We just spent an entire week in Las Vegas with our two young children. Las Vegas!? Yes! You would be surprised to learn there is an abundance of family-friendly activities in the city that’s most often equated with partying child-free. Las Vegas and the surrounding area offers plenty of kid-friendly fun to be had away from the strip downtown and the smoke-filled casinos. We were surprised to see quite a lot of families with young children visiting from other countries as well! Las Vegas is close to many national and state parks, as well as bucket list destinations like the Grand Canyon. Don’t be quick to discount Las Vegas as somewhere you can’t visit with children. Here is a mini guide I’ve put together for anyone planning to visit Las Vegas with kids.
Travel Tip: I packed one large Delsey roller suitcase containing all of our stuff for the week. This made getting through the airport a breeze! My husband and I flied separately with one child each, so the only thing I had to carry through the airport and onboard the plane was one small Fjallraven backpack, a Trunki ride-on suitcase (packed full of travel toys, books, and movies) and our Mountain Buggy Nano travel stroller. The BCOZZY adult and child neck pillows that attached to my luggage were indispensable on the 4.5 hour flights too.
Where to Stay
All of the hotels near the strip are so unique and generally each is ‘themed’ inside. They’re incredible to walk around in just to look at everything. The first few days of our trip we stayed at Red Rocks Casino, Resort & Spa in a quiet area close to Red Rock Canyon and a 15 minute drive from the Las Vegas strip. We knew we wanted to hike and this resort touted a movie theatre, bowling alley, and babysitting service onsite. It is also across the street from a nice outdoor mall. I was confident it would keep the kids and I busy enough while my husband was working during the day. As much as I loved the outdoor mall and the restaurants inside the resort, the pools were still closed and I wasn’t comfortable leaving my kids at the babysitting service (they wouldn’t let me stay and watch them play). It didn’t quite fit the bill for us, as activities like a movie theatre and arcade are better-suited for older children, but it’s definitely a nice resort. Rooms were very spacious and the hotel was well-decorated. We had fun bowling one evening at Red Rock Lanes onsite. It almost reminded me of a giant shopping mall, because with the food court and all of the activities, you almost don’t have to leave the hotel. P.S. We love room service for breakfast as a treat; traveling with kids should be somewhat relaxing, right?
Politics aside (trust me, I know), we chose to stay at Trump International Hotel Las Vegas the remainder of our stay for several reasons: it’s 100% non-smoking, located away from the strip, has a heated outdoor pool, free shuttles, steps from Fashion Show Mall and there is no casino onsite. It’s upscale and it’s quiet; but perhaps its biggest selling point is the kitchenette in the room. We stocked up on breakfast and lunch items from Trader Joe’s to avoid needing to eat out / find food every meal. (The huge jet tub in the room was their favorite thing to do, naturally.) Staff brought up Trump Kids goodie bags with coloring books, sunglasses, etc. after we checked-in and came by with a tray of milk and cookies another evening. We had pretty excellent service and the free shuttles that run almost all day back and forth to both the Wynn and Caesar’s Palace made getting around a breeze; the shuttles saved us a ton of money in cab fare too (just be sure to tip your driver). I was able to fit a ton of activities into each day.
Community members also talk about their stays at the MGM Grand, located at the opposite end of the strip, which has a lazy river and kiddie pool area. I’ve also heard rave reviews from friends about the pools at Mandalay Bay and the waterslide that goes *through a shark tank* at the Golden Nugget.
What to Do with Kids
Downtown Summerlin is a nice outdoor mall to take a stroll around or eat outside. There’s a huge climbing structure for kids and a lovely ice-cream shop called CREAM. It’s literally footsteps from Red Rock Resort, Casino & Spa, but a nice place to walk around even if you’re not staying right there.
Seven Magic Mountains is a public art installation by renowned Swiss artist Ugo Rondinone. This two-year exhibit is located in the desert approximately 30 minutes by car from downtown Las Vegas. The seven giant “mountains”–neon-painted boulders stacked more than 25 feet high–are truly magical set against the contrasting desert landscape! I’m a big art junkie so this was a must-see for me. I wandered around while the kids slept in their carseats with my husband in the driver seat; it was a win-win with nap times and a quick trip to something I really wanted to see.
One of the largest tanks in North America, the Shark Reef Aquarium at Mandalay Bay is a predator-based aquarium with a variety of sharks, sawfish, giant rays, piranha, moon jellies and golden crocodiles. It was really neat and an activity that both our children could enjoy, notably the giant ‘shipwreck’ you walk into with a panoramic view of the sharks where the front of the ship would be. There are plenty of dining options inside Mandalay Bay if you’re hungry afterwards. We did find the cost rather steep as traveling parents who have visited a lot of aquariums, however. Tickets are approx. $20/adult, $18/seniors, $14 for children 4-12 and kids under 3 are free.
It’s no surprise that Red Rock Lanes was voted ‘Best of Las Vegas’ as the staff were incredibly friendly and this 72-lane bowling alley was immaculate. With a child’s birthday party taking place to our right and adults enjoying some beers to our left, we felt totally comfortable in this scene one evening after dinner. Our 3.5 year old had never been bowling but was excited to go, so the largest luxury bowling center in Las Vegas was a huge hit. It was very affordable and fun for all of us! There’s a lounge, private bowling suites, game room and snack bar onsite. It’s located inside Red Rock Resort, Casino & Spa.
DISCOVERY Children’s Museum was the perfect way to spend a few hours one day while my husband was working. I hailed a taxi from our hotel to this non-profit museum downtown Las Vegas. It’s three stories with a large climbing structure that runs up and down the middle of the building, so kids can essentially climb up to another level without taking the elevator. Needless to say, I regret bringing my stroller along! A carrier is better if you have a younger child, but toddlers will be OK getting around on foot, as the museum isn’t too large. It was very clean and the staff were engaging with the children. Our favorite exhibits were the water area and the toddler room. Tip: Pack snacks. They have a snack room located near the exit and the kids were getting hungry for lunch! Admission prices are $14.50/any person age 1-99 and $10.50/military personnel.
Lay by the pool and go for a swim! This is so simple, but as parents we often overlook just needing to relax. Keeping busy sightseeing and running around all week, that hour spent at the pool each day was very recharging. It was the perfect activity to do between nap time and dinner/evening activities. Tip: Be sure to inquire whether your hotel has a heated pool or not, depending on the time of year you are visiting. We chose our hotel almost exclusively based on the fact that many other hotel options closed their pools in the colder months.
Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area (“Red Rock Canyon”) is absolutely stunning and the perfect place to reconnect with nature, whether you choose to just look out your window along the scenic drive or if you stop at each marker to take a hike. Hiking in Red Rock Canyon is something we both really wanted to do, and it’s only a 30 minute drive from the strip in Las Vegas! Give yourself enough time to truly soak in all that this place has to offer and be sure to take your camera plus some snacks for the car. We didn’t realize it would get incredibly dark right at 5:00 pm in January, so we lost the race against the setting sun before we were really ready to leave! New entrance fees are $15/vehicle.
Walking around the hotels is amazing during the daytime. Many of them have botanical gardens, massive sculptures, themed displays, shopping, restaurants, and even mini zoos. The musical fountains outside the Wynn are very entertaining. My son got excited when he recognized a song from Disney’s Beauty & The Beast playing. Even just walking and driving past the hotels can be neat for kids, as they’re all very theatrical.
At the Siegfried & Roy’s Secret Garden And Dolphin Habitat inside the Mirage, kids can get up close and personal with bottlenose dolphins, white tigers, and lions. Staff were very educational and informative, even inviting my son to join in on a field trip taking place, but he was feeling shy. The setting is very lush and a nice break from the concrete and indoor shops consuming Las Vegas. There are cute shops and a frozen yogurt cafe in the Mirage that we enjoyed our way out. All-day tickets are $22/adult and $17/children ages 4-12.
Las Vegas has upscale shopping everywhere you look, many connecting to the hotels. Bring your walking shoes, and your money! Be advised that there are sky bridges to cross most of the streets, from one hotel to another, etc., so you’ll be taking your stroller up and down a lot of elevators to get from one point to another. If you have a baby carrier or an older child who can get around on foot, the escalators are much quicker. We walked through Fashion Show Mall, Forum Shops at Cesar’s Palace and Grand Canal Shoppes inside The Venetian en route to other activities.
If you have an extreme fear of heights, avoid the High Roller. I convinced my husband to let us all go on this 550-foot tall observation/ferris wheel at night to see Las Vegas from the top. High Roller is so big, it eclipses both the London Eye and Singapore Flyer. It features 28 glass-enclosed cabins; we got a cabin all to ourselves and had a little dance party inside to the upbeat music that was playing. The ride takes 30 minutes to complete one full revolution, which was short enough for the kids to be entertained with their mini dance party and just long enough for my husband to have severe anxiety dangling in the air above the city. Book your tickets in advance to save on admission costs. I wish we had known! Tickets average $30/person.
I had no intentions of paying for an overpriced ride in a canoe around a glorified swimming pool, but my toddler begged and it was surprisingly neat. You can opt for either an indoor or outdoor Gondola Ride at The Venetian down a replica of the Grand Canal in Venice, Italy. It was quite relaxing listening to the gondolier sing to us and watching the shops pass by. Our gondolier even sang my boys Disney songs from Lady and The Tramp. There were quite a few people taking photos of us from the bridges, so evidently baby-wearing in a gondola was a must. Tickets are around $21/person for a 10 minute ride. I believe under 2 was free.
Be a tourist. Snap a picture at the ‘Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas’ sign. I didn’t want to wait in a long line of people to take a family picture with the sign, and the kids were comfy in their carseats, so I jumped out and just snapped one of the sign itself. There is a parking area/median to pull over at and a little green space near the sign.
As the sun is setting, walk over to catch The Fountains of Bellagio. A daily show in Las Vegas, the fountains work their musical magic every 30 minutes from 3:00-8:00 PM Monday through Friday and every 15 minutes from 8:00 PM to Midnight. On weekends, they start around 12 noon approximately, recurring every half hour. Bonus: You get really cool views of the strip from this vantage point overlooking the fountains.
After briefly reading about the sites away from Las Vegas, I knew we just had to go hiking at Valley of Fire State Park (“Valley of Fire”). Located in the Mojave Desert 58 miles Northeast of the Las Vegas Strip, it was about an hours drive in our rental car to get there. The kids slept on the way which was perfect. Valley of Fire is the oldest state park in Nevada and home to incredible red sandstone formations, the Aztec Sandstone, which formed from shifting sand dunes 150 million years ago. Ancient trees and early man are represented throughout in the form of petrified wood and petroglyphs from 3,000 years ago. It’s a bit of a drive past any points of civilization, so bring a picnic and plenty of water. We completed the scenic drive and hiked the Fire Wave trail, which rewarded us with otherworldly views. I wish we had time to fit in the White Domes Trail to check out the caves, but we were flying home that evening. Many of the hikes are 1 hour long or more, so have a good baby and/or toddler carrier with you. Hiking in this area usually cannot be done in the summer months as the temperatures get dangerously high. Valley of Fire is close to Lake Mead and is something I would definitely come back to revisit and explore further. Entry is very reasonable, around $7/vehicle.
I’ve also heard good things about: Cirque du Soleil‘s Love Show at The Mirage, riding the New York-New York roller coaster, the playground and shopping at Downtown Container Park, Springs Preserve Botanical Gardens, the breakfast buffet at the Wynn, Adventuredome inside Circus Circus, and the massive treats at Sugar Factory. There’s so much to do in Las Vegas with kids, we couldn’t even fit it all into seven days.
We had a very busy week! Add in the time spent eating out and lounging at the pool, and the kids had loads of fun. My only regrets are not packing more comfortable walking shoes, our double travel stroller, and investing in a toddler carrier, but the family memories we made are unforgettable. My 3.5 year old was excitedly telling his preschool friends about his experience “climbing a mountain”. These are the moments we live for and sense of adventure we hope to instill. Nothing beats hiking an hour through the desert to arrive at a huge vantage and drop-off point that gives you sweeping views of the beautiful planet we call home. And I’m a firm believer in the fact that travel changes our children for the better. With every trip we take, we swear some major developmental milestone takes place. Our youngest son, who is severely hard of hearing, blew us away by suddenly signing five new words in American Sign Language. Our oldest has a sudden interest in truly learning to swim on his own. And for us parents, well we broadened our horizon even further and got to enjoy a beautiful place with the two little humans who mean the most. Check out more of our family travels on my Instagram. Las Vegas with kids? Go!