Last month I wrote about traveling with the kids to Las Vegas based on my recent experience taking 5 and 8 year old boys there for 3 days. The focus of that article was how to get there and get around. Now I'd like to touch on what I did with the kids in Las Vegas to keep it a fun experience.
Since I'm not a big gambler, I don't get out to Las Vegas very often, and I had never taken the kids there. But we wanted to meet up with grandma in Vegas, so off we went. So I had some research to do, namely where to stay and what to do there with the kids.
Keep in mind that this write-up is based on my one recent experience in Las Vegas and thus in no way is meant to be comprehensive. There are plenty of options there and I wanted to share what I learned. But by all means do your own research!
Our Hotel Experience
Let's start with the hotel. My primary objectives were to find a kid-friendly hotel with fun things to do, nearby other fun activities and has food that the kids will enjoy. Mind you, my kids are at the age where they get antsy sitting around and waiting in fancy places so I had to really put some thought into where we were going to stay. Oh yes, I don't want to stay at a really expensive place. Also, I wanted to stay within close proximity of the Strip.
Choosing the hotel is not easy. There are over 3 dozen large hotels on or near the Strip. After doing some research using Expedia and other online resources, I decided to ask people in Facebook, to which I received an outpouring of advice. Hotels referred to me were the MGM, Excalibur, Circus Circus, Monte Carlo, Orleans, Red Rock Resort, Mandalay Bay, Rio, Flamingo, Mirage, Vdara and Rio.
After more due diligence and thought, I opted to go with the Monte Carlo. A combination of factors led me to that decision, including fairly central location on the strip, the hotel's lazy lagoon and wave pool, accessiblity to fast food, walking distance to other places of interest to the kids and reasonable pricing. Mandalay Bay would have been fun too with their wave pool and lagoon but it is more $$ (though nicer of course) and not quite as centrally localed.
For less than $300, we had a nice 3 night experience at Monte Carlo. The wave pool and lazy lagoon were huge hits for the 3 of us, particularly the wave pool, which generated waves every 10 minutes or so and was really a lot of fun, while not too overwhelming for a 5 year old. This was the big hit of the trip in fact. There's not a lot of shade out there so I made sure to slather on the waterproof liberally and often while in the pool area.
While fast food isn't always my food of choice, the presence of a Subway, Sbarra, McDonald's, Rubios, Haagen Dazs and Starbucks on the main floor made it very convenient to grab a quick bite with the kids. I also like the layout of Monte Carlo and the fact that it is easy to find the front entrance. Big plus with kids tagging along. McDonald's in my opinion is a decent choice for breakfast, with oatmeal and coffee that I like and pancakes, eggs, sausage and milk for the kids. Worked for us just fine.
What I also liked is that there is a CVS pharmacy directly next door, so when you discover you forgot to pack toothbrushes and want to buy some water and snacks at a reasonable price, you don't have far to go. And within minutes of the Monte Carlo are New York, New York, MGM, Excalibur and Luxor among other hotels. While we didn't get over to Excalibur and Luxor this trip, it is nice being close to them with the kids. There's also a CityCenter tram that takes you from Monte Carlo to Aria, Vdara and Bellagio. We took the tram once just for fun.
Monte Carlo wasn't perfect but suited our needs. The innards of the hotel room have seen better days. Not overly fancy, yet clean and fine. The bathroom fixtures were in need of an upgrade, the pillows were a bit too solid for the comfort of my head and there was loud booming music sounds heard in our room until the wee hours of Sunday morning. Luckily my kids didn't notice.
On one side note, my mother and her boyfriend also stayed at the Monte Carlo, arriving one night ahead of us. Before we left I got an excited call from my mother. They were playing some nickel slots surrounding an Audi A4. They put a few bucks into a machine and WON a brand new Audi A4 worth $42,000. I kid you not. No one that I know knows anyone that won something this cool before. It CAN happen. She opted to take ownership of the Audi and had it delivered to her home. Pretty. Darn. Amazing.
What We Did There
As mentioned above, the kids and I had such a fun time in the hotel pool area that we spent a lot of time down there. But with the sun barreling down I made a point of spending no more than an hour or two at a time during the day. And by the way, the only complaint I have is that they close the pool WAY too early...6PM! Just when the sun starts taking a break, they shut it down. Not sure why, other than perhaps they want to people to eat, gamble and merrily spend more money.
Since it was hot out, we did not spend a lot of time walking around the Strip during the day. Perhaps when the kids are in their teens that would be more realistic, but at ages 5 and 8, it can be miserable walking around, waiting 10 minutes to cross the street with 100 degree temperatures barreling down on you. But in the evening one night we had fun exploring the 4-story M&M's World across the street and of course loading up on sugar. And when I discovered that my wife packed no clean underwear for one of my kids, we bought some at the Ross Dress for Less directly across the street. Kids...who knew we'd be buying underwear on the Las Vegas strip.
Walking around the Strip at night, you may experience a preponderance of little business card ads being distributed, advertising scantily clad women and the like. Most of them were tossed onto the sidewalk. It puzzled me why my 5 year old never stopped to pick these up. I guess he was mesmerized by the bright lights and other action. These cards are over the place, so be aware.
We had to visit Circus Circus at the north end of the Strip because my kids love playing games and winning prizes. For $50 or so they left with large bags of little stuffed animals. Most of the carnival games are geared towards kids, but for quick and easy prizes, the game to seek out is the dart/balloon game. They give you a prize regardless of hitting a balloon if you are under age 12. Quick and easy!
I was warned that the ventilation system at Circus Circus is not good and that you can smell cigarette smoke all over the place, When we went, in the middle of the day on a Monday, it really wasn't bad, nor crowded. While there, we took a look at the Adventuredome indoor amusement park. Pretty impressive collection of rides there. We did not partake this trip but it looked fun.
At the direction of my wife, who did not join us for the trip, we made sure to stop by the "World's Largest Gift Shop," the Bonanza Gift Shop. It was indeed HUGE and my kids were thoroughly confused as to how to spend their $20 (which ended up being more like $30 to $35 apiece...hey, it was a lot cheaper than gambling. Pretty amazing place! But watch out for the section of the store packed with insult items...there are birds that call you a %^&^. Other than that it is o.k. in there.
We checked out the Lied Discovery Children's Museum located north of the Strip on the last day of our trip and the kids had so much fun we almost didn't make it back to the airport on time! This is a very large kids museum with over 100 interactive exhibits. The first floor is geared towards younger kids and the 2nd floor is for both younger and older kids. Everything you can imagine, from Berenstain Bears, mini-city, science and more. Could barely get the kids out of there!
So I will leave you with these thoughts and ideas and by all means encourage you to explore too and feel free to share your own experiences in the Comments section of this post. We enjoyed our short stay there and plan to go again soon!