I’ll admit Las Vegas was not my first choice for a family vacation. When my husband scheduled back-to-back conferences and we started discussing the possibility of our young sons and I flying out for a few days, I was hoping Boston (lovely in autumn), Orlando (THE family friendly destination), or San Antonio (great weather, near friends). When Vegas ended up being the locale I nearly chickened out. It has such a reputation as being America’s adult playground, how would I entertain kids? Ultimately, Las Vegas turned out to be the perfect getaway with young children – here’s why I think you should consider it, too! take your kids to Las Vegas
1. Ease of travel.
The direct flight to McCarran Airport was the perfect “practice” flight with littles. No layover. Just the right length to be manageable traveling solo with two kids, and a breeze if you’re running man to man. You practically land on the strip, so you can get from your gate to hotel in half an hour, even with checked bags. Bonus: from most parts of the country flights to Vegas are inexpensive!
2. I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore.
Situated in the Mojave desert, if you get out of town you’re in for a treat. The thirteen-mile scenic drive through Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area is worth the thirty minute trip from the strip. Several hikes for all skill levels are situated along the way, including one targeted to kids (not stroller friendly, though). The visitors center is can’t-miss also – beautiful and educational. If you’re a road warrior with time to spare the Hoover Dam and Grand Canyon are also (relatively) nearby.
3. The strip is magical.
Seeing Las Vegas through my children’s eyes was so much fun. We saw a castle (Excalibur), a pyramid (Luxor), Professor Wiseman’s museum (the Mirage Atrium) and, best of all, Paw Patrol Lookout Tower (Stratosphere). My toddler was impressed. It’s been months, and I still get daily reminders about our vacation. The lights, the fountains, the outdoors in, the indoors out – the fantasy of it all makes you think that Vegas was really made for kids.
4. Kids do Vegas on the cheap.
There were so many attractions that were either totally free, or free to kids. Here are my favorites, ranked unscientifically from “OMG, Don’t Miss This” to “Hit These Up if You Have Time”:
- Siegfried & Roy’s Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat: This wildlife park was small but blew me away with the access to animals. The dolphin trainers are out twice an hour doing a variety of exercises and demonstrations. The adorable tiger cubs were up close and personal for playtime. Parents will appreciate that you don’t have to exit through the gift shop (we came home with stuffed pals anyway, but I didn’t feel forced into it). The staff was beyond friendly and patient; three year olds have A LOT of questions!
- Fountains of Bellagio: No brainer. Choreographed dancing fountains mesmerize adults and children alike. Don’t miss the conservatory (and catch another fountain show on your way out!).
- Pelican Feeding at The Flamingo: The only people at the early morning pelican feeding were the elderly and moms with young kids. Everyone else was missing out. The feeding was informative and the wildlife habitat was beautiful.
- Anderson Dairy Barnyard Buddies Tour: My littles were delighted by this animatronic animal show and walking tour (conveyor belts galore!). You can’t beat an attraction that ends with free, fresh ice cream. The Museum of Natural History is right down the street.
- Las Vegas Museum of Natural History: Plan on spending a few hours up close with dinosaurs, sea creatures and learning about everything from earthquakes to Egypt. If you’re a member of your local Science/Children’s Museum your admission might be free (thanks, Exploration Place!).
- M & M World: Four stories of candy coated chocolate-y fun. Take in the 3D movie and get a sweet souvenir from the self-serve wall. Right across the street is Hershey’s Chocolate World and Shake Shack!
- Fall of Atlantis Show: This animatronic, pyrotechnic show was a little educational, and a lot delightfully hokey. If it’s a little on the scary/loud side, there’s a giant aquarium on the back side.
- Volcano at The Mirage: This street show is short, but memorable. No need to get too close- it gets hot!
- Lake of Dreams: The signs at The Wynn said “No Strollers” which I’m fairly certain is code for “No Children,” but this was worth the risk. The botanical gardens were top notch too.
- Streetmosphere at The Venetian: The canal and street performers make for great people watching and wandering.
- Planet Hollywood Rainstorm: Blink and you’ll miss it, but indoor rain is always a hit. Time it right and you can also see the fountain show.
All the free entertainment contributed to the affordability of the trip. Due to time constraints we didn’t make it to the Shark Reef, Discovery Children’s Museum or the Nevada State Railroad Museum, but they looked like winners.
5. The journey is the reward.
I think whoever coined this saying must have been a transportation obsessed child. The vehicles alone were attractions for my kids. The Deuce, a double decker bus, was a wonder. The monorail pass more than paid for itself; we even skipped out on the Children’s Museum to ride it back and forth one morning. Add in the hotel shuttle and the Jeep we rented for Red Rock Canyon, and my boys were in heaven. The intra-casino trams also logged some significant mileage. You could also check out the kid friendly High Roller if you’re up for a circular thrill.
6. You’ll eat well.
Surely there were some top-notch restaurants we missed out on by traveling with kids, but we’re not complaining. I love a theme so our dinners were in search of Vegas’ best burger (casual restaurants + kid friendly food= win win). Best value: In-N-Out, Best Fries: Burgers & Beer, Best Sweet Potato Fries: Umami, Best burger: Shake Shack (by a mile).
7. The weather is great.
I’m from Kansas so the heat never bothered me, anyway. If you plan your day with indoor activities during potentially balmy afternoons, you can enjoy the warm temps comfortably. I’ll pick a pool over a sandy beach any day, and Las Vegas has plenty of those. Maybe I was made for a Vegas vacation after all.
A few others things to consider:
– I’m not getting paid to say this, but Trump International would be hard to beat as a family-friendly hotel. No smoking and no casino. Every room has a kitchenette, which combined with a Trader Joe’s run saved us serious cash by preparing our own breakfast and lunch in the room. There was a jetted tub where you could watch television in the bathroom mirror screen (preschooler’s mind blown). Add free valet, complimentary shuttle to multiple strip locations and other amenities, you can’t miss. Work conference hotel booking for the win!
– You’ll do a lot of walking. I went out with a preschooler with boundless energy and a generally stroller content one year old. Even with public transportation we walked a lot. Nothing is quite as close as Google Maps makes it look, either. On our way to a top of the hour show I’d texted my husband “it’s a good thing this runs hourly because we’re fifty minutes late!”
– The early bird gets the clean streets. The strip does get a little yucky as the day goes on, but if you’re out in the morning with octogenarians and other moms with kids it’s pretty clean. Even if you’re out later, I found that everyone was respectful (i.e. no one tried to pass us an escort card).