12/17/2013 03:35 pm ET Updated Feb 16, 2014

It is Winter in Venice -- Vegas Style, Baby!

If you've ever dreamed about spending the holidays in romantic Venice, complete with gondoliers, but didn't go because you thought it would be too expensive or was too far to fly, here's the perfect opportunity to fulfill your wanderlust on a more affordable budget. Winter in Venice, running through Jan. 5, 2014, is now in its third incarnation at The Venetian and The Palazzo on the Las Vegas Strip.

I chose The Palazzo as my home base and was not disappointed. Although it is stunning on its own, it is even more impressive when decorated to evoke Venice's holiday charm. A 65-foot tree, thousands of festive lights and larger-than-life snowflakes greeted me as I entered the Doge's Palace. It was hard to decide what to do first, but who can resist the skating rink above the outdoor Grand Canal? I took a spin on the state-of-the skating surface, and was entertained by a light show, gondoliers and strolling entertainers. I even met the Winter in Venice Queen, one of many characters who share the fun and excitement of the season.

Then I headed over to The Waterfall Gardens at The Palazzo for their fabulous fantasy display. Their horticulturists have managed to create an amazing scene, complete with ice branches, glittering trees, and hand-crafted peacock statues. Feeling a bit hungry, I was thrilled to find holiday-themed menus and specials at the world-class restaurants. What Italian meal would be complete without a seasonal cocktail like a Gondolier Blanco?

The evening's entertainment included a winter parade featuring all of the celebration's characters, which occurs every night, and a stunning "Light of Venice" 3D light projection show. It transformed The Venetian's clock tower with state-of-the-art-technology, culminating in a live finale that lit up the entire plaza.

They have even gone out of their way to make it affordable for everyone. After transportation to Vegas, resort packages which combine elements of Winter in Venice, start at only $149 per night. The Passaporto di Winter in Venice includes specials for skating, dining, retail, entertainment and spa amenities. If you book an upgraded suite you receive the Premiere Passaporto di Winter in Venice with even more exclusive offers.

As I settled in for a long winter's rest, visions of the next day's opportunities danced in my head. What would I do next -- take in some world-class gaming, stroll the indoor street-scape or the Grand Canal Shoppes, or make plans to attend a fabulous Vegas show?

Altogether I felt like I was transported to a magical land where I could experience the folklore and tales that so many generations of Italians have come to love. It was powerful and dramatic, yet still managed to capture the essence of giving and sharing associated with the holiday season. If you're interested in learning more about this magical recreation of a real Italian Christmas celebration.

Buon Natale!

NOTE: In the spirit of full disclosure, I was neither paid nor do I have any commercial interest in any of the people or brands named in this article

Winter in Venice - Vegas Style, Baby!
Winter in Venice - Vegas Style, Baby!

Photo Credit: The Venetian