December 8, 2023 - 10:34 am
Updated December 12, 2023 - 6:43 pm
If you’re looking to add sparkle to your exercise routine and brighten your holiday spirit, a trek down the Las Vegas Strip could be a step — make that several thousand steps — in the right direction.
This urban hike’s fun comes from darting into casinos to find clever and stylish holiday decor. Last weekend in our search for Christmas charm and artistry, we put in 17,000 steps with a walk that included stops at Bellagio, The Venetian, Wynn Las Vegas, Aria and the Shops at Crystals.
Of course, you could tailor your own route to whatever distance feels manageable. The important thing is to get moving. The optimal number of daily steps has been a subject of scientific debate in recent years — is it 10,000, 8,000, 6,000?
Whatever your typical tally is, we could all probably stand to add more steps. Walking offers a host of health benefits, including helping to reduce your risk of heart disease, obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure and depression.
Be sure to wear sturdy shoes and comfortable clothes, and stay hydrated during your Strip sojourn.
To lessen time spent in crowds, start in the early morning on your quest to find Aria’s candy-constructed Christmas wonders, the Bellagio’s giant mouse king in this year’s “Nutcracker”-themed conservatory display, Wynn’s whimsical winter villages tucked into year-round bright floral displays, The Venetian’s bevy of poinsettias and greenery surrounding an antique gondola and a giant “Love” sign, and the return of a 55-foot Christmas tree decorated with 5,000 Swarovski ornaments at the Shops at Crystals.
We started our walk at 7:45 a.m. after finding parking at Park MGM for the normal weekend daily rate of $23. We returned to the parking garage about 2 p.m. Wynn was the northernmost point we reached during our 6½-mile Strip meandering.
A Vegas wonderland
After entering Park MGM and hurrying past its poinsettias and elegant Christmas decorations in red and gold, we walked through the dolled-up-for-the-holidays Eataly and then stepped into the early-morning quiet of sidewalk life along the Strip.
In the shadow of CityCenter, the sidewalk led north to a safe crossing over Aria Place. That was the first of 10 pairs of stairs we climbed up and down to navigate outdoor pedestrian bridges and to reach second levels of casinos.
After passing by The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas’ entrance, we climbed down and then up more steps toward a covered walkway leading to the Bellagio’s conservatory by way of the casino’s main entrance. This was timed to be the first major stop on our Strip hike because crowds of adoring flower aficionados can become overwhelming after 8 a.m.
The Bellagio’s theme for Christmas 2023 is Tchaikovsky’s “The Nutcracker,” complete with a sleeping and dreaming Clara holding on tight to her nutcracker doll. Nearby an evil mouse king stands 30 feet tall and is ready for battle. On the opposite side of the conservatory, a giant nutcracker soldier towers over a realm of sweets and storytelling created in part with real poinsettias, camellias and greenery as well as fabric and papery roses. A stately Christmas tree’s decorations include glittery mouse king and nutcracker soldier ornaments.
Nutcracker-themed Christmas trees add charm to the area right behind the hotel’s main registration desk, and that’s worth a peek en route to the Bellagio’s north exit onto another pedestrian bridge. Before reaching the bridge, visitors get a chance to see the creativity that goes into display windows in luxury shops like Prada, where sparkling black and gold purses and shoes rest in jumbo-sized, old-fashioned glass ornaments.
Caesars Palace is on the other side of the pedestrian bridge, and our northward route took us along walkways and sidewalks lined with Roman-themed fountains and columns. Near The Mirage we crossed the Strip and walked past Venetian-themed canals and architectural features to reach the casino’s main entrance.
Red, gold and silver holiday decorations mix with poinsettias, jumbo pinecones and greenery in the Waterfall Atrium of The Venetian and Palazzo. Two fun things to see in that festive area are an antique gondola with its accompanying historical information panel and a giant red “Love” sign, a popular spot for picture-taking.
After exiting Palazzo and while crossing the pedestrian bridge over to Wynn, we caught a glimpse of the slow spinning images on the Sphere of the Radio City Rockettes performing their famous kickline in Christmas attire.
Wynn was our next destination in the search for designer Christmas decorations, and we found a few whimsical winter village scenes tucked into year-round vibrant floral displays. Mistletoe hung under a canopy of trees near a decorative carousel.
The casino’s high-end shops were worth peeking into, especially Dior with its golden butterfly theme as well as Tiffany & Co. with its stunning, modern chandeliers. Also extraordinary any season: a second-story view of the brightly colored Jeff Koons “Tulips” sculpture.
A spirited workout
From there, we reversed course through The Venetian and again crossed the Strip toward The Mirage and eventually ended up on the pedestrian bridges that led us in the direction of CityCenter and the Shops at Crystals. There, a 55-foot tree decorated with 5,000 Swarovski ornaments and the intricacies of its snowflake crystals are not to be missed.
Aria was the last major destination on our list of must-stops because last year’s North Star decorations were extra impressive. The color scheme this year changed from blues and silver to reds and white, but the attention to detail and volume of candy crafting appeared similar. While we were admiring the craft and design of giant candy canes, lollipops, flowers and intricate bows on presents, there were members of the Aria Patisserie team piping frosting under floral decorations.
With peppermint stripes, swirls and starlights overhead, the resort’s check-in area has a magical feel with its red-and-white tower of wrapped boxes surrounded by sugary creations, including flowers that have the look of expensive blown glass.
Not too far from the hotel reception area are two spots where more candy Christmas creations can be seen. Cakelike towers are on display at the Aria Patisserie, as is a scaled-down, old-fashioned phone booth with Santa Claus on one side and a reindeer on another. Near the bake shop, candy creators made a fireplace complete with logs, flames and marble-like materials.
A continual challenge on our hike was resisting the temptation of too many calorie-rich treats along our path, so the time and location were right to return to our parked car. There would be one last photograph of my phone, which logged our 17,000 steps, posed among gold and red decorations at Park MGM.
A Strip Christmas hike, as long as you want to make it and wherever you want to start out, is a spirited way to get some exercise and to be reminded of the detailed work that helps to make this city a global standout.