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Before “What Happens in Vegas Stays in Vegas” was a slogan, Las Vegas once pitched itself as a family-friendly destination. Like many now 30- and 40-something year olds, I went to Las Vegas as a kid with my family in the 1990s during this era. (We can all thank Chevy Chase in the movie “Vegas Vacation” for that inspiration.) I had a blast visiting the big pink Circus Circus Adventuredome, exploring the MGM Grand Adventures theme park that used to be behind the Wizard of Oz-themed MGM Grand, watching the “Buccaneer Bay” pirate show and playing in the very large arcade at Treasure Island.
Some of these family-friendly features and attractions are now long gone (RIP MGM theme park), but the truth remains that kids can still have a bunch of legal and largely wholesome fun in Vegas. A Las Vegas trip with kids may require a little bit of extra planning beyond an adults-only fest, but the effort can be worth the payoff.
Should You Bring Kids to Vegas?
Before I get into how kids can have fun in Vegas, I think you first have to look at whether you want your kids with you in Las Vegas. While there are some family-friendly activities, the city is more designed around adult-oriented wants and desires like gambling, drinking, fine dining, shows, exclusive pools and luxe accommodations. In Vegas, many people like to dress skimpy, drink to excess, stay up late and party. If that is what you want to do while in Vegas, or you just don’t want your kids exposed to that, then perhaps leaving them behind with grandparents might be a good decision.
My sister and I went to Vegas as kids, and I did notice some of the seedier sides of the city, but I think that just helped make me more aware. It didn’t cause me to drop out of school or run away from home. However, coming to Vegas as a kid probably did contribute to my love of the city — and our eventual wedding in Las Vegas. (In a suite, not a drive-thru chapel, performed by a preacher, not Elvis.)
We have traveled to Las Vegas with our kids on a few trips that overlapped with my parents. Since grandparents were in town, and we could take turns doing adult things and family things, it worked just fine and I would absolutely go to Vegas with kids again.
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Activities for Kids in Las Vegas
Once you have decided to bring your kiddos to Vegas, it’s time to identify some kid-friendly things for them to do. Some family-friendly activities are on the Strip, and some are a bit more off the Strip, which may work well if you want to avoid some of the more adult elements of Vegas. (Here are points-friendly hotel suggestions for families both on and off the Strip.)
Check Out Free Attractions at Vegas Hotels
It isn’t that hard to impress younger children, so seek out free things to do in Las Vegas when you can. Attractions like the fish tanks and the erupting volcanoes at the Mirage, the fountains and the Conservatory & Botanical Gardens at the Bellagio, the flamingo habitat at the Flamingo, gondola-watching at the Venetian and the castle theming at the Excalibur will inspire little ones and leave room in your budget for a few bigger ticket items.
One of the best kid-friendly free offerings in Las Vegas is at Circus Circus where the hotel still offers the world’s largest permanent circus performance at the center stage of the Carnival Midway daily at 11:30 am.
Shark Reef Aquarium
There are a number of attractions in Las Vegas that are happy to take your money as well, and quite a few of them are ideal for families. Budget for a couple during your stay. The Shark Reef Aquarium is $25 for adults and $19 for kids ages 4–12 (3 and under are free). One thing we loved about the Shark Reef was that it was indoors and air-conditioned — which is almost essential in the summer desert heat!
Siegfried & Roy’s Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat
Two that animal-loving kiddos will enjoy are the Shark Reef Aquarium at Mandalay Bay and Siegfried & Roy’s Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat at the Mirage. Both are on the smaller side and only take about one to two hours to visit, but they pack a punch in small spaces.
Siegfried & Roy’s Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat is home to the pair’s famous white tigers as well a number of bottlenose dolphins, including a new baby born in 2018. Admission is $22 for adults and $17 for children ages 4-–12, although be sure to check the website for special deals.
Circus Circus Adventuredome
Families looking for theme park-style entertainment can find it in Las Vegas as well. There’s a complete amusement park in Circus Circus that can entertain the family for hours. The Adventuredome has rides ranging from the indoor double-loop, double-corkscrew roller coaster speeding at 55 mph to the rides designed for the younger crowd. If your kids want to ride more than a couple of attractions, the all-day wristband is the best value ($33.95 for anyone over 48 inches tall, $19.95 for juniors under 48 inches).
New York, New York Roller Coaster
Older kids and teens at least 54 inches tall can seek out serious thrills on the roller coaster at New York, New York (see more of TPG’s recommendations for Las Vegas with teens).
If the Shark Reef, Dolphin/Lion habitat roller coaster and Adventuredome sound fun, you can opt for a “3 for $57 Package.”
For a little less speed but at a thrilling height, consider taking a ride on the High Roller, Vegas’s enormous slow-moving observation wheel in the Linq Casino. The views are better at night, but the prices are also higher. If two kids and two adults want to ride before 7pm, a family pack is available for $47.
Hotel Pool Day
Vegas doesn’t have as many pools focused on kid-friendly things like slides as they used to, but some of the pools can still be pretty great for kids. Choose your hotel carefully so you can take full advantage during the warmer months. The best pool on the Strip is the Mandalay Bay Beach, complete with a lazy river, wave pool and man-made sand beach. Guests of the Mandalay Bay Hotel, the Four Seasons and the Delano all have access.
The newest addition to the family-friendly pool scene in Las Vegas is Splash Zone which debuted Circus Circus in 2017. The complex has multiple pools, several waterslides of varying thrill levels and a colorful splash pad for younger kids. The hotel is definitely on the budget-end of the spectrum, but is targeting the family audience hard with its offerings.
Other pools with family-friendly features include the Flamingo Beach Club Pool and the Mirage which both have waterslides, as well as the MGM Grand which has a lazy river.
See a Show
What is a visit to Vegas without a show? While several shows in Las Vegas are family-friendly, many of the shows in town do have a minimum age requirements that families should check in advance before purchasing tickets. Luckily for families, several shows have lowered their age requirements the last few years since I first took my daughter to Las Vegas.
Many of the Cirque du Soleil shows are ideal for families because they work well for kids without adults having to “take one for the team” by attending a show that doesn’t really interest them. Mystere is the best fit for families, as it is the only Cirque show that allows all ages to attend. Once your children hit the 5-year mark, however, consider some of the other family-friendly Cirque shows that allow ages 5+ to attend, including Ka, O or Love.
While I’m partial to the Cirque shows, there are many other shows in Vegas that children would also love. The Blue Man Group at the Luxor (3+) is visually arresting and the Mac King Comedy Magic Show at Harrah’s (all ages) works well for families. Probably the most targeted at kids is Tournament of Kings at Excalibur, a medieval dinner theater event with horses and jousting.
Get Off the Strip
While the Las Vegas Strip has enough to entertain a family for many days, I also recommend getting off the Strip with your kids to see things nearby. The Hoover Dam is a worthy day trip that many families make. Many families with younger kids also rave about the Discovery Children’s Museum.
For outdoor pursuits, Red Rock Canyon is a must-do. About 30 minutes from the Strip, drive the one-way canyon loop for gorgeous desert and red rock views. Stop to explore and hike at various turnoff points. If you have an America the Beautiful national parks annual pass, admission is included (see more TPG tips for visiting America’s national parks for less).
Families should also consider taking a trip to Las Vegas as part of a longer road trip around the Southwest. Destinations like the Grand Canyon, Zion & Bryce Canyon National Parks, Valley of Fire and Death Valley are all within a few hours’ drive. After you overdo it on Vegas man-made excess, exploring some natural beauty often restores the travel balance quite well.
Like many kids, our daughter loved Vegas. Maybe we will regret that when she is older, or maybe she will bring us along when she is 21+. Either way, I think Vegas can be enjoyed as an “adults only” location, or with your family.
Here are some more Las Vegas trip-planning information:
- Visiting Some Hard Rocks In Las Vegas
- Review: The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas — Terrace One Bedroom
- Review: Wynn Las Vegas
- Review: The Palazzo Las Vegas
- Review of the Bellagio Suite in Las Vegas
- History of Las Vegas: 35 Years of Chasing Neon
- 5 Reasons to Visit The Neon Museum in Las Vegas
This story was originally published in 2013 and has been edited and updated by Leslie Harvey in 2019. Leslie is a mom of two who blogs at Trips With Tykes and has happily taken her kids three times in the past four years to Las Vegas!
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