You may be surprised that Las Vegas does not offer as many annual events as most other tourist cities. The reason is Las Vegas’s very raison d’être: the gaming industry. This town wants its visitors spending their money in the casinos, not at Renaissance fairs and parades.
When in town, check the local paper and contact the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (tel. 877/847-4858 or 702/892-7575; www.visitlasvegas.com) or the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce (tel. 702/735-1616; www.lvchamber.com) to find out about other events scheduled during your visit.
For an exhaustive list of events beyond those listed here, check http://events.frommers.com, where you'll find a searchable, up-to-the-minute roster of what's happening in cities all over the world.
The Super Bowl. Granted, the actual game is not held in Las Vegas but the numbers of people it brings to the city rival those that go to wherever the big game is being held. Sports fans and sports bettors come out in droves to watch the action on the big screens around town and to lay down a wager or two on the outcome. Usually the first weekend in February.
Valentine's Day. This is the marriage (and possibly divorce) capital of the world and the betrothed line up to exchange their vows all across town on Cupid's day. The city's Marriage Bureau stays open 24 hours during the weekend and some chapels literally perform dozens of weddings. February 14.
USA Sevens. Not a rugby fan? No matter, a day at the Sevens tourney is an experience. The most-widely attended rugby event in the country welcomes some 75,000 visitors to the Sam Boyd Stadium, 7000 E. Russell Rd. (samboydstadium.com; [tel] 702/895-3761), located about 20 minutes from the Strip. Teams from 16 countries compete in some 45 matches and fans travel from all around the world to cheer on their home countries or teams, dressed in jerseys, war paint, and outlandish costumes. Though the games are on the weekend, leading up to the tournament is a full week of events, including pep rallies, a beer festival, and a Parade of Nations. Held in early March. For more information, visit www.usasevens.com.
NASCAR. The Las Vegas Motor Speedway, 7000 Las Vegas Blvd. N. (tel. 800/644-4444; www.lvms.com), has become one of the premier facilities in the country, attracting races and racers of all stripes and colors. The biggest races of the year are the Sam's Town 300 and the Kobalt Tools 400, held in early March.
March Madness. Remember everything we just said about the Super Bowl? Apply it here for the NCAA college basketball championships held over several weekends in March.
Vegas Uncork’d. Once Las Vegas was crowned as a dining destination, it didn’t take long for the city to capitalize on having so much gourmet talent packed into a few square miles. This food and celebrity chef-filled long weekend lets the most discerning gourmands get a little closer to the culinary gods whose names grace the doors. When and where else can you rub elbows with Guy Savoy at the Grand Tasting, get to see Gordon Ramsay in action at a Master Series dinner, or drink margaritas with Too Hot Tamales Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger over a 4-day span? If you don’t leave this weekend with a huge food hangover, you’re doing it wrong. For more information, visit www.vegasuncorked.com.
World Series of Poker. When Harrah’s Entertainment bought the legendary Binion’s Horseshoe, in Downtown Vegas, out of bankruptcy, it quickly turned around and sold the hotel but kept the hosting rights to this famed event, moving its location and place on the calendar. Now held at the Rio All-Suite Hotel and Casino, 3700 W. Flamingo Rd. (tel 800/752-9746), in June and July (with the final table held in Nov for some incomprehensible reason), the event features high-stakes gamblers and showbiz personalities competing for six-figure purses. There are daily events, with entry stakes ranging from $125 to $5,000. To enter the World Championship Event, players must pony up $10,000 but could win a fortune (the 2013 top prize was $8.3 million). It costs nothing to crowd around the tables and watch the action, but if you want to avoid the throngs, you can catch a lot of it on TV. For more information, visit www.wsop.com.
Electric Daisy Carnival. One of the biggest annual Electronic Dance Music (EDM) events in the world draws upwards of 400,000 people to the city with a multi-day series of concerts from the biggest DJs and club music stars in the business. Past festivals saw EDM megastars like Tiesto, Avicii, Afrojack, Eric Prydz, Nicky Romero, Ferry Corsten, and Victor Calderone in front of the dancing mobs. If you don’t know who any of those acts are, it’s probably best to consider a different weekend, as rooms are scarce. Usually held the third weekend in June at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. For more information, visit www.electricdaisycarnival.com.
Life is Beautiful Festival. Started in 2013, this festival takes over a huge chunk of Downtown Las Vegas with music from bands both big (Beck, Imagine Dragons, Janelle Monae) and small; food and cooking demonstrations from celebrity chefs; art projects and displays; a speaker series; performances from Vegas shows including Cirque du Soleil; and more. The friendly neighborhood vibe, terrific organization (at least so far), and endless array of things to see, do, and eat make this a favorite for more than 65,000 people.
Halloween. Las Vegas gets even scarier than normal on and around Halloween, with “spooky” twists to many of the major attractions (Adventuredome becomes “Fright Dome,” with haunted houses and more), debaucherous costume parties at the nightclubs, and a parade and festivities in Downtown Las Vegas.
National Finals Rodeo. This is the Super Bowl of rodeos, attended by about 200,000 people each year and offering more than $6 million in prize money. Male and female rodeo stars compete in everything from calf roping to steer wrestling, bull riding, team roping, saddle bronco riding, bareback riding, and barrel racing. In connection with this event, hotels book country stars into their showrooms, and a cowboy shopping spree—the NFR Cowboy Christmas Gift Show, a trade show for Western gear—is held at the convention center. The NFR runs for 10 days, during the first 2 weeks of December, at the 17,000-seat Thomas & Mack Center of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV). Order tickets as far in advance as possible (tel 866/388-3267). For more information, see www.nfrexperience.com.
New Year’s Eve. Between 300,000 and 400,000 people descend on Las Vegas to ring in the New Year, making it one of the largest gatherings for the holiday outside of New York’s Times Square. Fireworks are the dominant entertainment, with pyrotechnics launched from the roofs of many hotels on the Strip and under the canopy at Fremont Street in Downtown Las Vegas. The Strip is closed to vehicles for the night, and so traffic and parking are a nightmare, as is booking a room (expect to pay a hefty premium), which should be done well in advance.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.