Kid-Friendly Las Vegas Does Exist: Ten Things The Whole Family Will Like
By Terrisa Meeks
Las Vegas Local Expert
Looking for family-friendly attractions inLas Vegas? While the casino is definitely off-limits for children, many properties have arcades, attractions, rides and entertainment that are kid-appropriate.
For younger children, try animal attractions like Mandalay Bay’s Shark Reef, the Flamingo’s Wildlife Habitat, or the Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat. These small exhibits won’t tax a little one’s attention span, and families can wander through exhibits without getting worn out from long walks.
If you’re hoping to burn off some energy, a hike at Red Rock Canyon will get everyone out for some exercise. Kids love scrambling over the rocks, especially at places like the Sandstone Quarry trail, where the climbing is easy. Be on the lookout for wildlife, especially early and late in the day.
The daring members of your family (perhaps you have a teenager?) may want to try out the thrill rides at the Stratosphere Tower. Feel like being dangled or spun 1,000 feet above the Strip? How about shot into the air? If you’re feeling more like a roller coaster, the New York-New York’s coaster will zoom you around the faux skyline ofNew York.
At the Springs Preserve and The Chuck Jones Experience, visitors can be educated and entertained. Museums and hiking trails at the Springs Preserve give families a look into the history of the Las Vegas Valley. The Chuck Jones Experience lets kids and adults stretch their creativity. You might feel you've learned something at Madame Tussauds, but that depends on whether or not you count gaining celebrity knowledge as a learning experience.
10 Madame Tussauds Las Vegas
From Elvis Presley to Brad Pitt, Madame Tussauds has a celebrity that you'll recognize. With its love of all things celebrity-related, Las Vegas seems like the perfect place for this tribute to the famous. Have your picture taken next to the star you admire most, or, conversely, take the opportunity to express your disdain without fear of being tossed aside by a bodyguard. You can "marry" George Clooney or hang out with Hef (bunny ears included). This is a fun stop for the family, and while you may not know some of the celebs your kids like, they may not have a clue who Elizabeth Taylor is. (702-862-7800)
9 The Chuck Jones Experience
Like a cartoon come to life, The Chuck Jones Experience is an engaging museum that celebrates the legacy and creativity of legendary animation director Chuck Jones. Amongst Jones' many creations were the Road Runner, Pepe Le Pew and Wile E. Coyote. Visitors will learn more about how these characters were developed while viewing some of the original drawings made by Jones. Guests can also find their inner artist as they journey through the attraction, which includes interactive learning activities, screenings of animated films and more than 250 displays of art. Be sure to visit the Acme Workshop, where visitors can try their hand at creating sound effects and voice-overs for an actual Chuck Jones cartoon. (702-224-2580)
8 Springs Preserve
Las Vegas means "the meadows" in Spanish, and the area where the Springs Preserve sits was where the first European explorers got inspiration for the name. The underground springs that once made the area green no longer come to the surface, but the Springs Preserve still offers visitors a glimpse into the past. Inside the Origen Museum, families can interact with hands-on exhibits to learn about the Las Vegas Valley. Be sure to try out the simulated flash flood exhibit, which recreates a common phenomenon in this region of the United States. Outside, living native wildlife gives kids and adults a look at what kinds of animals live in the harsh environment of the Mojave Desert. The Nevada State Museum is also located at the Springs Preserve and is home to some impressively large fossils. (702-822-7700, 702-822-7744)
7 The Adventuredome
Nevada's largest indoor theme park houses 25 rides and attractions, including a mini-golf course and bumper cars. If you're traveling with younger kids, you'll easily find plenty of things to do to fill an afternoon. Old kids may find the rides a little tame, even though the Canyon Blaster roller coaster reaches speeds of 55 miles per hour. Thrill seekers can also ride the spinning Disk'O, another premium ride. While this isn't anything to compare to the big theme parks of Southern California or Florida, it is the only theme park on the Las Vegas Strip. In summer, it offers families a fully-enclosed, air-conditioned place to enjoy an afternoon. You can purchase an all-day pass or you can buy individual tickets. (702-794-3939, 866-456-8894)
6 Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat
Your first stop at the Dolphin Habitat & Secret Garden takes you to a viewing area that lets you look into the water of the dolphins' enclosure. Here you can watch these graceful, intelligent creatures swimming past. Up top, the trainers take the dolphins through a few leaps and moves, but you won't see a full-blown show. The emphasis here is simply on seeing the dolphins instead of watching them perform. Nearby, the small exhibit that houses the Secret Garden features animals from Sigfried and Roy's collection of exotic animals. The animals are not permanently housed here, but are rotated out periodically. Expect to see tigers, lions, panthers, leopards and other non-feline animals. Private tours are also available. (702-791-7111)
5 Flamingo Wildlife Habitat
The classic Flamingo Hotel Casino has a surprising feature: a wildlife habitat that gives adults and kids a place to enjoy something totally non-casino related. There's no admission to the Flamingo Wildlife Habitat, so it's also an affordable stop, always an important factor when you have the kids with you. You'll see live Chilean flamingos among other birds and animals. Pretty landscaping makes the area a nice backdrop for pictures. Like most wildlife habitats, you'll want to take a seat and watch for a while to fully enjoy the scenery. If you've been looking for a place to relax away from the hustle and bustle of Las Vegas, this is a small oasis of greenery and animals that you wouldn't expect to find on the Strip. (702-733-3111)
4 New York-New York Roller Coaster
The New York-New York recreates the Big Apple in concentrated form, and to top it off a roller coaster zooms around the entire property. Zipping by the re-created New York skyline at up to 67 miles per hour, the tracks loop around to give riders ample excuse to scream with excitement (or fear, depending on your outlook). Kids must be 54 inches tall to ride the rollercoaster. An arcade also offers plenty of games to try out before or after your ride, and the re-created New York streetscape has plenty of family-friendly places to stop for a bite to eat. (800-6890-1797)
3 Stratosphere Tower
The Stratosphere Tower is the highest observation platform west of the Mississippi River, an attribute that makes it worth visiting even without the thrill rides at the top. Kids must be big enough to ride the Big Shot, X-Scream, Insanity, or to do the SkyJump (you don't really "ride" the SkyJump--you leap off the 108th story for controlled free fall). The kids might be itching to be shot straight up, into the air over the Stratosphere, or be dangled over the side of the hundred+ story building, but the real question is: are you? The view of the city is incredible at the Stratosphere, which many Moms and Dads may find to be all that they want to experience that high off the ground. For the daring, through, rumor has it that if you can keep your eyes open on the Big Shot, you can see all the way to Lake Mead. (702-380-7711, 702-380-7777)
2 Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area
West of Las Vegas, you--ll find Red Rock National Conservation Area. It--s a great place for a day full of outside fun. The visitor center is just past the entrance station (admission is less than $10), and it gives adults and kids a place to learn about the unique features of the beautiful desert area. A 13-mile, one-way scenic drive winds through the rest of the canyon. Check the information you'll get at the entrance to read about hiking trails in the NCA. Kids love to climb the rocks, but do keep a close eye on them because there are plenty of drop-offs. Scenic overlooks throughout the canyon give you plenty of places to pull over for panoramic pictures. A picnic area is located at Willow Springs. (702-515-5350)
1 Shark Reef Aquarium
The Shark Reef Aquarium at Mandalay Bay is a nice complement to a Strip hotel that gets generally high marks for family-friendliness. The modest-sized aquarium is the only predator-based aquarium in North America, and the only accredited aquarium in the state of Nevada. You'll not only see several different types of sharks, but also sea turtles, jellyfish and reptiles. One of the most popular parts of the aquarium is the hands-on area that allows visitors to touch rays and other sea creatures. Shark Reef has a tropical/sunken ship theme, complete with mists of water vapor and faux stone artifacts. The sunken ship portion of the exhibit, which comes at the end, allows you to walk over clear panels that look down into the water. It's a small aquarium, so take your time and sit down for a while at the end to watch the sharks and turtles swim by. (702-632-4555)
About Terrisa Meeks
Terrisa Meeks is a native born, life-long resident of Las Vegas. She became a traveler long before she could walk. Terrisa has traveled throughout the United States, from Maine to Hawaii, but she especially enjoys exploring the Southwestern United States. Las Vegas is a place she's watched grow and change. While she always enjoys visiting the Strip, Terrisa's true passion is for exploring the lightly-visited Mojave Desert. She gets giddy over hard-to-find back roads, quirky museums, and ghost towns. Her happiest travel moments involve vast expanses of wilderness and a good map.
Read more about Terrisa Meeks here.