Most of a Las Vegas vacation is usually spent indoors, so you can have a good time here year-round. The most pleasant seasons are spring and fall, especially if you want to experience the great outdoors.
Weekdays are slightly less crowded than weekends. Holidays are always a mob scene and come accompanied by high hotel prices. Hotel prices also skyrocket when big conventions and special events are taking place. The slowest times of year are parts of January and February; late June through August; the week before Christmas; and the week after New Year’s.
If a major convention is to be held during your trip, you might want to change your date. Contact the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (tel. 877/847-4858 or 702/892-7575; www.visitlasvegas.com), as convention schedules often change.
First of all, Vegas isn’t always hot, but when it is, it’s really hot. One thing you’ll hear again and again is that even though Las Vegas gets very hot, the dry desert heat is not unbearable. We know this is true because we spent a couple of days there in 104[dg]F (40[dg]C) weather and lived to say, “It wasn’t all that bad, not really.” The humidity averages a low 22%, and even on very hot days, there’s apt to be a breeze. Having said that, once the temperature gets into triple digits, it is wise to limit the amount of time you spend outdoors, and to make sure you are drinking plenty of water even while you are inside enjoying the blessed air-conditioning (which is omnipresent). Dehydration and heatstroke are two of the most common ailments that affects—don’t be a victim of either one of them. Also, except on the hottest summer days, there’s relief at night, when temperatures often drop by as much as 20°.
But this is the desert, and it’s not hot year-round. It can get quite cold, especially in the winter, when at night it can drop to 30[dg]F (–1[dg]C) and lower. Although rare, it does snow occasionally in Las Vegas. The winter of 2008 to 2009 dropped nearly 3 inches of snow on the Strip. There’s nothing quite like the sight of Luxor’s Sphinx covered in snow. The breeze can also become a cold, biting wind of up to 40 mph or more. And so there are entire portions of the year when you won’t be using that hotel pool at all (even if you want to; most of the hotels close huge chunks of those pool areas for “the season,” which can be as long as the period from Labor Day to Memorial Day). If you aren’t traveling in the height of summer, bring a jacket. Also, remember sunscreen and a hat—even if it’s not all that hot, you can burn very easily and very fast.
Wild Weather -- Las Vegas rests in the middle of a desert, so how wacky can the weather possibly get? A lot crazier than you think. Although Las Vegas’s location results in broiling-hot temperatures in the summer, many people tend to forget that deserts get cold and rainy, while wind is also a potential hazard.
Winter temperatures in Las Vegas have been known to dip below 30[dg]F (–1[dg]C), and when you toss in 40 mph winds, that adds up to a very chilly stroll on the Strip. And snow is not an unheard-of occurrence. Most years see a flurry or two falling on Las Vegas, and since 1949, a total of 12 “storms” have resulted in accumulations of 2 inches or greater, with the largest storm dropping 9 inches on the Strip in January 1949. In December 2003, parts of Las Vegas got 6 inches of the white stuff, and although it didn’t stick around too long on the Strip, the sight of the famous “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” sign in the middle of a driving blizzard was quite a spectacle. And more recently (the winter of 2008–09), Vegas received nearly 3 inches of snow on the Strip itself, with nearly 10 inches accumulating in other areas of town. Locals usually find the snow a charming addition to the city (and the stuff melts completely in a day or two, so they don’t have to shovel it—lucky them).
Though snow is a novel quirk that many Vegas residents and visitors welcome, rain isn’t always as well received. The soil in Las Vegas is parched most of the year, making it difficult for the land to absorb large amounts of water coming down in a short time. Between June and August, when most of the area’s rainfall takes place due to the Southwest’s monsoon season, there is a good possibility of flash flooding.
At times, the skies just open up, resulting in flooding that wreaks havoc on Sin City. On July 9, 1999, Mother Nature unleashed more than 3 inches of rain in just a few hours on a city that averages about 4 inches of rain a year. The deluge killed two people, swamped hundreds of cars, and destroyed millions of dollars in property. A 2013 storm caused havoc up and down the Strip with collapsed ceilings in the Mirage, a flooded casino at Caesars Palace, and a waterfall inside Gilley’s at Treasure Island (go look it up on YouTube). This kind of storm (and rain in general) is rare, but even a light shower can make things treacherous on the roads, the sidewalks, and the slippery marble walkways that front almost every casino in town.
The topography of the Las Vegas region also makes it prone to high, often damaging winds. Situated at the bottom of a bowl ringed by mountains, 15 to 20 mph steady winds are not uncommon, and gusts of 70 to 80 mph have been recorded. In 1994, a brief windstorm knocked down the massive sign at the Las Vegas Hilton, and in 2010 a storm tore apart the Cloud 9 balloon, billed as the largest tethered helium balloon in the world.
Las Vegas’s major annual conventions flood the city with people, driving up prices and making it difficult to find available hotel rooms. Believe us, unless you’re coming for one of them, you probably want to avoid the biggies. Because convention schedules frequently change, contact the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (www.vegasmeansbusiness.com) to double-check the latest info before you commit to your travel dates.
Banks, government offices, post offices, and many stores, restaurants, and museums are closed on the following legal national holidays: January 1 (New Year’s Day), the third Monday in January (Martin Luther King, Jr., Day), the third Monday in February (Presidents’ Day), the last Monday in May (Memorial Day), July 4 (Independence Day), the first Monday in September (Labor Day), the second Monday in October (Columbus Day), November 11 (Veterans Day/Armistice Day), the fourth Thursday in November (Thanksgiving Day), and December 25 (Christmas).
Any holiday, especially ones that involve a day off work for most people, will mean big crowds in Vegas. This includes “holidays” like St. Patrick’s Day, Cinco de Mayo, and Spring Break.
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.