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Why Las Vegas Is a Great Place to Go With Kids. Seriously.

By Matt Villano • January 10, 2022

On the morning of our fourth day in this desert metropolis, my then-7-year-old daughter woke up in a haze. She and her sisters—at the time, ages 10 and 3.5, respectively—had spent the past days wandering casinos (while kids can’t linger in designated gaming areas, an informal “keep moving” policy generally lets them pass through casino floors), chilling in ice bars, ogling tigers, and drinking decadent milkshakes with slices of cake on top. Understandably, the sustained excitement was starting to catch up with my middle child: “Dad,” she asked, “can you feel hungover from too much fun?”

Her question made me laugh but also put my mind at ease. I live in California but have covered Vegas as a solo traveler for nearly 20 years—writing and updating 13 guidebooks on the destination along the way—but was nervous to visit for the first time with kids. To help manage this anxiety, I’d planned our itinerary down to the hour, while being careful not to book too much into days that would play out in 100-degree heat. Clearly, I had done something right.

Yes, I had that careful itinerary and all the research that went into it, but Sin City still managed to surprise me with how kid-friendly it has become since I first started getting to know the place. As I look back on my family’s pre-COVID weeklong Las Vegas getaway, here are some of the family-focused things I discovered about my familiar friend, and five specific suggestions for things to do in Las Vegas with kids.

1. Spend a day at the pool

There are more than 20 major resorts in and around the Las Vegas Valley, and many of them have outstanding pools. Some pools are only open to hotel guests, but most (including those we cite here) offer some sort of day-pass option. The majority come standard with umbrellas, cabanas, and seat-side food and beverage service; others have standout amenities to excite even the most mortified tweens and teens. Some of the most family-friendly pools in Las Vegas include:

Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino

On our trip, we stayed at Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino, which boasts one of the most kid-friendly pool complexes in town. There’s a lazy river. There’s a wave pool. There’s a beach with real sand. If you’ve got older kids, there are live music shows on select nights throughout the summer and fall. Heck, my kids would have been happy if we spent the entire week swimming and drinking virgin daiquiris right there.

Circus Circus Hotel Resort

The best resort pool for kids in all of Vegas, though, may be the Splash Zone at Circus Circus Hotel Resort; it features a water park with highlights like a 50-foot tower with three different slides, a water-feature playground with sprinklers and dump buckets, and a mobile food truck that serves poolside snacks. No, the Circus Circus pool is nothing fancy. But for families with young kids, it’s high on the wow factor, which really is all that matters here.

2. See one-of-a-kind attractions

Individual Las Vegas resorts strive to stand apart from the pack by boasting at least one attraction you won’t find anywhere else in town.

Minus 5 Ice Experience

During our stay at Mandalay Bay, we found two such spots: the Minus 5 Ice Experience and the Shark Reef Aquarium. The former, located in the Shoppes at Mandalay Place, is a bar made entirely of ice; the place admits kids before 6 p.m. and even serves them mocktails in cups made of ice.

Shark Reef Aquarium

The aquarium is out by the hotel convention center; it’s certified by the American Zoological Association (AZA), and its tanks contain more than 2,000 different marine animals, with 15 species of sharks.

Other unique, family-friendly attractions

Other family-friendly must-dos on the Strip include FlyOver Las Vegas, a Disneyland-style ride that plays out while you are suspended with feet dangling in front of a 52.5-foot-wide spherical screen, and the Escape Game Las Vegas, a hard-to-solve escape room inside the Forum Shops near Caesars Palace. And as cheesy as it might seem, the 1,149-foot-tall Observation Deck atop the Strat Hotel & Casino really is spectacular, especially at night. (Fun fact: The structure is the tallest freestanding observation tower in the United States.)

3. Feast on over-the-top food

Black Tap

My girls are still talking about our lunch at Black Tap inside the Venetian. Sure, the fried pickles, onion rings, and indulgent burgers were divine. But the main attraction was the milkshakes—mine came with two churros and a whole Choco Taco sticking out of whipped cream on the top; the one my youngest daughter ordered was rimmed with sprinkles and garnished with an entire slice of cake.

Maxie’s

We had another memorable dining experience at Maxie’s, a diner toward the back of the Linq Promenade between the Flamingo and the Linq Hotel. Here, the girls ordered stacks of pancakes topped with cotton candy or Fruity Pebbles; the eatery also serves benedicts in hunks of white bread.

Buffets at Wynn Las Vegas and Ceasars Palace

No trip to Las Vegas is complete without at least one gut-stuffing buffet stop; some buffets shut down in the wake of COVID-19, but many all-you-can-eat stalwarts are still going strong. One of my personal favorites is the Buffet at Wynn Las Vegas, where a new family-friendly pancake station serves made-to-order flapjacks in flavors such as red velvet, bananas foster, and strawberry shortcake. Another great one: Bacchanal Buffet inside Caesars Palace. This is one of the few all-you-can-eat restaurants that serves freshly squeezed specialty breakfast juices, such as watermelon, carrot, and celery.

Buffets at Wynn Las Vegas and Ceasars Palace

No trip to Las Vegas is complete without at least one gut-stuffing buffet stop; some buffets shut down in the wake of COVID-19, but many all-you-can-eat stalwarts are still going strong. One of my personal favorites is the Buffet at Wynn Las Vegas, where a new family-friendly pancake station serves made-to-order flapjacks in flavors such as red velvet, bananas foster, and strawberry shortcake. Another great one: Bacchanal Buffet inside Caesars Palace. This is one of the few all-you-can-eat restaurants that serves freshly squeezed specialty breakfast juices, such as watermelon, carrot, and celery.

Luv-It Frozen Custard

For the frozen dessert lovers in your family, head downtown and check out Luv-It Frozen Custard, which has been in business since 1973. Special flavors change every day, but the Fresh Banana Nut is always available on Sundays.

4. Explore family-friendly stuff off-Strip

There are even more stand-alone attractions in and around Las Vegas that are sure to leave kids (and—who are we kidding?—parents) shaking off “fun hangovers.”


Area 15

Number one on the list: Area 15, which bills itself as an “immersive entertainment and events complex,” but really is a shopping mall of creative genius. Among the diversions here are axe-throwing, a dual-track zipline, and Wink World, a sequence of infinity mirror rooms from the creator of “Blue Man Group.” The main attraction is Omega Mart, an interactive playground from the art collective Meow Wolf; save a few hours to do it right.

High Roller

Another must-see: High Roller, which sits at the back of the Linq Promenade off the Strip and, at 550 feet tall, currently holds the record for the tallest observation wheel in North America. When we visited, my two younger daughters sang some favorite songs and held their own dance party in the sky as our pod crested the top of the wheel and delivered panoramic views of the Vegas Valley. One entire revolution took about 30 minutes; a computer monitor provided us with a constant elevation reading along the way.

Discovery Children’s Museum

Later in the trip, we checked out the Discovery Children’s Museum in Downtown. I’ve been to dozens of children’s museums in the 10 years I’ve written about family travel, and this might be the best of the bunch. Its centerpiece is a seven-story climbing structure that enables kids to explore different exhibits and floors. (Technically, very flexible parents can use the structure, too.) A maker space offering open play or special classes on topics like 3-D printing also kept my girls occupied for hours.

Visit the tree house at Downtown Container Park

Elsewhere in the Downtown area, kids love the tree house in the center of the Downtown Container Park shopping mall for its three-story tunnel slide; there’s also a nearby set of giant blue blocks with which kids (and grown-ups) can play.

Springs Preserve

Last but not least, the Springs Preserve is an expansive facility on the north side of town that essentially offers three museums in one: the Nevada State Museum, a museum about the origin of Las Vegas, and a recreated Las Vegas streetscape from 1905. It also features a sustainability gallery, playground, botanical garden, and 180 acres of trails. You could spend the whole day there and still have more to see. Which just means you’ll have to bring the kids back again to more fully explore it—and to do the rest of kid-friendly Vegas right.

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