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Fun family events in valley’s southern edge

Every year, the holiday calendars of Henderson and Boulder City are brimming over like Christmas stockings, filled with events and activities to celebrate the holiday season and attracting residents from across Southern Nevada.

There seems to be something for everyone — whether it’s a cozy nighttime train ride warmed by hot chocolate and a visit with Santa, or a bustling winter festival packed with everything from gingerbread displays and pony rides, to holiday entertainment by local dance troupes.

The following is a list of events, in chronological order, taking place in and around these two communities on the valley’s southern edge:

Holiday Cactus Garden

More than half a million lights decorate the 3-acre cactus garden at the Ethel M Chocolates factory in Henderson, 2 Cactus Garden Drive. The free holiday display has been open since mid-November, and will delight locals and visitors seven days a week, from 5-10 p.m., through Jan. 1.

Santa will be making appearances at the garden throughout December, and entertainment will be provided on various nights by choirs from local schools such as Greenspun Junior High and Gibson Elementary, as well as performers from Opportunity Village, Las Vegas Young Performers and Tonality Quartet.

Tree lighting

Boulder City will host its annual tree lighting Friday at 6 p.m. It takes place in Frank Crowe Park at Nevada Way and Cherry Street, and will include entertainment, hot chocolate, and visits by both Santa and the city’s holiday mascot, Jingle Cat. After the lighting, visitors can stroll the historic downtown district where various merchants will be open for nighttime shopping.

A day of Christmas

Every year, on the first Saturday in December, Boulder City should be renamed “Christmas Town” because it is always a day filled with holiday fun. This year, it begins with the annual Doodlebug Bazaar, sponsored by the Boulder City Community Club. Booths with handcrafted items such as jewelry, clothes, toys, pottery and seasonal decorations fill the gyms of the city’s recreation center, 900 Arizona St. There is no admission and the bazaar is open 9 a.m.-4 p.m.

The annual Santa’s Picture Party, which used to take place at a local park, will be inside the recreation center as part of the Doodlebug Bazaar, according to Jill Lagan, CEO of the Boulder City Chamber of Commerce. Children will be able to get their picture taken with Santa and meet Jingle Cat, who will be handing out goodie bags. It takes place 11 a.m.-2 p.m.

Then it’s time to bundle up and get ready for the annual Santa’s Electric Night Parade, which marches down the streets of historic downtown beginning at 4:30 p.m. All the entries, whether church float, antique car or decked-out dancers, are lit up with strings of Christmas lights. Of course, the VVIP (as in “very, very important person”) in this march is Santa Claus.

Lighting up Lake Mead

After Boulder City’s downtown parade on Saturday, it’s just a few miles to Lake Mead for the Lake Mead Boat Owners Association’s 39th annual Parade of Lights. Everything from tiny motorboats to 75-foot houseboats are decked out to the gills with Christmas lights and decorations.

The boats launch from the Las Vegas Boat Harbor/Lake Mead Marina Complex about 6 p.m., head toward Boulder Beach for the parade and eventually make their way back.

Those who want a close-up look at the incredible boats can check them out before or after the parade at the marina complex. A shuttle will take visitors back and forth between the two adjacent marinas, according to organizer Barbara Wagner. The best spot to watch the parade itself, however, is from Boulder Beach about 7 p.m.

There will be no charge to enter Lake Mead National Park that evening and the event is also free. Restaurants at both marinas will be open, and Santa and Mrs. Claus will be dropping by, Wagner said.

Santa Cruise

Families will be able to take cruises around Lake Las Vegas with a very special passenger on board, Kris Kringle.

The one-hour excursions take place this month every Saturday before Christmas, and include a holiday craft and photos with Santa. Tickets are $12 for children, $18 for adults. The cruises are at 10 a.m., but there will be an additional 1 p.m. cruise on Dec. 12 and 19.

Visits with Santa also will take place at the gazebo inside MonteLago Village on Dec. 5, 12 and 19, from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. More information can be found at lakelasvegas.com.

Santa Train

Santa is a train enthusiast from way back and once again he will be joining passengers on the popular Santa and Pajama trains, departing from the Nevada State Railroad Museum in Boulder City, 601 Yucca St., throughout December.

The Santa Train will be pulling out of the station for its 30-minute excursions every Saturday and Sunday through Dec. 20. The train leaves on the hour beginning at 10 a.m., with the last run at 3 p.m. The $6 rides on the historic passenger train include an onboard visit with Santa and Mrs. Claus. There also will be a special mailbox provided by the museum for any letters to Santa.

Those who want to experience a nighttime ride can board the Pajama Train on Fridays through Dec. 18., at 6 and 8 p.m. New this year is the addition of rides just a few days before Christmas, Monday-Wednesday, Dec. 21-23, said Kate Hemingway, acting museum director.

The one-hour Pajama Train rides include a visit with Santa and Mrs. Claus, storytelling, caroling, hot chocolate and cookies. Coach tickets are $20, while seats in the historic dining car are $28 and include table service with unlimited hot chocolate and cookies. Proceeds from the sales support the nonprofit museum organization. And yes, the wearing of cozy PJs is strongly encouraged.

Tickets for both the Santa and Pajama trains are now available online, Hemingway said. Tickets also can be purchased at the railroad museum on Saturdays and Sundays from 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. For more information, go to nevadasouthern.com.


Henderson will begin its annual holiday festival Dec. 10, when the Henderson Symphony Orchestra presents “Sounds of the Season” at the Henderson Convention Center at 7 p.m.

The festival will continue the evening of Dec. 11 in the Henderson Events Plaza, including a Christmas tree lighting at 6 p.m. and a festival with offerings such as visits with Santa, gingerbread display, pony rides, carousel and food vendors from 6-9 p.m., according to Kim Becker, Henderson public information officer. The festival will continue on Dec. 12, from noon-8 p.m.

Throughout the festival there will be entertainment by groups such as the Silverado High School Madrigal Choir, Green Valley Christian School and Fern Adair Conservatory of the Arts. A schedule is listed on the city’s website, cityofhenderson.com.

A favorite of the festival is the city’s Evening Light Parade, which will take place at 5 p.m. Dec. 12 in the historic Water Street District. The theme this year is Christmas Stories and among the participants will be Kris Kringle himself.

Outdoor home tours

For those who can’t get excited about the holidays until they see their share of inflatable Santas, a tour of the homes in Henderson’s Outdoor Holiday Decorating Contest may be just the ticket.

This year’s theme is “Light Up the Holidays” and the city will be posting a map of the homes on its website, cityofhenderson.com, after the contest winners have been announced, Becker said. There also will be links to the map through Facebook and Twitter.

On Dec. 11, there will be a bus tour of the city’s holiday light displays from 5:30- p.m. Those who are interested can call the Whitney Ranch Recreation Center at 702-267-5850 or register online.

Night of Lights

Visitors can enjoy the fun and decorations at St. Jude’s Ranch for Children in Boulder City, 100 St. Jude’s St., on Dec. 12, from 5-8 p.m.

The homes on the campus will be dripping with holiday lights and decorations, not to mention the hay rides, fire pits where visitors can make their own s’mores, craft fair, silent auction, food booths, the list goes on. Of course, Santa will make a special arrival about 5:30 p.m. so get those Christmas wish lists ready.

Holiday parties for kids

The Henderson recreation centers will be hosting children’s holiday activities this month. Whitney Ranch Recreation Center, for example, will be transformed into a Christmas wonderland for local children, including a continental breakfast, games and crafts with Santa’s elves, and photos with Santa on Dec. 12 from 10 a.m.-noon. Cost is $10 for children ages 1 to 12. Contact the recreation center or register online through cityofhenderson.com.

Silver Springs Recreation Center will be hosting the Great Elf Escape on Dec. 18, from 6 p.m.-10 p.m. Parents can use the time to Christmas shop or just relax, while their children enjoy dinner, and activities such as a dance party, giant movies and arcade games. The cost is $23 for children ages 5 to 12. Contact the recreation center or register online through cityofhenderson.com.

Jingle Bell Run

Henderson’s Pecos Legacy Park, 150 Pecos Road, will be the site of the Jingle Bell Run on Dec. 19, from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. It’s a no-pressure run for the entire family and participants are encouraged to wear their most festive holiday apparel.

At the end of the 3.1-mile course along Pittman Wash Trail, there will be holiday music from a DJ and a visit from Santa. Hot chocolate, coffee and cookies will be available for purchase. All fitness levels are invited to take part, ages 5 and up. More information is available on Henderson’s website under “community events.”

Rafting with Santa

For those who want a little adventure with their Christmas cheer, Black Canyon River Adventures is offering a Rafting With Santa excursion on Dec. 24. Santa and his helpers will pilot motor-assisted rafts during the 12-mile trip along the Colorado River, from the base of Hoover Dam to Willow Beach Marina.

The nearly five-hour, smooth-water trip includes a boxed lunch, and complimentary cookies, hot chocolate and Christmas music at the ending point, Willow Beach Marina. Prices for the Christmas Eve trip are $92 for adults; and $58 to $87 for children depending on their age, although children under 5 are free. Those who want more information can go to blackcanyonadventures.com.


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