Best kid-friendly attractions in a city not typically considered for family vacations
Admittedly, Las Vegas is designed as a playground for grown-ups; there are many places not suitable for kids. However, if you know where to go, you can take the family to Vegas on your next business trip or stop on a national park road trip. We’re here to show you the family-friendly headliners.
Photo courtesy: Discovery Children’s Museum
1/Secret Garden & Dolphin Habitat
3400 S. Las Vegas Blvd., The Mirage
Where but in Las Vegas could you imagine doing something like “Yoga with Dolphins?” That and other tempting options, like “Painting with Dolphins” and “Trainer for a Day,” are just some of the offerings found at Seigfreid and Roy’s Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat. As you can imagine, those experiences aren’t cheap, but even the basic tour offers plenty in the way of Vegas fun. We took our stroller and checked out the jungle-like display of big cats and then hustled back to the dolphin pool to see the show with a family of Bottlenoses. The host was quick to point out that the animals weren’t performing so much as just enjoying themselves. Either way, we were impressed! Cost: Youth (4-12) $17; Adult $22.
If you enjoyed the Secret Garden, you also may be interested in the Shark Reef at Mandalay Bay. Finding Nemo fans will thrill at the nudge of a harmless manta ray in the touch pool, while Shark Week enthusiasts will be impressed by the 15 different species of toothy predators that surround them in an acrylic tunnel. But honestly, we’ve been here with my four-year old, and she hasn’t mentioned it since, plus it’s a little spendy for what you get. Cost: Youth (4-17) $14; Adult $20.
3785 Las Vegas Blvd.
The four-story M&M’s World store has a huge candy character marquee that’s easy to find on The Strip, but it’s often overlooked by all but the most ardent chocolate fans. I like the store, because it offers Las Vegas souvenirs that are not only unique but inexpensive and kid-friendly. Bypass the typical tchotchkes on the main floor in favor of the Rainbow Wall upstairs, where you can find no less than 22 different colors of M&M’s candies. But hold off on any purchasing decisions until you’ve checked out the third floor, where you can personalize your M&M’s with any message, up to 16 characters long. I chose my husband’s name and my name on candies that coordinated with our wedding colors of white and Tiffany blue (insert eye roll here). NASCAR fans will want to continue to the fourth floor to check out the M&M’s-sponsored Toyota race car. Cost: Free to look.
3545 S. Las Vegas Blvd, The LINQ
Currently the world’s largest ferris wheel, the High Roller is a whole lot more than you’d expect. Unlike the open-aired rocking bucket that you may have sneaked a first kiss in at your local county fair, this ride features fully-enclosed cars that are more like ski gondolas and can accommodate up to 40 people. The ride takes 30 minutes and transports you to a height of 550 feet at its highest point. But never fear, we had a guy in our group who was afraid of heights, and he was fine throughout the entire adventure. He agreed that you really don’t feel the movement at all. Strollers are welcome. Cost: Youth (12 & under) Free; Student (13-17) $15; Adult $18.
KidTripster Tip: Save money by riding before 6 p.m. or search for online coupons. The attraction was packed when it first opened back in 2014. But since then, empty cars have translated into opportunities to save money at the ticket window.
KidTripster Tip: Have dinner at the Brooklyn Bowl or one of the several outdoor patios on the Bourbon Street-themed promenade at The LINQ.
4/Las Vegas Shows
Normally a description of a Cirque du Soliel show focuses on the amazing acrobatics, and Mystère at Treasure Island doesn’t disappoint. But for my four-year old, the most memorable part of the show was the clown, who wore a diaper and played the role of an adult-sized baby. Bringing a child that young to the show was a little ambitious, especially given the ticket price, but she still talks about that night even months later, so I’m really glad that I did it. Another nice surprise was the gift shop across from the box office. We had a ball trying on masks from the show and even picked up souvenirs for less than $10 a piece. It’s well worth arriving early. Cost: $70 and up.
KidTripster Tip: Show rehearsals are open to the public for about 30 minutes on Saturdays and Sundays, making for nice preparation, or even an alternative, to the show itself.
If you’d like to see a show, but you’re wary of paying for a seat for someone who may not make it through the whole performance, consider an act at one of Vegas’ smaller venues. The Nathan Burton Comedy and Magic show at Planet Hollywood was a huge hit with my teenaged boys, who were impressed with the illusions and enjoyed the showgirls. Cost: $22.50 for 4 p.m. show.
My four-year-old daughter really enjoyed the Jeff Civillico: Comedy in Action show at the Flamingo. He rides a unicycle while juggling, which is impressive in itself, but the smaller stage really allows him to interact with the audience; he brings a lot of children up on stage. Cost: about $30 for 5:30 p.m. show.
5/Eiffel Tower Experince
3655 S. Las Vegas Blvd., Paris
Rising 46 stores above The Strip, the half-scale replica of the Eiffel Tower is easily one of the most recognizable landmarks in Las Vegas. The 360-degree view is amazing, but my girls, ages four and two, enjoyed the ride in the elevator just as much. The doorman was entertaining and conveyed trivia about all of the hotels and how much they cost to build. At the top, a rented iPad helps identify local landmarks and also shows what you would be seeing if you were actually on the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris. The feature was lost on my younger girls, but we talked with a nine-year old who loved it. I didn’t meet anyone who was afraid of heights, but the whole observation deck is enclosed in a metal cage and felt very safe and secure to me. Cost: Youth (12 & under) Free; Adult $14.
KidTripster Tip: Be sure to check the schedule for the Bellagio fountain; time your Eiffel Tower experience accordingly to enjoy the dancing waters from above!
6/Wet 'n' Wild
7055 S Fort Apache Rd.
Located about 20 minutes from The Strip, Wet ’n’ Wild Las Vegas is a seasonal waterpark and a favorite destination for locals looking to beat the heat. Packed with adrenaline-pumping rides and a wave pool, there’s plenty for tweens and teens to enjoy. We parked our stroller near the baby slides, and let the eight- and ten-year olds loose to roam on their own. They were a little intimidated by the wave pool, but we all enjoyed the lazy river. Cost: Youth (2 & under) Free; Other $29.
KidTripster Tip: Plan to spend the whole day to get your money’s worth. In addition to wristband prices, be prepared to pay additional fees for things like parking and even a “reserved” lounge chair in the shade. It can add up quickly!
KidTripster Tip: Outside food is not allowed in the park, and they mean it, aggressively searching bags at the entrance. Sealed water bottles are allowed but expect to pay around $8 a plate for lunch.
7/Discovery Children's Museum
360 Promenade Pl.
Get up early and pack a lunch to spend as much time as possible at the Discovery Children’s Museum. With three floors of hands-on exhibits, there’s literally more than you can see in one day. We got distracted by the fantasy dress-up on the first floor, before realizing that you could dress up like a pilot (or a veterinarian or a barista) on the second floor and then collect a paycheck for your pretend work! My husband, the engineer, had a ball building and testing airplanes in the wind tunnel on the third floor. If I were to do it again, I’d head all the way to the top and work my way down to get a better feel for everything the space has to offer before deciding where to spend the most time. End your day with the water feature; even with the provided rain slickers, you’re bound to get wet, but you’ll dry quickly on the walk to the free parking structure. Cost: Youth (1 & under) Free; Other $14.50.
KidTripster Tip: Seriously, pack a lunch. The museum doesn’t serve food, but it does have a nice cafeteria space near the entrance.
Located north of The Strip, Las Vegas Mini Grand Prix is great destination for families with a wide age range. My husband and two teenaged boys had a ball go carting on two of the three outdoor tracks and are already planning to return to try out the third, once the boys get their driver’s licenses. Younger kids also can ride with a parent. But the real draw for the little ones is the amusement park rides. On a Friday night at 5 p.m., you won’t stand in a single line! The facility is far from new, but everything was clean and in good repair, and the staff is friendly and helpful. Cost: $23 an hour for unlimited rides.
KidTripster Tip: Wristbands are available that allow unlimited use of the go carts for a certain time period, but our crowd was more than satisfied with three races each.
KidTripter Tip: The track is a bit off the beaten path, so combine your trip with a healthy meal at Joe’s Crab Shack just down the street.
9/Maverick Helicopter Tours
6075 S Las Vegas Blvd.
If you’ve never ridden in a helicopter, prepare yourself for the ultimate super hero experience. Small airplanes are great for sightseeing, but the nimble feeling of hovering above a rooftop in one of Maverick’s glass-bottomed helicopters makes it easy to imagine yourself as a caped crusader, hopping from building to building in Gotham City. Whether you choose a tour of The Strip (day or night) or a trip of nearby Grand Canyon, it’s an experience that your family will never forget! Kids (under 2) fly free, but you’ll have to show proof of age. Cost: $124 and up.
KidTripster Tip: Request the front seat for the best view. Seats are assigned according to weight, but the pilot does have some discretion, and he or she will gladly accept tips.
KidTripster Tip: Combine your trip to Maverick with a photo op at the “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” sign. The parking lot is literally a stone’s throw away from the heliport.
Grand Canyon Village, AZ
Admittedly, you can spend days or even a week exploring the Grand Canyon. But I am here to tell you that you can get there and back from Las Vegas in just 12 hours. The key is getting up early. The drive from The Strip to the Grand Canyon Visitor Center on the South Rim is about four hours, but you’ll want to allow time for extra stops. Hoover Dam is about an hour into the drive and offers a great tour; it could be considered a destination in itself. But I recommend that you power on for lunch in a town called Seligman. Located roughly three hours from Vegas, it was the inspiration for the fictional town of Radiator Springs in the animated movie Cars. We had lunch at the Road Kill Grill, where the menu promises dishes like the “Tried to pass me by on rye,” and the “Rigor mortis tortoise” (actually fried shrimp). An hour from there, you’ll come to the South Rim entrance to the Grand Canyon. My family found two hours to be more than enough time to explore the viewpoints in this area and even enjoy a slice of pie at The Yavapai Lodge. Then draw straws to see who drives home, while the rest of the family snores! Cost: $30/car.
KidTripster Tip: If you’re visiting multiple parks in the same year, consider the Annual National Park and Federal Lands Pass for $80.
Corinna Allen is a Emmy award-wining journalist, living in Las Vegas, Nevada. She spent her junior year of high school as an exchange student in Finland, and she’s been traveling ever since. These days, she travels with her husband and two young girls. You can read more of her adventures on her blog.
This writer received some complimentary activities for the purpose of this review. However, all opinions expressed are solely her own.