When I told friends and family I was taking the kids for a holiday to Las Vegas, they looked at me like I was mad. “So what – you’re just going to sit with your kids and jam $20 bills down stripper g-strings while they hold cups containing the remnants of whatever money you pumped into the slots?” they spat at me as they sipped their lattes. Okay, they didn’t say as much, but they were thinking it and it makes sense, because that’s exactly what I was planning to do*.
But the lovely desert rose formerly known as Sin City has long cast off that ‘hooker and slots’ reputation and not only is she now known for her vibrant foodie scene, spa life and endless shopping options, she’s also surprisingly kid-friendly. Just take a look at some of these activities.
* Not really.
It’s so Vegas to have an indoor amusement park encased beneath a pink glass dome, but that’s kinda half the fun. Adventuredome, a good 20 minute walk down the strip, is part of Circus Circus Hotel & Casino and it features 25 rides and attractions including thrill rides, rock-climbing wall, laser tag, an arcade, and the newly opened El Loco Rollercoaster. All Day Ride Passes are available for $US29.95 for a regular pass and $US16.95 for a junior.
This one’s for the older crew who enjoy solving gruesome murders (I’d sleep with one eye open if I were you). Based on the hit TV show, budding detectives can head on over the MGM Grand for an opportunity to play the role of a crime scene investigator at CSI: The Experience. It features a couple of crime labs, videos featuring CSI cast members and real-life forensic scientists and plenty of what I hope is food colouring. Recommended for psychopaths and kids over 12 and priced at just under $US30.
Dolphins at The Mirage
Many of us dream of one day swimming with dolphins, but at Siegfried & Roy’s Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat at The Mirage, little ones aged 8+ can paint with them. Yep – your child holds the canvas while Flipper gets to work with his brush and paints and what’s more, you’ll even receive the artwork (which you’ll no doubt frame and put on the mantle) as well as a certificate and photo. Priced at $US199. And mum and dad? You can also do Yoga with the Dolphins.
Fremont Street Experience
Post-sunset activities for kids in Vegas are few and far between but the Fremont Street Experience, a $17million dollar light and animation display downtown has to be seen to be believed. The lights, animation and synchronised music work together to project seven shows a night on an overhead canopy measuring the length of five football fields. Elsewhere on the pedestrian mall, there are street performers (good and bad), ziplines and countless street food stalls and trucks for you to enjoy.
The High Roller
There are Ferris Wheels, and then there’s The High Roller, rotating at a stomach-churning 550 ft and and giving you a bird’s eye view of the city way out into the desert. Prices start from $US25 and vary depending on what time of day you want to ride. Be warned – the ride alone takes 30 minutes (plus waiting time) so any toilet stops should be made before you join the queue.
Discovery Children’s Museum
Those after an injection of culture can head to the gargantuan Discovery Children’s Museum – home to over 100 exhibits across the arts, humanities and sciences. Suitable for kids of all ages, the museum includes themed halls everyone will love such as Toddler Town and Water World, as well as a 13-level playground tower called The Summit.
I’m a big fan of sharks when they’re hundreds of kilometres away, but if you have a hankering to see them up close, head on over to Mandalay Bay’s Shark Reef and you can see 15 species of the toothy ones in an aquarium designed to replicate a sunken shipwreck and an ancient temple ruin (and happily, they are indeed behind reinforced glass). The 14 exhibits aren’t just for Jaws however, you can see other critters before heading out for a nice seafood lunch. Children under five are free of charge.
What’s a trip to Vegas without a trip to Venice? Kids young and old will love riding along in a gondola as they take in the ‘I can’t believe it’s not Venice’ scenes around them. You can choose from either an outdoor or indoor ride (each one takes around 15 minutes) and seize the moment to enjoy a coffee as you glide past the boutiques and cafes of ‘The Grand Canal’.
Downtown Container Park
Tell the kids you’re taking them to an outdoor shopping centre made out of shipping containers and watch them jump for joy – not. Ok the sell doesn’t sound particularly exciting for little ones but they’ll soon be singing a different tune when they check out The Treehouse at Downtown Container Park, a kid’s hub located in the centre of the park. It features a 33ft slide, NEOS play system and wet zone – and because mum and dad are happy with the wide selection of boutiques, restaurants, bars and galleries that surround the park, it makes for one happy family.
- Catch a kid-friendly show such as Gregory Popovich’s Comedy Pet Theatre, David Copperfield at MGM Grand or Cirque du Soleil’s Mystère or Ka. Going out sans kids? Don’t miss Le Reve at Wynn Las Vegas. No really, don’t. It’s AMAZING.
- Book a dental appointment for when you get back and visit M&M World, Hershey’s Chocolate World and the Ethel M Chocolate Factory.
- Play pinball at The Pinball Hall of Fame.
- Hit up the KISS Mini Golf green. Is it green? I have no idea – all I saw were neon lights, fog machines and my brother and sister-in-law getting married dressed in leather (they also do weddings).
- Ride the Big Apple Roller Coaster at New-York New-York Hotel & Casino.
- Buy cupcakes from the 24/7 Cupcake ATM at Sprinkles Cupcakes at The LINQ.
- Get married or have your vows renewed by Elvis at Graceland Chapel, like we did. Our daughter loved playing bridesmaid for a day!
For further information on Las Vegas, head to Visit Las Vegas
PHOTO CREDIT: Select photographs courtesy of Las Vegas News Bureau.
Have you been to Las Vegas with kids? What did you find worked/bombed? Tell me in the comments below.