If you thought Vegas was just for sinners, think again. We took a family vacation with my two and a half year and two month old and were amazed at the number of things to do in Las Vegas with kids. Watch our video before you read all about it:
Where to Stay in Vegas with Kids:
With a killer deal from Jetsetter at $149/night (not including tax and a $17/night resort fee) we got the luxury suite at The Venetian and I couldn’t recommend it more. The Venetian is connected with the Palazzo and together, they hold great appeal for both adults and kids with their 11 pools and multitude of dining and shopping options (hello Christian Louboutin boutique). The atmosphere is elegant (as much as a knock-off Venice can be) but not stuffy, so you feel comfortable staying and exploring with your brood. Here’s what we liked specifically from a family travel standpoint:
Great rooms: The luxury suite is their most basic room (all rooms are suites) which is perfect for a family. The open floor plan includes a king or two queen beds, and in some rooms a sleeper sofa (the size of a twin bed but since the sofas are “L-shaped” you can easily fit two kids on it). We got a complimentary upgrade to a room with a view with overlooked the three pools on the Venetian side. Not too shabby! The Palazzo side is newer but the Venetian rooms were still very pleasant, well-appointed with dual sinks and remote-controlled blinds.
Family-Accommodating: While it is not explicitly a family resort (no kids menu in room service), they certainly do everything they can do accommodate you if you have one. The infant crib provided by the hotel was better than your standard pack ‘n’ play and came with a Johnson and Johnson’s travel pack of baby toiletries including lotion, powder, body wash and oil. Handy! While they were unable to take my microwave sterilizer to their kitchen, they provided a large kettle I could sterilize my pump equipment. Finally, I couldn’t refrigerate my milk in the minibar because the items were weighted so if you remove anything it would be charged to your room but they countered this by sending me an additional refrigerator at no extra charge. This ended up working out great because we were able to buy milk for my toddler and store it in the new refrigerator instead of having to pay room service prices every morning. They were also kind enough to tell us at check-in that if Karam got into the minibar and played around with stuff that we should call down and let them know so they could reverse the charges. Finally, while they don’t have in-house babysitting, they do have a list of recommended providers in case you want to sample some of the Vegas nightlife without the kids (recommended).
Kids’ Entertainment: The biggest attraction for the kids at the Venetian is the gondola ride with “real” Venetian gondoliers serenading you as you float through winding canals and under bridges in within the resort. You can also do the outdoor one at the main entrance of the hotel. I recommend the indoor one because it’s more interesting to meander by the shops and passers-by in the hotel. Kids are free and it’s $16 per person for everyone else for a ten to thirteen minute ride. As in Venice, tips are welcome.
While the Venetian doesn’t have slides and other specifically kid-friendly features at their pool, it does have a shallow pool that is just over a foot high for the little ones to wade around in without risk of drowning. This pool also stays in the shade until late afternoon, shielding you from the harsh desert sun. Wolfgang Puck’s Riva is the poolside restaurant that offers a to-go counter with pizzas (gourmet, of course), french fries and cookies to enjoy on your own lounge chairs if the kids don’t have the patience for a sit-down lunch. For kids 5 and above, Madame Tussauds and The Blue Man Group are both great options, and are located in the hotel.
Dining Options: Like many hotels in Vegas, The Venetian hosts some of the biggest names in food such as Mario Batalli and SushiSamba as well as more casual options like Noodle Asia and the Grand Lux Cafe. But you can also find familiar names like Panda Express and Johnny Rockets if that’s what grabs you. There is also a food court on the casino floor that is non-smoking. Finally, because this is Italy, there is gelato at every stop, perfect for those hot Nevada days!
Walgreens: There is one, right on the property, which means that you don’t have to go very far if you run out of diapers, milk, lotion, etc. Sounds crazy, but this sealed the deal for me at the Venetian.
Adult Entertainment: Tao Nightcub and Beach Club, The Phantom of the Opera, Bouchon Restaurant.. the options are endless! You could easily spend your entire stay exploring just this property, but we know that the strip offers so much more.
Other worthwhile options: The Mandalay Bay has a lazy river and wave pool, along with the Shark Reef Aquarium on the property. It also hosts The Four Seasons on its top floors.
Things to do in Las Vegas with kids:
You would think that just walking around the strip would be enough entertainment for the kids, but there are so many things to do in Las Vegas with kids! With every hotel trying to outdo the other with bigger and better, there are sights to dazzle you at every corner. Here are some of our favorites:
Circus Circus: Now I remember going to Circus Circus when I was a kid and I have to say, it looks like they haven’t upgraded since then. Still, in terms of entertainment for the kids, this is the place in Vegas. Arcade games that can be won by any age (Karam scored a big giraffe on a game that even my husband failed at!), free circus acts and the Adventuredome all make this the place to be for the tween and under set. Definitely check out the Dora or SpongeBob 4-D Adventure Theater. It’s a trip!
Momaboard tip: Break a $100 at the change counter in the arcade and they will give you a bunch of “play one, get one free” coupons.
The gondolas at the Venetian: $16 for adults and kids ride free, take a ride through a make-shift Venice while being serenaded by your gondolier and waved to by passers-by. Outdoor and indoor options available (we liked the indoor one). The ride is about 10 minutes and only four people (including babies) to a boat. Here are a couple of videos for you to enjoy:
The Shark Reef Aquarium at the Mandalay Bay: Lizards, piranhas, jellyfish, rays, and of course sharks are the residents at the Shark Reef Aquarium. Walk through the winding paths, touch a sting ray and learn interesting facts about your favorite aquatic creatures. Kids under four go free. Momaboard trivia: How many people have been killed by piranhas? Zero! I learned that at the Aquarium!
Siegfried and Roy’s Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat at the Mirage: You remember Siegfried and Roy? It was a tragic story but they seem all recovered and pleased to lend their name and animals to this attraction at the Mirage. Get a close view of dolphins in the pools outside and from the underwater tanks and watch them show off in random training schedules throughout the day. Then wander through the Secret Garden to meet magnificent beasts such as lions, panthers and the famous white striped tiger. $17/piece and kids go free.
The Fountains of Bellagio: Like the final scene in Ocean’s 11 you too will feel victorious as you take in the splendor of the Fountains of Bellagio. This water, sound and light spectacular runs every 30 minutes from 3-8pm and every 15 from 8-midnight. Plan to stick around for a couple of shows because your kids definitely won’t want to leave. Plus it’s one of the few things in Vegas that is free! Check it out:
The Conservatory and Botanical Gardens at the Bellagio: A theatrical production of a different kind, the Conservatory hosts lavish floral exhibits that change for the Holidays, Chinese New Year, spring, summer and fall. Of everything we saw in Vegas, the Talking Tree here was Karam’s favorite by a landslide. Other sites that we didn’t make it to but that are worth a visit are The Lion Habitat at the MGM Grand, the roller-coaster at New York New York (must be 54″ to ride), M&M’s world and the Volcano at the Mirage.
Las Vegas Shows for Kids:
If you are looking to take in a show in Vegas (as you should), here are some kid-friendly ones we recommend:
The Lion King: Join Simba, Nala and the gang at the Mandalay Theater and enjoy this Disney classic. Ends December 2011.
The Blue Man Group: Recommended for kids 5 and above, this trio will keep the whole family entertained.
Cirque du Soleil: Practically every hotel in Vegas worth its flashing lights has one. I would caution against seeing Love, even if you are the biggest Beatles fan in the world. I am, and although I enjoyed the music, the “cirque” part was sorely lacking and the random characters running on and off the stage may in fact only scare your kids. The gift shop, however, sells some cute kids goodies like a Yellow Submarine coloring book. I would recommend instead Mystère, the story of a baby wandering the world.
Where to Eat in Vegas with Kids:
While you can find every fast food chain from McDonald’s to Denny’s in addition to the All-You-Can-Eat buffets for which Vegas is famous, we wanted to experience the style and luxe that Vegas is known for. We found to our delight that even in Vegas, you don’t have to sacrifice quality just because you are with the kids. Here are some of the places we tried and enjoyed:
Postrio: Wolfgang Puck’s Postrio at the Venetian offers mediterranean-inspired fare and small plates that are suitable for any mood. The kid’s menu (it has one!) includes favorites such as parmesan pasta and chicken fingers. Enjoy fine dining and service while the kids enjoy the bustle and activities in St. Mark’s Square.
Rainforest Cafe: Waterfalls, lush vegetation and an aquarium all add to the tropical vibe in this family-style restaurant at the MGM Grand. This one’s truly for the kids.
Carnegie Deli: For a little New York flavor, head to the Carnegie Deli at the Mirage for giant sandwiches and a cheque that won’t break the bank (finally!).
Noodles: The Bellagio is not exactly a kid-friendly hotel but Noodles is as family-friendly as you can get in a good-food-and-service kind of establishment. Offering a mix of Asian cuisines, you can get more than just noodles here: fried rice, dim sum, kung pao chicken all form components of the menu. No special kids menu but you can find something here for everyone and share it family-style.
Bouchon Bakery: If you are staying at the Venetian, skip the $18 room service breakfast (and $7 delivery fee!!) and run down to Bouchon Bakery on the casino floor for delicious sandwiches, breads, coffees, tarts and macarons. This is take-away only.
Jean-Philippe Patisserie: The chocolate fountain is not the only reason to visit this patisserie just off the lobby at the Bellagio: try their pastries, truffles, coffees or ice creams and find yourselves in confectionery heaven.
Tips for travel to Las Vegas with Kids:
While Vegas accommodates and entertains kids, they are clearly not the primary audience in this admittedly adult fantasyland. Here are some things to know when you take the kids to Sin City:
Water: You are in the middle of the desert and temperatures can soar during the day so remember to drink a lot of water and stay hydrated.
Room service charge: You will find that the rooms in Vegas are not that expensive, but that’s because they get you everywhere else. Beware that most hotels will charge a delivery charge for room service, over and above the cost of your food.
Smokers everywhere: Remember that smoking indoors is legal in Nevada so expect to smell like an ashtray once you emerge from a casino, which most hotels will make you cross to go anywhere else.
Long taxi lines: All hotels and centers will have lines for taxis which can take up to 30 minutes at peak times. Plan accordingly.
Distances are long: Not from hotel to hotel but within them. Since the properties themselves are so large, it takes a while to get anywhere in Vegas.
Five to a taxi and no car seats: Nevada law allows no more than 5 people (including a baby) in a taxi and most cabs will be hesitant to take a baby without a car seat. We had one of those convertible ones which ended up being a savior, Plus it’s safer anyway.