As we caught our first glimpse of the Las Vegas Strip driving from McCarran International Airport to our hotel, my five year old daughter commented, “Las Vegas is crazy.” She paused and smiled, quickly following up her initial observation with a qualification, “but in a good way.”
When my husband and I told friends that we were taking a five year old and 18 month old to Las Vegas for part of spring break, quite a few thought we were, in fact, crazy. Although I’m always up for an adventure with my family, I must admit that even I had my doubts.
My daughter’s strangely wise words ultimately summed up my family’s next few days in Las Vegas to a tee. Our travels to Sin City were indeed crazy at moments. But they were almost always crazy in a good way.
If you are ready to join the ranks of slightly crazy Las Vegas-bound traveling parents, here are seven tips and recommendations for bringing young kids to Las Vegas:
1. Start Early
Most Las Vegas visitors stay up late partying and gambling, so it is remarkably peaceful in the morning on the Strip. The crowds grow exponentially around lunch time. Make sure to be out the door and in line for kid-friendly Vegas attractions as soon as they open (often 10 a.m.) to make the most of your family’s time.
2. Pre-plan for Transportation On the Strip
If you have young kids of car seat age, taking a taxi doesn’t really work for travel up and down the Las Vegas Strip. Walking may also be a challenge with little ones, and driving your own car is a tedious process with distant parking garages.
With kids, consider instead taking the bus called “The Deuce” that goes up and down the Strip. Car seats are not needed, although be prepared that the bus is a bit slow and can sometimes be crowded or even full at peak times. You must remove your children from strollers to ride, so bring a compact umbrella stroller and be ready to fold it up and carry your child aboard. Kids five and under are free and discount 24 hour passes are a great value for the adults ($8 per person as of spring 2015; exact change is needed to buy on board).
3. Visit These Kid-friendly Activities on the Strip Worth Your Time & Money
Kid-friendly attractions abound in Las Vegas, much to our surprise. One of our family’s favorites was Siegfried & Roy’s Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat, which was located in a truly serene location at the Mirage. The admission price to see majestic white tigers and beautiful dolphins (which included all-day reentry privileges) was definitely quite reasonable for pricey Vegas.
Also getting high marks with our little ones was the High Roller at the LINQ (a giant enclosed Ferris wheel with great views of the Strip at night), the Mandalay Bay’s Shark Reef Aquarium, and riding our very own gondola at the Venetian hotel.
4. Take in Vegas’ Free Sights
Las Vegas is skilled at finding ways to part travelers from their money, so finding freebies worth doing in Sin City is a necessity. Otherwise, tickets for four or more people can really add up for families. We enjoyed the Bellagio’s fountains and conservatory as well as watching the volcano at The Mirage, but there are numerous free activities in Las Vegas suitable for families.
5. It’s not that Difficult to Avoid the Risqué in Vegas
My biggest worry about Las Vegas was how much nudity we’d encounter and have to explain to my daughter. We frankly encountered very little other than a few scantily clad street performers and a discarded strip club flyer or two on the ground. It wasn’t that difficult to avoid the adult side of Vegas, which put my mind at ease. Just don’t keep your kids out until the wee hours when the more questionable side of Vegas comes out.
6. Take in an Evening Show
Las Vegas shows are legendary and it would be a shame to miss out just because you have kids in tow. Luckily, you don’t have to, as there are many shows that are kid-friendly. We had the chance to preview two that worked well.
The first of these was the truly weird and wonderful Blue Man Group at the Monte Carlo. My daughter marveled at a show that was made up of an eclectic mix of equal parts percussion, paint, eyeballs, Twinkies, marshmallows, and streamers. You’ll have to see it for yourself to believe me. (Note: Blue Man Group only allows kids ages five and up.)
Also a big hit was the Tournament of Kings dinner show at Excalibur. The food was surprisingly delicious and quite healthy (vegetables in Vegas!) and the show captivated our kids. What child wouldn’t enjoy horses, jousting, and knights in shining armor, complete with a classic tale of good versus evil? (Note: Be aware that the show does have a scary villain and is quite loud with pyrotechnic effects. Sensitive little ones may be scared at moments.)
7. Hire a Babysitter for a Parents’ Night Out.
If you’ve come all the way to Las Vegas, you might as well give yourself permission to have one kid-free evening to explore the grown-up entertainment options. My family has always had good luck hiring babysitters from nanny agencies on our vacations, and there are a number of local babysitting services that place background-checked nannies in Las Vegas. Your hotel’s concierge likely maintains a list of recommended companies.