People call our town "Sin City" for a reason: Las Vegas is the world’s adult playground, where drinking on the Strip is not only legal, it’s encouraged (just take care that your booze is not in a glass container). But that doesn’t mean we don’t want kids, too. Las Vegas has reached a nice balance, with lots of choices for both families and adult fun-seekers: You just need to know where the boundaries lie.
Minimum Drinking Age
The drinking age in the United States is a federally mandated minimum 21 years of age. While people love to think of Las Vegas as a lawless fun corridor, the hotels, restaurants, lounges, and clubs take the age requirement seriously. Doormen at the city’s lounges can spot a fake ID from a mile away. Would-be under-21 drinkers will have a tough time getting alcohol in Las Vegas; after all, we’re busy serving all the people of legal age who come here. Pool parties, restaurants, and lounges will not admit people under 21 years of age.
Minimum Gambling Age
Statewide, the minimum gambling age is 21, so those under 21 trying to get free drinks at the slot machines are breaking two rules (the servers will card guests). Minors are not allowed in the casino gaming areas. Children are allowed to walk through the casino as long as they do not stop, but most casino floors require children to be accompanied by a parent. While some casinos have stricter policies than others, these rules are beginning to relax. At Wynn Las Vegas, for example, strollers were once prohibited in and around the periphery of the gaming floor; that rule is now gone. As in any public space, just try and be respectful of others’ space.
Curfew for Kids in Las Vegas
The city’s curfew laws allow children under 18 to be accompanied by parents in non-gaming areas around the Strip at any time. However, unaccompanied minors may not idle or wander in public spaces from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. Sunday through Thursday, or from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. Friday and Saturday. On weekends outside the Strip, minors may be out until midnight.
Family-Friendly Activities in Las Vegas
All these rules aside, Las Vegas is an incredible city for kids. Parents might consider daytime activities with the whole family, then hire a babysitter or check the kids into a casino childcare (below) so they can go out alone at night. Here are some of our favorite family-friendly activities:
Crowds gather to watch the fountains spout their sky-high jets of choreographed water, which dance to classical blockbusters, the stylings of Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley, and now also to Lady Gaga and Bruno Mars. Don’t forget to go inside to Bellagio’s sky-lit conservatory and botanical garden, where a team of 120 horticulturists, engineers, and designers creates unbelievable animatronic, flower-filled displays for all five seasons (including Chinese New Year).
The Strip’s iconic free attraction starts at 3 p.m. on weekdays and 12 p.m. on weekends. Shows take place every half hour until 8 p.m., then every 15 minutes until midnight.
Just north of the Strip in Downtown Las Vegas, the Discovery Children’s Museum is full of interactive exhibits for kids and adults (even sullen teenagers will find something they like here). Don’t miss the Discovery Lab, which includes an interactive computer lab with CAD software, as well as a laser cutter, 3-D printers, and kiln. It even hosts a STEM-themed workshop by engineers and scientists.
Kids 13 and older can become a trainer for a day at the Dolphin Habitat at the Mirage, and kids of all ages can go to the underground viewing area to see the dolphins at play. There’s even yoga for grown-ups in the viewing area. Nearby, Siegfried and Roy’s Secret Garden holds a fantastic collection of endangered white tigers and lions, as well as leopards and other rare wildlife.
Ethel M, the city’s beloved local chocolatier, sits in one of the largest botanical cactus gardens in the world. You can take factory tours (during which chocolate artists will give you plenty of free samples), and a stroll of the unusual gardens. This is a great activity in the late fall, when Ethel M strings the cactus with a half million holiday lights.
Or, if you’d like to indulge in all your chocolate fantasies while staying on the Strip, head to M&M’s World (it's free, just be prepared for your kids’ merch requests). Across the street, Hershey’s Chocolate World in New York-New York Hotel & Casino is a two-story wonderland with a monumental chocolate Statue of Liberty.
The Life Aquatic
A lesser known (among non-locals) activity takes place at the Silverton, where a massive 117,000-gallon aquarium hosts mermaid swims Thursday through Sunday. Here, scuba “mermaids” zip through the reefs, stingrays, and leopard sharks, and guides are on hand to answer audience questions (arrive around Christmastime, and you’ll be treated to scuba-diving Santas). There’s no age restriction, and it’s free.
The 50,000-gallon saltwater Atlantis aquarium in the Forum Shops at Caesars is another fun (and free!) attraction, with pyrotechnics, colorful fountains, and animatronic figures. Families can take complimentary below-ground guided tours of the aquarium facilities on weekdays at 3:15 p.m.
Leave the Kids
Of course, there will be times you want to go out for some alone time. Many hotel casinos can recommend childcare contractors (such as College Nannies and Sitters or Care.com), but one of our favorite resources is Kids Quest. This hourly childcare and kids’ game room can be found in a number of hotel casinos in Las Vegas, including Red Rock Hotel & Casino, Boulder Station, and Green Valley Ranch Casino. Your kids can play video games, belly up to their own “bar” for snacks and treats, and play games—all well-supervised. All you have to do is sign a waiver, bring your ID, and email your kids' immunization records within 15 days. Call in advance to find out the hotel's policy about going off-property: Some are fine with this, and some aren’t.