Published December 17, 2011
| Lonely Planet
Las Vegas half-heartedly sells itself as a family vacation destination. Because the legal gambling age is 21, many casino hotels and resorts would rather you simply left the little ones at home. Some high-end casino hotels even prohibit strollers from being on their grounds. State law prevents all minors from being in the gaming areas at all times.
But it’s not all bad news if you want to take kids to Vegas – the place is actually full of family-friendly attractions and activities. Here’s just a taste:
Casino Hotels With Children in Mind
The only casino hotels on the Strip that specifically cater to children are Circus Circus and Excalibur. Acrobats and contortionists perform daily at Circus Circus, crowded with tots to teens.
Excalibur’s Tournament of Kings features real horses, battling knights and medieval damsels in distress. However, most casinos have virtual-reality and video game arcades, and many of the major resorts have fabulous pools, like Mandalay Bay’s wave pool, lazy river and beach. Note that children under 21 are not allowed in gaming areas.
Some of the Strip’s stage shows (including magic acts) welcome all ages. Kids can learn to do their own tricks at Houdini’s Magic Shop. For big productions, check out Kà, LOVE, Mac King, Mystère or Phantom. Don’t miss the nightly free Viva Vision light-and-sound show in downtown’s Fremont St, featuring 12.5 million lights under a four-block canopy.
Take Your Kids Along for the Ride
For high-speed thrills, head to Adventuredome at Circus Circus or New York–New York, where a roller coaster shoots out of the Coney Island Emporium. This four-minute ride includes lots of stomach-dropping dipsy-dos, high-banked turns, a 540-degree spiral and stellar Strip views, plus a heartline twist-and-dive maneuver, producing a sensation similar to the one felt by fighter pilots during a barrel roll. Teens will get a thrill atop the Stratosphere Tower and at Pole Position Raceway, and on Speed at the Sahara.
Sharks and Lions
Despite billboards advertising a great white shark looking oh-so menacing, you won’t see any great whites at Mandalay Bay. What you will see in this 1.6-million-gallon walk-through aquarium complex is 2000-plus large and small sharks, jellyfish, moray eels, stingrays and crocodiles. There’s even a shallow petting pool for kids.
Meanwhile, MGM’s glass-walled Lion Habitat showcases up to six magnificent felines daily, all descendants of the movie company’s original mascot. The big cats live on a ranch outside town, and only two are allowed in the enclosure simultaneously. Big cats often sprawl above onlookers’ heads inside the see-through walkway tunnel. The kid-friendly, tropical-themed Rainforest Café is nearby.
Get out of Town
Red Rock Canyon (20 miles west of Vegas) and Hoover Dam (30 miles southeast) are perfect day trips from the crowds, while Grand Canyon National Park (275 miles southeast) is a multiple-day excursion.
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