Most travelers think of Las Vegas as a destination for uninhibited bachelor parties, quickie weddings, and senior citizen excursions. The Nevada capital admittedly offers plenty for the footloose and fancy free, but it’s also a great place for a family vacation. Indulging in the city’s wild side is costly, but its kid-friendly activities are more affordable than you’d expect. Read on and discover that it’s easier to save money in Las Vegas than you think!
It’s expensive to stay at Circus Circus, but visitors to Las Vegas can enjoy many of its family-focused activities without checking in. This playful resort is the kind of place where you can spend as much or as little as your budget allows. The Big Top Arena hosts free live shows daily featuring trapeze acts, clowns, magic, juggling, and other circus talents. The shows change periodically, and run as often as every half hour during peak season. As the performances are free, seating is limited though. We suggest arriving 10 to 15 minutes before your show starts to ensure small children can see all the action.
Unless you have a lot of willpower, you should probably be prepared to splash around some cash at Circus Circus. There are carnival and arcade games at the Midway and amusement rides in the Adventuredome, including a loop-the-loop roller coaster and tamer fare for tiny tots. If money matters we suggest steering clear of the Midway, as playing the individual games adds up quickly. With each ride in the Adventuredome costing up to $8, a day pass is a more economical choice for most visitors. Regular passes cost $27.95 and junior passes cost $16.95 for a day’s unlimited rides.
Frankly you won’t be able to stay at any of Las Vegas’ prestigious resorts if you want to save money, but that doesn’t mean you need to avoid them altogether. You’ll be surprised how much fun it is to look around the lobbies! The Mirage has white tigers, an indoor rainforest, and a giant saltwater fish tank thought to be one of the most high-tech in the world. You can view the lions in the lobby of the MGM Grand from the safety of the walk-through tunnel. The Venetian’s lobby transports visitors to Venice, complete with an indoor canal and gondolas, while New York, New York brings the Big Apple to the west.
And sometimes you don’t even need to step inside a resort. Watch the lights and magic of the Bellagio’s water fountain show from the sidewalk. And don’t leave The Mirage before you see the outdoor volcano erupting on the hour. Older children will love the spectacle at night, but all that rumbling and fire can frighten smaller kids.
Despite what you’ve heard, there’s action outside Las Vegas’ casinos and resorts too. The hands-on exhibitions at Lied Discovery Children’s Museum in downtown Las Vegas make learning about the arts and sciences fun. A museum trip is also far less stressful for parents when children are encouraged to touch! Adult admission costs $9.50, kids cost $8.50, and babies under one can visit for free.
Older children will be fascinated by the El Dorado Canyon Mine Tour. The site, located an hour away from the Las Vegas strip, makes a great day trip. $12.50 for adults and $7.50 for kids provides admission to the above and below ground tour, which provides a snapshot of life on the trail a century ago. If you’ve got cash and time to spare, you can rent a canoe or kayak from the tour guides and explore the nearby Colorado River.
After all that activity, everyone will be hungry. Las Vegas has its fair share of fancy restaurants, but you can cut the costs and cater for fussy eaters at the local food courts. The ones at The Venetian and the Grand Canal Shops are some of the city’s best. Your dollar also goes a long way at The Mirage’s Carnegie Deli. One sandwich is so enormous that it could probably feed your entire family! As long as you stay away from the cocktails, a meal at Margaritaville is also inexpensive and great fun. The kids menu is comprehensive, and little ones will love the balloon-animal making skills of the pirate staffers!
After a busy day, the family will need a place to lay their heads. We’ve discussed plenty of hotels out of the price range of most families, but Las Vegas also has several good options for budget travelers. The Flamingo has an appealing central location, which cuts down on traveling costs, and a pool for keeping the kids entertained during summer. With a little research you can unearth some great deals for this well-placed gem. The Monte Carlo has few frills, but it’s well-kept and relatively inexpensive. The fast food focused food court will please young appetites, but you can find more substantial, well-priced meals at The Monte Carlo Pub and Brewery.
As you can see, a stay in Las Vegas can be about much more than adults-only entertainment. Do your research and pack the kids into the car to discover a different side of Nevada’s jewel.