If you have never spent the holidays in the desert, you have obviously never seen over half a million cacti bedazzled with Christmas lights or walked a forest of glittering trees while feeling the hint of snow on your face. As it does everything else, Las Vegas does Thanksgiving better than any other vacation destination, whether you go off-strip to visit a real, live ghost town, visit a lush indoor conservatory or have photos taken with Santa. You can even enjoy the ultimate show with a holiday theme when you visit over the Thanksgiving weekend. All this and more, courtesy of your favorite spot, Las Vegas.

Christmas lights in Vegas (Credit, Sharon Damon)

Ethel M’s Chocolate Factory & Botanical Garden Holiday Lights Display
2 Cactus Garden Drive
Henderson,  NV 89014
(702) 458-8864

The 2013 Cactus Garden Lighting Ceremony was held on Tuesday, November 12, 2013, just in time for weekend guests visiting Las Vegas to enjoy on Thanksgiving weekend. This magical experience is free to the public and will be held nightly from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m., seven days per week (except Christmas Day) until the end of the year. Enjoy seasonal music, savor the amazing hot chocolate and don’t forget your camera. Photos with Santa will also be offered for a fee at the gazebo in the midst of this desert wonderland.

Magic Forest (Credit, Sharon Damon)

Magical Forest At Opportunity Village

6300 W. Oakey Blvd.
Las Vegas, NV 89146
(702) 259-3741

The Magical Forest transports you to a world of dazzling trees, the Forest Express Passenger Train, an antique carousel, live entertainment, brilliant lights and more. This year, this holiday experience opens on November 22 and runs until January 6. It’s the perfect place to ring in the holidays with your family during the Thanksgiving weekend. Get your children’s photos taken with Santa in this oasis in the desert and enjoy some treats from the various kiosks as you wander through the garden. You may even feel the hint of snow in the air!

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Bellagio seasonal display (Credit, Sharon Damon)

Bellagio Conservatory Seasonal Display

Bellagio Resort and Casino
3600 S. Las Vegas Blvd.
Las Vegas, NV 89109
(702) 693-7111

Every year, the Bellagio’s gardeners delight guests with the seasonal displays in the indoor Bellagio Conservatory. At Thanksgiving, they celebrate the harvest and the warmth of home with decorated cornucopia, floral arrangements and plants, colored lights and more. It’s an outstanding effort on the part of the decorators, with each year and each season featuring the colors and symbols that attract droves of guests and locals over and over again.

Bonnie Springs Ranch (Credit, Sharon Damon)

Bonnie Springs Ranch
16395 Bonnie Springs Road
Blue Diamond, NV 89004
(702) 875-4191

Sometimes, when you visit Las Vegas (especially with children in tow), you crave for an experience away from the hustle and bustle of the Strip. Bonnie Springs Ranch was originally built in 1843 as a stopover for the wagon trains going to California down the Old Spanish Trail. Since 1952, the ranch has been used as an attraction for tourists, with a petting zoo, restaurant, horseback riding, pony rides and a comfy motel. Best yet, there is a real ghost town called Old Nevada – you can visit during the weekends for a shoot-em-up experience. The motel has all the bells and whistles, including fireplace rooms with Jacuzzi tubs for the adults. You can feel the history when you walk the grounds, and it’s the perfect place to while away a day, evening or night while visiting Las Vegas.

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Trans-Siberian Orchestra: The Lost Christmas Eve
Orleans Arena
4500 W. Tropicana Ave.
Las VegasNV 89103
(702) 284-7777

If you are looking for a magical Las Vegas concert experience, nothing jump-starts the holiday season like the Trans-Siberian Orchestra. It’s a rock concert to classical music, with flashing lights, pyrotechnics, the orchestra’s brilliant variations on the Christmas theme, children’s choirs, snowflakes and stars. If there’s one concert you want to see during the Thanksgiving weekend, this should be it and it just happens to be in Vegas on November 30.

Sharon Damon is a preschool specialist, avid reader, passionate writer and creative baker/ cook. She has been a cooking instructor at a local Rec Center in Henderson, NV since 2011, and has written for Examiner and other publications since 2010. She knows her way around the keyboard and the kitchen! Sharon moved from a small city in Canada to Las Vegas 6 years ago, to marry the love of her life, and has since been swept up in the whirlwind known as Sin City. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.