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Why families are (again) betting on a trip to Las Vegas

Sept. 08, 2022
25 min read
Las Vegas Strip at twilight, Las Vegas, USA
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You may think Las Vegas is the go-to destination for couples getaways and over-the-top bachelor and bachelorette parties. And, you'd be correct. However, for some, there can be much more to Vegas than just its adult-oriented scene. In fact, Sin City offers a surprising amount of amenities for families who want to make the trip to the city of neon.

Back in the 1990s, Las Vegas transformed itself into a kid-friendly megaresort, offering everything children could ever want in an attempt to attract more families ... and their dollars. There were arcades, theme parks, pirate fights and even erupting volcanoes, providing every member of the family something to enjoy.

But by the early 2000s, that effort was largely abandoned. Instead, Vegas once again embraced its adult playland persona. What happened in Vegas got out of the family scrapbooks and went back to staying in Vegas.


However, in recent years, Sin City has started to shift back toward being more relevant for families, a move which was likely only amplified by the coronavirus pandemic. Only 5% of Las Vegas visitors brought folks younger than 21 with them in 2019, according to a study by the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority from that year. In 2021, though, that number increased to 21%, a massive jump that simply can't be ignored.

So if your idea of a good time in Las Vegas involves your kiddos, you're in luck: It turns out that Sin City can once again be a good gamble for families thanks to its array of fun activities, attractions and more.

Here is what to know if you are thinking about visiting Vegas with your family.

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Why bring kids to Las Vegas?

Before we dive into the details of Vegas' family-friendly features, let's start with some reasons why travelers may consider bringing kids to Sin City.

First and likely foremost, it's an affordable city to visit. The average cost of a domestic round-trip flight to Vegas in 2022 is just $239.77 per person, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics. That's not only less than the national average of $330 per person round-trip, but also less than what you'll spend on average to fly to top family vacation destinations like Orlando.

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A view of the New York-New York Hotel at dusk in Las Vegas. PETER UNGER/GETTY IMAGES

Because of its location, it is also a driveable destination for millions of Americans who could avoid flying altogether by loading up the minivan and driving to the city. And when you're ready to bed down for the night, you'll find a number of budget-friendly hotel rooms, even at the more luxurious end of the spectrum, as long as you avoid visiting during peak dates like long holiday weekends and major sporting events.

Beyond saving money, you'll also find that there are ample ways to enjoy your time here. Whether you and your little ones want to catch a show, get your heart racing on a thrilling ride or enjoy an eyeful of bright lights and characters, Vegas will keep your family entertained for hours.

Las Vegas can also be a great add-on destination for larger family outings in the American West. In addition to visiting Vegas, you could easily check out bucket list-worthy national parks like the Grand Canyon, Death Valley and Zion.

Road trips to other Nevada hot spots and places in nearby states are easily doable, too. Get your Route 66 kicks in Kingman, Arizona, which is about an hour and a half from Las Vegas, when you're not busy exploring old Arizona mining towns like Cornville, Clarkdale and Cottonwood. Or, head to Sedona, Arizona, for some time in nature hiking and biking. The desert town sits just 4 1/2 hours away from Vegas.

Related: Getting to Las Vegas on points and miles

Free Las Vegas activities for the whole family

Las Vegas does more than offer affordable things to do. It's packed with activities that won't cost you a dime to experience.

Enjoy a photo-op at the Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas sign

If you didn’t get a photo in front of the Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas sign, did you even go to Vegas?


Checking out this iconic spot at the south end of Las Vegas Boulevard is a can't-miss Sin City activity. Be sure to arrive early, as it's common to find long lines as the day progresses.

Related: 21 things to know about the MGM Grand in Las Vegas

Watch the Bellagio fountain show

While the Bellagio Hotel & Casino’s iconic fountain show is a must-visit during any Vegas vacation, you really shouldn't skip it when you're with your kids.

Located in front of MGM Resorts' Bellagio resort, the majestic waters dance to varied musical stylings every half hour until 8 p.m. and then every 15 minutes until midnight. Grab a spot along the front rail in the center of the lake for the best view.

(Photo courtesy of The Bellagio)

Visit the Flamingo Wildlife Habitat

Nestled behind the Flamingo Las Vegas Hotel & Casino, the Flamingo Wildlife Habitat is an ideal spot for wildlife-loving kiddos. This 4-acre oasis holds waterfalls, streams and gardens teeming with exotic birds, fish, ducks and Chilean flamingos.

The habitat is open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m., with two live feedings and keeper talks daily at 8:30 a.m. and 2 p.m.

Flamingo Wildlife Habitat. FLAMINGO LAS VEGAS HOTEL & CASINO

Play in the Treehouse Playground

Downtown Container Park on historic Fremont Street is a lure for families. It’s home to the Treehouse Playground, which features a 33-foot-tall slide, bridges and an interactive play system. Plus, there’s a good selection of dining options — pizza, tacos and sandwiches — so be sure to grab lunch while you’re here.

The playground area is open from 11:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. After that, only other parts of Downtown Container Park are open. However, they're limited to adults 21 and older, so plan your visit accordingly. Aim to visit around sunset when a drum circle to wake up the larger park's giant praying mantis sculpture takes place.


Related: A classic getaway: Revisiting the Las Vegas of my childhood to love it even more

Check out the Silverton Casino Hotel's aquarium

Considered one of the city's best free attractions by many who've visited, the Silverton Casino Hotel's aquarium is a fun diversion. The 117,000-gallon aquarium is home to thousands of tropical fish — and even mermaids.

While the aquarium itself is open 24 hours a day, if you want to catch a glimpse of its mermaids swimming around the reef, time your visit for a Thursday, Friday, Saturday or Sunday. On these days, the mermaids make several appearances at select times.

The aquarium also hosts interactive stingray feedings daily at 1:30 p.m and 4:30 p.m.

Silverton Casino Hotel's mermaids. EUGENE DELA CRUZ

Walk through the themed resorts

Paris, Egypt, the medieval era and more are all waiting for you in Vegas' themed resorts. Each is free to walk through, meaning you can take in all the over-the-top decor for as long as you like. Just be sure to avoid stopping in the resorts' casinos — most allow you to walk through with kids, so long as you don't stop and linger by the machines.


On a hot Vegas day, walking in and between the resorts can be tiring, so remember to pace yourself. You may want to limit yourself to one or two properties to avoid wearing your little ones out.

To keep cool and save time, make use of the free trams. There are three of them, and each runs about every 15 minutes.

The Aria Express Tram runs between Park MGM, Aria and the Bellagio. Meanwhile, the Mandalay Bay tram travels between the Excalibur, the Luxor and the Mandalay Bay hotels. Another tram that makes stops between The Mirage and Treasure Island is available as well.

Related: A Tesla party: The 3-station Las Vegas Loop that's revolutionizing how you get around

Las Vegas attractions that are great for kids

There are many ways for families to enjoy their Vegas vacation. Whether you and your kiddos have an interest in futuristic attractions or marine encounters — or something else entirely — you'll find plenty of fun diversions. Here are a few you should check out.


This immersive bunker-style retail, dining and entertainment complex is just minutes from the Las Vegas Strip on South Rancho Drive.

The vibe here is a fantastic mesh of retro and futuristic. It’s open every day and general admission is free, though timed-entry tickets are required for social distancing. Know, too, that certain experiences and exhibits cost extra.


The anchor exhibit here is the 52,000-square-foot Meow Wolf’s Omega Mart installation, which costs a minimum of $40 for kids ages 4 to 13 and $45 for visitors 14 and up to experience. Filled with alien portals, funkadelic dystopian landscapes and mind-bending products you can buy, the funky space aptly bills itself as "America’s Most Exceptional Grocery Store."


Another must is Wink World, created by Blue Man Group co-founder Chris Wink. This psychedelic art installation is brilliant, featuring a narrow hallway that leads you through six infinity mirror rooms alive with vibrant colors, sound, light and motion.

While a $14 to $18 fee (depending on age) applies to access this space, it's well worth a visit. Pay an extra $2.50 per person for the Chromadepth glasses. Your kids may think they look dorky to wear, but they really enhance your experience.


FlyOver Las Vegas

I’m a sucker for a good flight ride, and this one did not disappoint. It’s on the Las Vegas Strip right next to the Hard Rock Cafe. During the ride, you’ll sit suspended in front of a 52-foot circular screen. The platform you’re on moves throughout the ride, with wind, mist and scents amplifying the real-life feel of it all.

We chose the "Real Wild West" option because it seemed like the perfect fit given our Nevada location. As we soared above the Grand Canyon, Zion National Park and other destinations, I found myself eager to explore more state and national parks.

Single-ride tickets for FlyOver Las Vegas cost $30.60 for adults and $22.10 for kids 12 and younger when purchased in advance online. If you buy on-site, know that you'll spend a few bucks more per person. Children must be at least 40 inches tall to ride and sit with an adult or guardian who's at least 14 years old.

Related: 9 exciting new things in Las Vegas that will make you want to book a trip right now

Shark Reef Aquarium at Mandalay Bay

Prepare to feel transported to another world — one far below the water's surface — at Mandalay Bay's aquarium. As you explore this seemingly ancient sinking temple, you’ll discover 15 species of sharks, stingrays, piranhas, endangered green sea turtles and a bevy of other marine life. There are even reptiles, including a python, a crocodile and a Komodo dragon.

Kids marveled at the aquarium's animals in every room we visited. I was especially enchanted by the underwater tunnel, as was everyone else who walked through.

Your basic ticket, which costs $29 for adults and $24 for kids 5 and older (little ones 4 and younger get in for free), includes entry to the main facility, plus the "Undersea Explorer" virtual reality experience set in the South Pacific. You can also pay for interactive animal programs like feedings with stingrays, sharks or sea turtles.

High Roller Observation Wheel

Thrill-seekers take note: The 550-foot-tall High Roller, North America's largest observation wheel, may offer the best seat in the house. It’s the main attraction at The Linq Las Vegas Hotel + Experience, a hotel on the Strip featuring its own shopping, dining and entertainment district.

Each of the 28 air-conditioned, glass-enclosed cabins holds 40 passengers. The leisurely rotation takes about 30 minutes, giving you plenty of time to take in the views.

Ticket prices start at $23.50 for adults and $8.50 for kids between 4 and 12, though the exact pricing varies depending on the time of day you ride. For the cheapest tickets, visit before 7 p.m.

Pinball Museum


This ginormous museum (it fits into an aircraft hangar) is just south of Mandalay Bay. You’ll find about 200 games that range from vintage to modern — something for every age, for sure.

Some games here only cost a quarter to play. Also, parking is free, making this an ideal activity for budget-minded families.

Family-friendly shows in Las Vegas

Yes, Las Vegas is the ultimate playground for adults, so many of the city's shows cater to older visitors. However, there is an impressive lineup of kid-approved shows focusing on everything from acrobatics to magic.

The following are a few performances worth checking out:

  • 'Blue Man Group': Think music, comedy, art, innovative technology and a touch of zany all combined into one attention-grabbing show. This iconic stage production, which is just as engaging and interactive as it is fun, is so popular that it now has a permanent spot at Luxor Hotel & Casino.
  • 'Jabbawockeez': The first dance crew to headline the Strip, the Jabbawockeez is a group I fell in love with when I first saw them on an episode of “America’s Got Talent.” You can catch the group's dazzling special effects, high-energy music and impressive choreography at the MGM Grand, which has hosted the performers since 2015.
  • 'Tournament of Kings': The must-visit show at Excalibur Hotel & Casino, "Tournament of Kings" features medieval shenanigans, eye-popping pyrotechnics and choreographed battle scenes — all while you savor period-appropriate fare. Best of all: If you have kids 3 or younger in tow, they watch for free, as entrance fees only apply for those 4 and older.
  • 'Mystere by Cirque du Soleil': Catch this incredible show at Treasure Island Las Vegas for a dazzling performance that will wow both you and your kids. Debuting in 1993, this production is Cirque du Soleil's longest-running show. It features plenty of high-energy acrobatics, stunning visuals and mesmerizing tunes.
  • 'Xavier Mortimer: The Dream Maker': Featuring Xavier Mortimer, the first Cirque du Soleil alum to star in his own residency, this magic-themed performance takes place at The Strat Hotel, Casino & SkyPod. Guests can expect an extraordinarily creative and visually dynamic show from its beguiling namesake.

As your kids get older, even more shows will become interesting and worth enjoying together.


Kid-friendly dining options in Las Vegas

Las Vegas celebrates excess. That philosophy certainly extends to the realm of dining.

There are a number of eateries serving all kinds of must-try dishes, ranging from pancake towers to larger-than-life desserts. Here are a few spots that will please — and likely even impress — the pickiest of eaters.

Maxie's Las Vegas

One of the dining options at The Linq Las Vegas Hotel + Experience, Maxie's specializes in next-level diner food. The menu features classic breakfast plates, a variety of burgers and sandwiches, a surf-and-turf platter, wings and scrumptious sides big enough to share (or not).

Achieve your sugar rush early by starting your day with Maxie's cotton candy pancakes. These berry-stuffed pancakes are layered with Fruity Pebbles-filled cream cheese and piled high with whipped cream and, of course, cotton candy.

Black Tap Craft Burgers & Beer

The CakeShake at Black Tap Craft Burgers & Beer. THE VENETIAN RESORT LAS VEGAS

A sister location to the New York City-based restaurant chain, this outpost in The Venetian Resort Las Vegas is the city's go-to spot for extravagant burgers and milkshakes.

Burgers here offer an innovative twist on the American classic, with each patty only flipped once on the griddle to ensure each creation is juicy.

Several of Black Tap's burgers have garnered accolades from around the world, including competition winners like The Mulberry Street Burger (a burger topped with provolone, hot cherry peppers, prosciutto, soppressata, roasted garlic aioli and freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano) and The Wagyu Steakhouse Burger (a half-pound wagyu beef burger featuring pepper jack cheese, bacon, crispy onions, A.1. Sauce and roasted garlic mayo).

The milkshakes are just as impressive. Each of Black Tap's signature CrazyShake milkshakes is just as whimsical and overflowing with ice cream and toppings as you may expect. Noteworthy options include The CakeShake, which is dressed in rainbow sprinkles and topped with a slice of funfetti cake, and the Churro Choco Taco, a Cinnamon Toast Crunch-flavored shake with toppings like a Choco Taco, churros, whipped cream and dulce de leche.

Hello Kitty Cafe Las Vegas

If you have Hello Kitty fans in your group, grab something sweet at this recent addition to the Strip.

Located inside the Fashion Show mall, this casual cafe is just as cute as you would imagine. Visitors can expect Hello Kitty-themed cakes, doughnuts, cupcakes and soft serve ice cream, as well as lemonades, coffee drinks and milk teas.

Snap a selfie in front of one of the playful backdrops and stock up on Hello Kitty merch before you leave.

Famous Foods at Resorts World Las Vegas

Not everyone in the family always wants exactly the same thing, so visiting a big food court in a resort can be a great way to let everyone get what they're craving without going to multiple restaurants. Famous Foods at Resorts World Las Vegas is a great example of one of these spots, though many casino resorts have them.

There's a variety of cuisines here for every palate. Enjoy smoked beef brisket at Blood Bros Texas Barbecue, sample traditional Shandong dumplings at Ah Chun Shandong Dumpling or head to Streetbird Las Vegas for some spicy fried chicken from James Beard Award-winning chef Marcus Samuelsson.

Related: We stayed at the first new casino in Vegas in a decade — and it accepts points

Las Vegas resorts that are good for families

Let's be real: Most of Vegas' resorts weren't built with 8-year-olds in mind, but that doesn't mean families have limited options here. There are several Sin City hotels that cater to both kids and adults.

And remember, Las Vegas is a fantastic spot for those with access to the American Express Fine Hotels + Resorts program via The Platinum Card® from American Express as there are many properties that participate and provide breakfast, late checkout, property credits and more.

Mandalay Bay

Situated at the southernmost end of the Strip, the 120-acre Mandalay Bay offers a quieter setting than other major resorts that are more centrally located, making it a solid choice for families. The sprawling pool complex, abundant dining venues and multitude of on-site entertainment options give visitors — families included — a lot to love.


Of all Mandalay Bay's amenities, few are as ideal for kids as Mandalay Bay Beach, the resort’s 11-acre pool facility. Arguably one of the city's best pool complexes, it's composed of four distinct pool areas, including one with a massive wave pool (complete with a sand beach). Keep in mind, though, that kids must be at least 48 inches tall to enter.


In addition to the wave pool, families will want to check out the pool complex's lazy river. It's one of only three available in Las Vegas.


Spring for a pool cabana (starting at $300 a day) for a little extra privacy and convenience, especially if you have smaller ones who need a break from the sun. It includes a dining area, two or three lounge chairs, a minifridge stocked with beverages and a personal safe.

When you're ready to retire for the night, choose from 3,600 rooms and suites with spacious bathrooms and floor-to-ceiling windows that let in lots of natural light. At 550 square feet, the resort rooms with two queen-size beds offer ample space for a family of four.

If you really want to spread out, splurge on the 1,450-square-foot Panoramic Two Bedroom Suite. It sleeps up to six people and features two bathrooms (perfect for families with teens).


While the rooms come equipped with stocked minifridges, water bottles and snacks, know that provided items are not complimentary and that you can’t use the minifridge for personal items, which was a bummer for us on a recent trip. Even if you shuffle things around to accommodate items you bring, you could be hit with charges due to the minifridge's weight-based sensors.

Standard rooms at Mandalay Bay start at $199 or from 17,000 to 23,000 World of Hyatt points per night, depending on the dates of your visit.

Currently, World of Hyatt members can earn twice as many World of Hyatt points thanks to a newly launched MGM Rewards program. World of Hyatt members can also tier match with MGM Rewards and take advantage of show discounts, guaranteed room rates and other exclusive perks.

Related: Hyatt members, it’s time for another look at Vegas: How I earned an elite qualifying night for just $24

The Boulevard, a Hilton Grand Vacations Club

This Hilton timeshare, which sits on the north end of the Strip, is designed with families in mind.


Available to both those who own and do not own accommodations here, the property's guest rooms and suites offer plenty of space for those with kids in tow.


The spacious studios include kitchenettes with sinks, coffee makers, toasters, minifridges, dishes and utensils. Meanwhile, multibedroom suites feature well-equipped kitchens, as well as washers and dryers. Some larger suites also offer living rooms and dining areas.

This is a non-gaming resort, so families with small kiddos won't have to worry about navigating around a casino while on the resort grounds, which include a number of age-appropriate amenities.


Kids of all ages will love the expansive pool area, which is shaded by lots of towering palm trees, while teens can take advantage of on-site activities like basketball, tennis and pingpong. There are even free circus shows available next door at Circus Circus Hotel and Casino, should your children need a longer distraction.

On-site basketball court. HILTON GRAND VACATIONS CLUB

Guests can currently snag a three-night stay for $249 per night and earn 15,000 Hilton Honors points. The only catch? You must attend a two-hour timeshare sales promotion to receive these points.

If you'd rather cover the cost of your stay with points, expect to cash in at least 38,000 Hilton Honors points for a standard room.

Resorts World Las Vegas

If your brood loves a good pool day or just wants to stay at the newest spot, this is the resort for you. It recently made our list of the 10 best hotel pools in the U.S. — and for good reason.

Welcoming guests since 2021, this Hilton-affiliated complex is the first integrated resort built on the Strip in 10 years. It's composed of three different hotels: the Las Vegas Hilton at Resorts World, the Conrad Las Vegas at Resorts World and Crockfords Las Vegas, LXR Hotels & Resorts.

Resorts World features the largest pool complex on the Las Vegas Strip, offering three pools within the resort’s main pool area. There's a dedicated family pool, which is a good size and offers several fun water elements that will keep kids entertained for hours.

Level up your poolside experience by reserving a private cabana. It comes with perks like a misting fan, a couch, a TV, a minifridge and lounge chairs, among other amenities.

When your family gets hungry, head to one of 40 on-site food and beverage venues, several of which offer a casual setting ideal for kids.

There are numerous dining options in addition to the eateries available within Famous Foods. Grab a slice (or a whole pie) at Mulberry Street Pizzeria, or visit Crossroads Burger for plant-based sausages, burgers and chicken nuggets so good that you won't even miss the meat.

As far as accommodations go, you'll find 3,506 guest rooms and suites here, so you have all sorts of options to choose from. Of the three properties, Conrad Las Vegas is probably the best option for families. It offers spacious rooms, some with pullout couches. You can also request a free crib or a rollaway bed for a fee. The Hilton is also a solid choice.

Rooms at the Conrad start at $167 per night for a Premium Room with two queen-size beds. For those who wish to use points, there's the option to cash in at least 42,000 Hilton Honors points for a room.

Circus Circus

A story about families in Las Vegas isn't complete without a nod to Circus Circus and its iconic, pink Adventuredome amusement park.

It's fair to say that the property is not the newest on the block. In fact, it's fair to say it has aged. But ... renovations are underway. This has included the pool, adding new younger-kid-friendly rides to the Adventuredome and is also expected to ultimately include the hotel rooms.

Related: Book this, not that: Las Vegas points hotels

Bottom line

There’s plenty to do in Las Vegas beyond the typical adult diversions synonymous with a getaway to Sin City. Families keen on visiting Vegas will find all kinds of ways to pass the time, including engaging aquariums, unique dining spots and thrilling indoor and outdoor rides.

However, those with kids are not limited to what's available within Vegas' city limits. You can easily add a daytrip to nearby attractions like the Hoover Dam for even more adventures. Not to mention, national parks, ghost towns and more sit within a few hours of the city, so you can combine your trip to Vegas with an epic road trip through the Southwest.

With so much to see and do, one thing is clear: If you want to, you can bet on Vegas to show you and your family a pretty good time.

Featured image by GETTY IMAGES
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.