A recent New York Times article on the 31 best places for summer holidays in the U.S. put Las Vegas at #3. No surprise … yet like most national media, the Times parroted "the much-hyped efforts of Las Vegas to turn itself into a family destination a few years ago pretty much fizzled." I hate to disagree, but they couldn’t be more wrong. Despite a healthy amount of sin in Sin City, Vegas retains so much family-friendly fun, I can’t sum it up in one blog.
But the first decision to make is where to stay — and yes, it makes a difference. Luckily, several of the more moderately priced family-friendly Las Vegas hotels have recently remodeled rooms, making that decision much, much easier.
• Excalibur will never be mistaken for a 5-star Strip property — after all, it’s built to look like a fairy-tale castle. But after they invited me to stay for a knight (sorry, couldn’t resist) in one of their new rooms, I was pleasantly surprised. Pillow-top beds, huge flat-screen TVs, plush towels and marble counters finish a tasteful design in modern earth tones — mustard, chocolate, rust, mint — with just a few subtle medieval touches. They remodeled the multi-pool deck to include a couple water slides; my four-year-old loved the equestrians and acrobats of Tournament of Kings ("Best show ever!"); and the adjacent midway games are fun too. A free tram connects to the Luxor (new exhibits) and Mandalay Bay/THEHotel/Four Seasons (Shark Reef, more restaurant options).
• Though it’s been angling toward a more adult appeal, T.I. (Treasure Island) also remains a good family choice. The room remodels are distinctly clever and stylish, with dark wood tones, lots of smart space usage, a cool chaise lounge, flat-screen TV, iPod-docking clock-radio, and a very plush pillow-top bed with soft white linens and big comfy pillows (adults will also appreciate the strong water pressure and good Wi-Fi signals). T.I.’s pool is a nice shady oasis, the nightly (free) pirate show is still fun, and it houses the most (over age 5) kid-friendly Cirque du Soleil show, Mystere. A free tram connects to the Mirage — which also has new rooms — with Siegfried & Roy’s Secret Garden, the Beatles LOVE show, and some solid kid-accessible food options (Cravings buffet, Carnegie Deli, BLT Burger … ); The Venetian, with Blue Man Group, Madame Tussaud’s, the gondolas, and a great food court, is right across the Strip; Caesars Palace and Forum Shops (huge aquarium and Atlantis Show, FAO Schwarz, another good food court) is right next door.
• The Circus Circus experience is a unique assault on the senses (read that how you will), with an astounding array of touristy retail, the most broad-spectrum guest population you may ever see (many international travelers, and group tours) and, of course, the legendary Midway mezzanine, full of classic carnival games and hourly circus acts. But their new rooms are probably the best deal of all: done in an understated scheme just hinting atclassic circus colors, they’re spacious even by modern standards, with granite surfaces, a flat-screen TV, plush pillowtop mattress and some surprising bath amenities (toothpaste and toothbrush, shoeshine sponge, even a disposable loofah). I’ve stayed in rooms twice as expensive that offered little more. Circus Circus also has the Adventuredome indoor amusement park, making it particularly good for families with tweens and teens.
• As I mentioned a few weeks ago, the Flamingo resort also has its new Go rooms (definitely worth the higher rates), fun for kids and adults alike. The (free) bird sanctuary and huge pool area will wow the tykes; comedy-magician Nathan Burton does a popular matinee show here; and the Caesars Palace , Bellagio (fountain show), and Paris (Eiffel Tower) resorts are all within easy walking distance.
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E.C. Gladstone is a former editor for AOLVegas, and interviews top
Strip entertainers, restaurateurs, moguls and behind-the-scenes
players for VEGAS Magazine. Like many Las Vegans, he sleeps only when