When you think of Las Vegas, you think of Sin City and everything that term conjures up – drinking, gambling, night clubs, drunken weddings to strippers. While those adult activities are still there, Las Vegas is actually an incredibly family friendly vacation spot. Some might lament the “Disney-fication” of Vegas but I sure don’t. If you plan it right, a trip to Las Vegas with kids can be an excellent idea for a holiday.
When To Go
Las Vegas gets super hot in the Summer and chilly in the Winter – it is the desert after all. Don’t bank on being able to walk anywhere during the summer months – it’s just too hot. Forget about swimming in the winter – lots of the hotel pools aren’t heated and are closed during winter. Spring and Autumn make great times to visit.
Where To Stay
If you’re going for a short break, go during the week. Las Vegas hotels are incredibly good value on weekdays with prices tripling or quadrupling at the weekend. You can get a 4-star hotel room for US$60 a night if you’re prepared to forego staying a Friday and Saturday night. We found the hotel rooms in Planet Hollywood and The Palazzo very generous in size. Hotels will provide a cot/crib for babies or a rollaway bed for an older child. Most hotels only allow one cot/crib or extra bed per room and a maximum of two children. Click through to Lee’s site for descriptions of all the Las Vegas hotels and great rates on booking.
Kids would probably prefer the themed hotels like Circus Circus, Excalibur and New York New York – a bonus being these are among the cheapest hotels on The Strip. Mandalay Bay has an amazing pool area for kids with a shallow play area, beach and lazy river for tubing.
If you’re staying over a weekend or for more than a few nights, look into renting an apartment. Many of the hotels have adjacent residential towers like the Signature at MGM and Vdara & Veer at City Center. It’s cheaper to book them direct from the owners on sites like AirBnB and VRBO. Most are studios or one-bedrooms but there are occasionally two-bedrooms available. If you’re a large family, there are plenty of gorgeous houses to rent on these sites but you’d need a car to access them. If you’re renting off a vacation rental site, bring your own portacot/crib.
To and from the Airport, taxi is the best option. The fare to The Strip will cost you US$20-25 dollars (plus tip). The queue for taxis can be particularly long, especially if you’re arriving at the weekend.
Despite looking compact, the casinos and hotels along The Strip are a long walk from one another. Places on maps can look deceptively small due to the large scale of the blocks. To cross many of the roads you need to use elevated walkways – all of have escalators. If you’re using a stroller, you’ll find elevators but they’re not always in the most obvious place. You might need to walk to the back of the escalator or into a casino to find them.
The Deuce is a double-decker bus the runs up and down The Strip as far as Downtown. Be warned – it can get very crowded! It’s US$5 for two hours or US$7 for a 24 hour ticket. The bus is free for kids under five. You need exact change to buy tickets on board. Some stops have an electronic ticket machine but you’ll need exact change for these also. Don’t buy your ticket until you can see the bus coming, especially if you’re just getting a two hour ticket – sometimes it takes 20 minutes for a bus to arrive though in theory they arrive every 12 minutes. Strollers must be folded up before boarding which is almost impossible if you’re travelling alone with a child. If you’re holding a baby or toddler you must be seated – if there aren’t any seats the driver will make someone move for you. The SDX (Strip & Downtown Express) is a single level express bus that makes four stops along The Strip. It also calls at Downtown, Premium Outlets North and Premium Outlets South. If you’re going to one of these destinations you can transfer from The Deuce to the SDX at one the shared stops on The Strip. You must have a ticket before boarding the SDX.
Taxis are a pretty cheap way of getting around. At most you’ll pay is around US$20 if you’re going from the South end of The Strip to the North, for example from Mandalay Bay to Circus Circus. Most short hops will cost US$10-12 – don’t forget you’ll need to add a couple of dollars tip to the fare.
What To Do
Although technically you have to be 21 to enter the casino, you can walk with your kids through casino floors provided that you don’t stop – even if you walk across the same piece of carpet, back and forth, while waiting for someone. Don’t even think about letting kids touch the gaming machines.
There is so much to see and do with kids in Vegas – animals, roller coasters, shows, not to mention the lights and sounds of just experiencing The Strip after dark. There is plenty to keep kids entertained.
Where To Shop
Shopping in Las Vegas is great value if you’re coming from outside the US, especially with the US dollar in it’s current, weak state. Clothes are cheap and Vegas is a great place to search for bargains at outlet stores.
There are two outlet malls near The Strip, one to the North and one to the South. Both malls have similar stores and you’ll find great kids clothing at Osh Kosh, Carters and even Ralph Lauren and Tommy Hilfiger. For a full list see their websites. For even cheaper prices on kids clothes, go to Ross Dress for Less. It’s a clearance store so you do have to hunt for bargains but when you find them they are well worth the effort – savings can be up to 70%. It’s particularly good for kids shoes – you can get a pair of Nike sneakers for US$15 and multiple piece sets – you can get a Calvin Klein set with pants, t-shirt and hoodie for US$12! There are two stores on The Strip – one opposite Monte Carlo and one up near Riviera. The latter is best – more spread out and less busy.
If you’re into retail rather than outlet shopping, head for Fashion Show Mall opposite Wynn or the Miracle Mile Shops in Planet Hollywood. You’ll find all the usual American chain clothing stores.
Where To Eat
Food courts are an easy and cheap place for families to eat. They’re in almost all the hotels plus the Fashion Show Mall. All the usual options are on offer – Chinese, burgers, pizza and pasta. They’re a good option if you’re trying to please multiple children or if your family is feeling too noisy and tired to patiently wait at a restaurant. You’ll find highchairs in all of them.
There are plenty of American fast casual and chain restaurants in the casinos. You’ll find all the usual suspects such as Cheesecake Factory, PF Changs, California Pizza Kitchen, Planet Hollywood and Hard Rock Cafe. All make good options for dining with little ones with cheap kids menus and crayons for colouring. Rainforest Cafe at MGM is one of the more expensive options but the atmosphere and entertainment value is worth it – animatronic creatures, waterfalls, piped in jungle noise and a thunder & lightening show every 20 minutes.
If you want to eat at one of the casual or fine dining unique restaurants in the casinos, go out for lunch instead of dinner. Waitstaff and other patrons will be more forgiving of any noise and mess. Highchairs are available but you won’t find any kids menus at these places. Some restaurants don’t mind making special orders for kids but if all else fails a side of fries can keep them quiet while you enjoy your meal.
Buffets are good value in Vegas and the pick and choose aspect is great for kids, especially fussy eaters. There will be something everyone will like. All the buffets offer good pizza, pasta, Chinese, burgers, ribs, meats, salads and vegetables. There are lots of sweets and desserts on offer – ice cream, make-your-own sundaes, frozen custard, toffee apples and cotton candy. The best buffets are at Planet Hollywood, Cosmopolitan and Wynn. The queues at some are incredibly long, Paris and Rio in particular could see you waiting 45 minutes to be seated. Pricing policies vary from casino to casino but generally kids under five (but sometimes three) eat free with kids under 12 (but sometimes 10) receiving discounts around 50%. Soft drinks are included in the price and you’ll need to leave a tip for your server. Lunch is always much cheaper than dinner and if you time it so you eat lunch late you can get away with a snack for dinner. There’s also a 24-hour buffet pass which costs US$45 per adult and covers seven of the casinos (including Caeser’s Palace, Planet Hollywood, Paris and Rio). If you time it well you can get four meals out of it – late dinner on the first night then breakfast, lunch and an early dinner the next day.