Kid-friendly is a term that can describe any number of theme parks and tourist attractions throughout the United States. Las Vegas is a different story. The 24/7 casino culture in Nevada’s neon jungle is mostly thought of for the over 21 crowd. Minors are not allowed in casinos as their parents try their luck at roulette, blackjack and craps. This does not mean a minivan with a family of four needs to stop at the famous “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” sign and head back home. Las Vegas offers plenty of attractions for both young and old.
Begin your perfect Vegas family day with a kid favorite: the Monorail. Start at the MGM Grand station, located at the south end of the Strip, and end your journey at the Sahara station. There are five other stations along the four-mile route. Listen to some interesting Vegas trivia from the speaker system as the Monorail reaches speeds up to 50 miles per hour. You can purchase single-ride tickets, two-ride tickets, six-ride party packs and one-day special passes. It is also a great way to bypass the traffic of the Las Vegas Strip.
The Sahara Monorail station is a short stroll from an attraction that will send you sky high. The Stratosphere Tower is nearly 1,200 feet high and is the tallest observation tower in the United States. Expect an ear-popping (literally) experience as the elevator travels 30 feet per second.
It only takes 37 seconds to reach the observation deck. Numerous telescopes help you zoom in on popular landmarks. See the neon sparkle at night or observe the cityscape by day. For the truly brave, the Stratosphere offers three nail-biting rides: Big Shot, X-Scream and Insanity.
If you’re itching to give your credit card a workout, Las Vegas offers some of the most spectacular shopping experiences on the planet. At the Venetian, located at the mid-way point of the Strip, enjoy the Grand Canal Shoppes. Make your way down the cobblestone walkway as you watch Gondolas travel the canal. You’ll notice overhead clouds and get the feeling you’re in Venice, Italy as the sun is going down. For children, a trip to Houdini’s Magic Shop is a must. They’ll see memorabilia from famous magicians and may even witness a magic demonstration.
Take a break from shopping by visiting the Carnegie Deli at the nearby Mirage Hotel and Casino. It may remind you of the famous deli in Manhattan by the same name. Order the gigantic corned beef sandwich. Start with a plate of snappy, spicy pickles. When your sandwich arrives, the corned beef will be piled as high as the Stratosphere. A tip from your humble writer: You’ll probably have enough left-over beef for a few more sandwiches.
A satisfied tummy means more shopping. Walk through ancient Rome at The Forum Shops at Caesars Palace. This multi-level attraction, located a comfortable distance from the Mirage, features over 160 stores and 13 restaurants and specialty food shops. Gianni Versace and Gucci are among the upscale retailers here, but kids will head straight for the FAO Schwarz toy store. Top off your trip through the Rome of centuries ago by watching the Atlantis Fountain Show, featuring talking statues. The show is free and is performed several times daily. If you’re ready for dinner, head to Wolfgang Puck’s Spago or enjoy The Palm Las Vegas.
Madame Tussauds Wax Museum, located between the Venetian and Las Vegas Boulevard, will entertain the entire family. This is not a wax museum where the figures are hidden at a distance behind red-colored rope. You can actually walk up to a wax celebrity, making this a truly interactive, if not eerie experience. Have a friend take a picture of you and Sylvester Stallone. James Brown, Bono and Elvis are there, and Tiger Woods, Babe Ruth and Michael Jordan are among the sporting greats found at Tussauds. There is even a wedding chamber where you can marry George Clooney
Head to the south end of the Vegas Strip for perhaps the most kid-friendly attraction in Sin City. The Excalibur Hotel and Casino, with its castle theme, offers Fantasy Faire. Carnival midway attractions, located on the lower level, will keep the youngsters busy. The Excalibur also hosts the SpongeBob Squarepants 4D ride, with digital 3D projection. Little ones must be 42 inches tall to enjoy the ride, which is based on the Nickelodeon cartoon.
As you can see, today’s Vegas isn’t just for grownups. There are many ways a family can have a fun and memorable stay in Las Vegas.
What & Where:
Las Vegas Monorail (lvmonorail.com; 702-699-8200)
Stratosphere Tower (2000 Las Vegas Blvd, South; 702-380-7777)
Grand Canal Shoppes at the Venetian (3377 Las Vegas Blvd, South;702-414-4500)
Carnegie Deli at the Mirage (3400 Las Vegas Blvd, South; 702-791-7111)
The Forum Shops at Caesars Palace (3500 S. Las Vegas Blvd; 702-893-4800)
Wolfgang Puck’s Spago (3500 Las Vegas Blvd South; 702-369-6300)
The Palm Las Vegas (3500 Las Vegas Blvd. South; 702-732-7256)
Madame Tussauds Wax Museum (3377 Las Vegas Blvd, South, Suite 2001; 702-862-7800)
Excalibur Hotel and Casino (3850 Las Vegas Blvd, South; 702-597-7777)