For families headed to Sin City with the kids in tow, the "sin" aspect isn't the goal. From its early origins as a sleepy desert gambling town to the heyday of the Rat Pack, Las Vegas was synonymous with adult entertainment, but that all changed in the 1980s. Seeking to lure in a different demographic the casino owners began to build attractions and activities that were more wholesome, and now Nevada's best-known city is a great vacation spot for all ages.
For families visiting Las Vegas, the biggest concern will be to narrow down which activities to do from the massive array of options. From educational opportunities to fun geared towards teens or sporting options and toddler-centric excursions, your visit from to Las Vegas will keep the entire family busy all day long.
Chocolate overload is the end result when visitors stop in for a taste of all the sweet, decadent treats at Hershey's Chocolate World. After taking a tour of the massive store (and dealing with the sugar rush) walk over to the Park Las Vegas Hotel and grab a bite to eat or play a game of corn hole in the outdoor lounge.
This exhilarating activity provides participants with the feeling of floating through the air—without having to actually jump out of an airplane. After a short but detailed training class, flyers suit up and fling themselves into a wind tunnel blowing air upward around 120 mph. The ride has a minimum weight limit of 40 pounds. Kids adore the faux-Superman experience.
If you want to make your kids scream with pleasure, there is no better place than the top of the Stratosphere Tower. The three rides, Big Shot, X-Scream, and Insanity, are essentially roller-coasters situated at 1,081 feet in the air—and Big Shot launches riders off the side of the building down to the earth below. Save this one for the adrenaline junkies in the family.
Grab a cocktail and take a seat as your kids run around in the tree house and play area in the center of the Downtown Container Park. Shops, restaurants, and bars surround this gentle taste of Downtown Las Vegas. The kid-friendly concept goes away after dark so make sure to make this an afternoon activity.
Zion National Park is only 168 miles from Las Vegas, and you'll drive through a few canyons carved out by the Virgin River. Once you get to Zion National Park, you can leave your vehicle and enjoy a ride on the free shuttles provided by the National Park Service. Inside the park are options for biking, horseback riding, and tubing on the Virgin River.
Siegfried and Roy Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat at the Mirage is home to white tigers and bottlenose dolphins in a setting that is set up like a mini zoo. Visitors get a close-up look at tigers, lions, and leopards as they playfully wrestle each other and the dolphins swim around in endless play. The attraction offers special packages, including Trainer for a Day, Painting with the Dolphins, and Yoga With the Dolphins.
Vegas weather can get scorching hot, so beat the heat at the Cowabunga Water Park. The bigger kids will have a blast on the nearly half dozen fast-paced slides, while the little ones can keep cool on the lazy river or mellower water rides. In addition to concessions and a shopping area, the park offers cabana rentals by the day. The water park runs seasonally, so confirm dates before slipping on your swim trunks.
Visit Red Rock Canyon
Spend a day exploring the Southern Nevada desert or climbing a sandstone rock face. Interpretive trails (and a respite from the Las Vegas strip) are a perfect reason to visit Red Rock Canyon. A quick 25-minute drive on Charleston Street takes you directly to the visitor's center. Special programs include a tortoise habitat, an artist in residence, and a visit with Jackson the Red Rock Canyon Burro.
What makes Red Rock the ideal day-trip is the proximity to the strip; you can explore the stunning Nevada scenery, but still be back in time for dinner. Admission is $15.00 per car.
Keep the kids occupied at Adventuredome with water rides, roller coasters, and arcades in a theme park atmosphere. Adventuredome is a large climate-controlled structure located at the Circus Circus Hotel and Casino. If the other options don't appeal to the kids, there's also a laser tag area, roller skating rink, and free clown show. Best of all—while the thrills are long, the lines are typically short.
Give the kids a taste of international transportation with a gondola ride at the Venetian Hotel. It's a Las Vegas activity that visitors do just because it is a tiny bit absurd, a little fun, and it is an amusing memory to have a rower with a lousy accent sing to passengers.
Or make it an interactive adventure and attend Gondola University. Participants, limited to nine participants per day, learn how to pilot the vessel and receive a gondola hat, t-shirt, souvenir photo, and an official degree certificate at the end.
Stand out in front of the Bellagio and watch as the music and the water are perfectly synchronized for your pleasure. It might be the best free show in Las Vegas. If you want the best view of the grandeur without the crowds, go inside the Bellagio Hotel and get a seat at Olives Restaurant. Enjoy the show while indulging on steaks, seafood, and desserts. The restaurant has a good kids menu, as well.
The seasons—and scenery—change with regularity at the Bellagio Hotel and Casino in the Conservatory and Botanical Gardens. Over 120 horticulturalists ensure that as every plant, flower, and tree gets planted in the garden, there is a new arrangement. So no matter how many times you return, there is bound to be something new to see.
This taste of France at the Paris Hotel is an observation deck at the top of a replica of the real Eiffel Tower in Paris. From the 11 story perch, the views of the Las Vegas Valley are incredible and make for the perfect place to take that iconic family photo. The restaurant serves lunch, dinner, and has a brunch menu that's great for children.
The Shark Reef at the Mandalay Bay tunnels you through an underwater aquarium, putting you up-close and personal with sharks. The aquarium's fourteen exhibits all contain different types of underwater predators, with the highlight being a 1.3 million gallon shipwreck. Little ones will love the touch pool that houses non-aggressive sharks, rays, and horseshoe crabs. Group and school tours are available, too.
Ride the Rides at Adventuredome
The Adventuredome Theme Park at Circus Circus will keep kids occupied for hours. With two rollercoasters, bumper cars, a swinging pirate ship, an arcade, a roller skating rink, and more, this indoor theme park offers just as many attractions as most outdoor venues. When it's hot outside, enjoy the air-conditioned dome, which makes waiting in lines (if there are any) much more tolerable. For the full Vegas experience, book a 3-pack package, including the Adventuredome and your pick of two other attractions like the Titanic exhibit at the Luxor or the Big Apple Coaster and Arcade at New York, New York.
A Cirque du Soleil show will please anyone in the family, as the redesigned circus performances showcase athleticism, amazing stage sets and costumes, and thrilling stunts. With over 25 years under its belt, "Mystere," a family favorite, boasts 70 performers, a variety of acrobatics, including trapeze artists, and dramatic dance performances. "O" has a water theme with a circular pool that serves as a stage. And "KÀ," with its technical stagecraft, has been described by stageandcinema.com as "more of a 30-minute theme-park attraction than a 90-minute theatrical event."