Reasons to cheer the holiday season

December is an interesting month. The town jumps till Dec. 10 with the infusion of cowboys for the National Finals Rodeo, gets eerily quiet leading up to Christmas weekend, then explodes again heading into New Year’s Eve. I kind of like the lull in the middle, and there’s actually a whole lot going on, because the casinos are doing whatever they can to generate business.

Which casinos get into the holiday spirit? It changes every year, but this year the clear-cut leader is the Venetian. They’ve put a 35 x 85-foot synthetic ice-skating rink and a 65-foot-tall Christmas tree made of 60,000 lights in front. You can pay $15 for a 45-minute skating session, if that’s your thing. But the deal is in the free hot apple cider and hot chocolate they dole out at night.

Other places that get into the holidays are Sam’s Town (a decked-out atrium and Mr. Claus), Bellagio (Conservatory), the Hard Rock Hotel, the Palms (cocktail waitresses in Santa outfits), the Fremont Street Experience, the Four Seasons, Fashion Show mall, the Ethel M Cactus Garden, Lake Las Vegas, the drive-through display of lights at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway ($15 per vehicle) and Opportunity Village ($7.75-$9.75). Town Square, Tivoli Village and the District also get in the holiday mood.

Other December notables:

Todd English P.U.B. at CityCenter is doing $2 oysters every day. Go during the NFL games and get a dozen and a BigGame Stella for $30. As a bonus, peanuts at the bar are free and you’re expected to sweep the shells off the bar onto the floor. That’s fun.

The Crab Corner at 4161 S. Eastern Ave. has a whole live lobster special on Wednesdays only (though it sometimes spills over to Thursdays). A 1.25-pounder is $19.95 and a 2.5-pounder is $34.95. That big boy is a load; get it for two to split or stick with the little guy.

Do you like pho tai—that awesome Vietnamese noodle soup that comes with raw beef that cooks in the broth? Pho Huong Saigon at 3650 S. Decatur Blvd. serves a “small bowl” for just $3.99. It’s the lowest price I’ve ever seen for pho, and this bowl’s not much smaller than what you get at all the other places.

And I absolutely love this one: Buy $350 in gift cards at the District at Green Valley Ranch and get two tickets to Phantom—The Las Vegas Spectacular, Blue Man Group, or Le Rêve. You can get one set of tickets for every $350 in purchases while supplies last.