Top 10 Vegas family-friendly attractions

Posted by on Jan 25th, 2012 and filed under Attractions, Featured. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

Vegas is known for its exciting nightlife scene, but let’s face it, not all of us party it up, especially if we plan on bringing the kids. But of course, we still want to experience the energy and buzz the city has to offer.

Thankfully, you can bring the entire family to Vegas and still have the time of your life. Who says you have to take them to a risqué show, loud nightclub or a blackjack table? The youngsters won’t make it past security, anyway.

Check out our list of family-fun attractions that’ll be fun for the kids and bring out the kid in you too.

1. Chuck Jones Experience

chuckIf you grew up watching cartoons starring Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Wile E. Coyote and Road Runner, then a trip to The Chuck Jones Experience at Circus Circus needs to make your list. Famed animator Chuck Jones created each of these timeless animated characters you (your parents and maybe even grandparents) saw on TV. Jones made more than 300 animated films including legendary “Looney Tunes” and “Merrie Melodies” for Warner Bros. and “Tom and Jerry” cartoons, to name a few. 

See the magic behind the cartoons and have a newfound appreciation for your favorite cartoon characters. See more than 250 pieces of Jones’ original artwork, interactive exhibits and digital films. You can even interact with a life-size recreation of Bugs Bunny and create your own animation piece.

2. Springs Preserve

owlI used to roam my grandma’s flower garden in Seattle for hours. Whether it was admiring the long row of sunflowers that stood taller than me (and probably still do!) or picking strawberries from the little patch, I often chose being outside over watching TV. The Springs Preserve captures that same outdoorsy feel and also features an abundance of animal wildlife.

The 180-acre attraction features exhibits, galleries, trails and gardens that provide tons of information. See live animals like rabbits, spiders, lizards and bats. The 8-acre garden area features a wide range of desert landscapes including herbs, vegetables, roses, cactus, palms and more. There are also hiking trails for the adventurous types.

Now through May, check out “Wings over the Springs” and see live exotic birds. For an extra $10, you’ll get a backstage pass and get a hands-on encounter. Birds include Eurasian Eagle Owl, Saker Falcon, Barbary Saker Falcon, Lanner Barbary, African Hawk Eagle, Barbary, Red Necked Falcon, African Crow Raven. While you’re here, check out the Nevada State Museum where you can see a replica of the ichthyosaur, Nevada’s state fossil. 

3. Bellagio Conservatory

bellagioBesides exploring the gardens at grandma’s house, I remember her taking me to the once-a-year tulip fair in Washington state. The colors are unbelievable. The bright colors and fresh scents I experienced here as a kid were probably some of my fondest memories. The display at Bellagio Conservatory isn’t quite the same as the tulip showcase, but the colorful exhibit and refreshing smells of the flowers works for me.

“The Bellagio Conservatory is a must-see destination in Las Vegas for families and guests of all ages,” said Andres Garcia, executive director of horticulture at Bellagio. “We do this solely for our guests to enjoy the beauty of horticulture, any time of day.”

Kids will delight in the dragon display for Chinese New Year. In addition, you can watch musicians perform live traditional folk and pop music. Complimentary performances take place inside the Conservatory from 5 p.m. – 6 p.m., daily. 

“No matter the weather outside, it is always a wonderful 68 degrees inside the Conservatory, where over 7,000 picture-perfect flowers are on display daily,” said Garcia.

4. Adventuredome

The five-and-a-half acre Adventuredome is the largest indoor theme park and not only features a handful of thrill rides, but traditional carnival rides, laser tag, mini-golf, a huge midway section and so much more.

You can easily spend the whole day here. You may say you’re here to bring the kids, but we’ll bet you’ll have just as much fun – if not more – as them. Thrill-seekers can enjoy a double-loop rollercoaster and steep water ride, or a Ferris wheel and merry-go-round if that’s too much.

The midway games feature Hello Kitty and Angry Bill dolls, so be prepared to shell out a bunch of ones to make all the kids happy.

5. Mandalay Bay Shark Reef

sharkreefThe Shark Reef features more than 1,200 species of marine life including sharks, exotic fresh and saltwater fish, a 300-pound sea turtle and much more.

“The Shark Reef Aquarium is a great place for families looking for a fun and educational experience,” said Jack Jewell, general curator. “Kids can get within inches of sharks, rays or even a Komodo dragon.

Sharks include the nurse shark and tiger-striped shark, which both measure up to nine feet long. You’ll also see two tiger sharks, which measure more than six feet in length.

The Shark Reef is also home to a handful of unique looking sea creatures. These include chunky, colorful catfish and saw fish (with a nose that looks like a chainsaw!). The aquarium also houses piranhas. While I wouldn’t be first in line to pet these guys, you can pet various stingrays, eels and crabs at the touch pool.

During your visit, you can also watch a video of how the staff feeds the fish on the aquarium’s new interactive touch screens. 

6. Wildlife Habitat

Flamingos are a lot of fun. But so are ducks, catfish and so much more at the Wildlife Habitat at the Flamingo.

Located next to the Flamingo’s pool area, the Wildlife Habitat makes you feel like you’re in the tropics. See Chilean flamingos, Chinese pheasants, black swans, ducks and parrots. You’ll also see turtles, cat fish and koi fish, too.

As you stroll through the garden, enjoy all the greenery including pines and palm trees, as well as ponds and waterfalls.

7. Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat

dolphin2Where else can you see playful dolphins and a variety of wildcats just steps away from each other? The nice thing about the Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat at the Mirage is you won’t tire yourself from long walks at bigger animal parks.

At the dolphin habitat, see adorable Atlantic bottlenose dolphins swimming, “tail walking” across water, catching fish and bonding. These sociable creatures also like to shake their heads, flap their fins and even come up to you.

If you want to spend one-on-one time with the dolphins, suit up and try the “Trainer for a Day” program. Slip into a wetsuit and spend all day with these fun-loving animals. There is also a VIP tour available where you can take pictures with a dolphin and get a behind-the-scenes tour of the facility.

Just steps away from the Dolphin Habitat, enter the world of beautiful wildcats at The Secret Garden. Not only will you get up-close views of these gorgeous animals, you’ll read fun facts written on plaques throughout the park. If you want to see the cats play, then try to come closer to nighttime. This is when they are the most active and energetic. I had a fun time seeing the two white tigers chase each other like they were little kids.

8. M&M’s World

mwallWho doesn’t love M&M’s? I’ve been munching on these bite-size morsels as early as I can remember and I know you have, too!

Located at Showcase Mall on the Las Vegas Strip (next to GameWorks), M&M’s World goes way beyond chocolate. You’ll have a chance to browse through four floors of candy, memorabilia, souvenirs and much more. The second floor features an M&M’s wall with 22 different colors from teal and hot pink to lime green and gray.

On the third floor, customize M&M candies with your own message.  It’s fun, easy, and only takes a couple of minutes. While you’re here, watch the interactive 3-D film, “I Left My M in Vegas” in the M&M’s theater. The free movie runs about 10 minutes long and plays throughout the day.

9. Ethel M Chocolate Factory

Since we’re on the subject of chocolate, did you ever picture visiting a place filled with oodles of chocolate and cactus trees? At the Ethel M Chocolate Factory, you’ll gain an appreciation for both.

Ethel M is worth the 15-minute drive from the Strip. See chocolate factory workers produce chocolate and other goodies and enjoy free samples for yourself, too. A variety of sweet treats are available for sale, as well Ethel M’s signature pecan brittle.

“Visiting Ethel M is a memorable experience for people of all ages,” said Jessica Ruttman, public relations and marketing manager for Ethel M Chocolates. “From the excitement of seeing the chocolates being made in the factory, to the beauty of our  Botanical Cactus Garden and the distinct quality and taste of our chocolates, there is something for everyone. Best of all, it’s free and open year-round.”

Take all the energy from the sugar you consumed and stroll through the three-acre cactus garden. Here you’ll find more than 300 kinds of plants, including Teddy Bear Cholla, Texas Prickly Pear, Spotted Aloe and other cacti that most people never knew existed.

If you’re here during the holidays, the cactus garden features a breathtaking display of Christmas lights. Guests can also see caroling, dancing and visits from Santa.

10. Bonnie Springs

If you’re a fan of cowboy movies or simply fascinated with the Wild West, Bonnie Springs takes you back in time. While Bonnie Springs/Old Nevada isn’t on the Las Vegas Strip, it’s worth the drive especially if you’re renting a car. Located about 40 minutes southwest of the Las Vegas Strip, the 115-acre ranch is full of family fun.

Participate in a hiss-and-boo skit (we promise you’ll do just that!) and watch a cowboy showdown. You can also visit an old jailhouse and practice your skills at a shooting gallery. But one of the things I enjoy the most about Bonnie Springs is its huge petting zoo. I’ve never seen so many peacocks and ducks in one setting. The goats and deer here like to be pet, so make sure you give them a lot of attention. While you can’t pet the ostrich, lynx or bull, you’ll have a change to take photos of them behind their fence.

With all the family-oriented activities available in Vegas, now you know that Disneyland isn’t your only option.

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