The Quiet Side of Vegas

This is our second post in a series about Las Vegas with kids.

So you’ve decided to take the leap and take the family to Vegas. Maybe it’s to see a show, there’s hundreds to choose from. Maybe it’s for a wedding. They happen around the clock there … just ask Elvis. Maybe it’s just because you want to go to Vegas. Whatever the reason, Las Vegas with children can be a lot of fun.

The Strip is like a giant amusement park. You could spend days just wandering and staring. Be sure to check out my favorite things to see and do in Las Vegas with kids. But there’s more to Vegas than gambling and glitz. There’s a calmer, dare I say educational side. Don’t tell the kids about the learning thing. Just tell them you’re going somewhere cool and head to the Hoover Dam.

Hoover Dam Tour

Close to a million people visit the Hoover Dam every year. The dam is located just 30 miles southeast of Las Vegas at the Nevada-Arizona border. The Powerplant Tour is the way to go for most families. After watching a short film, you’ll take an elevator ride 530 feet down to begin your tour. At the Hoover Dam there are 17 hydroelectric generators. If all the generators are working at full capacity, they can create enough electricity to power a city of 750,000 people. Learning about the actually making of the energy will give your kids reason to stop and stare (check out this PBS video on how the dam makes power). My kids also found a bike parked among the hydroelectric generators. I guess all those generators require covering a lot of ground fast.

Plan on a couple hours to see everything. If you’re the type that likes to be organized, you can buy tickets online, but you can also purchase tickets at Hoover Dam. If you can get everyone out of bed, go early. The crowds are lighter and the weather is cooler.

I would have liked to take the Hoover Dam Tour. It includes everything in the Powerplant Tour plus some exploring into the passageways with the dam itself. It just sounds cool. (It’s also more than double the price.)But no children under 8 are allowed so that ruled my family out. If you’ve got older kids, go for it. No reservations for this tour, it’s first come-first served.

When you enter the Visitor Center, you will go through a security checkpoint. Small backpacks are allowed, but if you’ve got a parent-sized pack on your shoulders, you may be told you have to put it in the car. My experience was they’re also pretty strict when it comes to food and drink. No food, gum or drinks, exceptwater bottles. You’ll need water for everyone if you visit during the hot summer months.

Be sure you eventually make your way up to the street level displays and exhibits. The Winged Figures and a walk along the top of the dam are worth the sweat.

Red Rock Canyon Drive

The Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area (RRCNCA) is just a few miles west of Las Vegas. It encompasses 197,000 acres within the Mojave Desert. I had never heard of it until I started planning out Vegas adventure. What an incredible find. Red Rock is the type of place geology buffs dream about. For the rest of us, it’s like a giant playground in the middle of the dessert.

Teeming with all sorts of wildlife, little ones will enjoy hunting for desert tortoise, roadrunners and jackrabbits. Luckily, my kids did not find any scorpions or tarantulas, but they’re out there.Depending on your energy level, you can hike bike, even camp.

Not feeling quite so adventuresome. Red Rock Canyon has a one-way 13-mile scenic drive. See it all in the comfort of your air conditioned car. Stop by the Visitor Center. The Red Rock Interpretive Associative offers all sorts of family-friendly programs, ranging from hikes to fossil fun to art classes.

Chances are you’ll get hot and dirty. Drink a lot of water but keep smiling, knowing that plush, tropical pool back at the hotel is waiting for you.

Relevant Links:

Montelago Village Resort review

Things to do in Las Vegas with kids

United States family travel


  1. Great ideas for off-the-beaten-path Vegas activities. Definitely can’t wait to visit Red Rock Canyon — think we might try the driving tour, so thanks for the suggestion!

  2. We just got back from a 3 day trip to Vegas with our 5 yr old son
    We stayed at the MGM in a 600 ft suite at less then $100 per night.
    Jacuzy included – son loved bath time.
    MGM has the biggest Lazy River in Vegas and it held true. Son spent 2 out of 3 days there.
    We stopped at the M & M store, Coke a Cola Store for some free fun.
    Then we headed over to the Belagio for an early dinner. No cost for children under a certain age, plus the free fountain show’s. Great for after dinner.
    We headed over to Ceasar’s Palace for their Show – which is every hour from 11 am on.
    On one night we – saw Lion King, which we got the tickets for $73 per seat – which was 13 row from the Orchestra.
    We also spent time at New York New York palying in their arcade and Circus Circus, where they have an indoor amusement park in which the kids can have fun all day with the purchase of a wrist band.
    No need to stay off the strip there is still plenty to do in Vegas with kids, just not as they had it before.

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