Viva Las Holidays

Las Vegas may not seem like a Christmas kind of place there is certainly no snow, and holiday decorations seem to blend in with the usual decor. But for the bargain hunters, there’s no place like Las Vegas in December.

By: Kathy Espin

Las Vegas may not seem like a Christmas kind of place there is certainly no snow, and holiday decorations seem to blend in with the usual decor. But for the bargain hunters, there’s no place like Las Vegas in December.

“Historically, December has been a good value month for visitors coming to Las Vegas,” said Michael Coldwell, direct of public relations for the Western Region of Park Place Entertainment, the parent company of Caesars Palace, Paris, Flamingo, Bally’s and Las Vegas Hilton. “Certainly there are deals out there for the value-oriented consumer.”

There are deals galore, but don’t expect them to be as juicy as they were last December when Las Vegas was still reeling from the Sept. 11 attacks. Last year, room rates were slashed in an attempt to boost occupancy.

“I think the general feeling in the city is that recovery is here or at hand, and I don’t think that the anomalous trends of 2001 are going to be in evidence in 2002,” Coldwell said.

“We certainly hope not,” echoed Kevin Bagger, senior research analyst for the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. “The discounting we saw last year was in response to a crisis to generate demand after Sept. 11. We won’t see the same this year.”

In fact, Bagger and the other analysts at the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority expect an increase in occupancy for September through December to pull the rates into the plus column by the end of the year.

“We do expect an overall increase of about 1.1% for the year, even though year to date through July, we are down about 2.3%,” he said. “To achieve that increase, we’re expecting dramatic increases September through December because last year’s numbers were so low.”

The low occupancy rates last year generated some terrific deals that won’t be seen again. But that doesn’t mean bargains aren’t available.

Caesars Palace, for example, offered rates as low as $89 per night on weekdays and $129 on weekends last year. This year, during the slowest time of the month, rates are running $129 during the week and $199 on weekends. Rooms at the classic resort generally run from $199 to $239 per night.

The deals get even sweeter at other Park Place resorts. During the week of Dec. 15, weekday rates at the Flamingo Las Vegas are as low as $55 per night, and rates at the Las Vegas Hilton start at $39.

At Mandalay Bay, the megaresort at the end of the Strip, weekday rates for mid-December are as low as $79 per night, climbing to $149 on weekends. Its sister property, Circus Circus, is offering rooms at $29 on weekdays and $49 on weekends from Dec. 15 through Christmas Eve. Rooms at Circus Circus regularly run from $49 to $99.

Other bargains can be found at the Stardust, with deluxe rooms in the newer part of the hotel available for $60. The Riviera offers weekend rates starting at $29.

The MGM Mirage’s Bellagio is running weekend rates at $159 in December, whereas in November rates were as high as $399. Sister property New York-New York, is offering rooms starting at $60 per night on weekdays and $90 on weekends, when rates were averaging $129 earlier in the year.

The middle of December will bring better bargains than the first of the month when two citywide events will help boost occupancy. The Billboard Music Awards will be held at the MGM Grand Garden Arena Dec. 4 leading right into the highly popular National Finals Rodeo Dec. 6-15. The rodeo brings in hoards of eager fans who pump up occupancy and room rates during a time that would normally be slow.

New Year’s Eve

Good news: As of this writing, rooms are still available for New Year’s Eve, and because the holiday falls in the middle of the week, rates are fairly reasonable. The Stardust, for example, has rooms for $175, while Excalibur rooms are available for $169. Rates for New Year’s at the Flamingo are $220 and at the Las Vegas Hilton $159 .

While bargains like last winter’s will be as hard to find in Las Vegas as a white Christmas, bargain hunters can still enjoy nice escapes for reasonable prices.

January Packages

More good news: January room rates are still low, but an increase in convention business keeps that month from being the bargain- hunter’s dream it was in years past.

“It’s a whole different animal with the beginning of convention season (in January),” Park Place’s Coldwell said. “That’s not to say that people shouldn’t check out the packages and see what’s out there.”

Caesars Palace, for example, is offering two-night packages, including two breakfasts and one dinner for two people, priced at $300. A similar four-night package runs $520. The packages are available through Jan. 15 with the exception of the New Year’s holiday Dec. 27 through Jan. 4.

A package at the Las Vegas Hilton starts at $139 per night for two people and includes tickets to “Star Trek: The Experience” and dinner for two at Quark’s, the Star Trek-themed bar and restaurant.

December Events

Santa comes to Las Vegas and he’s not even wearing an Elvis jumpsuit. Following are a few of the special holiday events to enjoy during December.

Santa Arrives at Excalibur

Santa holds court in a splendid, old-world setting Nov. 28 through Dec. 24. Children can whisper their Christmas wishes and have a photo taken with St. Nick. Call 800-937-7777.

Holiday Festival on Fremont Street

A tree-lighting ceremony on Dec. 10 kicks off a holiday festival that runs from Dec. 11 to Dec. 22 at the Fremont Street Experience in Downtown Las Vegas. A special holiday light-and-sound show is featured on the huge overhead display canopy.

Call 702-678-5777.

Cowboy Christmas Gift Show

More than 400 exhibitors offer thousands of gifts with a Western flair in conjunction with the National Finals Rodeo. The show is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Dec. 5-14 at the Las Vegas Convention Center, at 3150 Paradise Road.

Call Las Vegas Events at 702-260-8605.