Yes, you can bring the kids to Sin City and still have a fabulous time. High-end hotels and Michelin-starred restaurants from top chefs in the country have elevated Las Vegas to a new level of sophistication, and many are welcoming families.
Since it can be overwhelming to decide on which accommodations, entertainment and food options to choose from, we’ve put together a guide to help you to have a great time with your family. Mom and dad can still have a sophisticated vacation without having to leave the kids at home (unless you want to, of course). Bring along a teen (aka babysitter) and you’re all set for a romantic dinner for two to nurture your coupledom as well. What happens in Vegas, no longer has to stay in Vegas — bring home some great memories.
Las Vegas is a one-of-a-kind Mecca filled with unique architecture and landmarks and is a feast for the senses. Even children will enjoy seeing the Eiffel Tower, an Egyptian pyramid, the dancing fountains at the Bellagio and thousands of flashing neon lights pulsing along its giant main artery, aka, The Strip.
WHERE TO STAY
As you check-in on the 23rd floor sky lobby of the Mandarin Oriental, Las Vegas,
and take in the amazing view, you’ll know you’re somewhere special. Located at the new City Center, the ambiance at this luxurious hotel is pure Zen with décor so elegant and inviting, you won’t want to leave. The guest rooms are beautifully designed in a contemporary style with touches of the Orient and the latest technology. The Mandarin Oriental, Las Vegas is one of the only hotels on the Strip without a casino, a big plus for families (no trekking through smoky casinos!).
Enjoy more fresh air and sunshine on the pool deck where you can rent a private cabana and customize for your family. The “playful” option of culinary and spa amenities, include goggles, pool toys, board and card games, a snack basket and mini-desserts served in a Bento Box. Complimentary non-alcoholic refreshments, fresh fruit, sunscreen, plush robes and a 42” flat panel television with a Play Station 3 will provide hours of enjoyment.
Further relaxation can be had in taking afternoon tea at the Mandarin Oriental, Las Vegas’ Tea Lounge, which offers a selection of freshly brewed loose leaf teas and a three-tiered tower of delightful sandwiches, pastries and confections (a vegan menu is also available). Indulge in freshly baked scones with Devonshire cream and house-made as you gaze out the large windows at the sparkling city below.
After hearing about how cool The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas was, I had to see it for myself. The hotel everyone is talking about happened to be our favorite as well. The Cosmopolitan is chic, modern and stylish with an eclectic décor and cool, luxurious vibe. Who says you can’t enjoy a hip hotel when traveling with kids? We had fun noticing the dramatic video columns in the lobby with a variety of rotating designs – great visual effects.
Our two-bedroom suite was gorgeous and enormous and the perfect space to relax and get a little distance from the kids, with the living room in between both of the bedrooms. The bathroom was also amazing with a deep Japanese soaking tub and exhilarating shower. Art books, instead of generic magazines, gave our room a homey-feel, making it even harder to leave!
World-class restaurants are found on the hotel’s premises, such as Comme Ça, Jaleo, D.O.C.G. and Scarpetta, to name a few. For a quick and casual late night bite, seek out the “secret” pizza place that is somewhat difficult to find, but has great New York-style pizza. It’s in the same area as the other restaurants, down a corridor, but there’s no sign so you’ll have to ask around.
Brunch at Wicked Spoon at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, is a must. This all-you-can-eat buffet has dozens of high-quality, delicious culinary selections that will satisfy your cravings for just about anything. Kids will love the 18 kinds of homemade gelato and can eat as much as they want.
Located on the top four floors of Mandalay Beach Resort, the Four Seasons Hotel Las Vegas exudes serenity, class and exceptional service. Guests have exclusive access to the Four Seasons express elevators that whisk them away to luxurious and spacious rooms with sensational views.
My kids loved the personalized bath amenities (letter sponges spelling out their names) and child-sized plush robes. A babysitting service can also be provided to give mom and dad a break. Guests can enjoy all the amenities of the Mandalay Beach Resort, which is all about the pool/beach area, as far as my kids were concerned. They loved frolicking in the lazy river and wave pool at this mini-water park with 2,700 tons of real sand.
On-site family activities include the Shark Reef Aquarium and two great exhibits next door at the Luxor – BODIES…The Exhibition and the Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition. BODIES showcases more than 260 full body, organ and partial body specimens from real human bodies that have been preserved through an innovative process. My kids were not interested in it so we skipped it, but I’m sure it’s a fascinating exhibit.
I do, however, highly recommend the Titanic exhibit which features over 300 fascinating items from the famous ship, including the “big piece” of the ship’s hull, which is currently the largest Titanic artifact ever retrieved, weighing in at 15 tons and measuring more than 26 feet long. Viewed by more than 20 million people worldwide, the exhibition is among the highest attended in history.
History comes to life in the replicas throughout the ship, such as the first-class sleeping quarters, the grand staircase and promenade deck, which features a starry sky and a freezing-cold iceberg that guests may touch. During the tour, the guides share personal tales from the passengers, which gives an authentic perspective of what happened on that fateful night.
Next to the exhibit, you’ll find some great Mexican food at Tacos & Tequila (T&T), which takes a fresh, local and seasonal approach to food using delicious marinades, relishes and salsas. Try a seared ahi tuna taco in a homemade tortilla, grilled and glazed with agave soy, horseradish and sesame seeds. Mixed-to-order guacamole is essential, as well as margaritas made from fresh-squeezed limes, premium tequilas and organic Agave nectar.
WHAT TO DO
Ready for more entertainment? Seeing a Cirque du Soleil show in Las Vegas is nearly a give-in, as there are seven fabulous shows to choose from. My kids really wanted to see the Beatles show, but it was dark that week so we settled on Mysteré (at Treasure Island), the original Cirque du Soleil show and were not disappointed. The performers were incredibly talented and their strength, athleticism and acrobatic skills almost inhuman. Everything from the set design to costumes was imaginative, vibrant and bigger than life.
Another show appropriate for kids (over the age of 3) is the Blue Man Group at the Venetian, which is an explosion of color, humor, music and technology. My entire family enjoyed this fun and imaginative show, including the teens and adults. The energy is contagious and the interactivity with the audience made for a unique and entertaining experience!
If you’re inspired to get athletic yourself, try scaling the 40-ft. indoor rock-climbing wall at Canyon Ranch SpaClub, between the Venetian and the Palazzo. After climbing up the various challenging paths of difficulty for close to an hour, you’ll be sure and feel a bit sore in your forearms and hands afterward, but will feel proud of your accomplishment. Grab a smoothie at the Canyon Ranch Café (next to the wall) and rehydrate. Fresh sandwiches, salads and house-baked goods are available as well.
If relaxation is more your style, a visit to the 134,000 sq.-ft. Canyon Ranch SpaClub is a must, with an exclusive Aquavana suite of therapeutic cabins, experiential showers, cold rooms and aqua thermal bathing experiences, including a Wave Room, Salt Grotto, Herbal Laconium and Igloo. With over 100 treatment and spa services, the SpaClub’s menu is impressive. You can’t go wrong with a Deep Tissue Massage – ask for Gabriel, who will work out your knots of tension, leaving you in a blissful state.
If your kids like theme parks, they’ll probably enjoy the thrilling rides at Adventuredome at Circus Circus. My kids aren’t crazy about scary rides and are too old for kiddie rides, so I’m not sure why I thought this would be a good idea. The noise of the double loop rollercoaster zipping over our heads every few minutes (indoor theme park) and the crowds and chaos got to be a bit much, so we didn’t stay long. I’m sure some kids would love it though and you can buy individual tickets or an all day pass. The Rim Runner is a water log ride with a 60-foot drop down a waterfall and kids will soar towards the sky on Sling Shot.
Pink Jeep Tours
When you want a break from the Strip and feel like having a real adventure, check out Pink Jeep Tours and get back to nature on one of their day trips to Red Rock Canyon, Hoover Dam or even the Grand Canyon. You can experience the natural side of Las Vegas and the beauty of its surrounding area in the comfort of a luxurious and rugged Tour Trekker, all-terrain vehicle. We didn’t get a chance to go on a tour, but they sounded fabulous and it’s something to look forward to on our next trip to Vegas. Adventure awaits…
On our last day we had one last adventure, a visit to the newly renovated MOB Attraction Las Vegas at the Tropicana Hotel, to learn about how Las Vegas began and to have some fun! Kids and adults will love this interactive tour, mixing entertainment with history, storytelling, artifacts and technology. Visitors take a journey through the world of organized crime, interacting with live character actors and 3D holograms of famous mob movie icons and celebrity gangsters. Be careful how you answer some questions, as it may determine your fate of whether you become part of “the family” or not. You can take your time during the museum section and finish the tour at your leisure. The MOB Attraction Las Vegas makes learning history fun and exciting – don’t miss it!
WHERE TO EAT
A great place to grab some tasty grub nearby is i LOVE burgers at the Shoppes at the Palazzo. You’ll find gourmet hamburgers (and veggie burgers) with creative toppings on the menu, along with the ever-popular mac n’cheese nom noms, parmesan-garlic fries and creamy shakes (spiked shakes available for adults!). I loved the Baby Spinach Salad with caramelized onion, heirloom tomatoes, crumbled blue cheese and topped with a poached, heart-shaped egg. Attentive service and a casual, diner-type atmosphere make it a perfect place for families.
Another fine burger joint is American Burger Works (ABX) at Excalibur, for their 15 dipping sauces that accompany their crisp Belgium fries. Favorites include bacon-mustard, cheddar cheese, chili-cilantro sour cream and Jack Daniel’s ketchup. ABX’s juicy burgers are made with all-natural, hormone-free quality beef. Milkshakes feature Blue Bell ice cream (vanilla, chocolate and strawberry) and candy mix-ins, like Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, Oreo Cookies and Heath Bars. Other menu selections include turkey burgers, veggie burgers and grilled cheese sandwiches. The interior of ABX has a funky industrial vibe and features chandeliers made from mechanical gears and antique filament bulbs.
One of the most unique and fun restaurants in Vegas is Max Brenner, Chocolate by the Bald Man, the first restaurant devoted to chocolate. Located in the Forum Shops at Caesars Palace (across from the mega-H&M), Max Brenner presents chocolate like no other. Rivers of chocolate flow through large pipes that run throughout the restaurant, crates are filled with cocoa beans, colorful toy tins and chocolate memorabilia lines the shelves of the retail space, including bon bons, hug mugs and cocoa body butter. I was expecting amazing chocolate desserts (which there were plenty of), but I didn’t expect such delicious food. As the menu says “First Food, then Chocolate.” I was happy to oblige. Afterwards, we indulged in the melty, fresh-from-the-oven chocolate chip cookie and a cup of rich, real hot chocolate that comes in a hug mug. Heaven.
Another yummy treat is the frozen hot chocolate at Serendipity 3, a very popular and whimsical restaurant just outside Caesars Palace. The original location is in Manhattan and is a favorite among tourists and celebrities and was in the movie Serendipity. Celebrating its third anniversary, Serendipity 3, is offering a special three-course menu for $33.33 until May 15. Menu options include signature dishes such as the Las Vegas Chicken Strips, Orchard Salad and the world-famous Frrrozen Hot Chocolate, of course.
Also at Caesars is celebrity chef Bobby Flay’s Mesa Grill, serving bold and innovative Southwestern fare. Signature dishes like his New Mexican Spice Rubbed Pork Tenderloin with Bourbon-Ancho Chile Sauce, Sweet Potato Tamale and Crushed Pecan Butter combine his love of grilling and spicy cooking. Vegetarians will enjoy the Cornmeal Crusted Chile Relleno with Roasted Eggplant, Manchego Cheese Sweet Red Pepper Sauce and Balsamic Vinegar. High-quality tequila and mezcal selection, plus excellent margaritas, make this a perfect date night option.
Liz Laing is a writer, web designer and photographer who lives in Los Angeles. Her latest projects may be followed on Liz Laing.