Las Vegas is often described as the ultimate playground for adults to let loose and blow off steam. But during a family trip, I discovered a surprising number of wholesome activities geared toward kids.
When I first heard my family had decided to spend a long “family” weekend in Las Vegas as part of a yearly get-together, I worried we would have trouble entertaining the entire clan, including my 7-, 10- and 12-year-old cousins. But it turns out Sin City really does have something for everyone.
Casino Time, Kid-Style
Many casinos have incorporated elaborate ways to keep children busy while parents sneak in a bit of gambling. With that in mind, we headed straight to the Strip upon arrival to Las Vegas. To make sure everyone got a chance to test their luck at the tables, we developed a top-notch, rotation-based kid-sitting system.
The strategy worked beautifully. But, surprisingly, hanging with the youngsters often turned out to be my favorite part of the day. We wandered around exhibits at the casinos and rode the 203-foot Big Apple Roller Coaster at New York–New York, which features a few big drops and a loop-de-loop in front of the casino’s not-quite-to-scale Statue of Liberty.
One day, we turned our attention to Excalibur, the landmark casino at the south end of the Strip that looks like a giant colorful castle (my 7-year-old cousin, the youngest child on our trip, was easily the most excited about this one). There’s even a dinner show featuring jousting knights! Later, we marveled at the giant faux volcano at the Mirage, which spews real fire into the air periodically to the delight of both children and adults. For even more fun, you can check out the beautiful fountain and light show at the Bellagio, which is choreographed to music.
The best part of all these attractions? My aunt and uncle were easily able to pop by in between tables to check on my young cousins and make sure they stayed in line.
The Strip is deceptively long and can get blisteringly hot during the summer. Beat the heat by using the monorail, on the west side, to get around.
Kids typically hate tagging along on shopping trips, so while I’m not saying we tricked the kids in our family into doing it, we certainly disguised it (with plenty of help from the brilliant minds that designed Town Square Las Vegas). Located just south of the Strip, this shopping center has plenty of stores for everyone — from Sephora (for my wife) to Tommy Bahama (for my dad) to Saks Fifth Avenue (for everyone).
The real highlight, however, is a children’s park featuring a maze, an epic treehouse with slides and a climbing wall, a playground and — best of all — a pop-jet fountain, where jets of cool water squirt up from the ground. (Honestly, I enjoyed that as much as my cousins).
On Fremont Street, the Downtown Container Park also features open-air shopping, entertainment and an interactive playground — all built from shipping containers.
One of our favorite outings was to the city’s Neon Museum, located about 15 minutes north of the Strip, which is dedicated to the glitz and glamour of yesteryear. It houses a vast collection of discarded Vegas signage, no doubt torn down to make way for things bigger and brighter. In a town where everything competes for attention, it was fascinating to see the signs that didn’t make the cut, such as the one from the Sahara, a hotel-casino in which I stayed a number of years ago, before it closed in 2011.
Most of the museum is outdoors, and the enormous signs are strewn about in a way that makes the place feel like a crazy, colorful junkyard. The kids loved it. Make sure to take a few selfies here.
There is no shortage of sweet treats at M&M’s World, located right next door to the MGM Grand. Enter the four-story chocolate paradise, make your way past the (slightly over-priced) branded merchandise and spend some time in the room that houses the legendary confection in every color imaginable. Mixing signature combinations has never been so much fun — and that was something my entire family could agree on.
Where to Stay:
Marriott’s Grand Chateau®