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Holiday lights: 10 displays to see in Las Vegas

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Bryson Drescher, 3, and his mother Jenny Drescher of Laughlin visit with an underwater Santa Claus swimming in a 117,000-gallon aquarium at the Silverton hotel-casino Sunday, December 19, 2010. Santa was equipped with a microphone so that he could communicate with the children.
Photo: Steve Marcus

Las Vegas is starting to look a lot like Christmas. From Strip casinos to suburban family hangouts, everyone is gearing up for the holiday season with elaborate displays. Some feature thousands of seasonal flowers while others are illuminating their venue with thousands of lights. But just like Vegas, nothing about these displays is traditional.

Here are some must-see holiday displays across the Las Vegas Valley.

Bellagio's 2010 Winter Wonderland

Bellagio Conservatory and fountains

3600 S. Las Vegas Blvd., Las Vegas

The Bellagio has transformed its conservatory into a winter wonderland. This year’s display includes a family of 28 penguins, a mother and baby polar bear made of 16,000 white carnations and four 15-foot-tall toy soldiers. A 42-foot Shasta Fir with 7,000 lights and 1,800 ornaments will be the centerpiece of the holiday display. Outside the Bellagio, you’ll find the resort’s famous fountain show choreographed to holiday tunes.

The conservatory is open 24 hours a day. The fountain show can be viewed daily until midnight. Admission is free for both.

Gift of Lights-Speedway

Gift of Lights at Las Vegas Motor Speedway

7000 N. Las Vegas Blvd., Las Vegas

The annual Gift of Lights display has moved from its former home at Sunset Park, where it spent the last nine years, to the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. The event, produced by Meehan and Associates, showcases millions of holiday lights in an assortment of characters and scenes, all in a drive-through setting.

Admission is $15 per car. For every ticket sold, $2 will be donated to the Las Vegas Chapter of Speedway Children’s Charities.

Ethel M Holiday Cactus Garden

Ethel M Cactus Garden

2 Cactus Garden Drive, Henderson

For the past 17 years, the Ethel M Cactus Garden, home to more than 300 species native to a desert climate, has been restyled over the holidays as a wonderland populated by tens of thousands of lights and an assortment of holiday characters. More than 500,000 lights have been carefully wrapped around the cacti and other plants. This year, the display features 3-D LED lights, which will simulate snowfall as guests approach the garden’s entrance.

The illuminated cactus garden display is available from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. daily until New Year’s Day.

Four Seasons’ Holiday Village

3960 S. Las Vegas Blvd., Las Vegas

The Four Seasons’ holiday display is one of the few in Las Vegas that is edible. The 12th annual Holiday Village features 20 gingerbread buildings and a life-sized, working carousel. The gingerbread village was created by pastry chef Jean-Luc Daul and is made entirely of gingerbread and chocolate.

The Holiday Village is free and open to the public. It will be on display through Christmas Day.

Springs Preserve Winter Lights Festival

333 S. Valley View Blvd., Las Vegas

Springs Preserve is celebrating the holiday season with its second Winter Lights Festival. The botanical garden and conservation area is set aglow with a half-million LED lights. In keeping with its mission of sustainability and conservation, Springs Preserve’s festive display consists of all LED lights, conserving more than 90 percent of the energy that would be consumed by conventional holiday bulbs.

In addition, Springs Preserve will be hosting concerts from local high school singers throughout December.

The Winter Lights Festival is open daily from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Admission is $8 for adults and $6 for children and includes admission to galleries and museums.

Underwater Santa

Scuba Santa at the Silverton Aquarium

3333 Blue Diamond Road, Las Vegas

The Silverton Casino Lodge is taking Santa Claus a little out of his element this Christmas season. For the next few weekends, St. Nick will shed the red suit and don scuba gear as he’s submerged in the Silverton’s 117,000-gallon aquarium. The rest of the routine will be the same -- kids should bring a list, and one of Santa’s elves will give them a microphone to talk with Santa.

Santa will be on-site from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. every Saturday and Sunday until Christmas. The aquarium is free to the public.

2010 Opportunity Village Magical Forest Tree Lighting

Opportunity Village’s Magical Forest

6300 W. Oakey Blvd., Las Vegas

The Magical Forest is in its 19th year of spreading holiday cheer — and for a good cause. Guests can walk through the forest of more than 3 million lights on hundreds of decorated trees, ride the Forest Express train, take a spin on the carousel and give Santa their Christmas list in person. There’s also a café serving hot chocolate, a gingerbread village and holiday gift shop.

Tickets for the Magical Forest range from $7.75 to $16.25. All proceeds benefit people with disabilities at Opportunity Village. The forest is open from 5:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 5:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. Friday through Saturday.

Palazzo's Holiday Display

Palazzo holiday display

3325 S. Las Vegas Blvd., Las Vegas

This year, the Palazzo’s annual holiday display is all about bringing the outdoors indoors. In the hotel lobby and the waterfall area near the Palazzo shops, guests will find swirling holiday lights, giant pine cones, thousands of fresh poinsettias and snow-covered trees measuring up to 20-feet tall.

The display will run until the new year before the Palazzo will transition into Chinese New Year. The display is open to the public 24 hours a day.

Sam’s Town Mystic Falls

5111 Boulder Highway, Las Vegas

Sam's Town Winter Wonderland

Sam’s Town has turned its Mystic Falls indoor park into a holiday haven. Upon entering the winter wonderland display, guests will find polar bears fishing in the pond, thousands of lights and a 30-foot Christmas tree at the center of it all. The scene is set to holiday tunes like “Frosty the Snowman” and music from “The Nutcracker.” Guests can also enjoy a free 15-minute show nightly at 6 p.m., 8 p.m. and 10 p.m.

Mystic Falls is free and open 24 hours a day. Guests who donate used cell phones for the Cell Phones for Soldiers program will receive a coupon for a free hot chocolate.

Crystals at CityCenter

3720 S. Las Vegas Blvd., Las Vegas

Crystals, the high-end shopping center at CityCenter, is decked out with thousands of fresh flowers for the holiday season. Shoppers will find beds of red, white and pink poinsettias throughout the first floor of the mall and red and silver candy-like twists hanging from the ceiling. In addition to the decorations in public spaces, luxury retailers like Prada and Louis Vuitton have their own elaborate holiday window displays.

To add to the holiday feel, Crystals will feature live music from noon to 5 p.m. Thursday through Sunday. Crystals is open 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 10 a.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday.

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