Las Vegas, NV
SPECIAL OFFER: - Limited Time Only!
(The ad below will not display on your printed page)


Las Vegas, NV

The gambling capital puts on a PG-rated show for families.

Glitz, Glamour, and Babysitters

Las Vegas may be the gambling capital of the U.S., but this booming desert resort now rivals Southern California and Orlando as one of the country's top family-friendly destinations. Why settle for just the Mouse when you can witness pirate ships sinking, watch volcanoes explode, and see wild tigers put on a show?

Millions of kids romp around The Strip as if it were the latest theme park. There are happy-face rides for the under-10 set and mind-boggling virtual reality games for older teens.

And if you're hungry for a show, the youngsters won't have to suffer through Wayne Newton. Such kid-appropriate acts as "O" by Cirque du Soleil at Bellagio or EFX starring Tommy Tune at the MGM Grand pack 'em in; all but a very few are PG-rated and many have been created with children in mind.

Another big plus for families: the price. There are a number of quality, low-cost entertainment options, such as King Tut's Tomb & Museum at Luxor. And with a little looking, you can find first-rate accommodations and restaurants for hungry and finicky family members at a bargain.

5 Top-Rated Kid Spots

  • 1. To cut through the Las Vegas clutter, head straight for Circus Circus, consistently rated as the most kid-friendly casino in Las Vegas. The resort's claim-to-kid-fame is Adventuredome, an enclosed five-acre amusement park suitable for all age groups. There are 16 rides and attractions ranging from a wild and wooly roller coaster, to a gentle Ferris wheel, to the Inverter, a turn-you-upside-down-and-shake-you-silly ride. And don't miss the "big top," featuring high-wire acts.

Magician Lance Burton,
copyright Lance Burton

  • 2. Master Magician Lance Burton is sure to get a big smile from all but the most jaded of youngsters. Along with his impressive feats of magic and glitzy production numbers, Burton makes a big point of playing to his youngest audience members, bringing many of them to the stage in the early-evening shows.

  • 3. Race for Atlantis, a most-enjoyable high-tech ride that combines the latest in simulator technology with an IMAX 3D film, takes kids and adults into a fast-paced chariot race run by the gods. Your little ones must be at least 42 inches tall to go on the ride.

  • 4. MGM Grand, the largest hotel in the world with 5,001 rooms, offers two highly rated options for kids: Lion Habitat, with up to five lions in a glassed-in jungle enclosure, and Grand Adventures, a seasonal outdoor theme park with water rides and shows.

Hoover Dam, copyright
Bureau of Reclamation

  • 5. Just 30 miles from The Strip, Hoover Dam puts on a great show of its own (kids of all ages seem to love it). There are two tours inside this amazing engineering marvel: a 30-minute elevator ride to the base of the dam and back, and a more-adventurous one-hour "hard-hat" tour that takes wide-eyed participants to see the inner workings of the dam and its electrical generators.

Sites for F-r-e-e!!

At an average $15-20 for the day, or $2-3 per ride, the cost of some attractions can quickly bust a family's budget. But just walking around The Strip, you can see other spectacles that are free and, arguably, educational. Well-crafted replicas of the landmarks of Paris, Venice, New York, Hollywood, ancient Rome and Arabia, to name but a few, can be found within a few blocks of each other.

Other free highlights include the fiery Pirate Battle in the lagoon at Treasure Island, the graceful "orchestrated" display of water, lighting and music at the Fountains of Bellagio, the Dragon Battle at Excalibur, and the erupting volcano at the Mirage.

Drop 'Em Off

It's the rare parent who doesn't crave a little adults-only time in Las Vegas. Here are some safe places to leave the children:

  • Grand Youth Activity Center in the MGM Grand. Regarded as the most extensive on The Strip, this facility has supervised daycare for children 3 to 12 years old and is open to non-MGM guests on a space-available basis. There is a five-hour maximum stay.

  • Station Casinos (Boulder, Palace, Sunset, and Texas), the Gold Coast, and the Orleans. All have child-care facilities. Most allow only hotel guests to drop off their children or insist that parents remain in the hotel while the little ones are in the facility.

  • Babysitting services. Parents can check with the hotel front desk or concierge for recommendations, or check out the listings in the Las Vegas yellow pages and on the Internet.


Type of travel: Entertainment

Best ages: Teenagers will have a blast; younger kids will need supervision; littlest ones may be overwhelmed.

Ideal trip length: 3-4 days

Distance: Los Angeles (275 miles); Phoenix (292 miles)

Best time to go: Midweek April and October, when hotel rates are lower and weather is mild. Weather: 60/30 degrees in winter, 100/70 degrees in summer

Squirm factor: None

If You Go...

Las Vegas Welcome
Sign, copyright
Las Vegas News

Adventuredome 2880 Las Vegas Blvd. S Phone: 702-794-3939


Magician Lance Burton, copyright
Lance Burton

Lance Burton, Master Magician 3770 Las Vegas Blvd. S Phone: 702-730-7160


MGM Grand 3799 Las Vegas Blvd. S Phone: 702-891-1111 Note: Lion Habitat is open throughout the day. Note: Grand Youth Activity Center, 702-891-3200


Hoover Dam Phone: 702-294-3517

For More Information

  • Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority
    Phone: 800-332-5333 for hotel availability, rates and reservations; 702-892-7575 for general information


  • The University of Nevada-Las Vegas


  • Las


Side Trips

Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area

Red Rock Canyon, copyright Las
Vegas News Bureau

Hassled by the rules and regulations about where kids can't go on The Strip? At this red-rock park 18 miles west of The Strip, they can run wild without being summoned to "keep walking" by imposing casino guards. There are plenty of picnic areas and hiking trails for the whole family -- along with boulder-scrambling opportunities for the older kids -- on the 13-mile, one-way auto loop. The lucky may get to see semi-wild burros, most frequently spotted two miles or so past the entrance to the scenic loop. Heed the signs that proclaim, "They bite." It's not a joke. Cowboy Trail Rides offers easy horseback rides in Red Rock Canyon. Off Charleston Blvd., 702-838-8001


The Inside Scoop

Planning tip: Children under 18 are not allowed on The Strip after 9 p.m. unless accompanied by a parent or guardian, nor are they allowed to loiter in the gambling areas of hotels. Some resorts have "no-stroller" policies and do not allow unaccompanied children or teenagers inside unless parents are guests.

Annual events/festivals: Hands down, the National Finals Rodeo is the best place to watch the world's top rodeo performers at the Thomas & Mack Center at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas. Tickets sell out quickly, so reserve early. Call 702-895-3900 for more information.


Favorite local spot: Stratosphere Tower for the best views of Las Vegas, according to a newspaper survey of thousands of local residents. 2000 Las Vegas Blvd. S., 702-380-7777


Local foods: Las Vegans love Carnival World Buffet; they rated it Best "Las Vegas" Buffet for the third year in a row. Rio Hotel, 3700 W. Flamingo Rd., 702-252-7757


Best souvenir: Money. After all, this is still the gambling capital of the world. Buy the kids disposable cameras and let them snap away at the exotic attractions.

Traffic Alert: Stay alert and take breaks, especially at night, on the remote sections of I-15 from Southern California.

Reviewed April 2004.