Christmas in November

It’s a well-known and reliable rule of thumb that the holiday season is prime time for bargain hunters in Las Vegas. Every year, beginning right around now, casinos, restaurants, bars and other businesses begin unveiling their promotions. It’s early, and the juiciest of the gambling and drinking deals (last year Todd English P.U.B. ran the “12 Beers of Christmas”) haven’t been announced, so I can’t give you the specifics in these categories. However, several of the traditional free holiday events have already declared and are opening this month. Christmas isn’t just for December anymore.

Already open is the Ethel M Holiday Cactus Garden. Located on Sunset Road in Henderson, the garden is decorated with more than a half-million lights. There’s no charge to walk it, and you can also visit the factory and get samples of the candy for free. Free Ethel M’s? That’s a deal.

For the second year in a row, Venetian/Palazzo is hosting Winter in Venice. This one is also open now. Fronting the resort is a 65-foot-tall LED Christmas tree and a skating rink made of synthetic “Ven-ice,” which doesn’t require refrigeration but still accommodates skating. The skating surface is open from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily, and locals can skate for $9.95 for 30 minutes (down 15 minutes from last year). There’s a parade and a tree-lighting daily at 6 and 8 p.m. Last year free hot apple cider and hot chocolate were handed out to onlookers, so that’s a possibility, though I haven’t seen this perk included in any of this year’s official releases.

As if one skating rink on the Strip wasn’t enough, a second rink will open at the Cosmopolitan on Nov. 30. Cosmo’s will be made of real ice and overlook the Strip. It’s $10 for locals to skate here, too, but the deal is a bit better, given that the fee is good for all-day access. (Off the Strip, the rink at Lake Las Vegas is open; $15 is good for an all-day skate.) One more Christmas display opening this month is the Mystic Falls Winter Wonderland at Sam’s Town, debuting Nov. 21. Don’t underestimate this one. They do an awesome job of decorating the atrium, and there’s a cool laser light show that runs on the hour from 5 to 10 p.m. daily.

Other places to look for free holiday displays and events are the Bellagio Conservatory, the Fremont Street Experience, Four Seasons, Fashion Show mall, Lake Las Vegas, Town Square, Tivoli Village and the District at Green Valley Ranch.

And then there’s that distinctly Vegas form of holiday cheer provided courtesy of the Hard Rock and Palms. Every year for the past several, the cocktail waitresses at both have traded in their sleek uniforms for even sleeker Santa outfits. Christmas trees and skating rinks rock, but I’m kinda partial to this little tradition.

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