If a genuine, small-town Christmas may seem like wishful thinking, just look to the south toward Boulder City where it’s as real as it gets.
Even natives will say they rarely tire of celebrating the holidays in their hometown, thanks in large part to a calendar full of everything from electric nighttime parades to train rides with Santa and Mrs. Claus.
For visitors who make the trek to Boulder City every year, it’s also the feeling of a Christmas that harkens back to a simpler time.
“Boulder City takes great pride in its sense of community and neighbors. We are there for each other year-round and celebrate that spirit especially during the holidays,” said Jill Rowland-Lagan, CEO of the Boulder City Chamber of Commerce. “That hometown feeling is contagious and we find many from surrounding Southern Nevada cities wanting to be part of that.”
The following highlights some of this year’s holiday events in Boulder City:
Tree lighting, St. Jude’s
The first weekend in December kicks off with the annual Christmas Tree Lighting on Friday at 6 p.m., in Frank Crowe Park. The event will be emceed by one-time Miss Boulder City Anna-lise Dodge and include entertainment from local school choirs and visits by Santa Claus and the town’s very own Christmas mascot, Jingle Cat.
After the tree lighting, revelers can head over to St. Jude’s Ranch for Children for its eighth annual Night of Lights celebration from 6 to 9 p.m. The entire residential foster-care facility is transformed into a Christmas wonderland every year with decorations that light up the entire campus.
There will be entertainment, from carolers to a lead performer from Cirque du Soleil’s Michael Jackson “ONE” show. The family-friendly event also will include a visit from Santa, arts and crafts, storytelling, a fishing wall and giant blow-up slide, according to Kelley McClellan, the ranch’s director of development.
Those in the mood for something sweet can sip hot chocolate or make their own s’mores at the various stations set up at the event, complete with fire pits for roasting marshmallows. Bigger appetites can purchase an Italian dinner that includes a drink and cannoli for dessert, $6 for adults, $3 for children.
All proceeds from the event will go toward St. Jude’s Ranch, 100 St. Jude’s St., just a couple miles from downtown Boulder City off U.S. Highway 93. Entrance to the event is free.
On Saturday, the Boulder City Recreation Center, 900 Arizona St., will be the site of the annual Doodlebug Bazaar sponsored by the Boulder City Community Club. Christmas shoppers will be able to choose from items such as handmade jewelry, clothing, holiday decorations, ornaments and toys. The event, a favorite among locals and visitors alike, is scheduled for 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
On that same day, Santa’s Picture Party will take place in Bicentennial Park, just behind the recreation center, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Children will be able to get their pictures taken with Santa, visit with his helper, Jingle Cat, and receive a holiday goodie bag.
As the sun sets and a chill begins to fill the air, the celebration continues with Santa’s Electrical Night Parade at 4:30 p.m. Dance troupes, church floats, cheerleading squads, the list goes on, will be trundling down the main streets of historic downtown decked out in Christmas lights, according to Rowland-Lagan.
The local fire department will help folks stay cozy and warm by selling hot chocolate, and the final entrant in the parade will be ol’ Kris Kringle himself, riding in his sleigh with the winners of Boulder City’s Little Miss and Mister pageant.
After the downtown parade, some different “floats” will be decked out for the holidays as part of the 38th annual Christmas Parade of Lights at Lake Mead. Crafts ranging from 16-foot power boats to houseboats 60 feet and above will depart from the Las Vegas Boat Harbor and Lake Mead Marina at 6:30 p.m., head toward the shores of Boulder Beach and eventually make their way back to the marinas.
Boat owners adorn their crafts from bow to stern with an incredible array of lights, animated characters and inflatable decorations. Those who want a close-up look can wander the marinas before or after the parade.
During the first three weekends of December, Boulder City is also the site of the Nevada Southern Railway’s Santa Train, which departs from the Nevada State Railroad Museum located at 601 Yucca St.
The 35-minute weekend train rides take place on a historic passenger train pulled by a Union Pacific locomotive. The rides cost $5 per person and include a visit from Santa and Mrs. Claus. Children can also bring their letters to Santa and place them in a special mailbox.
Last year, the railway launched a limited run of its inaugural Pajama Train. It was so successful it has been made a regular feature of this year’s excursions.
The Pajama Train, which costs anywhere from $14 to $20 per person, is an hourlong nighttime ride that has two departures, 5 and 7 p.m. It includes a visit from Santa, story time, caroling, and cookies and hot chocolate. Children are encouraged to wear their PJs.
Those interested in buying tickets or learning more about the train schedules can go to nevadasouthern.com.