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July 25, 2014

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Holidays on display: 6 seasonal spectacles worth visiting

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Steve Marcus

Visitors take in the winter exhibit at the Bellagio Conservatory & Botanical Gardens Wednesday, December 14, 2011. The centerpiece of the exhibit is a 42-foot Christmas tree with 1,700 ornaments and 13, 500 twinkling lights. The winter exhibit is free and open to the public everyday through Jan. 2, 2012. .

Las Vegas may not be home to a white Christmas, but the neon city spreads holiday cheer with what it knows best: lights and lots of them.

As the Christmas countdown enters its final phase, forget the shopping and baking. Slow down and enjoy the holiday spirit with trips to seasonal displays. From an ambitious display created by neighbors in Henderson to a drive-thru tour at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, there’s a viewing experience — and price point — for every light enthusiast.

And if lights don’t suit your tastes, there’s always the Bellagio Conservatory’s floral-inspired holiday decorations.

    • Springs Preserve’s Holiday Spectacular

      Feeling cooped up with your visiting relatives? Consider a trip to Springs Preserve’s Holiday Spectacular, an annual event that transforms the gardens into a winter wonderland.

      This year’s addition is a 1,000-square-foot ice rink in the courtyard plaza, where visitors can pay $5 to skate for 20 minutes. (That fee is on top of admission to enter the Holiday Spectacular.)

      Guests also can wander through light displays, stop at craft areas, watch live entertainment, visit Santa or ride trains and reindeer, among other activities, said Tom Bradley, spokesman for Springs Preserve.

      “It’s very kid- and very family-friendly,” he said.

      The Holiday Spectacular will be open from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 17 through Friday, Dec. 23.

      Admission costs $8 for adults and $5 for children ages 5 to 12. Children 4 years old and younger get in free. Discounted admission is available for military members and their families, in addition to Springs Preserve members.

    • Opportunity Village’s Magical Forest

      Opportunity Village’s Magical Forest celebrates its 20th anniversary this year as a holiday thrill land, run by 70 to 90 volunteers each night.

      The two-acre magical forest — situated on the nonprofit group’s Oakey Boulevard site near Torrey Pines Drive — includes lighted holiday displays, a passenger train aptly called the Forest Express and a carousel for the youngsters. There’s also a gingerbread house display, and if that gets your mouth watering, food and beverages are available in the Gift Box Café, where local groups perform nightly.

      General admission, which does not include rides, costs $9.75 for ages 13 and older and $7.75 for children younger than 13. Children younger than 3 years old are free. A passport admission, which gives visitors unlimited access to rides, costs $16.25 for adults and $14.25 for children.

      The Magical Forest is open through Dec. 31, from 5:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday. It’s open until 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

      All proceeds benefit the people with disabilities who Opportunity Village serves.

    • Las Vegas Motor Speedway’s Glittering Lights

      Step aside, Las Vegas Strip. There’s another neon glow in town.

      Stay in the comfort of your heated car and wind through the holiday display at Glittering Lights at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. The 2.5-mile excursion features more than 400 animated and sparkling displays, along with Santa’s Village and Hot Cocoa Corner.

      And don’t worry: Santa’s Village concession area is under a heated tent, suitable for the plump man donning a red velvet robe. Santa Claus will make occasional visits.

      Organizers expect 140,000 people to visit Glittering Lights this year. The event benefits Speedway Children’s Charities, Goodwill of Southern Nevada and local Boy Scouts troops.

      Admission costs $15 per car. Buses cost a minimum of $20 or $1 per person if they’re carrying more passengers. Buses must be under 11 feet.

      Glittering Lights is open from 5:30 p.m. until 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday and from 5:30 to 10 p.m. Friday through Sunday. The display runs through Jan. 1.

    • Ethel M Chocolates’ Holiday Cactus Garden

      Nothing says the holidays like a Christmas tree — or a decorated cactus? Welcome to Southern Nevada.

      Ethel M Chocolates’ Holiday Cactus Garden spruces up the desert plants with plenty of holiday cheer. The 18th annual display features 500,000 lights this year, which equals about 12 miles of electrical cord.

      Holiday characters help decorate the three-acre garden, and Santa regularly visits a secret gazebo in the display. The Holiday Cactus Garden is free and open to the public from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. daily through Jan. 1.

      Visitors can buy special glasses inside the Ethel M store to view the light display in 3-D.

    • Bellagio Conservatory’s 2011 Winter Holiday Exhibit

      If it weren’t for their red scarves, the penguins in the Bellagio Conservatory’s 2011 Winter Holiday Exhibit might cause onlookers to do a double take.

      The life-like Arctic inhabitants — 34 adult and baby penguins, including five animated ones — populate an ice-inspired landscape at the exhibit. The holiday display also features a 42-foot Christmas tree, complete with 1,700 ornaments and 13,500 twinkling lights, in addition to Polar bears and a holiday card made from carnations.

      The Bellagio Conservatory is free to the public and open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

    • Quiver Point Avenue in Henderson

      In the month leading up to Henderson’s annual holiday lights competition, 11 families on Quiver Point Avenue channel Santa’s workshop and create a team-like atmosphere to blanket the street with lights and decorations.

      Families take turns cooking meals for the entire clan each weekend as the rest set up the elaborate display that started 11 years ago, said Taryn Okada, a Quiver Point Avenue resident. The street is near Paseo Verde Parkway and Valle Verde Drive.

      “One of our neighbors, when the kids were little, wanted to have them paint candy canes to put in the yard,” she said. “It was kind of a community event for the kids and adults to get together.”

      It grew from there. Now, Disney princesses, Shrek and Charlie Brown’s crew, among a host of other characters, dot the landscape. They string lights on houses, bushes and from poles, creating a makeshift canopy above the street.

      And just to keep visitors guessing — one yard features cutouts of Pittsburgh Steelers and New England Patriots players. But Okada insists no major football rivalries exist on the street.

      “We were trying to come up with something new,” she said.

      Quiver Point Avenue won first place in the “street competition” category of the Henderson contest. The families expect four hours of nonstop traffic Christmas Eve, when Santa and Mrs. Klaus visit to hand out cookies and candy canes.

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