By Matt Villano, on December 24, 2013

Family activities in Las Vegas

With a cornucopia of gambling options, cocktail bars, nightclubs, and strip clubs, Las Vegas has established itself in recent years as a playground for the over-21 crowd. Thankfully, however, Sin City also can be a great destination for family travelers. You just have to know how to roll.


I’ve covered the town for the better part of the last decade. Here are my tips for enjoying Vegas with the kids.


Stay off-Strip

It might sound crazy to visit Las Vegas and NOT stay on the Las Vegas Strip. Still, setting up camp away from the main drag is good for a number of reasons. For starters, rooms at properties such as the Signature at MGM Grand are more spacious than their on-Strip counterparts. Second, at casino-free properties such as the Platinum Hotel, you don’t have to worry about your little ones wandering onto the gaming floor. Finally, and perhaps most important, rooms off the Strip tend to be more affordable – up to 50 percent cheaper at times. For families on a budget, this can be a big deal.


Get out of town

Interactive attractions in the heart of Las Vegas tend to be spendy – not the types of places you want to go with young kids who may require you to pull out earlier than you’d like. For cheaper (or, sometimes, free) family-friendly options, rent a car and hit the hinterlands. Some of my favorite destinations in the area include the Hoover Dam, Grand Canyon, River Rock National Conservation Area, Las Vegas Springs Preserve, Las Vegas Mini Gran Prix, and Bonnie Springs Ranch. There’s even the DISCOVERY Children’s Museum, located next to the Smith Center for the Performing Arts downtown.


Look for the rides

Fremont Street Experience

Las Vegas can serve as an amusement park for your family if you (don’t mind visiting the Strip and you) play things right. If you’ve got younger kids, try the rides inside Circus Circus; with older kids, check out The Roller Coaster at New York-New York Hotel Casino and the rides at the Stratosphere. Another fun attraction is Slotzilla, which has a zipline that runs the length of the Fremont Street Experience downtown. Also, the new Linq project in the center of the Strip is expected to open Jan. 1; it is home to the High Roller, the largest Observation Wheel in the world.

Viewfinder Tip: If your children are under the age of five, they can dine for free at most Las Vegas buffets.

Catch some sports

Gambling laws have scared away professional sports teams from relocating to Las Vegas, but the region is home to a number of spectator sports worth watching. No. 1 on the list: the Las Vegas 51s, the AAA affiliate of the New York Mets baseball team. The squad plays its games at Cashman Field, an intimate ballpark in North Las Vegas; the season starts in April. For a different kind of family-friendly experience, check out races at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. The track’s busiest time of year comes in March, when NASCAR invades for a weekend. At other times of year, you can take tours or test drive cars.


I’d be remiss if I didn’t remind you that visiting Vegas with children likely will require a bit more parenting effort on your part. If you don’t want kids to see scantily clad humans or be exposed to excessive drinking or second-hand cigarette smoke, you undoubtedly will have to be careful about where you go and when you go there. Don’t let this deter you; Sin City is a great place for families, and a destination most kids will love.

What activities do you do with your kids in Vegas?