If you're looking for a great family vacation spot, be sure to put Las Vegas on your list of destinations to consider. While gambling and nightlife might be the first things that come to mind when you think of Las Vegas, you might be surprised to learn that the city has tons of fun, family-friendly activities and attractions that everyone in your household is sure to enjoy regardless of age.
There are plenty of great activities to enjoy with your children in Las Vegas. Bob Diener, Co-Founder of Getaroom.com states, "There are many options for Las Vegas kid friendly travel excursions, and they are fun for parents too!"
Sweet Treat Attractions
If your child has a sweet tooth and you don't mind feeding it while you're on vacation, visit one or more of the great candy-themed attractions in and around Las Vegas.
- M&M's World Las Vegas is a four-story 28,000 square foot store on the Las Vegas Strip dedicated to the candy for which it is named. You'll find all kinds of branded merchandise and - of course - plenty of M&M's candy. You can even create your own personalized M&M's in your favorite colors imprinted with the messages of your choice.
- The Chocolate Fountain at JP Chocolates in Bellagio is recognized as the tallest chocolate fountain by the Guinness World Records. This freestanding cascading fountain is a sight to behold for chocolate lovers of all ages, and the sweet treats available in the store are a tasty delight.
- Ethel M Chocolate Factory is located in Henderson, just outside of Las Vegas. Visitors can take a self-guided tour of the company's factory that includes a glimpse of the factory, information about the chocolate-making process and - of course - taste testing. With lucky timing, you may actually get to see chocolate being made, though the machinery is not in operation every day.
There are a number of wildlife-oriented exhibits and attractions throughout Las Vegas that everyone in your family is likely to find fascinating.
- Mandalay Bay's Shark Reef aquarium allows visitors a chance to view more than 2,000 aquatic animals, including many kids of fish, sea turtles, crocodiles and much more. View sea life in 1.6 million gallons of water through the glass, or consider participating in a behind-the-scenes animal encounter or even dive with the sharks if your kids are older and you're adventure-minded.
Siegfried and Roy's Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat at the Mirage provides an educational and enjoyable look at dolphins (in the Dolphin Habitat) and big cats (in the Secret Garden). You'll have an opportunity to see and learn about dolphins, tigers, lions, panthers and more.
The Wildlife Habitat at the Flamingo covers 15 acres and is home to many types of exotic birds, including flamingos, parrots, pelicans, swans, ducks and more. The exhibit also features turtles and fish. Kids are sure to enjoy having a chance to view these animals.
Kids can enjoy age-appropriate thrills and excitement at the many amusement ride venues throughout the Vegas area.
- Adventuredome is an indoor theme park at Circus Circus. It features 25 rides and attractions, from kiddie rides to thrill rides like roller coasters. Non-ride attractions include miniature golf, a rock climbing wall, free clown shows and fun midway games.
- Big Apple Coaster provides an opportunity to ride a roller coaster located on the roof of the New York New York casino, something that tweens are sure to enjoy along with their parents (you must be at least 54" tall to ride the coaster). Younger kids can enjoy the attached arcade with the rest of the family.
- Adventure Canyon Log Ride is about 40 miles outside the city, at Buffalo Bill's Resort & Casino in Primm, Nevada. It's a perfect spot for the entire family to cool off during an off-strip day trip. This attraction combines a traditional log ride that also features interactive 'Wild West' adventure elements.
There are a number of kid-friendly museums in Las Vegas, including some featured on educational exhibits and others that are pure fun.
Las Vegas Natural History Museum features a variety of exhibits featuring dinosaurs and other prehistoric life, treasures from Egyptian history, wildlife from Nevada and around the world, marine life and geology. In the Young Scientist Center, kids can become a scientist for a day via interactive exhibits and activities.
Discovery Children's Museum is a hands-on interactive museum designed to be fun and educational for elementary school age children. Museum exhibits focus primarily on science and creativity, emphasizing topics like sustainability, inventing, healthy living, investigating and creating.
Madame Tussauds Las Vegas is a great attraction for people of all ages with its life-like wax figures of historical figures, celebrities and icons of popular culture. One of the newest exhibits features figures of the Marvel Super Heroes paired with a 4D cinema experience.
Casino activities aren't the only gaming opportunities in Las Vegas. There are a number of great arcades where you don't have to be 21 to enjoy playing video games or midway-style carnival games.
- Fun Dungeon, located inside Excalibur has more than 150 fun games for kids. There are many options, including carnival midway games, arcade games and sports games. A number of the games offer opportunities to win redemption prizes. Treats from Dairy Queen and Orange Julius are available for sale in the Fun Dungeon.
- Pinball Hall of Fame provides a chance for parents to show their kids what video games were like before the days of multimedia and Internet-based gaming became so popular. Enjoy playing pinball on vintage machines from "the world's largest pinball collection" with profits earmarked for charitable activities.
- Kids Planet is an indoor playground where young children can enjoy a variety of arcade games and other activities such as jumping in inflatables and rolling around in a ball pit while parents relax and unwind. The dining area even has high-chairs for the youngest members of the family.
Sports Attractions and Activities
Kids who love sports - or just being active - are sure to enjoy visiting one or more of the city's athletic attractions.
- Score! Interactive Sports Exhibit is a 10,000 square foot attraction designed to appeal to sports fans of all ages. You'll have an opportunity to participate in challenges, get involved in fantasy sports experiences and see memorabilia from all kind of professional sports teams in a fun stadium-like setting.
- The Sport Center of Las Vegas is a great place for active youngsters (and others in the family) to release some energy in a fun environment. Activities include batting cages, go-karts, an indoor rock-climbing wall and even trapeze classes.
- Freedom Park is a great spot for active families to participate in sporting activities while visiting Las Vegas. The park features playground areas, a place to play horseshoes, a spot for skateboarding, bocce courts, a path for walking and jogging a swimming pool and more.
Consider setting aside a day or two to enjoy a tour of some of the wonders located within a few hours of the heart of Las Vegas.
- Hoover Dam tours are available by bus, Hummer or other off-road 4 X 4 vehicles. When you arrive at the dam, you'll enjoy a guided tour inside the marvel of the dam, an engineering marvel known as one of the Wonders of the World. Some tours also include a boat ride on Lake Mead.
- Grand Canyon tours are available from Las Vegas by bus, helicopter or small airplane. One tour even takes you on a pontoon boat ride on the Colorado River for spectacular views from the water once you arrive at the Canyon by air.
- Rafting the Colorado River is a great outdoor-oriented activity for families traveling with older children. A number of tour companies pick up in Las Vegas for float trips down the Colorado River that provide spectacular views of the Grand Canyon.
The area surrounding Las Vegas is strikingly beautiful and filled with opportunities to enjoy the beauty of nature and the history of the Las Vegas Valley.
- Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area is less than 20 miles away from the Strip, though it seems to be a world away. The nearly 200,000 acre park features great opportunities for outdoor activities like hiking, mountain biking rock climbing, horseback riding and simply enjoying the beauty of nature.
- Mount Charleston is the highest peak in the southern part of Nevada and is located just about 15 miles away from the Strip. Here, you can enjoy hiking, bicycling and camping when the weather is warm. During the winter, it is the perfect place to enjoy skiing, snowboarding and other winter outdoor activities.
- Las Vegas National Wildlife Refuge provides outstanding opportunities to observe local wildlife in its natural habitat via a scenic driving loop, a number of hiking trails and an observation deck. Depending on season, you may see elk, aquatic life, many types of birds and more.
Education and fun go hand-in-hand with a visit to one of the historical or cultural attractions in Las Vegas and the surrounding area.
- Springs Preserve provides an opportunity to learn about the history and culture of the Las Vegas area with exhibits that will appeal to kids. Attractions at the Preserve include the Nevada State Museum, the Origen Museum, the DesertSol solar powered house, botanical gardens, wildlife, hiking trails and more.
- Old Las Vegas Mormon Fort is part of the Nevada State Parks system. It is located in downtown Las Vegas, where a fort was built in 1855 by the first non-native settlers of the Las Vegas Valley (who were Mormon missionaries). Exhibits include interpretive exhibits (including what is left of the fort), artifacts and historical information.
- Nevada State Railroad Museum is located in the Nevada town of Boulder City, which is about a 45 minute drive from Las Vegas. Children will enjoy viewing the train and railroad oriented museum and taking an excursion ride on the Nevada Southern Railway train.
Great Shows for Kids
There is no shortage of live entertainment in Las Vegas, with numerous choices appropriate for children to attend with their families.
- The Popovich Comedy Pet Theatre at Planet Hollywood Casino combines laughs and animals for a unique and child-friendly entertainment experience. Diener recommends this show as one of the best options for families, saying that it has "great kid-friendly acts and tricks with dogs and cats."
- Blue Man Group, housed at the Monte Carlo Resort and Casino, is a high energy show appropriate for adults and youngsters alike. Diener recommends it for families, saying that the show features "all kinds of acts and crazy gadgets that the kids will love, paired with great music."
- Jeff Civillico Comedy in Action at Quad Resort & Casino is an afternoon comedy show featuring everything from high risk juggling (balls of fire, chain saws and bowling balls) to high wire unicycle riding. According to Diener, this show is great for families because Civillico "takes child volunteers from the audience and puts on a great show for the kids."
- Cirque du Soleil has numerous shows at different venues throughout Las Vegas, many of which are family friendly. Cirque shows that are kid-friendly include Mystere (Treasure Island), Ka (MGM Grand), Zarkana (Aria) and The Beatles Love (Mirage).
Just like there are plenty of child-friendly attractions and shows in Las Vegas, there are also a number of family-oriented dining options.
- Rainforest Café at MGM is a great choice for families according to Diener., who describes it as a "family themed restaurant with sounds of the rainforest." You'll walk beneath the arch of a saltwater aquarium to enter and dine in a re-creation of a tropical rainforest. Menu items carry forward the theme, with items like Planet Earth Pasta and a Sparkling Volcano brownie the family can share.
- The Margaritaville Restaurant is located inside the casino of the same name. It features a special menu just for kids, so you know your youngsters are welcome inside this tropical-themed casual dining establishment. Your children can enjoy a Cheeseburger in Paradise, chicken or kid-friendly seafood dish. The restaurant also has gluten-free options.
- Serendipity 3 Las Vegas in Caesar's Palace is a fun and funky casual eatery that kids will love thanks to its terrific kids' menu and impressive selection of desserts. Children will love tasty corn dogs, spaghetti and meatballs, macaroni and cheese, mini cheeseburgers and more. Desserts include a Deep Fried Oreo Sundae and Apple Cobbler.
There are plenty of great family-friendly hotels to consider. A few options include:
- Mandalay Bay is a great hotel choice if your kids enjoy water activities, which is one reason why it is Oyster.com's choice for the city's best kid-friendly hotel. The resort features a private (hotel guests only) beach fronting a wave pool with 1.6 million gallons of water. There are three other pools, a lazy river and a number of whirlpools. Diener praises Mandalay Bay's "huge pools with lazy river" as ideal for families. Cabana and bungalow rentals are available. Restaurants feature kid-friendly food, and other attractions (such as Shark Reef) also appeal to children.
- Luxury Suites International at the Signature on the grounds of MGM Grand is also one of Diener's recommendations for families staying on the Strip. There is no gaming at the hotel and it is smoke-free, for a quiet and family-oriented atmosphere. One and two bedroom suites are available to accommodate all size families. There are heated swimming pools, and on-site deli and more. It is ranked among the top ten best overall Vegas hotels on TripAdvisor, with many positive reviews from guests traveling with children.
Don't count out Las Vegas when planning a family getaway. There are plenty great entertainment options for all ages - from young children to tweens and teenagers, as well as for grown-ups. While many attractions require fees, you can find plenty of free activities to participate in with the ones you love. You just might find that a Vegas vacation is exactly what your family needs.