This is the second in the series "Taking the Kids to Vegas? Really?"
Part 1: Intro and Helpful Hints
Part 2: This page
Part 3: Where to stay
Part 4: Where to eat
Part 5: Deals and Finagles
This is primarily directed to families with children 10 and under, although many of the activities can be enjoyed by people of all ages simply looking for a break from the casinos.
What to Do with your Kids in Las Vegas
Let's start with the most important lesson of all:
Not Circus Circus
Also, for those who don't remember, Circus Circus doesn't have a circus. It has a single minute-long circus act every fifteen minutes. That's great if you are pro-intermission, since it leaves fourteen minutes of waiting until the next one. With the exception of the steakhouse, pretty much everything else at Circus Circus is gross. The midway features the unwinnable games that you can also play at the state fair. The Adventuredome might be ok for teenagers, but I don't think I would have liked it if it had existed when I was a teenager. I took my daughter there once and she wanted to leave after about 5 minutes.
Excalibur is basically the same thing, but with ostensibly merry minstrels instead of clowns.
OK, I get it. Now please just give me some information I can use.
I'll be honest: most of the things we do with our kids in Vegas we could do at home, but we rarely do. Some things we just don't really have to time to do except when we are on vacation. I'll cover a few things unique to Vegas and several things you could do anywhere.
Most of these activities cost under $10 per person without discounts (in 2012), unless otherwise noted. Prices are subject to change, and I may not update them accordingly. I've provided links to websites wherever possible, so you can check for current prices. If I'm aware of easily available discounts or coupons, I'll note them. I'll talk more about coupons in a later post.
Activities on the StripThere is the assortment of spectacles that are unique to Las Vegas. Some of these are free; others are quite expensive. I can't think of any of them that are inexpensive but not free. We usually take our kids to one or two of the free spectacles, such as the Bellagio fountains and conservatory. We rarely go to the paid spectacles. For those I will punt to a better description in your Frommers' guide or at some of the other web guides such as the one on Vegas.com.
Note: the pirate show at the Treasure Island is a pretty entertaining show for the money (free - although somewhat hokier since the gentleman pirates became lady pirates). However, our young children have found the pyrotechnics and staged explosions to be frightening. It might be better suited for kids above the age of, say, 7 or 8.
We also once went to see Popovich's Comedy Pet Theater when our kids were about 2 and 5. The show was pretty good, small-animal and juggling type acts similar to what you would see in a circus. However, the seating is regular chairs on a floor, so our kids could not see from their seats at all. We asked for a refund and were accommodated. I suggest if you go with very young children, try to sit in the front row, or as close as possible.
I believe the show was about $25 per person through goldstar.com, although that is just a guess, since it was 2 years ago. When I checked today goldstar was not offering tickets for that show.
One of these days we may also take the kids to see Tony and Tina's Wedding, which is expensive (discounted tickets start at $45 per person, but include dinner). This is open to ages 5 and up. I've heard that the actors never break character, even when in the restroooms.
If you have never seen it, the Hoover Dam is worth the trip. It's about an hour drive to the southeast in Boulder City, and it is truly spectacular. The tour is quite impressive, especially for engineering/construction/archtecture buffs. This is probably more for the parents than the kids, but kids are welcome. Try to get your tickets online (adults $11, children 4-16 $9, parking $7 per car) because the lines can be long.
Red Rock Canyon has some nice hiking trails if you need a break from the smoke and the neon. It's at the west edge of the valley, about 10 miles from the Strip. Day pass is $7 per car.
There are movie theaters all over town, including most of the off-strip casinos, such as Orleans, the various Station Casinos, the Palms, and others. The past several summers, a few of the Regal Cinema locations offered free children's movies on certain weekday mornings, and they may continue this in the future. I don't think any of the free movies were in casino locations.
Las Vegas seems to be obsessed with bowling for some reason. Many of the large off-strip casinos have huge bowling alleys open 24 hours a day, including all of the Coast (Boyd) casinos, Station casinos, and the South Point. I've seen discounts on weekdays or at odd but potentially kid-friendly hours such as in the early morning. It's a good idea to call to see if lanes are available because sometimes they have league bowling. Also, some of the alleys have automatic bumpers but some don't, so you can ask about that too.
Putt Park, in the southwest corner of town. It's only a few years old, and the only miniature golf course I've seen in the western U.S. built within the last 30 years. There are a few other indoor miniature golf courses, including King Putt, the Kiss golf course (who knew?), and one open only to adults (Swingers Club at the Plaza hotel downtown).
Every time we've been to Vegas with kids, we've spent a full morning at the Lied Discovery Children's Museum. The ground floor has areas where kids can pretend to have various jobs (auto mechanic, etc) and go "shopping" in a mock store. The second floor has science exhibits. Parents usually are ready to go before kids are. If you are already a member of a similar museum, it may have reciprocal privileges and you may be able to get in free or at a discount if you bring your membership card.
The small Natural History Museum is across the street. You can see all of the museum in about an hour or less. It has a live baby shark tank and some other live animals also.
We have been to both of these:
- Desert Breeze Water Park in Las Vegas, about 5 miles west of the Strip (shown in picture)
- Whitney Ranch Activity Pool in Henderson
There are several other similar pools run by Parks and Recreation Departments of both Las Vegas and Henderson as well. You are looking for the activity pools, with waterslides/etc, so ask about that if you call them.
We haven't been to either of these, mainly because we have been going to Vegas in the middle of the summer. Last summer we were about to go to go to the Springs Preserve on a particular day but it was just too hot, so we stayed at the pool.
That should keep you busy for about a week.
Next in the series: Where to stay? The answer may surprise you. Or maybe it won't, if you already see where I've been going with this.