Las Vegas may no longer market itself as a family destination, but that doesn't mean there aren't still plenty of things to do with the kids.
For families planning a vacation during the summer, the city is home to two thrilling water parks: Wet'n'Wild Las Vegas and Cowabunga Bay. Both feature an assortment of attractions sure to entertain every member of the family, from scream-inducing water slides to go-with-the-flow lazy rivers. Las Vegas is also home to America's largest indoor theme park, The Adventuredome at Circus Circus, which offers a fun air-conditioned escape from the summer heat.
Kids can also see the "wild" side of Las Vegas at one of several animal attractions in town, like the Lion Habitat Ranch in Henderson, Siegfried & Roy's Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat at The Mirage or Shark Reef Aquarium at Mandalay Bay. Children can get up close to some of the Mohave Desert's natural wildlife, too, at the Springs Preserve while learning more about Las Vegas' history and green-living.
Another educational yet entertaining experience can be found at the DISCOVERY Children's Museum, which houses exhibits in science and nature, arts and culture and early childhood development. Finally, families can take fun to new heights at Vegas Indoor Skydiving, or check out the city views like never before on the world's tallest observation wheel, the High Roller.
With attractions fit for visitors of all ages, it's no wonder Las Vegas is known as the Entertainment Capital of the World--there's something for everybody to enjoy!
The world's tallest observation wheel, the 550-foot-tall High Roller is a great place to take the kids. Younger riders are sure to be in awe of the jaw-dropping views of the Strip and city down below as they ride in one of the attraction's sleek pods. A couple of different ticketing options are available for those with children. Parents can choose from the Family Pack, which includes two adult tickets and two youth tickets (ages 13-17) at a discount, or the Family Hour Package which enables riders with kids ages 12 years and younger to ride in a family setting on Saturday mornings from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., prior to the observation wheel opening to the public. Children ages 12 and younger are always free with a paid adult. (866-328-1888)
Vegas Indoor Skydiving
Perfect for younger thrill seekers, America's first indoor skydiving facility, Vegas Indoor Skydiving, offers guests a safe way to experience the thrill of skydiving without an airplane or parachute. Divers only need to weigh 40 pounds to participate, so kids can literally spread their wings and fly in the facility's vertical wind tunnel. The entire experience lasts about an hour, and that includes the 20-minute training class (the average flight time is three minutes per person). Fifteen-minute blocks are available for groups of two to five flyers as well, so even mom and dad can get in on the action! (702-731-4768, 877-545-8093)
Shark Reef Aquarium
A big hit with adults and kids alike, Shark Reef Aquarium at Mandalay Bay is the only animal care facility in the State of Nevada to be accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. Families will not only see 15 different species of sharks at the predator-filled aquarium, but also stingrays, rare golden crocodiles, piranha, jellyfish, Komodo dragons and endangered sea turtles--more than 2,000 animals in all. Fourteen breathtaking exhibits are devoted to the aquatic animals, with the largest exhibit being the 1.3-million-gallon shipwreck where visitors experience an almost 360-degree view, teeming with sharks and fish, through an acrylic tunnel. Keep your eyes peeled for the exhibit's two newest residents: a pair of Scalloped Hammerheads. For those who want to get closer to some of the aquarium's inhabitants, interactive programs are available where guests can feed the zebra sharks, sea turtles and stingrays for an additional fee. (702-632-4555)
Lion Habitat Ranch
For a roaring good time, take the kids to this 6.2-acre ranch in Henderson, which is home to more than 40 majestic lions--many from the same bloodline as the real-life MGM lion. Guests can walk the grounds and see the animals or partake in an unforgettable interactive feeding session for an additional fee. Private tours of the Lion Habitat Ranch are available as well where guests can watch the lions being bathed and fed. In addition to lions, the ranch has emus, ostriches, guinea hens, macaws, cockatoos and a 1-year-old giraffe named Ozzie, making it one of Las Vegas' wildest attractions. Be sure to check out the Lion Habitat Ranch's newest additions: five adorable lion cubs born on April 1! (702-595-6666)
Siegfried & Roy's Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat
Kids are sure to go "wild" for this popular Strip attraction. Featuring rare animal breeds including the white lions of Timbavati and Siegfried & Roy's royal white tigers of Nevada, Siegfried & Roy's Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat lets guests get up close to some of the world's most magnificent creatures. Undoubtedly, the residents that make the biggest splash with visitors are the Atlantic bottlenose dolphins. Guests can interact with the dolphins thanks to several unique programs offered at the habitat, including the popular day-long Trainer for a Day program. For those in a rush, a 30-minute Painting with the Dolphins program is also offered that's equally memorable, where guests get to collaborate with a dolphin on a unique work of art. A one-hour guided VIP tour is available, too, that provides some insight into all of the animals' care. (702-791-7188)
Located minutes from the Strip, this award-winning 180-acre family destination is dedicated to exploring green-living, desert life and Las Vegas' vibrant history through botanical gardens, interactive science and nature exhibits, animal shows and trails. Families can interact with hands-on exhibits at the Origen Museum to learn more about the Las Vegas Valley, or venture outside and observe native wildlife to see what kinds of animals live in the harsh environment of the Mojave Desert. Young collectors can also bring their natural found items to the Nature Exchange to learn more about them or trade them to gain "points" that can be used for trading for other items. Be sure to try out the simulated flash flood exhibit, which recreates a common phenomenon in this region of the United States, and don't miss the Butterfly Habitat in the Botanical Gardens, on display through May 31. (702-822-7700, 702-822-7744)
DISCOVERY Children's Museum
Located in the Donald W. Reynolds Discovery Center, a three-story, 58,000-square-foot building adjacent to The Smith Center for the Performing Arts, this interactive children's museum features more than 26,000 square feet of exhibit space, including a 5,000-square-foot traveling exhibition gallery. Offering exhibits in science and nature, arts and culture and early childhood development, guests of all ages can watch daily demonstrations and participate in various programs and activities. One exhibit that's not to be missed is "Water World," where, among other hands-on activities, visitors can interact with models of Hoover Dam, Lake Mead and the Hoover Dam bypass bridge. The museum even features a desert-themed exhibition specifically designed for its youngest visitors: "Toddler Town." (702-382-3445)
Spanning approximately 23 acres, this Henderson water park is one of Las Vegas' coolest places to take the kids, boasting more than 25 attractions, including the largest lazy river in Nevada. Offering something for everyone, there are nine water slides, four surf and swim pools and an interactive kids play area with 10 pint-sized slides and tipping buckets. Thrill seekers are sure to love one of the park's newest additions for 2015, Beach Blanket Banzai, a raft ride which takes guests on an exhilarating journey down 600 feet of twists, turns, wild s-curves and an overall 60 foot elevation change. Also new for 2015 is Wild Surf, a four-person raft ride that drops guests from a dizzying height through an enclosed flume before entering the swell of a mammoth man-made wave. (702-850-9000)
Wet'n'Wild Las Vegas
The perfect place to escape Las Vegas' scorching triple-digit temps during the summer, Wet'n'Wild Las Vegas is Nevada's premier water park with more than 25 slides and attractions. Ideal for both thrill seekers and families, the park features such scream-inducing rides as the Tornado, a slide that catapults riders to a zero gravity experience, and the Constrictor, an extreme water slide featuring some pretty tight turns. Those with younger children can enjoy Paradise Falls, the interactive children's area with kid-friendly slides and a giant dumping bucket; the Colorado Cooler lazy river; or the Red Rock Bay wave pool. New for 2015, one of the park's most popular slides, Zipp Zapp Zoom, will feature an exciting new addition, Slideboarding: the world's first water slide gaming experience that integrates gaming, skill and competitive sports with the thrills of a water park. The attraction is set to open over Memorial Day Weekend. (702-979-1600)
America's largest indoor theme park, The Adventuredome at Circus Circus is the perfect Las Vegas attraction for families--or those who are just kids at heart. Boasting 25 rides and attractions, including a mini golf course and laser tag, The Adventuredome recently celebrated the first anniversary of its newest ride, El Loco. Only the second roller coaster of its kind in the U.S., El Loco offers riders a 72-second, adrenaline-pumping adventure complete with a 90-foot ascent followed by a greater-than-straight-down diving drop that produces a negative 1.5 vertical G. Other hair-raising rides include Chaos, Inverter and The Adventuredome's first roller coaster, Canyon Blaster, which reaches speeds of up to 55 miles per hour. (702-794-3939, 866-456-8894)
About Heather Turk
A graduate of the University of Southern California, Heather's byline has appeared everywhere from The Los Angeles Times to Playboy.com--with her review of The Truman Show making the front page of The Detroit News' movie section when she was just 16 years old. When she's not at her computer writing a story for one of the many outlets she freelances for (including Allegiant Air's in-flight magazine Sunseeker, the Los Angeles Times Las Vegas Guide and CBS Las Vegas), she can often be found at the movies, on the Strip checking out the latest restaurant/show/spa/hotel opening or at Disneyland.
Read more about Heather Turk here.