Last updated: 10:36 PM ET, Mon December 07 2015

Celebrate the Holidays in Nevada

Destination & Tourism | Monica Poling | December 02, 2015

Celebrate the Holidays in Nevada

Photo courtesy of Travel Nevada

A mid-winter escape to Nevada can serve up the special bling that only Las Vegas can offer. But visitors who want to escape the endless neon buzz will find that Nevada has plenty of low-key adventures perfect for the entire family.

A particularly unique way to get a true sense of Nevada is by the exploring the state’s railroads, once used to connect miners seeking their fortune with the many gold mines crisscrossing the state. Not only do these carefully preserved trains offer a deep look at the state’s early history, many of them offer festive decorations during the holiday season.

Nevada Railroad Museum’s Santa Train
In Carson City, the Nevada Railroad Museum preserves the history of all Nevada railways. Around the holidays it also showcases the spirit of Christmas with its Santa Train. Kids gather for hot chocolate and candy canes before Santa himself makes an on-board appearance.

Virginia City’s The Polar Express Train Ride
As a historic gold mining town, Virginia City is known for its railways. Rebuilt in 1974, V&T still operates daily with scenic tours through town using century-old passenger cars powered by steam and heritage diesel locomotives. During the holidays, V&T Railway’s The Polar Express Train Ride welcomes children dressed in pajamas as narrators retell the original Polar Express story.

Nevada Northern Railway
More than 100 years have passed since Nevada Northern Railway laid its track, but rail lovers can still ride the rails on its original trains. A National Historic Landmark, the Ely, Nevada, site also operates a museum for visitors to learn about the area’s copper mining history. In the winter, this historic train site transforms into the Nevada Northern Railway’s Polar Express, where kids will meet Santa while enjoying cookies and hot chocolate.

The railways aren’t the only way to explore Nevada’s rich history. Plenty of other Nevada attractions are rolling out the welcome mat this holiday season.

Spring Mountain Ranch
Spring Mountain Ranch, one of Nevada’s many state parks, is located 15 miles west of Las Vegas at the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area. Each December, the Ranch House Visitor Center hosts an Old Time Ranch Christmas with pinecone crafts and ornament-making, as well as s’mores, hot chocolate and a live brass band. Santa takes a quick detour to see if party attendees have been naughty or nice.

Heavenly Mountain Resort
Straddling the Nevada-California border, Heavenly Mountain Resort, hosts an annual two week festival to kick-off the ski and snowboard season. Celebrating its 60th year in 2015, Winter Ignite features skiing, snowboarding, live music and plenty of après ski parties.

Prefer to celebrate your holidays in a city setting? Reno's forested mountains offer a charming getaway, while Las Vegas is celebrating the season in an over-the-top style that only Las Vegas can pull off. Planning to escape the winter chill? Be warned that the winter temperatures in this dessert setting can plummet, so dress accordingly.

The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas’ Ice Rink
At the luxurious Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, the Boulevard Pool overlooks The Strip. In winter the pool becomes an ice rink where guests can skate or just enjoy linger by the fire pit roasting s’mores and sipping warm cocktails while the Vegas skyline lights up the background.

Cowboy Christmas at the 2015 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo
Get your cowboy on at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo (NFR), a 10-day championship event held in Las Vegas every December. In tandem with the rodeo, Cowboy Christmas celebrates a Christmas straight from the Old West. Cowboys and cowgirls can enjoy holiday shopping and free transportation to and from rodeo activities.

Reno Santa Crawl
Love Santa? Reno’s Santa Crawl has been known to attract more than 12,000 merrily dressed St. Nicks, as well as plenty of elves and reindeer gather, in a massive pub crawl that raises money for local charities. Participants dressed as their favorite holiday character visit dozens of bars throughout Reno, with each establishment featuring its own drink specials and holiday cheer. 

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