Though Las Vegas is really starting to embrace its reputation as an adult verison of Disneyland, the city still offers family travelers options both on and off the Strip. You just need to know where to look and how to find them. One of my favorite things to do with my kids, ages 8 and 5 years old, is to explore the Strip, and expose them to the culture we do have here. Cirque du Soleil introduced their first show in Las Vegas, Mystere, over 15 years ago, and gave vacationers and residents an opportunity to be entertained by a group of extremely talented international performers. Since then, they have established themselves as a “Must See” in terms of adding a show to your list when visiting Las Vegas. There are many family friendly Cirque du Soleil shows, and as a local, I’m often asked which ones I would recommend. I’ve compiled a list of my top 3, and a brief description of the rest, to help you find the one that is right for your family travel needs.
Make sure you get updated information on show times (there’s usually an early show and a late show), and when the shows are Dark (meaning they are not showing that particular night). Keep in mind that if you are late or at certain points throughout the show, you may not be able to enter/exit due to the unique contrstuction of each show’s stage, which allows for the performers to be pretty interactive with the audience. Also, if you are bringing your younger ones, seat cushions are available to give them a slight boost in height so they are able to see the stage. Cirque du Soleil has a policy for all shows that children must be 5 and up in order to enjoy the performances. All of these shows are fantastic to attend without the kiddies as well!*
The Beatles Love at the Mirage
Hands down my absolute favorite Cirque du Soleil show. If you are a Beatles fan, then you want to put this show on the top of your must-see list. Last year, the show celebrated its fifth year running at the Mirage Resort. The show also boasts of two Grammy Awards won in 2008. In The Beatles Love Cirque du Soleil, the art work and the concepts of the music, all come to life on a stage made to enhance the sounds and your immagination. It is a truly tantalizing feast for the eyes, everywhere you look, your mind is engaged in some aspect of the music. I had seen the show when it first debut in 2006, but I was reminded how much I love Love when we recently took our older children. My son is 7 and my daughter is 5. Unfortunately, she was a bit too young for this show, as she fell fast asleep (we saw the early show at 7:30pm), which was probably a good thing as I think most of it would have been lost on her. My son, however, was mesmerized from the start.
And, though there were times I was concerned about the maturity of the piece, the politcism and symbolism of the music that is depicted in many of the scenes, he seemed way more interested in the music and the band members and the fact they were from England. He talked about the show everyday for a week, has asked me to download the Beatles music into his iPod Touch, and wants to know everything there is to know about Ringo Starr (my son also plays the drums). I would recommend The Beatles Love Cirque du Soleil for children ages 8 and up.**
Zarkana at Aria Las Vegas
Replacing Viva Elvis! in 2012, Zarkana brings back the excitement of Cirque to the resort’s Zarkana Theater. In search of his long, lost love, Zark, a Circus Ringleader for a vintage inspired Italian circus, takes show goers on a journey through his whimsical and romantic love story. The costumes and set design are fabulous, and on display up close and personal in the Zarkana gift shop before entering the theater. The gift shop itself is a fun place to bring the littles to review prior to seeing the show so they understand what the theme and costumes will be like. One of my favorite aspects of Zarkana is the theater itself. Very comfortable, every seat in the house is a good one, and sound is a comfortable level with speakers lined in the seats.
The vintage circus theme is visually stimulating and inviting, making you feel like you are really at a circus. The Italian opera-like chants are actually sung in Cirquespeak- a made up language incorporating words from Russian, Italian, Spanish, French and more. Younger audiences will love the circus clowns, who come prepared with fart jokes and all. A few quick scenes that may be a bit scary (fantasy characters in costumes) or adult-ish, but nothing that will really stand out to your kids. Ages 5 and up would be recommended for this family-fun show.
Michael Jackson ONE at Madalay Bay
From the moment the music starts, fans of Michael Jackson from the early days and on, will instantly fall in love with the new Michael Jackson ONE show at Mandalay Bay. Be sure to arrive on time and be seated as lights dim so you can enjoy the pre-show. Jackson’s biggest hits play from his early days until his latest hits. The story is reminiscent of his movie hit, “The Wiz”, as four geeky-looking Cirque “teens” embark on an exploration of going from geek to chic by discovering an iconic symbol of Jackson’s along the way (hat, glove, sunglasses, etc.) that helps them fine their inner strength and become powerfully amazing.
One of the best parts of the show was the exciting theatrical effects that take you away to a different place and time. Without giving away too much, you will be amazed with the realistic touches. You will want to get out of your seat and dance and sing the entire show. The show itself may seem a tad long for those 5-7 years old. I would recommend bringing along the 8 and up crowd.
Other Cirque du Soleil Shows
Mystere at Treasure Island
It’s the original, so how can you go wrong? A true “circus” act featuring all kinds world class performances by Cirque du Soleil. Acrobats, balancing acts, contortionists, trapeeze artists, clowns…a fantastic family show that will keep your little ones and you entertained the whole time. The music and costumes are captivating, and those Cirque performers make their stunts look so easy! I would recommend Mystere by Cirque du Soleil for kids 5 and up.
“O” at the Bellagio: This is a beautiful, romantic show. It is one of my favorites to see with my husband and girlfriends, but I would not recommend taking younger children to this show. The energy is different and younger children may bore easily. I would recommend “O” for kids 10 and up.
Ka at the MGM Grand: When you ask people about Ka, it seems like they either loved it or didn’t love it. I’m of the opinion of the latter. It’s not my favorite show; hoever, it gets great reviews. I found it to be a bit too masculine, as the underlying theme is about war and adventure and fighting. The acts and stage are quite impressive, and if you or your kids are into martial arts, they will most likely love this show. I would recommend Ka for kids 8 and up.
Zumanity at New York New York: Here’s the thing: you don’t want to take your kids to this show. In fact, I’m pretty sure they are not allowed. Touted as the “Sensual Side” to Cirque du Soleil, it’s best to keep this show for a date night.
Criss Angel Believe at Luxor: I have to be honest here, I’ve never seen this show and I don’t know much about it. If you have seen it, leave some comments below about whether or not you would recommend this as family friendly.
*For all shows, children under the age of 18 must be accompanied by an adult.
** If your children are claustrophobic or frighten easily, be advised there is a brief part during “Octopus’s Garden” where a white sheet extends over the crowd, as well as some flashing white lights.