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Vegas Weekend: Setting the scene - Family holiday activities

Winter in Venice 

The holidays are upon us, and what better way to celebrate the season than to zip up the warm jackets, pack the thermos with hot chocolate and take the family out to view holiday décor?

The weather's great, so head outside for a walk through beautifully lit displays. At Ethel M's holiday cactus garden in Henderson, visitors can wander down brightly lit paths from 5 until 10 p.m. through Sunday, January 1. For an even more elaborate tour, visitors can purchase 3D glasses to enhance the experience. Enjoy music by local choirs and say hello to Santa on select evenings.

At the Holiday Spectacular at the Springs Preserve through December 23, enjoy a family-friendly atmosphere with yummy treats, crafts, reindeer (pony) rides, photos with Santa and an ice-skating rink. Plus, enjoy nightly musical performances by local artists including Kid Fiddlers, Rage Time Entertainment, Beth Mullaney, The Rock Group and much more.

Through January 8, Venetian and Palazzo have been transformed into a winter wonderland for Winter in Venice. Get in the merry spirit as you surround yourself with brilliantly lit trees and festive music. Warm up with an eggnog cupcake and hot apple cider as you enjoy the nightly light show and performances. Also, tie up the skates to glide across the largest ice rink on the Strip.

Don't miss Opportunity Village's largest fundraiser of the year, the Magical Forest, for gorgeous light displays designed by local businesses. Take a ride on the Forest Express train through the two-acre forest, enjoy the kiddie rides and take a photo with Santa.

With miles of LED lights, the drive-through Glittering Lights  at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway is sure to impress. Plus, soak in the breathtaking details in the Bellagio's Conservatory & Botanical Gardens, decked out for the holiday season with hundreds of seasonal plants, flowers, and festive decorations.

Finally, head out of town for Ice Skating on the Lake with the family at the Aston Montelago at Lake Las Vegas.

Happy holidays to you and yours from Las Vegas!

Miss USA 2011: Great Lakes and more

Note: This is the third in a series of blogs leading up to the Miss USA 2011 competition on June 19 at Planet Hollywood. In this entry, we're highlighting contestants from states surrounding the Great Lakes and nearby, and we'll also slide down South a little, too.

 The contestants for Miss USA are used to answering questions, so we threw some Vegas-related Qs their way. Here are some selected answers:

MISS MINNESOTA USA: BRITTANY LEE THELEMANN

Q: Where do you love to shop in Vegas?
A: I love to shop at Caesars Palace. It is so beautiful and cool down there.

Q: What is your favorite restaurant in Las Vegas?
A: I've had an amazing steak dinner at the Charlie Palmer steak house (at Four Seasons).

Q: What's the best advice you can give to a first-timer in Las Vegas?
A: Try it all! Make sure you leave yourself plenty of time to travel up and down the Las Vegas Strip. There is so much to see and do!

MISS IOWA USA: REBECCA GOLDSMITH

Q: What are you most excited about seeing and doing in Las Vegas?
A: I 'm really, really looking forward to taking a dip in the hottest pools Las Vegas has to offer!

Q: If you had to pick five things to pack in your suitcase for a trip to Vegas, what would they be?
A: A swimsuit, a little black dress, a sequin purse, heels and slippers for the day after!

Q: What's the one thing in Las Vegas you can't miss?
A: I just have to see a drive-thru wedding!

MISS ILLINOIS USA: ANGELA SPARROW

Q: What might you wear in Vegas that you wouldn't wear back home?
A: I can't wait to wear all of my short beaded cocktail dresses.

Q: Who would be your dream date for a night out in Vegas?
A: My dream date for a night out in Vegas would be Holly Madison.

Q: What is your favorite restaurant in Las Vegas?
A: My favorite restaurant so far has been Switch (at Encore at Wynn Las Vegas) because of the atmosphere.

MISS WISCONSIN USA: SHALETTA PORTERFIELD

Q: Who's your favorite Vegas icon?
A: My favorite Vegas icon is Elvis Presley because he "shakes" things up!

Q: If you had only one night in Vegas, which nightclub would you choose?
A: I would go to Pure nightclub at Caesars Palace.

Q: If you could live at any Las Vegas resort, which one would you choose?
A: If I could live in any resort, I would choose the Venetian.

MISS MICHIGAN USA: CHANNING PIERCE

Q: What is the first thing you want to do when you get off the plane in Vegas?
A: Take a lot of pictures!

Q: What are your must-see shows in Vegas?
A: The Beatles' "LOVE" (at The Mirage) and Celine Dion (at Caesars Palace).

Q: If you could live at any Las Vegas resort, which one would you choose?
A: All the resorts offer such amazing amenities and experiences! I guess I would have to choose Planet Hollywood!

MISS OHIO USA: ASHLEY NICOLE CALDWELL

Q: What are you most excited about seeing and doing in Las Vegas?
A: The city lights and competing for Miss USA!

Q: If you had to pick five things to pack in your suitcase for a trip to Vegas, what would they be?
A: Camera, extra-strength Tylenol, a dress to impress, cool shades, swimsuit.

Q: If you had only night in Vegas, which nightclub would you choose?
A: I have been told to check out the clubs at the Palms.

MISS KENTUCKY USA: KIA BEN-ET HAMPTON

Q: Where do you love to shop in Vegas?
A: My favorite place to shop is definitely Town Square Las Vegas and also the Fashion Show Mall.

Q: What is the first thing you want to do when you get off the plane in Vegas?
A: The first thing I want to do is sightsee! I went to Vegas once for five days and it wasn't enough time. I want to re-do everything I did the first time plus more.

Q: Who would be your dream date for a night out in Vegas?
A: My dream date would definitely be with Elton John! I know he is in Las Vegas a lot and he is an icon of mine.

MISS TENNESSEE USA: ASHLEY ELIZABETH DURHAM

Q: Where do you love to shop in Vegas?
A: The Grand Canal Shoppes at the Venetian. I enjoy the beautiful Venice street scene design with a canal that runs through the center of the shopping area!

Q: What might you wear in Vegas that you wouldn't wear back home?
A: Anything I may think is a little "too much" anywhere else is probably perfect for Vegas! The more sequins or feathers, the better!

Q: If you could live at any Las Vegas resort, which one would you choose?
A: Wynn Las Vegas. It is considered one of the finest hotels in the world!

All Miss USA contestants surveyed are over 21 years of age.
Images courtesy of Miss Universe Organization.

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