This post is a joint venture between Angela Tsai and Kendra Thornton, the former Director of Communications at Orbitz and mother of three from Chicago. Find Kendra’s top kid-friendly Vegas picks down below as well as her travel tips on Twitter at @kendrathornton.
It’s no shocker that Vegas gets a bum rap, kid-wise. It’s a place where babies are conceived, not raised, amiright? So it was a pleasant enough surprise to me, after many debaucherous excursions as a single gal, to discover that Sin City is actually … family-friendly. The Hollicks lived there for almost two years while Mike performed in The Lion King at the Mandalay Bay, and we found it quite comfy, colorful, and of course, hot. I gave birth to Max in Henderson, a suburb south of The Strip. Things were easy-peasy, affordable, and full of things to do. Here goes!
Angela Tsai’s picks:
As far as off-Strip hotels are concerned, this one in Summerlin oozes class without turning off locals with pretentiousness. You get all the amenities of many of the Strip hotels with none of the traffic, delirious tourists and hookers. It’s got stuff to do for the whole family, and it’s reasonably priced. That’s what I call a jackpot.
This resort has it all: a bowling alley that’s open pretty much round-the-clock (on the weekends they’ve got “Cosmic Bowling” with laser lights and fog machines); a swanky pool “backyard” with full food and beverage service, as well as cabana rentals; a 16-screen movie theater and IMAX complex if you want to escape the desert heat and blinking neon noise of the casino; aaaaaand the topper — a Kids Quest, an hourly drop-in child care in case you want to go play the tables or hit the spa. You’ve also got views of the majestic Aztec sandstone Red Rocks from your hotel room.
The Kids Quest has a ‘Tiny Tots’ area for kids 3 and under, with toys and activities (and don’t worry, your rugrat is always supervised). For older kids, there’s a huge maze and gym structure with slides, tunnels, ropes to climb, and of course the proverbial ball pit. Next to that is a basketball court. They also have a bar area where kids can order snacks and beer. Just kidding! Are you still reading?
You do have to complete some immunization forms and paperwork in order to drop your kids off, so check here to do some prep work before you go.
Here’s an upscale outdoor mall at the south end of The Strip with plenty for the kiddos. And you.
Find the Children’s Park right smack dab in the center of the European-inspired shopping complex, which features a tree house located within a 42-foot tall live oak tree with a rock wall, slides and a fort! Seriously? For the gals, the Princess Tower Playhouse has a connecting walkway and slides. When it’s hot (and boy it does get oven-hot 5 months out of the year!) the littles can splash around in the fountain water feature, or chase each other through a hedge maze with the animal topiaries. They can also get their choo-choo on in the trackless electric train, or ride the merry-go-round. And shopping? You can duck into the Apple Store or the Sanrio shop to seek shelter from the beating sun. As for food, there’re plenty of options for both grownups and kids, like our personal faves Crazy Pita, English’s, and the Yard House.
Oh me, oh my, of all the unsavory, unnerving creatures you can find in a casino! And now there are sharks too! In the middle of Nevada’s high desert resides the “Tunnel”, which houses five species of sharks and the aquarium’s largest animals; it’s designed to look like a sunken shipwreck and contains a whopping 1.3 million gallons of water. Your kids can walk through and get a scuba diver’s view. It’s not a full-out aquarium by any means, but your kiddo will be amazed. And if you happen to book a room at the Mandalay, you can watch the 24-hour Shark Reef channel to spy in the tunnel to your heart’s content.
If you’re looking for a fun show that’s more personal and intimate but just as mesmerizing as the Cirque shows (and at half the price!), look no further. This former “America’s Best Dance Crew” is an amazing hip hop tour de force, and the first dance crew to headline their own Vegas show. They don these eerie white masks and gloves, and the way they move brings a shocking smoothness to pop lock like I’ve never seen before. Years ago, I interviewed them when I was broadcasting for the Sacramento Kings, and Mike took me to this show for my birthday in 2010. We loved it. Back then they were at the MGM, but now they’re at the Luxor, so head on over! Note: they do use strobe lights and pulsating, loud music in their show, so this is best for the over 5-year-old set.
Kendra Thornton’s picks:
1. Rent a Houseboat
The cost of a family vacation can be exorbitant. If you’re on a budget, you’re likely seeking the cheapest accommodations available without suffering a drop in quality or service. If this sounds like you, consider renting a houseboat on Lake Mead. It’s a fantastic way to control how much you spend, helping you save money for other activities. Plus, you get to experience a quiet, peaceful stay on a serene lake.
There are accommodations for any type of family. Sites like Gogobot provide great “off the beaten path” tips and tricks, the site also allows you to read user reviews to see if where you’re planning on staying is the right fit for your family.
2. Frozen Hot Cocoa
This time of year, people in most other areas of the country are snuggling up with a steamy cup of hot cocoa. Just stop by Serendipity 3, a spin-off of the restaurant in New York City with by the same name. This venue is famous for their frozen hot cocoa, which is especially popular with the kids. All of their fare tastes exquisite, and nobody seems to be able to resist the frozen cocoa. Between the fun decor and delicious menu, you’re sure to have a memorable dining experience.
3. Las Vegas Springs Preserve
When many people think of Las Vegas, the first thing that comes to mind is a barren desert wasteland. Most people wouldn’t consider it a natural haven, but it truly is. Las Vegas Springs Preserve is a shining example of this unique and richly diverse ecosystem. Here, you can find not only a wide variety of native plants and animals but you can also hike the numerous trails or visit the on-site museum.
4. The Grand Canyon
No family vacation is complete without seeing one of the country’s most famous natural wonders, the Grand Canyon. This immensely wide and deep canyon will have your kids staring over the rails in awe. For an affordable fee, you can also board a helicopter and soar over the Grand Canyon, providing you with an especially breathtaking view.