Las Vegas is full of adults-only activities, but families can still find plenty of things to do with the kids. Taking a short drive away from the Strip is often the best way to escape the more adult elements of the city, although there are also kid-friendly attractions on the Strip.
For families vacationing in Las Vegas during the summer, a trip to one of the city's two thrilling water parks is in order: Wet'n'Wild Las Vegas or 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. Be sure to come prepared with the sunscreen–the cool water makes it possible to stay completely comfortable in the hot summer sun.
Las Vegas is also home to an abundance of hiking and nature watching activities, all an easy drive from the Strip. Plan a picnic lunch and go hiking to see rare features like petroglyphs and hidden springs. Take plenty of of water and time your outside activities to be in tune with the season–in warmer months, go early in the day for the coolest temperatures.
Animal attractions and museums are another good activity for kids in Las Vegas, and while most exhibits are on the small side, they offer a child-friendly space that everyone in the family can 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. Beverages are available for sale before you board, and the pods are air conditioned so everyone will stay comfortable even during summer. Youth pricing is available for kids aged ages 13-17, and children ages 12 and younger are always free with a paid adult. The area surrounding the High Roller is also worth exploring, since it's filled with shops and restaurants. (866-328-1888)
Before you get to "fly" over Fremont Street on the Slotzilla zip line, you'll probably get to see several groups of people zoom out of the giant slot machine while you're waiting. The anticipation is part of the fun. If you're an adrenaline junkie, the moments before take-off will be a thrill as the workers check all the straps and prepare to send you speeding down the zip line. At speeds of up to 40 m.p.h., the ride may seem to go all to quickly--chances are good you'll want to do it again as soon as possible. Riders who choose the highest zip line (the "zoom line") fly Superman-style, while those who pick the lower line are seated. Weight minimums and maximums apply. (844-947-8342)
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. 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 young giraffe named Ozzie, making it one of Las Vegas' wildest attractions. (702-595-6666)
Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area
Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area was once far removed from Las Vegas, but now sits just outside the western edge of the city. The area is full of spectacular natural beauty, rugged red rock formations, desert vegetation and open vistas. A stop at the visitor center is a must for those who haven't been to the area. This portion of the Mojave Desert is home to a tremendous number of rare plant and animal species, partly because of the number of springs along the base of the mountains. While many folks opt to bike, hike or rock-climb, others make the most of the 13-mile scenic loop, which lets you drive a picturesque circuit and offers stop-offs for photography. Look out for wildlife, including burros, one of the most commonly sighted animals. (702-515-5350)
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. (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)
One of America's largest indoor theme parks, 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 park has attractions for kids of all ages. One of Adventuredome's newest rides, El Loco, is only the second roller coaster of its kind in the U.S., offering riders a 72-second, adrenaline-pumping ride 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)
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. One of the park's newer slides, Zipp Zapp Zoom, features 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. (702-979-1600)
Spanning several acres, this Henderson water park is one of Las Vegas' coolest places to take the kids. Cowabunga boasts loads of attractions, including a lazy river. Offering something for everyone, there are water slides in all sizes and shapes (not to mention speeds), as well as surf and swim pools and an interactive kids play area with pint-sized slides and tipping buckets. Thrill seekers are sure to love some of the park's newest additions, like Wild Surf, where the daring can ride on four-person rafts that drop from 60 feet into the swell of a massive wave. For a different kind of wave-related experience, try the Surf-A-Rama Wave Pool, where the swells go four feet high. Plentiful seating, lockers, and food is available at various points throughout the park, as well as adult beverages for the over-21 crowd. (702-850-9000)
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.
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