Las Vegas with Kids
I’ve been to Las Vegas before as an adult and remember being intrigued by the bright lights, gambling and unashamed hedonism of the place. Returning with my 7 year old daughter was, however, an entirely different prospect. I had expected that she would enjoy the bright lights and would be amused by the sight of the Eiffel Tower and a fairy tale castle all on the same road, but was also slightly concerned by what she would make of this original sin city. The answer was bemusement. She did indeed enjoy the lights and the show I took her too, but was perturbed by the constant noise and gambling and the sight of people smoking and drinking and playing slot machines at 8.00am when we were getting our breakfast.
The fact of the matter is that Las Vegas is really an adult’s playground and has not been designed with children in mind so it is important to visit with that in context. On the other hand, it is a convenient place to fly into, with direct flights from the UK and it makes sense to base yourselves there for a day or two to recover from jetlag. If you are prepared to answer a few awkward questions from your offspring about gambling and scantily clad women, then you can still make the most of your time in this over the top city. The other thing to remember that Las Vegas is slap bang in the middle of the desert and is very hot – at times too hot to be outside. Be prepared to lie low in the heat of the day and come out in the evenings when it is (slightly) cooler.
Things to do
The strip is a tourist attraction in itself and whether you are driving or walking there is plenty to see. For thrill seekers, the rollercoaster at New York New York will appeal (riders must be above 4.5 ft) For those who prefer to keep their feet on the ground, the fountain displays outside the Bellagio are every 15 mins in the evening and every 30 mins during the day. Set to music, these are a fun sight. Other sights of interest include the trapeze acts at Circus Circus. Paris and the Venetian offer replicas of the Eifel Tower and St Mark’s Square, you can even ride a gondola in Venice.
If you enjoy water parks, then wet n’wild 30 mins out of Las Vegas is a great option. It isn’t huge, but there is a lazy river, wave pool and some good slides, as well as a children’s area. It is worth paying a little extra for a cabana, which is essentially a gazebo offering much needed shade during the hot sunny days. A great place to get over your jetlag.
Some people say that you can’t visit Las Vegas without taking in a show. This comes at a price, but is a fantastic way to spend an evening.
We went to see Tournament of the Kings, at Excalibur, which is a real family show. The format is of a medieval tournament with knights riding real horses and plenty of pyrotechnics. The audience is divided into segments, supporting one of the knights (and one section for the baddie) Audience participation is encouraged ad even the most cynical Brit will find themself cheering and booing. Food is a roast chicken and vegetables – eaten with fingers as all medieval banquets dictate. A fun show all round.
Other shows that children may enjoy include Cirque du Soleil and the Blue Man Group. Tickets for all of these can be purchased in advance, but much like in London’s West End, there are discount ticket booths in Las Vegas where you can pick up tickets on the day.
If you want free entertainment, then there are half-hourly circus shows at the end of the strip in Circus Circus (free parking). Performances run throughout the day and are free of charge, there is limited seating. Be aware that to get to the arena, you will need to pass through a large family friendly gambling hall where your children can spend all your money on throwing ping pong balls into jam jars and hooking ducks. The trapeze act was, however, excellent and about the only thing in as Vegas that I didn’t have to pay for.
The Fashion Mall on the strip is an upmarket shopping mall with all of the usual stores. There is a large food court and plenty of shops for you to pick up anything you have left behind. This is not the place to get discounted clothes, however. If you are hoping to pick up a bargain, you will need to head to one of the outlet malls in the suburbs. Ask your hotel concierge for recommendations.
Where to eat
There are countless places to eat in Las Vegas, with every casino trying to lure customers with promises of all you can eat buffets. Children will enjoy the Rainforest Café at the MGM Grand which sees you eating in a mock rainforest with advanced animatronics and regular tropical showers (without the rain). The food is pricey, but is entertaining. Wherever you decide to eat, we recommend that you ask your concierge to book you a table, they may also have access to discounts.
If you are looking for fast food, then the In n’Out Burger Chain is a great option. You will also find plenty of the usual chains, McDonalds, Subway etc
Breakfast isn’t usually included in the price of accommodation in the USA. However, most of the hotels have a café on-site where you can get a generous buffet.