Thursday, August 23, 2012

5 Best Things to do with Kids in Las Vegas

I LOVE Las Vegas.  I've loved Las Vegas since I was nine and my parents took my sister and I to a road trip visiting the Grand Canyon and Arizona deserts, stopping briefly over to the Circus Circus Hotel for a couple of games before we returned home.  Watching the sparkly acrobats and playing and winning my first Las Vegas game (bean bag tic tac toe) was a heady experience of glamour and good fortune for an impressionable FOB (Fresh Off the Boat) kid.

Cut to college, when I was actually able to legally (wink wink) be in Las Vegas, and I loved Las Vegas as much then as I did when I first saw the neon lights of the Strip as a child.  Of course, it didn't hurt that I won a car playing the quarter slots at the Monte Carlo...  For realz.  Unfortunately, I had just bought a car a month before, and as pretty as the red BMW Z3 was, I didn't have the need to keep and pay for the insurance/maintenance of two new cars soooo... I walked out of the hotel with the money in CASH!  Baller!!!  Uhhh...I really love you, Vegas.  ;)

Cut to the present, and I love Las Vegas just as much, if not more, than I did in the past.  I don't gamble much anymore (I get peeing-in-my-pants-nervous), but there are plenty of other things to do.  The introduction of world class chefs and dining establishments, designer stores and boutiques, and high end clubs and lounges make it an adult paradise and destination.  I adore dressing up, and unlike conservative Orange County, I'll never be the one overdressed like a showgirl when I'm in Las Vegas.  I can wear whatever I want, and it's never too much!!!  ;D   

It's also a pleasant surprise how it's become so family-friendly, while it also has great characteristics of the original Sin City.  I appreciate that I have the option to stay at the Four Seasons or the Mandarin Oriental for a non-smoking hotel option for my son.   Most casino hotels, like the Wynn, Bellagio, or Aria, have great ventilation systems, but nothing beats not having to worry about steering him away from someone puffing on a cigarette while praying for a face card at a blackjack table.  And there are so many options for kids to do while on the Strip, although there are a ton of things available off the Strip as well, in nearby communities like Summerlin or Green Valley.  But a Las Vegas vacation for me is the Strip, from Mandalay at one end, to the Stratosphere at the other.

My 11 year old son was given a choice of vacation options, and he decided on Las Vegas as his last trip of the summer.  We took his best friend with us, and went on a Sin(less) City adventure for a few days last week, and enjoyed some tween activities.  Here are the top five things we did, that I thought were the most fun and appropriate for his age range.

1. Mandalay Bay Pools

Catching a wave!

Soooo many people floating in there... Was like aquatic bumper cars

The Mandalay Bay Hotel has a great pool setup for kids.  They have a sand area, Wave Pool, Lazy River, and various other options for pools.  This was the most important thing for my son, and he HAD to buy a giant inflatable ring for the Lazy River for $25.  He loved it! 

Unfortunately, there are always a ton of people there, and very few shaded areas.  The cabanas change in pricing for how hot the day is and how busy they are.  The first day, cabanas started at $550 and went up to over a thousand for the cheesiest looking cabanas I've probably ever seen in my life, although the pool attendant assured me that the pricing would lower by a couple hundred dollars the next day.  The same goes for their loungers and umbrellas.  That same day, I was quoted $75 per padded lounge and $50 per umbrella. off, anyone??? 

I ran back to the Four Seasons pool of frozen peach daiquiris, chilled towels, and plush FREE shaded lounge chairs as soon as I put my hubby on kid pool watch duty.

2. Bodies the Exhibition & Titanic Exhibit at the Luxor

Bodies was such amazing exhibit!  The boys had learned about the human anatomy in 5th grade, and it was a very educational exhibit.  Everything was well-displayed, informative, and tasteful.  Unfortunately for me, the boys were still a bit in "Goofball-mode", and couldn't help giggling about "droopy balls" upon seeing the male anatomy.  Oy!  lol.  The fetus exhibit was something that definitely should not be missed.  Even the boys had respect for how a baby develops, and the developmentally chronological exhibit was one of my favorites. 

The Titanic - the Artifact Exhibition, was full of personal effects from passengers and the boat itself.  Reading about the different ship levels and passenger classes on the ship (First, Second, and Third), seeing the replicas of staterooms and dining halls, and learning the personal histories of the people on board, was informative and a bit heartbreaking.  The only thing that can be touched is a giant piece of ice in the shape of an iceberg.  You can see how cold it would have been on deck, and see the largest piece of hull recovered from the Titanic.  The last area is filled with the personal items retrieved in suitcases, which is moving and haunting, with a wall listing the lucky survivors and the deceased. 

With both the exhibits, there is no photography allowed, cell phones must be turned off completely, and no bathrooms inside.  They have the option of an audio guide for an additional $6, but it's basically the same information that's written on the walls.

3. Mandalay Bay Shark Reef

This is the one sea life exhibit that we visit every single time we're in Las Vegas.  The displays are clean and the sea creatures are plentiful.  I love the white alligator displayed, although the naughty part of me thinks I'd love it more as a handbag.  (Sorry PETA!)  The piranhas are pretty cool, though I have yet to see them during feeding.  My son adores the touch pool, where you can feel the swimming manta rays and shoe crabs.

Of course, as this attraction is in a hotel, it's fairly small and not the size of Seaworld or the Monteray Aquarium.  You should be able to view the entire attraction in 45 minutes, or if you've seen it almost 30 times like we have, you'll be in and out in twenty.

4. New York New York Arcade & Roller Coaster

Better picture of all the loops!

I asked my son what his absolute favorite thing about Las Vegas was, and he replied "the rollercoaster".  The ride at New York New York Hotel is visible from the Strip, and you can almost imagine the screams as it loops and turns in and out the New York landmarks.  Each ride is $14, but an All Day Pass is only $25, which allows you a shortcut back on the ride (Much cheaper than a reride pass for an additional $7 if you ride at least three times). 

They also have a great arcade, with a nice selection of videogames.  It's the same theory as Dave & Busters (or an older version of Chuck E. Cheese) where they play games for tickets and then redeem them for prizes.  It kills me to pay a ton for games and have him win a $2 inflatable beach ball or something... (eyeroll).  But he loves it there, and it's great for at least a couple hours of excitement and thrills!

5. Stratosphere Hotel Rides


Yup, even I did the rides

My son has had these crazy Stratosphere rides on his mind ever since he saw a show on the Travel Channel.  Of course, he also wants to visit the Mall of America so we can ride the indoor roller coaster and indoor waterpark, but I don't envision that happening anytime soon. 

He really wanted to do the Skyjump, a "controlled" bungee cord jump, but was disappointed to learn that the age requirement was minimum 14 years with Parent approval.  It looked fairly safe, as they wear a special helmet and suit with several harnesses attached to it and to a couple main ropes that are connected to the landing spot.  They then drop feet first into a waiting inflatable.  It's not my first choice of activities I'd like my son to do, but it looked pretty safe for when he comes of age.

Instead, we bought the All Day Unlimited Rides ticket (not including the Skyjump, which is $109.99) for $34 each.  The rides included are the Big Shot (the ride catapults you 160 feet in the air at 45 miles per hour), X-Scream (similar to a teeter totter, that slides you over the edge 866 feet above the ground), and Insanity (a circular arm spinning you over the edge of the hotel while you are face down).   I was lucky not to have already eaten lunch before the last dizzy ride!

Just as a break in between rides, we ate at Top of the World, their fine dining restaurant located a floor underneath the roof and the rides.  The restaurant slowly does a full 360 turn in a hour and a half, allowing you a view of the town miles around the hotel.  The food is not spectacular (more like good but not great, but it was during an off-peak time that we ate), but it's worth a visit for the view alone.

Amazing view!

The three ropes outside the window are for the Skyjump

*Honorable Mention:
M & M's World

It's four floors of M & M!  The have a full wall of every type of color and flavor imaginable, a M & M movie, race car, and every single M & M gift item that you've ever seen and some that you haven't.  I think I left the store five pounds heavier...

World of Coca Cola

It's a world of coke and Coca Cola products.  Fun things are the reproduction vintage items, the photo you can take on the green screen with the polar bear, and the coke cafe is a must!  The 3 float sampler sounded interesting, but we went with the $7 tasting of 16 different flavor sodas from around the world.  Such fun taste testing!

Almost in shock with all the soda choices!

Happy travels!


  1. How fun MJ! What a great family Vegas experience! :)

    XoXo, Kimberly

    1. Thanks Kimberly! Going back to Vegas in 2 weeks for a Bachelorette weekend. I have a feeling it won't be quite the same trip. lol