Las Vegas with Children
I had a stag night in Vegas a couple of months ago. It was my second time away from my son since he was born and the very first time I've left the little miss. While I certainly missed them while I was gone, I'd be lying if I said I hadn't been really pumped for a night of blackjack, booze, and beef. I love Vegas for what it is: an unapologetic excuse to let loose and act stupid for as long as your wallet will permit. Vegas has largely abandoned its awkward attempt to rebrand itself as a family-friendly destination, but that's not to say that it isn't a great place to bring the little ones. Don't worry, I'm not going to tell you to book a room at Excalibur. The town is full of resorts that take guest-immersion to Walt Disney levels and while most don't have Ritz-Carlton quality children's programs, your little ones can still have fun in Vegas from their toddling years on.
Hotels & Casinos:
The Mirage might take the cake for best kid-friendly hotel on The Strip. In addition to the pyrotechnic extravaganza that is the nightly Volcano eruption, the hotel offers Siegfried & Roy's Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat featuring white Siberian tigers among many other exotic animals. Children under 3 are admitted free. Other great features of The Mirage include the gorgeous lobby aquarium and lush atrium.
New York - New York is another great choice for those visiting Sin City with the whole family. First, there's Hershey's Chocolate World; the appeal of which I doubt I need to explain. Of course, if the word "chocolate" didn't catch your eye, allow me to elaborate: visitors are able to customize their own chocolate bars, concoct unique Reese's combinations, and, of course, eat more sweets than Augustus Gloop.
Lastly, The Four Seasons Las Vegas is the choice among traveler's for whom money is no object. It sits on the grounds of the Mandalay Bay complex at the south end of The Strip and specializes in specialty services. The hotel is known for catering to the needs of families and offers access to its own private pool as well as the wave pool, lazy river, and everything else that Mandalay Bay has to offer. You can even leave your stroller behind and The Four Seasons will provide you with one. Best of all — and frankly I'm going to start requesting this everywhere I go — The Four Seasons will child-proof your room before you arrive!
The Bellagio Conservatory & Botanical Gardens is a sensory mind-splosion for guests of any age. On display 365 days a year and located just beyond the lobby of one of the finest hotels on The Strip, the gardens contain more whimsy than a Lewis Carroll novel and will finally answer the question you've been asking yourself for all these years: "What do the Rose Parade float-builders do the rest of the year?"
Every major city has to have children's museum and Las Vegas' Discovery Children's Museum does not disappoint. It's 26,000 sq. ft. of brain-expanding excitement with exhibits like the 3-story, 70-foot-tall "The Summit" which — besides slides and climbing structures — offers interactive science activities covering topics ranging from simple machines to electricity to flight. There's also the "Toddler Town" exhibit which caters to youngsters up to 5 years old and features a Crawl Zone and role-playing activities.
For older kids looking for a little more excitement, there's Fast Lap Indoor Kart Racing which is available to everyone 10 years and older with a minimum height of 4' 3". At $25 per 10-minute race or $65 for a three-pack, it's not cheap, but it's hard to have more fun indoors. Also, if you go on Thursday nights, you can get 5 hours of racing (5 pm to 10 pm) for $75. Best of all, you can rent one of their GoPros and capture your racing exploits in wide-angle high-definition.
You can't go to Vegas and not catch a show and Michael Jackson ONE at Mandalay Bay is an excellent choice. The show is open to children over age 5 and is full of great music and thrilling stage performances. While Michael may be absent in the flesh, he's there in spirit and via video.
One glaring problem with Vegas compared to other resort destinations is that none of the flagship hotels on the strip offer child-care facilities. Bellagio, Aria, Wynn all ignore that amenity which you may have come to expect at other destinations with comparable levels of service. However, if you and your special someone are looking for an afternoon or evening of adult-only entertainment, you're in-luck. There are a number of child-care options available to tourists angling for some time without tots.
The Fours Seasons will arrange babysitting services on as little as two-hours notice and the rooms come stocked with Playstation access on every TV. In addition, the resort offers access to board games and a DVD library.
New York - New York, while it doesn't offer an on-site child-care facility is able to arrange nanny services through Nanny's & Housekeepers USA who will send someone to your room to keep your little travelers entertained. There is a 4-hour minimum time requirement, a $10 booking fee, and the hourly fee is $45. One drawback to this type of child-care is that your child will not have access to the awesome play spaces offered at the Off-Strip options.
Off The Strip, you could stay at The Orleans Hotel & Casino which offers Kids Tyme for children ages 3 to 12. The program will keep your little one entertained for up to 5 hours at $9.00 per hour — and they operate as late as 12:30 am some nights! The play space is pretty awesome, I might add! There's a four-level indoor playground, a wall of Nintendo-64s, Lego tables and more. It may not offer the stimulation of an afternoon at Montessori school, but you could do worse from your kiddo's perspective.
Another option is called Kids Quest which is a nationwide childcare provider catering to hotels & casinos. Kids Quest accommodates children from 12 years all they way down to 6 weeks and has a special play area for children 30 months and younger. Kids Quest runs as late as 2 am and hourly fees range from $9.00 to $10.00. Kids Quest is available at 5 Off-Strip casinos including Texas Station which is notable for its bowling alley, 18-screen movie theater, and arcade.
Most people might think that Sin City makes a poor destination for families and, truth be told, I do hate the pervasiveness of smoking in that town. That's my biggest gripe because you practically can't get from A to B without walking through a smoke-filled windowless maze of slots. But, aside from that, it really can be a fun-filled destination for families.