Often the site of an unforgettable bachelor or bachelorette event, Las Vegas has long held the reputation for ‘round-the-clock partying. From gambling to good food, casinos to clubs, shows to shopping – whatever your pleasure – you can find an abundance of it in Sin City.

But away from all the glitz and glamour, Vegas has a less scandalous soul. This international entertainment capital boasts more artists per capita than New York City and hosts an active arts and entrepreneurial culture. Near the Freemont Street Experience, Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh has pumped $350 million in his Downtown Project to redevelop abandoned casinos into hip lounges and parks that hold start-up meetings and live music.

Still, the best reason to come to Vegas is for a party. And one of the biggest celebrations in Las Vegas is Chinese New Year. Called the Spring Festival in China, this year’s lunar festival welcomed the year of the Wooden Horse. The Chinese believe that during the Year of the Horse, success and victories arrive like a stampede – fast and furious. Energy is high, so in that respect, Vegas is the perfect place to usher in the New Year.

Practically every major hotel on the strip will offer the opportunity to see the dynamic and colorful lion dance. This dance is performed to frighten away evil spirits. According to legend, a mythical beast called Nian (meaning “year” in Chinese) would attack the villagers at the same time every year in China. In order to ward off this creature, the villagers created a false lion out of cloth and bamboo to scare Nian away. Check out the lion dance performances at the Aria, MGM and Bellagio.

The most impressive Chinese New Year display, however, is found at the Bellagio’s Conservatory and Botanical Garden with an open atrium layout lined with fresh, hand-cut carnations. The highlight is the mountain of seven life-size horses charging around a magnificent gold stallion at the peak. Throw a coin in the ding-pots and make a wish in front of the towering lucky tree dripping with hundreds of “I-Ching” coins for good fortune. Visit in the evening for live music under the pagoda, and don’t miss the framed carnation canvas in the back of the room on an easel with the Chinese “Fu” symbol for luck and blessings.

Finally, you can’t celebrate the Chinese New Year without a trip to Chinatown Plaza on Spring Mountain Road and the Freemont Street Experience in Downtown Las Vegas. The Chinese Chamber of Commerce of Las Vegas organizes its largest New Year celebration at both locations complete with an Asian food festival highlighting authentic fare from more than 10 countries. While you’re on Freemont Street, make sure you look up. Half the show is projected above on the LED canopy 90 feet high and 1,500 feet long. As the images gallop over you, the lights go down, and the crowd goes wild like the horses representing the Chinese New Year. That’s when you know you’re in the right place for an unforgettable party.

Krisha Chachra is Vice Mayor of the Town of Blacksburg and a regular columnist and author who has traveled to over 40 countries in 6 continents and reported and hosted shows for public radio and television. Her columns are taken from her journals and personal insights from traveling nationally and internationally throughout her life. Her book about returning to Blacksburg, Homecoming Journals, may be found online or in local bookstores.  Email her at

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