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After a recent trip to Las Vegas, 16-year-old TPG Teen Correspondent Aly Cerchiai, shares her favorite spots and crushes the idea that Vegas isn’t fun unless you’re over 21. Consider this your teen-friendly guide to Sin City.
The day after Christmas, my family and I took a spontaneous trip from Miami to Las Vegas — we actually booked our hotel room on the flight there and soon enough, after a connection via Phoenix, we landed and were ready to explore. To my surprise, there was so much to do that didn’t involve drinking and gambling! Here are seven things every teen should do on a visit to Vegas, listed in no particular order.
1. Visit the Neon Museum
With more than 100 neon signs that span the decades (the oldest one dates back to 1930!), the Neon Museum is one of the best photo-ops you’ll find in the city, and it’s certainly unlike any other museum you’ve visited. You’ll have to go online and book a guided tour to see the Neon Boneyard, but you’ll be glad you did because without it, you probably wouldn’t know that you’re standing in front of a sign that once lured people into one of the city’s first casinos. The guided tour also incorporates some information about neon itself, its history and the technology behind it. Tours during the day cost $18 per person while evening tours are $25 per person — I recommend booking online in advance because spots can fill up quickly.
2. Check Out Fabulous Hotels Along the Las Vegas Strip
Who knew that the most extravagant shopping mall I’d go to would be located in the middle of a hotel? Alongside excessive casinos, most hotels on the Las Vegas Strip have attachments of essentially full-sized shopping malls, most of them containing high-end luxury stores. Caesar’s Palace was my favorite hotel to shop in because of its exquisite Roman decor and an enchanting ceiling that portrays a perfectly sunny sky no matter what time it is or what the weather’s like outside. It makes for a shopping experience like no other.
3. Ride a Gondola at The Venetian
If shopping isn’t quite your thing, treat yourself to a gondola ride at The Venetian. Choose from an iconic boat ride inside or outside the hotel, during which you’ll be accompanied by a serenading gondolier! A shared gondola seats up to four people and costs $21 per person — opting for the private option for two will run you $84 total. Be sure to book your ride in person at The Venetian the morning of so you can lock in a time later that day to come back and enjoy your ride.
4. Catch a Free Fountain Show Outside Bellagio
Don’t miss the Fountains of Bellagio show every half hour, which features synchronized waterworks with booming music and extravagant lights year-round. The best part: It’s free — and you literally can’t miss it if you’re in the area.
5. See the Las Vegas Sign
How could you go to Las Vegas without encountering its fabulous welcome sign? Okay, I’ll be honest — this wasn’t the No. 1 attraction I was looking forward to, but it actually ended up being a great way to start off the trip. Seeing all the soon-to-be newlyweds and other tourists lining up to take their picture with the sign in the background completely set the scene for me. This is also the spot that ended my short-lived hunt for an Elvis impersonator — pink Cadillac included.
6. Get Your Pawn on at the Gold & Silver Pawn Shop
Even if you’re not a fan of the TV show “Pawn Stars,” you’ll still love its ultra-famous shop. It’s like a mini-museum filled with all types of art, jewelry and antiques, so something is sure to catch your eye. If you do find something to buy, rest assured it will be an immediate conversation-starter. Many items have cool stories behind them because of the time period they come from or their previous owners. I ended up spontaneously buying a dainty silver ring in place of a regular old high school class ring, which I can’t stop bragging about. The Pawn Stars also have a little shopping center across the street called “Pawn Plaza” if you’re in the mood for some snacks or a drink.
7. Take a Day Trip to Red Rock Canyon
Becoming engulfed in huge rock formations is not something I get to do on a regular basis, especially living in Miami, Florida. So exploring the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area was both a fun and humbling experience. There’s a 13-mile scenic drive that allows visitors to get out, view the canyon and hike as desired. It was also a great way to discover one of the most interesting and unique biomes — the desert. I especially enjoyed the Willow Springs Loop Trail, where snow had just settled on the ground. Of course, it isn’t likely that you’ll see snow year-round here (we visited in late December), but nonetheless it’s definitely a sight to see and the hike was beautiful and rewarding. Red Rock Canyon is just a 30-minute drive from the city and access to the canyon is only $7 per vehicle ($3 if you’re entering on foot or by bicycle).
Where to Stay
We stayed at the JW Marriott Las Vegas Resort & Spa, a Category 6 Marriott hotel located about 20 minutes away from the Las Vegas Strip, for three nights. We had originally booked a Larger Guest Room but were upgraded to a one-bedroom suite thanks to our Marriott Platinum Elite status. Free nights cost 30k Marriott Rewards points per night, however, we decided to save our points and pay separately since the rate was just $114 per night plus the discounted resort fee (originally $15 per night but half-off thanks again to our Platinum Elite status).
Rates at the JW Marriott Las Vegas Resort & Spa start at $185 or 30k Marriott Rewards points per night in April. Consider taking advantage of the 75,000-point sign-up bonus on the Marriott Rewards Premier Credit Card to get closer to earning free nights on your next trip.
I really enjoyed staying here, not only because of the more-than-spacious bathroom in our suite, but also because it wasn’t on the Strip — the hotel’s location helped us get away from the Las Vegas evening chaos and significantly cut down our dinner wait times.
Las Vegas really won me over on this trip, despite me being a 16-year-old, so I encourage anyone to go see it for yourself if you can. Although I was able to do a lot in the short time I was there, I still wish I could have done more. Next time, I’d love to check out Circus Circus and the Stratosphere at the northern end of the Strip, take a helicopter tour of the city, see any Cirque du Soleil show, explore the Fremont Street Experience in Downtown Las Vegas and visit the Hoover Dam.
If you ever go on a family trip to Las Vegas and try any of my recommendations, I’d love to hear about it! Keep up with all of my travels and let me know where I should head to next on Twitter and Instagram: @alycerchiai.
What are your favorite things to do in Las Vegas? Leave your tips in the comments below.
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