By E.C. Gladstone
Las Vegas may be “Sin City,” but it’s also “Fun City,” and while our Las Vegas hotels may not promote it, there are so many elements of a great family vacation here, you can take your pick and still not do everything you want to.
But don’t try to find them all by yourself—that’s what I’m here for!
Start with my previous blogs on Top 10 free activities, Family-friendly resorts, and Cheap eats on the Las Vegas Strip. Buffets might seem like a good option, but check their kids pricing first (some allow under-5s free, but others charge full price for everyone) Click here for my Top 10 Las Vegas buffets.
Lake Las Vegas
All things being equal, I think the resorts at Lake Las Vegas, 20 minutes from the Strip, would have to be the most family-friendly options in town. In particular, Loews Lake LV is easily navigable, pet-friendly, has a fantastic gated pool area with activities, a water slide, sandy beach, water craft, kiddie pool, and does s’mores at the patio fire pit on Saturdays — all without sacrificing elegance. They greet all kids with Fischer Price goodies and even offer a cool SushiSkool most weekends. The Ritz-Carlton has a Ritz Kids “day camp” that includes tours of the hotel bakery, arts and crafts, scavenger hunts and a lot more.
Want more excitement? While virtually all the Strip resorts have something to offer (even Wynn and Encore, the least family-oriented, have gorgeous gardens and fanciful design), my strongest recommendations for Las Vegas hotels for families would be Mandalay Bay (The Beach, Shark Reef, Lion King…with Luxor and Excalibur a free tram ride away), Flamingo (gardens, pool area, and central location) and Silverton Lodge (did someone say Mermaids?) MGM Grand and Monte Carlo also have good kid-friendly pools.
Thinking about a show? You couldn’t do better than the Lion King, a, explosion of color, texture, movement and music that’s new in Vegas (go to the 4 p.m. matinee, and even though the premier seating is fantastic, the production is grand enough to reach the back row)… though old favorite Blue Man Group stays as contemporary, crowd-pleasing and yet provocative as ever — a good pick for early teens just starting to form their worldviews.
Astounding ventriloquist/singer Terry Fator may slip a few adult jokes over the kids’ heads, but most should love his high energy set…Human Nature’s Motown tribute would put a smile on almost any face, young or old…and of course, Cirque du Soleil shows are nearly all fine choices (Ka, Love and Mystere would be my first choices for teens and kids).
The Hawaiian Luau at Imperial Palace is just as authentic as any one I’ve seen in the island, and a full evening’s clean entertainment, while Excalibur’s Tournament of Kings brings you inside a fantasy middle ages (both include dinner).
On the budget end, Popovich Comedy Pet Theatre should delight the younger ones, a cute review of trained house pets with some juggling tossed in (“splurge” on the Golden Circle tickets here for the best stage view).
Of course, there are many magicians to choose from here, too (a full top ten is coming in a few weeks); to cut to the chase, I’d point families with kids under 10 to Mac King’s offbeat matinees (Harrah’s) or Lance Burton’s more traditional shows at Monte Carlo (coincidently, those two used to work together).
Want to get outside? From Red Rock Canyon to Boulder Dam Valley of Fire and even the Grand Canyon, there’s plenty of scenery around, and many ways to see it…though I lean towards the Pink Jeep tours — prices might be slightly higher, but with their custom off-roading smaller vehicles, you get to “rough it” in well-attended comfort. Siegfried & Roy Secret Garden (Mirage) features cool dolphins, tigers and their ilk.
Want to stay indoors? The Venetian’s Gondola rides and Madame Tussauds experience are worthy options. GameWorks next to MGM Grand is the biggest video arcade you might ever see, though ESPN Zone (New York, New York) also has a good arcade upstairs.
Pole Position indoor kart races allows anyone 48” or taller to try their intense electric go-karts, and Imperial Palace’s auto collection will captivate any true car nut (cool gift shop, too).
Academic teens should like Luxor’s Titanic and Bodies exhibits,and for old school fun, the Midway at Circus Circus can’t be beat (Excalibur has a smaller mini-midway on their lower level).
Incredibly, Vegas even has plenty of amusement rides, from high atop the Stratosphere (if you dare) to the Sahara’s numbing SPEED the ride, New York New York’s world-class coaster, and even Circus Circus Adventurdome, a full indoor amusement park!—which, hint hint, hosts birthday parties.
Don’t forget an incredible number of bowling alleys (Red Rock Resort, Gold Coast, Suncoast, Orleans, South Point, Sam’s Town, Sunset Station, Texas Station), Multiplex movie theatres (Green Valley Ranch, Palms, South Point, Suncoast, Orleans, Santa Fe Station, Sam’s Town), and, when you need a break, kidsquest activity centers (five Stations casinos and Red Rock).
Along with my previous recommendations, kids of all ages should enjoy a trip to ice cream-obsessed Serendipity 3 (Caesars Palace), funky First Food (The Palazzo) or perhaps the Rainforest Café (MGM Grand). Vegas has become hamburger obsessed lately — there’s another blog coming just on that topic — but BLT Burger (Mirage) and Strip Burger (Fashion Show Mall) ought to satisfy your little picky ones and you the same.
So if you bring your kids and they say they’re bored…just look at them, shake your head and laugh. Or better yet, print this out.
A contributing editor at VEGAS Magazine, E. C. Gladstone also interviews top Strip entertainers, restauranteurs, moguls and behind-the-scenes players for other local and national publications and websites. Like many Las Vegans, he sleeps only when absolutely necessary.