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Vegas for FamiliesVegas, Baby, Vegas
Vegas isn’t just Sin City anymore. These days, it’s also Kid City. Vegas now caters to every subset of traveler, from shoppers to spa addicts to families. You may have discovered Vegas as a romancing couple, but now it’s time to discover it with the kids. From chocolate fountains to roller coasters, Vegas is one big playground. Plus, there’s still plenty of sin. Book a babysitter, and Mom and Dad can go cocktailing, hit the dance floor – and live up to the Vegas motto that what happens here, stays here.
Good For: Fun-seeking families who are looking to eat, drink, and play, play, play.
- Who says Vegas doesn’t have a winter? Play with faux snow at the Bellagio and go ice-skating at the Venetian.
- Crack open crab legs at Joe’s Stone Crab, a replica of the South Beach original.
- Get a sugar rush at Sugar Shack, the Dylan’s Candy Bar of Vegas. For adults: Try the triple chocolate martini at Max Brenner.
- Survey the Vegas lights from the top of the roller coaster at New York-New York
- Bare your teeth at sharks at the Shark Reef Aquarium at Mandalay Bay.
What to Know:
When you’re traveling with the family, airfare can add up. For good deals, look for mid-week flights on JetBlue, United, Southwest, and US Airways, which are offering competitive seasonal fares. The best family-friendly hotels are the Cosmopolitan, the Palazzo, and Mandalay Bay, which all offer family packages and creative amenities for toddlers to teens. Come 2013, you can take the party train direct from L.A. to Vegas for only $99 each way, which includes a meal and a drink.
Suggested Stay: 2 Days
Playtime in Vegas
Playtime for adults may be the slot machines, but for the younger set, Vegas rivals any of the big-name amusement parks. At the Excalibur Hotel, kids can test their skills at mini carnival games to win stuffed animals. Or, get an adrenaline rush on the roller coaster at the New York-New York Hotel and Casino. Parts of Vegas also resemble the animal kingdom, with the famous white tigers at Siegfried and Roy’s Secret Garden at MGM and a Shark Reef Aquarium at Mandalay Bay. Plus, don’t miss the spewing Mirage Volcano. Also popular with the younger set – ahoy! – is the Pirate Show at Treasure Island and Gondola Rides at the Venetian.
Most of the popular brands make an appearance in Las Vegas: Head to M&M’s World, which is five stories of chocolate heaven. The massive store also features an entertaining 3D movie and loads of souvenirs, like M&Ms in a rainbow of colors and everything from pencils to dishware imprinted with the M&M logo. Next door is the Coca-Cola store with the same gimmicky merchandise but this time you can take a picture with a Coca-Cola polar bear. There’s another bonus to all the sweet treats: After a visit here, kids will crash for a long afternoon nap so that one parent can slip out to gamble or enjoy a cocktail. (Sadly, no kids are allowed even in a lobby lounge that serves alcohol. Trust us. We’ve tried.)
If there’s one thing that families can do together in Vegas, it’s eat. Many restaurants cater to all ages, including the Sugar Factory. Vegas has three locations of the popular candy store – and the one in the Paris hotel features an attached restaurant, with kid-friendly burgers, hot dogs, and chicken tenders. Parents can ease into the evening over an alcoholic milkshake. Afterwards, roam the Sugar Factory aisles and pick up sweets to go, including the Kardashian’s famous Couture Pops – at a cool $25. Also a treat: views of the Bellagio Dancing Water Fountains across the street.
Fun at the Forum
Everything in Vegas is oversized, including the malls. Perfect example: The Forum Shops at Caesar’s. Not only is it a retail palace, but there are also plenty of sideshows like the 50,000-gallon saltwater aquarium, with more than 250 fish. Parents can also enjoy a good meal at Spago and sit outside while the kids are entertained by the gladiator fight show. Later, Mom can slip in to Scoop, Intermix, Cartier, or Jimmy Choo. Or, she can perk up over the justly popular triple chocolate martini at Max Brenner. At Joe’s Stone Crab, it’s OK to get messy and crack open crab legs. Vegas has plenty other air-conditioned malls, like the Fashion Square Mall which features upscale stores like Saks and Neiman Marcus, as well as a spacious smoke-free area for kids to run around in.
’Tis the Season
Vegas enthusiastically celebrates the seasons. During the winter holidays, the Venetian and the Cosmopolitan set up ice-skating rinks. The Bellagio goes all out, erecting a towering Christmas tree with faux snow, colorful ornaments, and a toy train. If you’re here during the summer, the best family hotel is Mandalay Bay, which has a fake beach so kids can play in the sand and go tube-riding on the waves. For the more upscale section of Mandalay Bay, opt for the Hotel Towers Rooms & Suites.
Vegas is made for hot dates, no matter how long you’ve been married. Once the kids are tucked in, head to the Chandelier Bar at the Cosmopolitan. Each level features a different handcrafted cocktail menu, including a bar on the bottom floor with flavored cosmos. Afterwards, shake it on the dance floor at Marquis or Tao at the Venetian. For a quiet reprieve, ascend to the top floor of the Mandarin Oriental for spectacular 360-degree views.
Top off your Vegas visit with whipped cream – and lots of it. Every hotel has the standard ice-cream and gelato store but standouts are Serendipity 3 right outside Caesar’s for frozen hot chocolate and banana splits drizzled in caramel and Payard Patisserie & Bistro inside Caesar’s for chocolates and macaroons. Jean Philippe Patisserie has two locations, at Aria and at the Bellagio where their master creation cascades from the ceiling in rivers of creamy brown: the largest chocolate fountain in the world. Only in Vegas.
(Photos: Roller Coaster, courtesy of New York-New York, Shark Reef Aquarium, Dive with Sharks, and Mandalay Bay Beach, courtesy of Mandalay Bay Shark Reef Aquarium; Dancing Fountains and Las Vegas, courtesy of Bellagio)