Once upon a time, Las Vegas was known as a “kid-free” zone. Designed to be the personification as the gambling and entertainment capitol of the world, adults flocked to Vegas to eat at gourmet buffets, see shows with top headliners like Elvis Presley and the Rat Pack, while gambling the night away. There were very few, if any places, children were allowed or encouraged.
This started to change in the late 1980’s with the rise of the “mega” resorts that started populating the Strip. Many landmark hotels were replaced to make room for more opulent and massive resorts, such as MGM Grand, Treasure Island, Luxor, Bellagio and Mandalay Bay. These elaborate themed destinations catered to families with over the top swimming pools, family shows, roller coasters and flaming volcanoes. The goal was to attract tourists that were interested in more than just gambling. As a result the landscape of Las Vegas changed.
Yet today, the tide appears to be changing back to a more adult friendly Las Vegas. While there are plenty of family entertainment options, some of the more familiar attractions are gone, such as the amusement park and Lion Habitat at MGM, and the live pirate ship show at the Treasure Island (now known as TI). The recession took a large hit on the city as the wave of tourists decreased. Now, Vegas understands that gamblers still visit during hard times, but families don’t.
While many are divided if Las Vegas is a fun family destination, there are still activities that cater toward families, both on and off the strip. Depending on the time of year, budget and length of stay, you can create a vacation that doesn’t involve only arcades.
The Short answer:
Kid friendly: Yes/Sort of
Baby friendly: Heck no. No strollers on the strip please!
Activities On The Strip
Circus Circus is one of the older hotels on the Strip, yet in 1993, in order to capitalize on the growing family trend, the Adventuredome, a 5-acre indoor amusement park, opened. There are rides for all age groups, including roller coasters and thrill rides, miniature golf, and fair games. While it’s free to get inside, the rides do cost money. It is recommended to purchase an all-day pass as a single ride on the roller coaster can cost $12.
On the other end of the strip, you can find the Shark Reef Aquarium at the Mandalay Bay. Over 100 sharks, rays, crocodiles and piranhas as well as sea turtles and exotic fish are exhibited with a walk through tunnel that holds over 1.6 million gallons of water. There is also a touch pool for a hands-on experience with some of the more friendly sea creatures. General admission starts at $12.00 for children, and adults at $18.00. For certified divers, and Mandalay Bay hotel guests, the Aquarium offers a “Dive with the Shark” program with prices starting at $650.00.
If you have always wanted to go on a gondola ride through the canals of Venice, but Italy is not in your future at the moment, then The Venetian can satisfy this goal for the time being. Here, your family can be entertained by taking a personal boat tour with your own gondolier singing Italian favorites. The ride seats up to four people and usually lasts 15 minutes. Costs start at $19.95 per person with professional photos an additional charge.
Want to see a live show? While the majority of entertainment is geared toward adults, there are several acts targeted to families. There is Cirque du Soleil which features non-stop acrobatic acts, a variety of Broadway shows, Blue Man Group, the Mac King Comedy Magic Show, the Tournament of Kings (dinner and show), and a host of others. Of course, all programs are subject to change, so it’s best to check with your hotel before promising the kiddos!
When it’s time to get that sugar high, the Strip provides some popular eateries and candy stores, including, the M&M Store which details the history of the candy, Coke World, and the Hershey Store. All are located near the New York, New York Hotel.
And don’t forget Serendipity 3, located outside Caesars Palace. Order their famous Frozen Hot Chocolate and sit outside and people watch!
Activities Off The Strip:
- Red Rock – Located just outside of Las Vegas is Red Rock Canyon that offers both easy and challenging hiking and biking trails. This canyon represents what the Mojave Desert is about. With its unique features, animals and plants, it’s no wonder why over one million people visit this destination every year. Be sure and go early before the temperatures get too hot, and bring plenty of water.
- Hoover Dam – Long considered one of the greatest engineering feats of all time, Hoover Dam is located 35 miles south of Las Vegas. This must see attraction includes guided tours (children under 8, nor wheelchairs permitted), museums and plenty of amazing views.
- Springs Preserve – Voted “Best Place To Take the Kids in Southern Nevada” by Nevada Magazine, kids can enjoy the interactive science and nature exhibits, live animal shows, hiking and other special programs. Seasonal extras include Dino Summer, Butterfly Exhibits, and movie nights
- SkyZone Trampoline Park – When it comes time to wear the kids out so you are guaranteed a decent night’s sleep, the SkyZone is the answer. Here you will find an indoor trampoline park, foam zone with over 10,000 foam cubes, and SkySlam basketball court all under one roof. Located on Dean Martin Way, it’s recommended that tickets be purchased online to ensure admittance due to its popularity.