Fun Things for Kids to do in Las Vegas

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I’m not sure that I totally buy into the “What Happens in Vegas Stays in Vegas” slogan that washed away any remnants of Vegas pitching themselves as a family friendly city, but it is clear that Vegas is not the family destination that it tried to be in the 90’s. I went as a kid in the 90’s and had a blast at the big pink Circus Circus Adventure Dome (shown below), at the MGM Grand Adventures theme park that used to be behind the Wizard of Oz themed MGM Grand, watching the “Buccaneer Bay” pirate show, and playing in the very large arcade at Treasure Island.

Fun at the Circus Circus Adventure Dome in 1994

Fun at the Circus Circus Adventure Dome in 1994

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Vegas Family Trip at Treasure Island

Well the Treasure Island pirate show has been turned into at a PG-13 “Sirens of TI” show, other than the still green exterior, the MGM has left the Emerald City theme, the MGM theme park has been gone for more than a decade, and the Treasure Island arcade is now largely the Kahunaville Restaurant, but the truth is that kids can still have a bunch of fun in Vegas.

Why Bring Kids to Vegas

Before I get into how kids can have fun in Vegas, I think you first have to look at whether you even want your kids with you in Las Vegas. While there are some family-friendly activities, clearly the city is currently designed around adult-oriented wants and desires like gambling, drinking, fine dining, shows, exclusive pools, and luxury accommodations. In Vegas people like to dress skimpy, drink to excess, stay up late, and party. If that is what you want to do while in Vegas, or you just don’t want your kids exposed to that, then perhaps leaving them behind might be a good decision.

I went to Vegas as a kid (and yes, that stuff still happened during the “family friendly years”), and I did notice some of the seedier sides of the city, but I think that just helped make me more aware. It didn’t cause me to drop out of school, run away from home, and become a prostitute. However, coming to Vegas as a kid probably did contribute to my love of the city, and my eventual wedding in Las Vegas… in a suite, not a drive-thru chapel, performed by a preacher, not Elvis (not that there is anything wrong with those options!).

I have been to Vegas pregnant, without my kiddo, and with my kiddo. Heck, we even had our maternity photos taken there by the awesome Chelsea Nicole, who also did my “trash the dress” photos after our wedding. Basically, Vegas is in our blood.

I brought my daughter when she was 2.5 years old for a couple reasons. The main ones were I didn’t want to leave her behind, and I knew we could still have fun even with her there. This was possible because my parents were also overlapping on some of the trip with us. Had they not been also going, it would have been very difficult to have a good Vegas trip with a 2.5 year old since it would have dramatically limited what we could do, where we could eat, etc. I don’t plan to take her back to Vegas until she can at least act like and pass off as a 5 year old (ah, we are starting the “pretending to be older” early….). I want her to be 5 so she can attend the Cirque shows (note that Mystere has no minimum age) and eat in the nicer restaurants (though I am seeing the minimum age requirement on fewer and fewer websites).

Activities for Kids in Vegas

Once you have decided you do want to bring your kiddos, then you need to identify some kid-friendly things for them to do. The good news is there are plenty of things for families. Some are on the strip, and some are off the strip. Here is a sampling of some of fun things we have done, or plan to do in the future.

Enjoy the hotel’s free attractions:

It isn’t that hard to impress a younger child, so show them things like the fish tanks or the colored floor at the Mirage, the fountains at the Bellagio, the singing performances at the Venetian, or the castle at the Excalibur, and it will be amazing!

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Visit attractions like the dolphins or Shark Reef:

When I visited last summer, you could get a special on three of the attractions at MGM hotels like the dolphins at the Mirage, Roller Coaster at New York York (54″ minimum height requirement) or Shark Reef at Mandalay Bay for $54.

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We visited the dolphins, white tigers, and Shark Reef with our daughter. We had a great time at all of them – though note that it can be pricey. I guess tiger food ain’t cheap. I would estimate each attraction lasts no longer than an hour or so for most, so they aren’t all day affairs. If you really wanted to open your wallet, you could be a trainer for the day with the dolphins, but you would need to be at least 13 years old for that activity.

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One thing we loved about the Shark Reef was that it was indoors and air conditioned – which is almost essential in the summer desert heat!

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The pools:

Vegas doesn’t have as many pools focused on kid-friendly things like slides as they used to, but some of the pools can still be pretty great for kids. The next time we bring C to Vegas I really want to stay at Mandalay Bay as they have a Beach and Wave Pool I think she would really enjoy. They also have a lazy river.

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The 6.5 acre pool complex at MGM Grand is also pretty cool with a lazy river and several different pools to choose from. Do note that the lazy river will also have drunk folks drinking from colorful yard glasses hooking themselves together on tubes floating by as well… The Flamingo Beach Club Pool at the Flamingo actually lists itself as being “family friendly” and still has some water slides available for kids.

Shows:

The Cirque show Mystere allows children of all ages to attend, but most of the other shows in town do have a minimum age requirement of 5. However, once your children hit that 5 year mark they may have a blast seeing some of the various Cirque shows around town such as Ka or O. I’m partial to those shows, but there are many other shows in Vegas that children would also love like the Tournament of Kings at Excalibur, Blue Man Group at Monte Carlo (5+), or the Mac King Comedy Magic Show at Harrah’s (5+).

Circus Circus:

You may or may not want to actually stay at Circus Circus, but they do offer some good entertainment for families and children. They still operate the Adventure Dome that I visited in the 90’s, and all day passes run about $28 (though there may certainly be discounts and coupons available). There is even a deal for the Blue Man Group + Adventure Dome pass. The Adventure Dome has rides ranging from the indoor double-loop, double-corkscrew roller coaster speeding at 55 mph to the rides designed for the “junior” crowd. I remember having a ton of fun as a kid at the Adventure Dome!

Inside Circus Circus they also still offer the world’s largest permanent circus at the center stage of the Carnival Midway daily. The show starts at 11AM and is free!

Get Off the Strip:

I also recommend getting off the strip with your kids to see things nearby like Red Rock Canyon, the Hoover Dam, the Discovery Children’s Museum (which I hear is really good), or indoor sky diving (minimum weight of 40 lbs). As a kid, we would combine Vegas trips with visits to relatively nearby locations like Grand Canyon and Zion National Park….though those are not day trips.

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Our daughter loves Vegas…maybe we will regret that when she is older, or maybe she will bring us along when she is 21+. Either way, I think Vegas can be enjoyed as an “adults only” location, or with your family. With the new partnership between Hyatt and MGM, you can bet our Vegas trips won’t be stopping anytime soon!

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Have you taken your kids to Vegas?ย  If so, what did you do with them there?ย  I’m also curious to know who else has memories of going to Vegas as a kid!

Comments

  1. I wish I could favorite some of these so I can come back and read them later. Awesome ideas for our family since our daughter is turning two in October. I’ll have to plan a Vegas trip around some of these activities. Thank you!

  2. I was just in Vegas a few weeks ago with our 3 year old and Adventuredome is still decent even for toddlers. They have a few rides for all ages and it’s not terribly expensive.

    There’s also the Discovery Children’s Museum even though they close at 4pm and even things a bit out of the way like the Springs Preserve — assuming you don’t go when it’s 215 degrees outside. ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. viguera, got the Children’s Museum in the post as I have heard it was great. Thanks for the reminder about the Springs Preserve! Glad to know Adventure Dome is still a decent option!

  4. We were just there with our 9 year old. One thing we did this time was stay at the Hilton timeshares on Las Vegas Blvd. We got a mid week one bedroom price of less than $90! It was great to have our own bedroom and a kitchen, plus washer and dryer! The property was very, very nice! I had thought about one of the other properties on the strip but this turned out to be the best choice for us since we had a car! I can highly recommend for a family based on our stay! It is near Circus Circus.

  5. Glad to see you starting her off at the craps table, since that and Baccarat offer the best odds {ie lowest built in Casino advantage} for the player. And of course, Baccarat would be boring for a 3 year old. But craps will really hold her attention.

    Love that she seems to be throwing the dice like an experienced high roller. Curious though how you got her onto the floor at her age. Has she been practicing “pretend to be 21”? ๐Ÿ˜€

  6. For older kids and teens, I would suggest:

    — the Pinball Hall of Fame — best entertainment available for 25 cents
    — the Bodies and Titantic exhibits at the Luxor
    — the Ethyl’s Chocolate Factory tour and cactus gardens
    — riding the various monorails

  7. I just went to Vegas (twice) for the first time in over 30 years. How do you get from hotel to hotel? Do you walk?? Found it to be a lot of walking in the heat! We took the monorail to one evening show because we were dressed up, but ended up walking just as much I think. Do you tip for room upgrades? Does that always work??

    • Kathy, we walked from MGM to NYNY and Excalibur and took a tram to Luxor and Mandalay Bay. We would also walk from Mirage to Bellagio, but that was about as far as we would walk. Any further and we would cab it.

  8. “the city is currently designed around adult-oriented wants and desires like gambling, drinking, fine dining, shows, exclusive pools, and luxury accommodations.”

    Umm, I think you may have missed a couple of ‘adult entertainment’ options.

    The smell of puke on the strip, and all the cards and flyers lying on the ground (for above mentioned adult entertainment) are just a couple of things you need to be prepared to explain to your children…

    My opinion: Wait until they are 18 – 21 and they can decide for themselves if they want the LV experience.

    • Lark, that stuff does exist as well, but they never tried to hand us those cards when we were with our kid. We encounter puke at theme parks as well…and at preschool for that matter – though I am also okay saying some adults make a bad choice and drink too much beer and it makes them sick. No doubt Vegas isn’t for every family, but not that hard to avoid most of that type of adult entertainment if you want.

  9. While I’ve never gone with kids or as a kid, I’d suggest things that I’d probably end up taking my mother to while in Vegas. Notably the Bellagio fountains, going on top of the Eiffel Tower or Stratosphere and the malls. The malls are full of things like candy and toy stores as well as exotic fish tanks.

    If there’s a “family friendly” pool in Vegas..I haven’t been to it. The closest was the Mirage and even that was still a drunkfest. The most serene was at the Wynn, but if I were a guest there I’d be VERY IRATE to hear screaming kids. Most of the Vegas pools nowadays are marketing themselves as “day clubs”. This started at Encore and is now EVERYWHERE…heck, even the Monte Carlo is cashing in on this trend and labels the lazy river as the “party pit”. I’ll be there next weekend for a batchelor party.

    Perhaps the Excalibur is more tame, and it’s fairly close to the amusement rides of the NY NY. Plus it might be fun to take the kids to a medieval dinner joust. FYI, not sure about the last time you’ve been to Mandalay Bay’s pool, but THAT is a total spring break drunkfest. Yeah, it’s got the wavepool/lazy river (so does the MC) but that’s been a crazy party for a while now…perhaps even too crazy for me in my “advanced” age

  10. I also will clarify that the overwhelming majority of my Vegas experiences have been from thursday-monday. Perhaps tuesday, wednesday are calmer in the city and can open itself more up to vacationing families then.

  11. We have taken our kids to Vegas more than once (it is the closest airport to where my parents are from in Arizona). Hoover Dam is a fun day excursion. Honestly my kids like just walking through the casinos, there is so much to take in. I am not sure why someone would think that simply by virtue of the fact that they are children means that they would be screaming, so I wouldn’t hesitate to stay someplace like the Wynn. I do think hotels like NY NY, Excalibur, MGM Grand, Paris, Venetian, etc would be more interesting to kids than the Wynn. Also, and I have sadly spent a lot of time in Vegas (it is not my favorite city), I would say the most debaucherous behaviour happens well after our kids are in bed!

  12. Agree weekends are more adult oriented as are evenings. In the mornings the pools typically aren’t yet full of the drunkies. That increases as the day goes on.

  13. I went to Vegas as a teenager in the 70’s – it made a huge impression. I also got married there. My husband and I go back once or twice a year. BTW, loved your recent post about your parent’s Vegas trip and Spirit experience!

  14. Summer, another great post! Your blog continues to be the top one in the point world! I especiall love to read the kids related articles.

  15. Great blog post! We just took our 5 and 2 year old kids to Vegas for a brief getaway and enjoyed our stay at The Signature at MGM Grand. This hotel has spacious 1 bedroom suites that are great for small families. Staying there also gave us access to the family friendly private pool and the large MGM pool complex next door.

  16. I visited Las Vegas in the early 70’s. I was 12 years old. It was too hot in July to even want to sit by the pool or swim. 100 plus degree heat plus swimming equals puking later in the day. At least it did for me.

  17. If you like Las Vegas, you’ll LOVE Macau. We just took our three-year-old there for a week and had an absolutely fantastic time.

  18. @mommypoints, when you were there when you were pregnant did the smoke in the casino lobbies bother you? We are expecting in November and thinking about a trip but my wife doesn’t like smoke, especially now that she’s pregnant.

  19. I didn’t know about some of the shows not having minimum age requirements (I thought that the cutoff would be older). It would be interesting to take our daughter there when she is older (so much to see).

    It is kind of difficult to filter out the stuff you do not want them to see but that is a risk you take when you travel anywhere.

  20. Vegas is a great jumping off point for several of our national parks trips. Of course, the Grand Canyon but also Death Valley NP and the southern Utah parks Zion and Bryce Canyon. My boys 10 and 13 love Vegas before or after a NP visit.

    – Two shows that are fairly kid appropriate – Jeff Civiliico and Nathan Burton magic
    – A day spent visiting the History Channel shows of Pawn Stars, Counts Kustoms, Ricks Restorations and the Clark County Musuem (highly recommend!)
    – Circus Circus is very Meh – but the kids enjoyed a few hours here
    – as another poster stated, we enjoyed the tour inside the Hoover Dam and the nearby chocolate factory
    – Sirens of TI was fun. the 13 y/o wanted to see it twice! ๐Ÿ™‚

  21. Neither my husband or I had ever been to Vegas so we decided to visit for our spring break (mid-March) this year with our 9 year old daughter. She had a great time – as far as she was concerned Las Vegas was one big theme park!

    We stayed at the Four Seasons at the end of the strip which has access to the Mandalay Bay pools. We only used the pool/lazy river during the day but there were a lot of families around and there was no sign of anyone drinking excessively at that time of the day.

    Among the activities we enjoyed were the Mandalay Bay Shark Reef, the Mirage Secret Garden/Dolphin Habitat, the Titanic exhibit at the Luxor, a National Geographic photo exhibit which was at the Venetian, the Bellagio fountains, the Conservatory and the Chocolate fountain at the Bellagio, and M&M World.

    We also saw the Beatles Love; Celine Dion and a Broadway Celebration at New York, New York. We love theatre so the shows were a highlight for us. We didn’t have time to do everything that we wanted to do!

    We also used Vegas as a starting point for a 2 day trip to the Grand Canyon and stopped off at Hoover Dam along the way.

    We didn’t witness any wildly inappropriate behaviour, however, we weren’t out walking the strip at night. My daughter did notice the pamphlets that littered the streets and asked why there were pictures of naked women all over the ground. We had a quick discussion about it and that was it.

    Vegas might not be intended as a destination for families but I don’t think there’s any reason that parents can’t take their kids to Vegas and have fun. Like most of our vacation choices, my husband and I decide where we want to visit and then we adapt our itinerary to make it family-friendly.

  22. My wife and I went there and used A sweet Kids Corner coupon that if we bought 2 days we’d get the 3rd day free (which didn’t have to be consecutive) with a 9 week old. This allowed us to go hiking in Valley of Fire, near Red Rock Canyon’s back trails, and last day to walk around the strip in areas that aren’t baby friendly (main ones were locked off by Gov’t. shutdown…).

    It was a super fun, frugal trip thanks to air/hotel pts. Admittedly walking around on a wkend night is completely different than during the week, I could’ve had played cards had I accepted all the prostitute cards handed out in front of my wife and 9 wk old. We’ll skip this aspect if we go back when he’s older. We loved the Bellagio botanical garden btw.

    With a newborn this was an awesome getaway in October just before the wifey had to go back from maternity leave that offered extreme activities with laid back options.

  23. Let me begin by thanking you for creating this blog. Now, our plan is to celebrate our son’s 4th year birthday in Vegas. I did research and most websites said there is lot of fun to do for kids in vegas and we decided that is going to be our destination. Booked our plane tickets with AA and now I cannot cancel it since I hear, see and learnt after booking the plane ticket that most things are for 5 plus year olds or 40 plus pounds or 54 inches. Now, I depend on you for being my savior. If I cancel plane tickets they charge me of course. So, I want to make most of what Vegas has to offer to parents of 4 year olds. Our friends with a 3 and half yr old are also with us. Can you suggest specific places where we know for sure that a 4 year old will be allowed entry without hassles. Off or on strip, doesn’t matter.

    • I don’t know when your trip is (or was), but as a resident of Las Vegas I can tell you of the things we do with our kids, ages 9, 3 & 1.

      Most have been mentioned on this blog.
      Seriously, Springs Preserve is one of the coolest places in Las Vegas. And I mean cool in terms of awesomeness, certainly not temperature as half of the attractions are outdoors & if you go in the Summer it is incredibly hot. Still fun, but hot.
      **My suggestions:
      Take an umbrella or two for shade.
      Bring your own water bottles. There are fountains you can re-fill at.
      Bring healthy, non perishable snacks like granola bars, Carnation Smoothie Packs or Carnation Breakfast Essentials. Something to give you a quick pick-me-up halfway through the day.
      Take TONS of pictures! ๐Ÿ™‚

      Kids Planet
      This is an indoor playground off the strip. My kids absolutely love this place. We use it as a way to enjoy incredible air conditioning & let the kids get tons of energy out. They’re open from like 9am-9pm, or something. So you can go at the beginning of the day, leave for lunch & come back or whatever. Once you pay, you’re good until they close, so you can come & go as you please. They have slides, ball pits, swings, giant legos, bouncy houses, a wall of silly mirrors, etc. Lots of stuff, nice staff, everything is clean (including the bathrooms). We go here often & the kids never seem to get bored (and they always sleep like logs when we get home, huge plus!). ๐Ÿ™‚

      Tournament of Kings
      I wouldn’t take MY almost 4 year old here, because, while I think he would enjoy the show, I know he can’t sit still long enough to get through it. But if you know your 4 year old can sit still for…. 90 minutes? (I’m not really sure how long the show is, but it’s about an hour to an hour & a half) Then this would be an exciting & fun show to take him to. I have never met someone who saw this show & didn’t love it.
      It’s a bit pricier than stuff off the strip, obviously. But this is one of the shows, I think, is pretty worth it. We’re planning on taking our oldest here for one of her next birthdays.

      Children’s Discovery Museum was mentioned & we love that place as well. It’s endless fun! And all indoors, so it’s a great escape from the heat.

      I agree that the Shark Reef is a lot of fun. Not an all day, but you can easily kill a couple of hours there.

      Just outside of Vegas is a place called Roos & More. Their open days vary, so check them out online for their schedule. But if you happen to be in town during their open days, you should check them out. It’s not that expensive, but it is a lot of fun. They have so many interesting animals there that they have rescued & I would say most of them are available to pet, touch or even hold. I had a lemur jump on me while I was there & my daughter held a coocoo bird.

      If you have already come here, I hope your trip ended up being amazing. What did you end up doing?

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