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12 ways to celebrate the holidays in Las Vegas, where a hotel's cool pool becomes an ice-skating rink

12 ways to celebrate the holidays in Las Vegas, where a hotel's cool pool becomes an ice-skating rink
"Santa Claus" hugs a young girl during "Believe in the Magic,” a theatrical presentation at Fashion Show Mall in Las Vegas. The show continues through Christmas Eve. (Fashion Show Mall)

As the holiday season approaches, only in Las Vegas would a tony hotel swimming pool become an ice-skating rink, and a $25 piece of coal from the Titanic become the perfect naughty-not-nice gift.

It’s a time when some of the city’s more than 42 million annual visitors can discover the desert city’s seasonal side. Nighttime lows in the mid-30s give Vegas the feel of a real winter destination too.

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The Park’s Holiday Experience offers a variety of family-friendly activities on weekends through Dec. 31.
The Park’s Holiday Experience offers a variety of family-friendly activities on weekends through Dec. 31. (MGM Resorts)

First stop, The Park pedestrian mall, which has been transformed by festive cottages along the corridor of shops and restaurants that stretch from the Strip westward to T-Mobile Arena.

From 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. each Friday, Saturday and Sunday through Dec. 29, the Holiday Experience at the Park will offer live entertainment, such as R&B music from 4Front and doo-wop versions of holiday classics from the Beverly Belles. Treats such as candy apples and s’mores will be for sale, and “St. Nick” will appear too.

Deryk Engelland of the Vegas Golden Knights on Dec. 5 will switch on the lights of the 32-foot Christmas tree at the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas.
Deryk Engelland of the Vegas Golden Knights on Dec. 5 will switch on the lights of the 32-foot Christmas tree at the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas. (David Becker / NHLI via Getty Images)

Then catch Golden Knights defenseman Deryk Engelland, who will be at a skating rink instead of a hockey rink to host the tree-lighting ceremony at the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Dec. 5.

Each December, the Boulevard Pool at the Cosmopolitan morphs into an outdoor skating rink.
Each December, the Boulevard Pool at the Cosmopolitan morphs into an outdoor skating rink. (The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas)

Take a twirl on the ice-skating rink on the hotel’s pool deck overlooking the Strip. Skating is open daily and continues through Jan. 6.

You can reserve a spot on the ice and at a fire pit (instead of a cabana) for 2 1/2 hours ($100).

At Wynn Las Vegas, a holiday village welcomes guests in the hotel lobby.
At Wynn Las Vegas, a holiday village welcomes guests in the hotel lobby. (Barbara Kraft)

About three miles up Las Vegas Boulevard, Wynn Las Vegas welcomes visitors with a holiday village inspired by “Gulliver’s Travels” in the main atrium.

The hotel also is hosting a family-friendly “treat-trimming” class at 2 p.m. Dec. 15. Participants learn how to make edible ornaments under the instruction of pastry chef Patrice Caillot. Admission is $125 per person; register by calling (702) 770-7070.

Ballerina Caroline MacDonald of Nevada Ballet Theatre appears beside the spread for an afternoon tea at the Waldorf Astoria (formerly the Mandarin Oriental) on Las Vegas Boulevard.
Ballerina Caroline MacDonald of Nevada Ballet Theatre appears beside the spread for an afternoon tea at the Waldorf Astoria (formerly the Mandarin Oriental) on Las Vegas Boulevard. (Waldorf Astoria)

When it’s time to unwind and warm up, head to the Tea Lounge at the Waldorf Astoria Las Vegas for a Nutcracker Tea. Through Jan. 1, the retreat on the hotel’s 23rd floor will serve a proper English afternoon tea complete with pastries, scones and sandwiches. One of the several tea offerings is Sugar Plum Fairy, which has hints of vanilla, strawberry and plum.

The tea is offered throughout the afternoon, and costs $56 for adults and $26 for children. Make reservations here.

On Dec. 4 and 17, guests will be greeted by a ballerina from the Nevada Ballet Theatre. The ballet company will perform “The Nutcracker” on select dates Dec. 8 through 24 at the Smith Center. Tickets cost $29 to $179.

“Drumline Live Holiday Spectacular's” roots are in the marching band traditions of America’s black colleges and universities. The company will be performing two holiday concerts in Las Vegas.
“Drumline Live Holiday Spectacular's” roots are in the marching band traditions of America’s black colleges and universities. The company will be performing two holiday concerts in Las Vegas. (Del Glass / Smith Center)

The Smith Center also will host the “Drumline Live Holiday Spectacular” at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. on Dec. 29. Tickets cost $29 to $69.

The sights and sounds of the holidays, complete with marching band, will take the stage with a festive blend of gospel, jazz, Motown, soul and even the “Nutcracker Suite.”

Tickets cost $29 to $69.

At the Fashion Show Mall, a free show called “Believe in the Magic” has Santa at its center. It’s on Fridays through Sundays until Dec. 23. Holiday traditions merge with modern technology during the performances at noon, 2 p.m., 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. It also will show at 4 p.m. on Christmas Eve.

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Children peer at a magical window in which a hologram of Santa makes his rounds on Christmas Eve.
Children peer at a magical window in which a hologram of Santa makes his rounds on Christmas Eve. (Fashion Show Mall)

Kids can also enjoy the mall’s new show called “’Twas the Light Before Christmas,” a Kris Kringle-themed holographic experience. Through a magical window, shoppers watch Santa deliver his presents. The hologram creation comes from London’s Cinimod Studio, a well-known theatrical design company. It continues through Jan. 10.

On the city’s foodie side, an award-winning Hong Kong restaurant will make its U.S. debut in Las Vegas on Dec. 24.

Mott 32 will become the newest dining experience at the Palazzo. The restaurant’s three existing locations in Hong Kong, Bangkok and Vancouver, Canada, feature contemporary interpretations of traditional Chinese recipes.

Mott 32’s Peking Duck takes 48 hours to prepare. Diners must pre-order the restaurant’s best-known dish.
Mott 32’s Peking Duck takes 48 hours to prepare. Diners must pre-order the restaurant’s best-known dish. (Maximal Concepts Ltd.)

The restaurants’ signature dish — applewood-smoked Peking duck — will be on the Vegas menu, priced at $118. The crispy chicken dish is served with freshly steamed pancakes; a blend of crunchy cucumber, scallions and raw cane sugar; and fresh garlic and hoisin sauces. Because the dish takes 48 hours to prepare, visitors must order in advance.

Chefs prepare various meats over an open flame in the “fire kitchen” at chef José Andrés’ Bazaar Meat on the Strip.
Chefs prepare various meats over an open flame in the “fire kitchen” at chef José Andrés’ Bazaar Meat on the Strip. (SLS Las Vegas)

Also on Christmas Eve and just a few blocks away, chef José Andrés will be offering a traditional La Noche Buena menu at his Bazaar Meat restaurant at SLS. It features holiday dishes from the chef’s native Spain, including creamy chicken croquettes and a stew of lobster, monkfish and potatoes.

Make reservations for the $95 special dinner online.

And what about that lump of coal? Actually, it’s just a smidgen.

Coal that was aboard the Titanic when it sank in 1912 is being sold as a stocking stuffer at a Titanic-themed attraction in Las Vegas.
Coal that was aboard the Titanic when it sank in 1912 is being sold as a stocking stuffer at a Titanic-themed attraction in Las Vegas. (Premier Exhibitions)

The coal is from the 6,000 tons of coal aboard the ill-fated Titanic, which struck an iceberg and sank in 1912. One-quarter-inch pieces of that coal, retrieved from the ocean floor, are being sold for $25 in the gift shop at “Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition” at the Luxor. The chip comes in a display box with a certificate of authenticity.

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