The first time I visited Las Vegas I remember staring at small children in strollers on the Strip awake at 10pm and thinking, “Who in their right mind would take their kids to Vegas?”
Now that I have three kids of my own, I finally understand why some people do take their kids to the city of sin. It’s tough enough to find a great babysitter at home for a Saturday night out, let alone someone willing to take your kids for three or four days straight while you jet off to party. In fact, at the rate many babysitters and nannies charge, taking your kids to Las Vegas may be cheaper than leaving them at home.
Having been to Vegas three times in as many years, I’m looking forward to taking my kids soon. We’re hoping to plan a family trip with friends who have kids around the same age as ours. The plan? Divide and conquer.
If you arrange to go with another couple also bringing their kids, you’ve got ample time to split up into various pairs to still enjoy the adult side of Vegas. Handing off childcare duties to one couple means the other couple can enjoy a romantic dinner and show by themselves. The next night, the dads can go out for their turn, and the next night the moms can head out. A trip like this is easily a girl’s or boy’s night out experience, family adventure and couples retreat all rolled into one. You can also split the kids by age or ability and go on different adventures.
Renting a car is a must. Depending on how many children are on the trip, you may find it more affordable to book two mid-sized vehicles rather than trying to swing it with one minivan. Most hotels offer free parking, and behind the Strip are plenty of cheap parking lots. I highly recommend staying slightly off the Strip and booking a suite—at the Platinum Hotel, just a block off the main drag behind Bally’s, you can rent 1,100 square foot rooms complete with full kitchens, dishwashers, and washer and dryers, all for under $189 a night. These suites are more like roomy condos, and with the full kitchen you can save money by buying groceries and eating in more often.
There are plenty of free street performers to watch while walking the Strip (and the card snapping guys don’t approach families), but if your kids wants a photo taken with a character in costume, be ready to tip. Many in-hotel attractions are great for kids, including some of the rides at Circus Circus and Shark Reef Aquarium in Mandalay Bay. There are plenty of family friendly shows as well—The Mac King Comedy Magic Show at Harrah’s Las Vegas and Nathan Burton Comedy Magic at the Flamingo are both family-friendly and affordable.
Incorporating activity into your family Vegas vacation is important to many parents and easily done. Lace up your sneakers and pack plenty of water and head to Red Rock Canyon for easy hikes that will have your kids scrambling over boulders and tracking small animals in a beautiful setting. You can also visit Boulder City and view the Hoover Dam for free and talk a walk through Boulder Canyon (watch out for ziplining tourists overhead!).
While the city’s tourism folks have shied away from marketing specifically to families in recent years, my money’s on you having a great time in Las Vegas with your kids.