Viva Las Vegas! Family vacation time in the city of sin, I must be crazy. Going in the hottest month of the year confirms it. What many don’t realize is that Vegas has a ton to offer for families with young kids. Saddle up your strollers because here’s a rundown of the highlights:
We stayed at Excalibur. The kids loved staying in the big castle, mostly because there were lots of elevators and escalators to ride, and buttons to press. Had I known that would be the highlight for them we could have skipped the trip and gone to the mall, oh well. We splurged and got two connected rooms, giving the kids their own place to sleep. A life saver after long days of fun and heat! We spent three of our afternoons in the newly renovated pool complex trying to beat the heat which reached 112. One of the pools has a huge section that is only 10 inches deep, perfect for our little monkeys.
The best part of the trip for us parents was ditching the kiddos with their grandparents so we could go see a show. We went to Lion King the Musical at Mandalay Bay. I was under the impression that the musical had a unique storyline than the movie, nope. It is the same story as the Lion King movie with most of the same phenomenal music plus a few new songs. This is nothing to complain about, I grew up loving the movie. I was most impressed with the creative costuming and puppetry. A powerful and wonderful experience to enjoy alone with my sweetie.
No Vegas trip would be complete without watching the Fountains at Bellagio. Baby monkey was so tired that the bright lights and loud noise frightened her. She curled up on my shoulder and refused to watch. Monkey number one was so delighted that we had to keep a good grip on him to make sure he didn’t end up in the water. Best free entertainment on the strip.
We also took the kiddos to the Shark Reef Aquarium at Mandalay Bay. There they have a fantastic collection of sea creatures including a touch pool with sting rays and horseshoe crabs, a huge sunken ship aquarium with sharks and sea turtles, and a piranha tank. I was hoping that both of the kiddos would love it, but monkey #1 was having a crabby morning. He spent his time declaring how much he didn’t like the various exhibits in his most piercing whine. Delightful. Thank heavens admission is free for kids four and under. Baby Monkey loved everything and dutifully called all the fishes “Nemos.” Her favorite was the touch pool, we had to pry her little fingers off the wall to move on to the next exhibit.
Traveling with kids means finding activities that they will like. The Lied Discovery Children’s Museum was fantastic. The biggest fault I usually find with children’s museums is that they chain too many activities together making them overly complicated for young kids. Not so with the Lied Museum, the exhibits are clean, well-organized, and really fun. Being the geeky child at heart that I am I had a great time as well playing with all the different science exhibits. It was leaving here that we experienced our first major meltdown of the trip.
Being in Vegas with kids also means finding the best arcades, since you can’t take them to play the slots. We tried out three – the Fantasy Faire at Excalibur; Coney Island at New York, New York; and the Midway at Circus Circus. The cleanest and best functioning arcade was at Coney Island but we had the most fun at Circus Circus. They had lots of ways to win tickets and toys and we ended up with a bag full of stuffed animals. The worst by far was the Fantasy Faire. We wanted so much to have fun there, but when every other machine is broken – including all the change machines – and you are forced to tell your four-year old over and over that they can’t play a certain game because it doesn’t work, Mom starts to get a little cranky.
Being away from home means eating out, every meal. The most fun for the kids was Rainforest Cafe, nothing like eating in a rain forest with a fleet of anamatronic animals to keep them happy. Food is great also. We had to go to one buffet – tradition is tradition. (I hate buffets with a passion.) Grandpa chose Golden Coast just off the strip. I will begrudgingly admit buffets are great for kids because you can grab their favorites fast and they always have of fresh veggies and fruits. This one was clean with a great selection and a good price. For our date night we went to the famous hole-in-the-wall Italian restaurant Battista’s, where we were serenaded by an accordion wielding Italian while we enjoyed our pasta and garlic bread.
The remaining night we took the kids to Cheesecake Factory, something I usually avoid. My kids and nice restaurants don’t mix. I was pleasantly surprised at all the effort our waiter was willing to make to make it a good experience. She offered a free snack plate for the kids right away, brought the food and drinks quickly, and put us somewhere where we couldn’t bother other customers. I dare say it was almost pleasant.
Overall the trip was a great experience for everyone. That said, I’m glad we don’t have another vacation coming up for a long time – I’m exhausted!