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A Very Vegas Holiday

By Duane Wells
Travel Correspondent

If you don’t think Vegas and the holidays go together, the roster of events on the calendar in Sin City this month might just change your mind. It’s not the most traditional line-up of activities, but there is certainly no dearth of holiday flair to be found on the Las Vegas strip and beyond this season.

By day, take in the ‘go big or go home’ 45-foot-tall Shasta Fir at Bellagio’s Conservatory & Botanical Gardens, and then view the work of the talented chefs at Jean Philippe Pâtisserie inside Bellagio, who took an entire month to create a five-foot chocolate Santa made from 230 pounds of dark chocolate, 50 pounds of fondant and a glistening suit fashioned with sugar icing. Meanwhile over at the Pâtisserie’s ARIA location, a giant, detailed statue of The Grinch has been crafted entirely out of sugar and is on display along with an array of celebration cakes, a festive signature of French Pastry Chef Jean-Philippe Maury and his eponymous pâtisseries. Though you can’t take home the life-size creations, both Bellagio and ARIA feature smaller chocolate works of art, such as a classic Cherubic Santa or miniature Praline Christmas Tree, that will fit perfectly in your carry-on. Now, how sweet is that?

When night falls, sample some seasonal cocktails to really get into the holiday spirit.  Over at the MGM Grand’s Tabu, the boutique nightclub is mixing up three original libations, including the Red Apple Shandy, Pumpkin Patch and Winter White Mint-tini. Similarly, over at Hyde Bellagio, acclaimed mixologists are introducing innovative takes on retro cocktails and signature creations blending winter fruits, veggies and spices. While The Snowflake promises to pack an icy bite thanks to a splash of liquid nitrogen, the Pomegranate Mojito, Iced Irish Coffee and Rock & Rye threaten to keep the winter party going strong for the remainder of the year.

Now, if you want to go all in and double-down on the holiday in Vegas experience, restaurants up and down the strip have designed special menus exclusively for Christmas Eve and Day. Sirio Ristorante at ARIA Resort & Casino will feature Executive Chef Vincenzo Scarmiglia’s take on a favorite holiday sponge cake, Buche De Noel. Rí Rá inside The Shoppes at Mandalay Place will serve an Irish celebratory menu, including honey-glazed and clove-stuffed Ham, cornbread stuffing, eggnog cheesecake and more. Nobhill Tavern by Michael Mina inside MGM Grand is offering a three-course, luxurious tasting menu showcasing black truffle lobster bisque and specialty herb-rubbed prime rib with potato gratin and au jus. And that’s just for starters!

Finally, why not wind down the year at Krave’s Massively Gay 2013 New Year’s Eve Weekend, kicking off Dec. 28. Spread out over four days and two venues (one of which is 10,000 square feet) with performances by Crystal Waters, Kimberly Cole, Aubrey O’Day, among others, a slate of superstar DJs and more strippers than the law should allow, Massively Gay 2013 promises to live up to its name and more.

This holiday, there’s absolutely no need for what happens in Vegas to stay in Vegas. I say spend the holiday in Sin City and bring a little taste of it home with you to start the New Year.