Las Vegas is not a destination that appears frequently on the family travel short list. For years, many parents wouldn’t dare to even consider sharing a Los Vegas family getaway with children. Slowly but surely, however, this notion is changing. We just spent a weekend there with our 10-year-old and discovered families everywhere in and around the infamous strip.
With perks including warm weather much of the year, insanely easy airport access (10 minutes from town), a plethora of wallet-friendly flights, upscale and stylish hotels with competitive pricing, incredible celebrity chef dining opportunities, and a lengthy list of things to do inside and outside of the casino, Las Vegas is too compelling to ignore for a getaway, with or without kids.
We had constant fun as a family in Las Vegas despite unusually cold weather. Add in pool time and I can see why it’s increasingly popular with kids. Although, Las Vegas will never be truly a kid-friendly Mecca as there are inevitable moments where children are exposed to decidedly adult goings on. Babies and toddlers don’t notice, but our school-age son certainly did and the questions were flowing.
Would it stop me from going or recommending it to other families? No. But I think parents need to be realistic about the family experience. That said, we all enjoyed every minute of our action packed weekend. Here’s a look at our trip highlights.
This exhibit is teeming with families. The Shark Reef Aquarium is compact, but it offers the chance for kids to get close a few exciting animals and very large fish, including 15 types of sharks.
A Golden Crocodile and the world’s largest species of lizard, the Kimodo Dragon, are the non-aquatic highlights. Kids love the ray touch pool with a guide providing insight and information. Beyond that, floor-to-ceiling tanks filled with fish are impressive and exciting as they provide a very clear view of sharks, turtles, and an assortment of incredible fish. In the acrylic tunnel visitors are surrounded on all sides by marine life.
Conservation messages are integrated in the exhibit for further education. The experience takes an hour. Adults (13 years & older): $18; Children (5-12 years): $12; 4 years and younger: Free. To avoid a line, buy tickets online ahead of time.
An indoor theme park at Circus Circus, the Adventuredome is a slice of thrill-heaven for kids of all ages and their parents. Admittedly, I didn’t go on half of these rides — clearly I’ve lost my edge — but every kid here has an ear-to-ear smile plastered on their face.
This Adventuredome is compact but it has a bit of everything from the Canyon Blaster roller coaster to the stomach-churning Inverter. A few rides are optimized for little kids including a carousel and a pint-sized roller coaster. County fair-style games and prizes, a climbing wall, and even 18-holes of mini-golf round out the offering.
Warning, the feeling here is one of happy chaos and kids will want to spend hours at this attraction. Ride-all-day for kids under 48” is $16.95 and for kids and adults over 48” it is $27.95. To avoid a line, buy tickets online ahead of time.
Incorporating a Cirque du Soleil show into a Las Vegas visit is a must. I asked for their family favorite and they sent us to Mystère at Treasure Island for the most kid-friendly experience
The colorful, elaborate and wacky costumes entertain. Add in insane acrobatics from the trepeze to the trampoline. The atmosphere is lively thanks to the “clown” who terrorizes the audience. Watching these human bodies doing the impossible is an awe-inspiring experience. As this show doesn’t involve animals or any kiddie-type features, I recommend this activity for ages 7 and up. Adult pricing is from $69 to $199 depending on the seating, children are $39.50 to $59.50 per ticket. Buying tickets ahead of time to optimize seating is recommended.
A permanent exhibition of Bodies is running at the Luxor. If you don’t have access to this exhibit in your own city, a visit to Las Vegas is a perfect opportunity to see it.
Bodies displays real human bodies that have been preserved and dissected to give visitors a first-hand understanding of how the body works. The exhibit methodically moves through the skeletal, muscular, respiratory, and circulatory systems.
The information is structured for adults, not children, and even the kids’ audio guide was sophisticated, but this is a complicated topic. At first blush the exhibit is gruesome, but then it becomes very clinical and is truly fascinating. There’s not a book in the world that can teach a no smoking lesson faster than the side-by-side display of the healthy and the smoker’s lung. I recommend Bodies for ages 9 and up. Tickets are $32 for General Admission, $24 for ages 4-12, and kids 3 and younger are free.
The Titanic exhibit is adjacent to the Bodies exhibit at the Luxor. The Exhibition tells the story of the Titanic and showcases real artifacts from the journey, including a monster piece of the hull.
What makes this exhibit fun for kids is the recreation of portions of the ship including the Grand Staircase, as well as the outer Promenade Deck complete with ice and stars; it’s easy to imagine what it was like on this historic journey.
We appreciated the stories of the passengers on the Titanic. It’s not just a revolutionary ship that sank, but a ship with people on it from all walks of life and incredible stories. Tickets are $32 for General Admission, $24 for ages 4-12, and kids 3 and younger are free.
This mammal-focused experience the Mirage is a treat, particularly the Dolphin Habitat where trainers are actively working with and studying the bottlenose dolphins in a replica of their natural habitat.
Although the dolphins do tricks, this is not a scripted show and guests get very close in to see how the trainers interact with these amazing animals. They also have a nursery pool with baby dolphins playing and swimming with toys.
The Secret Garden contains Black Panthers, Golden Tigers, Leopards, Lions, White Lions, and White Tigers. I had mixed emotions about this exhibit. Although it was wonderful to see these animals in such an intimate environment, their home here is awfully small compared to their natural habitat – an inevitable feature of zoo life. The fact is that the opportunity for people to understand the magic of these animals helps ensure kids will grow up with conservation in mind. Adults are $19.95 and children 4 to 12 are $14.95. Children 3 and under are free.
Where to Stay
We stayed at the Four Seasons Hotel Las Vegas, an ideal home-base from which to enjoy the city as a family. Positioned at the far end of the strip, it’s set away from the constant barrage of noise and adult activity. Guests enter the hotel through a private entrance both outside and from Mandalay Bay. The Four Seasons has no in-house casino. The big news is that the hotel has a brand new look; check out my review on the Four Seasons family website for the full scoop.
Editorial Note: Ciao Bambino received complimentary admission to these attractions in order to review them for families. As always, our opinions are our own. Photos by Amie O’Shaughnessy