We recently used the coveted week off from public schools to take a trip out to sunny Las Vegas. While most people say Vegas isn’t for kids, we really found the opposite to be true! While the Las Vegas strip was built as a playground for adults, the rest of the city and surroundings are actually incredibly family-friendly.
This was our first flight with two-kids, and we made the decision to plan the trip just before our youngest turned 2 and could still qualify as a lap infant. This was…not the best idea. From a budget perspective, definitely great, but from the perspective of sitting in cramped Spirit Air seats with 4 people, 2 of under the age of 6 , the flight felt infinitely longer than it actually was.
Here’s a tip: you know how you pay for seat selections? Turns out, if you are traveling with young kids, this is not something you really need to do with many airlines. Definitely call and confirm their policies before banking on this–and I’ve heard some airlines are making it mandatory to book $$ the seats together–but for the most part, airlines don’t want your 5 year old sitting with a stranger.
We spent the majority of our time in the city in the suburbs, but spent one night on the strip for the perks of convenience + pool. We covered a lot of ground and I think came away with a pretty strong sense of how you can make a trip to Las Vegas work for a family so that both the kids and adults have a good time.
Spend a Day (or Two) on the Strip
Swim: The lights, noise, and general chaos of a stay on the Las Vegas strip cannot be understated. It’s not really an ideal place for a nice family vacation, but it does have its perks. We stayed at the Mandalay Bay and booked two adjoining rooms. My husband and I have a firm rule that we don’t share a room with the kids – no one sleeps well when we do. Normally AirBnB is our go to, but we wanted the convenience of walking to some of the key kid-friendly attractions, plus a few hours at the pool. Mandalay Bay is more kid-friendly than most of the area pools, with the bonus addition of a lazy river. Our little ones LOVED it. We spent a few hours basking in the sun and washing away the airport grime before setting out to see the main attractions.
Choose your own adventure: After we had our fill of the pool, we set out on our adventure for the day. In the name of finding something for everyone.
My husband took our son to check out Marvel Avengers Station at Treasure Island, an incredibly cool interactive permanent exhibit. Most of the features come from MCU Phase 2, and worth the visit for true Avengers fans.
I took our toddler off to see the dolphins at Siegfried and Roy’s Secret Habitat at the Mirage. The dolphins were really delightful to watch, which you can decide to do either above or below the water. The wild cats, on the other hand, are a really depressing sight. I hope they have more space to wander around on than the showcase spaces they have within the Casino. They all looked a little depressed.
Fun for all: If your kids are on the younger side, like ours, you can finish up your adventure with a trip to the dungeon arcade at Excalibur. It’s a little dated but perfect for the younger set. Plus parents can enjoy the throwback feel from youth while also enjoying an adult beverage.
You’ve earned it: In our adventures, we normally spend the first half of the day entertaining the kids, making sure they get plenty of exercise and fun so that we can take the opportunity to treat ourselves later with an experience that is more for us. While gambling was tempting, what we chose was an amazing dinner back at the MGM. There are plenty of great dining options to choose from, and many of them are surprisingly welcoming to 2 weary adults and 2 overly tired children who (real-talk) spent most of the meal on their devices so we could have an actual conversation.
Take Time to Explore the Real Las Vegas
We were delighted by how much the city of Las Vegas has to offer – from the sights and sound of the Old Strip to playgrounds, to family-friendly venues, there’s plenty to see and do. It’s also a really helpful reminder that Las Vegas is so much more than the “What happens in Vegas…” nonsense that the city gets hyped for. It’s incredibly family-friendly and has a lot of wonderful amenities for both visitors and local residents.
Kid-friendly favorites: We spent a few hours at the ridiculously huge Town Center Mall. Our little girl really loved the train that you can ride all around the mall and our son had a blast at the huge GameWorks arcade. It was incredibly hot, so they both got soaked at the playground and splash pad in the Children’s Park. I’m not normally one to promote a mall as a place to go, but this was a fun way to spend a few hours
Skylines and playgrounds: Even within the city limits you can do some easy hiking and playing – getting in some exercises while seeing some views you don’t normally get to experience on the East Coast. Our kids were really interested in the different vegetation, the occasional animal spotting, and I loved catching sunsets every day as we explored the area.
Museums and local excursions: For a truly unique, only-in-Vegas experience, check out the Neon Museum, which is home to relics of the past and an amazing restoration effort for local neon lights. The 3-D Trick Art Museum is great if you’re into “doin’ it for the gram”-type spaces.
Nightlife off the beaten path: If you can’t get a sitter, it’s still worth heading down to the old Las Vegas. While crowded on any given night, a walk through the Freemont Street Experience – which tons of LED lights and even zip lines – is quite a sight. There’s a cool pod park (that’s also worth checking out/playing in during the day), and Lyft even has a changing public art exhibit that highlights the very best of Vegas.
If you do happen to have a sitter, you definitely should grab drinks at the Atomic Liquors – a true dive bar, with great cocktails, historic significance – it’s s the oldest freestanding bar in Las Vegas and also a key space for watching atomic bombs going off in the 50s – hence the name. Unlike most bars that make tourist lists, this one is the real deal.