From boots and ball gowns to running shoes and New Year’s revelers, Las Vegas hosts a full calendar of special events in December, attracting as many as 275,000 visitors a night at various times of the month and generating roughly $520 million in non-gaming economic impact for the local economy (Pictured: Fireworks burst over the Las Vegas Strip at midnight on New Year’s 2011 – Photo/Las Vegas News Bureau, Darrin Bush).
“Las Vegas has evolved to be the premier destination for special events, and our December calendar showcases Las Vegas’ vast appeal as the place to be,” said Rossi Ralenkotter, president/CEO of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. “Thirty years ago, December was one of the slower periods in Las Vegas. Today, we have a variety of special events that attracts visitors, stimulates the economy and generates world-wide media coverage.”
The busy month begins early with NASCAR Champions Week, culminated with the Victory Lap Parade Thursday afternoon followed by the Awards Banquet on Friday. This is the fourth consecutive year NASCAR has taken over the Las Vegas Strip to crown the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Champion.
The Zappos.com Rock ‘n’ Roll Las Vegas Marathon & Half Marathon is Dec. 2. Approximately 30,000 registered runners will race down the Las Vegas Strip in front of an estimated 60,000 spectators for the world’s largest nighttime running event.
The Wrangler National Finals Rodeo continues to be the anchor event in early December. For 10 days starting on Dec. 6, the top 15 cowboys in each event come to Las Vegas to compete in the richest and most prestigious rodeo in the world. The rodeo also brings along partner events such as the Downtown Hoedown featuring country artists Clay Walker and Uncle Kracker on stage at Fremont Street Experience and the annual Cowboy Christmas western gift show at the Las Vegas Convention Center. New this year is Cowboy FanFest at the Las Vegas Convention Center. This free public event features live stage performances by Academy of Country Music artists, themed food and specialty drinks, exhibitions, rodeo 101 clinics and much more for local rodeo fans.
All eyes will be on Las Vegas when more than one billion viewers are expected to tune in for the 61st Annual Miss Universe Competition being broadcast live from Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino on Dec. 19. Almost 90 contestants from around the world will land in Las Vegas to participate in various activities leading up to the live telecast.
Also taking place at Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino this month is the 8th Annual OUTMUSIC Awards presented by the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Academy of Recording Arts. The biggest night in LGBT music and entertainment takes the stage Dec. 16 and celebrates the best recordings, performers and industry contribution in music each year with a message of inclusion, equality and creative achievements.
Later in the month, the 21st MAACO Bowl Las Vegas will showcase a marquee matchup with teams from the Mountain West Conference and the Pac-12 conference. Held on Saturday, Dec. 22 at Sam Boyd Stadium, the MAACO Bowl Las Vegas is broadcast nationally and has earned a reputation as one of the most exciting games of the bowl season. The MAACO Bowl Las Vegas has sold-out six of the past seven years.
On the hardwood, five college basketball tournaments take place in Las Vegas featuring men’s and women’s teams from around the country. The Las Vegas Challenge comes to the Orleans Arena on Dec. 18-19. Also at the Orleans Arena, the Continental Tire Las Vegas Classic returns Dec. 22-23 featuring Virginia Tech, Colorado State, Portland, Georgia Southern, Mississippi Valley and North Florida among others. The MGM Grand Garden Arena hosts the Vegas Holiday Hoops basketball tournament Dec. 22-23, and the Las Vegas Holiday Hoops Classic is Dec. 18-19 at the South Point Arena. A week later, the South Point Arena hosts the D3Hoops.com Classic Dec. 28-30.
Ringside, two major fights take place this month. The fourth showdown between Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez happens Dec. 8 at the MGM Grand Garden. Dos Santos and Cain Velasquez also battle in the MGM Grand Garden at UFC 155 on Dec. 29.
December closes out with one of the largest annual events on the calendar as Las Vegas once again hosts America’s Party: Las Vegas New Year 2013, one of the top New Year’s Eve celebrations in the world with a fireworks display staged from the rooftops of seven iconic resorts along the Las Vegas Strip. This year, planning a New Year’s Eve trip is even easier through www.lasvegas.com.