, just a half-hour drive from the Strip, whose Mount Charleston rises to 12,000 feet in elevation and gets snow in the winter when the rest of the county doesn’t. However, drive 45 minutes in the other direction and you’ll reach Hoover Dam, where temperatures can be 30 degrees warmer. In fact, one 1960s resort marketing campaign extolled the virtues of skiing in the mountains and boating on the same day. In a city whose Egyptian pyramid has a laser light beam pointing out of it that you can see from space and a volcano that spews lava on the hour, it’s a safe assumption that holiday happenings here aren’t like in other cities. Electronic music festivals, rodeo championships, and glittering lights strung on thousands of cacti: When it comes to seasonal celebrating, Las Vegas forges its own path.

New Year’s Eve Along the Strip (December 31)

Arrive Early

The city begins closing streets in the late afternoon and completely closes down Las Vegas Boulevard to cars by 8 pm, so avoid the year's craziest traffic jam and get to the Strip early.

New Year’s Eve is when the city gets to put all its razzle-dazzle to work. The casinos bring in major headlining performers to do concerts and a countdown, and it all culminates in a fireworks show over the Strip of over 11,000 pyrotechnics for nearly a half million people. It’s the biggest night of the year in the city, so it requires a fair amount of planning. The big events are ticketed and start selling the moment they’re announced, sometimes as early as September. Book both your room and your dining plans early because hotels sell out far in advance.

Lunar New Year (the first new moon of the lunar calendar, usually in January)

You’ll never see the same display twice at the Bellagio Conservatory, but in the past, the Lunar New Year show has been filled with blossoming cherry trees, a pagoda that nearly reached the skylight of the atrium, and a monumental fu dog fountain.

One of the most spectacular times to visit is during the Lunar New Year when casinos pull out all the stops with lion and dragon dances that often begin at the hotel’s entrance and then dance all the way through the casino floor. Wynn and The Venetian have some of the most spectacular celebrations. The annual dim sum brunch at Wing Lei in Wynn, the first Michelin-starred Chinese restaurant in North America, is legendary. And you’ll see dragons decorating the hallways, as well as citrus trees, bedecked with traditional lucky red envelopes. The Venetian decorates their soaring atrium in red and in the past has hidden miniatures of the animal around the resort. Bellagio Conservatory & Botanical Gardens, which changes its massive display of animatronic characters and thousands of flowers each season, is the most theatrical of all the displays.

Valentine’s Day (February 14)

While it may be true that no one capitalizes more on the romance industrial complex than casinos on Valentine’s Day, there’s also no more entertaining place to spend it. Want to propose on the top of the Eiffel Tower? We have one here. In fact, the Eiffel Tower Restaurant even has a special table its staff refers to as the proposal table since it has a spectacular view of the Bellagio Fountains across the street and faces away from other diners. Thanks in part to the ease of getting a wedding license here, five percent of all weddings held in the US happen here—about 200 per day. V-Day sees its share of those weddings, held in the tiny chapels around the Strip. Yes, you can have yours officiated by Elvis or even do a drive-thru wedding or get married on a gondola in The Venetian. In fact, the city’s “Wedding Capital of the World” moniker is so fitting, Clark County trademarked it just a few months before granting its five millionth wedding license in 2022.

Helldorado Days Parade (mid-May)

Las Vegans celebrate their Western roots each May with the Helldorado Days Parade. The original celebrations in the 1930s included carnival sideshow acts and fiddlers, and the four-day events were used as fundraisers by the Elks fraternal order to build a lodge. Now nearly a century later, Helldorado lives Downtown as a down-home parade that takes place on Fourth Street downtown, awarding prizes for floats and showcasing the stylings of local high school marching bands. As for that name: 19th-century gold prospectors came here looking for gold, their Eldorado, and found only a hot and dusty no man’s land—Helldorado. Although Vegas renamed it the Las Vegas Day Parade, locals have stuck to the original.

Electric Daisy Carnival (May)

In late May every year, hundreds of thousands of people descend on The Las Vegas Motor Speedway for the largest electronic music festival in the world. EDC is the holy grail for EDM DJs and electronic music producers, and more than 200 performers pack the psychedelic, three-day festival. If you thought Vegas was wild, EDC may blow your mind with its art installations, carnival rides, and nonstop partying. Want to fit in? Throw on a tutu and glitter, some neon, or a sexy Disney princess costume; you get it. The wilder the better, but keep in mind that May temps in Vegas are already hot.

Fourth of July (July 4)

Independence weekend combines two of the city’s favorite activities: pyrotechnics and pool parties. Resort pools and day clubs are jam-packed with revelers dancing and drinking to some of the biggest DJs in the world all day long, and when the sun goes down, the skies light up all along the Strip and beyond as resorts kick off their fireworks. As for most Las Vegas party weekends, the events are ticketed and sell out early. If you’re not into standing in line, book a cabana long before July and secure bottle service and special treatment—and in many cabanas, A/C.

Life is Beautiful (September)

A decade ago, a festival began in Downtown Las Vegas with the purpose of uniting people around their love of artistic expression. It has not only become a movement—now attended each year by more than a million people over three days—but has literally changed the complexion of the city. Muralists from all over the world have been invited to create works, some of which have stayed and some that were always meant to be temporary. The art collective Meow Wolf one year converted an entire abandoned motel into its “Art Motel” of digital art and projections, then the next year became an installation of recycled trash. Some of the biggest names in music have headlined here, and over the years the festival has added a culinary lineup of marquee restaurateurs and chefs, comedy acts, and a speaker series. Regardless of why you attend, you’ll leave transformed.

iHeartRadio Music Festival (late September)

Name a musical performer or a genre—chances are they’ve been represented at the two-day, genre-bending iHeartRadio Music Festival. You’ll see the most surprising musical collaborations, take in world premieres, and see one of the largest musical lineups in the world. Performers cross every genre border you can think of, from EDM to country to rock, which is what makes the festival so popular. You might see Journey, Dua Lipa, Coldplay, Jennifer Lopez, and Carrie Underwood in the same festival, and a daytime stage showcases up-and-coming artists. The festival is centrally located at T-Mobile Arena, which makes walking from quite a few casinos easy.

Rise Lantern Festival (early October)

A 30-minute drive south of Las Vegas you’ll find the cracked-earth field of the Jean Dry Lake Bed, where each October people gather for the largest lantern release in the world. A daytime festival with live music and drinks during the day transforms into a fire and lantern ritual. You’ll be given two lanterns for the evening. Write your innermost desires, past traumas, wishes for loved ones—whatever you’d like—on your lantern, light it, and release it into the night sky. More than 20,000 biodegradable lanterns soaring into a clear night sky is magic that can only happen in the isolation of the desert.

Ethel M. Holiday Cactus Garden Lights (November-January)

Las Vegas is a little low on Christmasy evergreens for hanging holiday lights, but we do have cacti in spades. In fact, one of the largest botanical gardens in the world is in Henderson (south of the Strip), at Ethel M. Chocolates, a local favorite chocolatier whose factory has been here for over 40 years. Its cactus garden is one of the world’s largest and most varied, featuring three acres of more than 300 species of cacti and succulents, most native to the American Southwest. In early November, more than a half-million-holiday lights are strung on the cactus and stay up until New Year’s Day. You can take factory tours, sample some chocolate, and take pictures with Santa Claus in this specific-to-Vegas happening.

Repeal Day (December 5)

Las Vegans celebrate the repeal of Prohibition like few other cities. Repeal Day, which observes Utah’s ratification of the 21st Amendment which repealed Prohibition, restored Americans’ right to have a drink in the open. During Prohibition years, Las Vegas saloons went underground as speakeasies and its repeal allowed Las Vegas to build an entertaining and gaming industry fueled by booze. You’ll find Repeal Day celebrations all over the city, but particularly Downtown. In the Mob Museum’s annual celebration, revelers wear Prohibition-era duds and drink moonshine from the museum’s own distillery. Happy holidays, indeed.

About the author

Andrea BennettAndrea Bennett is the former editor-in-chief of Vegas magazine and group editor-in-chief of several city and custom magazines for Modern Luxury. She counts her years as an anonymous hotel critic for The New York Post as her very favorite. Among her years in New York City, Kuwait, Atlanta, and San Diego, she has moved to Las Vegas three times.