We’re back again and returning to our series about picking the perfect hotel for your Vegas visit.
Everyone knows this is the kind of choice that can make or break your vacation. And if you’re traveling to Sin City with children, well, there’s even more pressure to make the right selection. (Parents, the last thing you want to listen to during your trip is the all-too-familiar chorus of “We’re bored. What can we do here?”)
Now you may be wondering if kids are allowed to stay in hotels with the casinos. The answer is yes. Of course, you don’t want your child hanging out by craps tables and video poker machines. Likewise, casinos don’t want minors wandering around. Keep this in mind: Children can pass through the gaming floor on the way to restaurants, shows or room elevators, but an adult must always accompany them.
That being said, even though Vegas is the gambling capital of the world, there are several hotels with casinos suitable for families. You can book a room at a pink-and-white big top flanked by an indoor theme park or in a huge castle. At other accommodations popular with the youth set, you’ll find a wave pool, a dolphin habitat and a faux rainforest.
So take the stress out of coming to Sin City with your kids by staying at one of the following five hotels known for having great locations (all of them are on the Las Vegas Strip), reasonably priced rooms (some large enough to fit your whole brood), restaurants that can satisfy picky eaters of all ages and lots of fun stuff to do. We guarantee you’ll hear no whining.
The song that comes to mind when we think of Circus Circus is “Everything Is Awesome” from “The Lego Movie.” Although you’re not likely to see Legos in this circus-themed resort at the north end of the Strip, for those who fall between the ages of 3 and 18, everything is awesome. There’s a classic midway where kids can try to win giant stuffed animals by shooting basketballs, squirting water guns or throwing rings on milk cans. Throughout each day (beginning at 11 a.m.), kooky clowns and an assortment of other acts perform feats of magic, juggling, balancing and contortion on the midway’s center stage. Oh, and here’s a word parents everywhere love to hear: These shows are free. Just steps away from Circus Circus under a gigantic pink glass dome sits The Adventuredome theme park. It’s packed with cool roller coasters and other rides. How’s this for a play list? El Loco. Canyon Blaster. Disk’O. Sling Shot. Chaos. Inverter. Frog Hopper. Miner Mike. And there’s an FX Theatre with 4-D adventures featuring SpongeBob SquarePants, Dora and Diego, and the penguin Mumble from “Happy Feet.” Plus, Circus Circus has a slew of family-friendly restaurants from Krispy Kreme Doughnuts and McDonald’s to the Pizzeria and Circus Buffet. Be sure to stop by the Horse-A-Round Snack Bar, a slowly circling carousel in the midway, where you can indulge in carnival favorites like lemonade, cotton candy and popcorn dripping with butter.
Staying at Excalibur near the south end of the Strip is like entering a time machine because it’s themed after a faraway land from a time long gone. A gigantic white castle with spires of bright red, blue and gold, Excalibur hearkens back to the Middle Ages and is inspired by legends of King Arthur and dragons. The main entrance is a drawbridge. Take your children below ground to the Fun Dungeon. No, this isn’t a terrifying place for punishing bratty behavior. The Fun Dungeon is a midway of sorts packed with more than 150 carnival, arcade and sports-related games. For a night (or rather “knight”) to remember, get tickets to “Tournament of Kings.” Watch as heroic battles are waged and chivalry is tested while you feast on a three-course dinner. (Note: There’s no silverware, so you’ll have to eat like they did in days of yore…with your fingers.) For a modern day meal, head over to the Castle Walk Food Court, the resort’s new Buffet or Buca di Beppo, which serves family-style food perfect for sharing. Even Excalibur’s high-end restaurant, The Steakhouse at Camelot, offers a kids menu.
MGM Grand might not be the first place that comes to mind when lists of family-friendly hotels are drawn up, but it should be on them. Many years ago this resort, also situated near the south end of the Strip, had a “Wizard of Oz” theme and was home to the Grand Adventures theme park. Although all of that is long gone, there are still some things at MGM Grand targeted to young ’uns. For instance, you can start or end your day at the Rainforest Café. This imaginative eatery re-creates a tropical rainforest complete with waterfalls, lush vegetation, a 10,000-gallon aquarium, simulated thunderstorms and, best of all, wild critters (animatronic elephants, gorillas, crocodiles and more). When it comes to entertainment, “KÀ” by Cirque du Soleil enchants small kids with a beach full of giant sea creatures and impresses older ones with daring acrobatic feats that defy the laws of gravity. David Copperfield also amazes audiences of all generations with his mind-boggling tricks. Children ages 12 and older can test their sleuthing skills by gathering evidence at one of three different crime scenes at CSI: The Experience. When the weather is warm (which is most of the year), the MGM Grand’s pool area – a 6.5-acre complex with four swimming pools, three whirlpools and a 1,000-foot-long lazy river – is awesome. And let’s not forget that the hotel is just steps away from M&M’s World. For anyone into chocolate (and who isn’t?), this four-level retail and entertainment attraction is a top spot for a sugar high.
You don’t need to sacrifice style in Vegas just because you’re staying at a family-friendly hotel. The Mirage is right at the heart of the Strip. It has comfortable rooms with contemporary décor as well as plenty to keep your kids happy. The Mirage boasts a spectacular tropical atrium just inside its front entrance and a 20,000-gallon fish tank behind the front desk. Waterfalls and lagoons are enthralling at the year-round pool. Youngsters can get up close and personal with exotic creatures in Siegfried & Roy’s Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat. Built for education and preservation, these two habitats are filled with bottlenose dolphins, leopards, white tigers and white lions (including three adorable cubs named Madiba, Timba-Masai and Freedom). When hunger hits, enjoy homestyle eats at the Pantry, sliders at BLT Burger or pizza at CPK. And The Mirage’s buffet, Cravings, is an excellent one – you’ll literally have to prod your kids away from the homemade gelato stand at the dessert station. In the evening singing ventriloquist Terry Fator will crack everyone up with his collection of puppets (Winston the Impersonating Turtle is so cute). Or “LOVE” by Cirque du Soleil will blow you away with imaginative props and whimsical characters plucked from The Beatles’ lyrics – like Sgt. Pepper, Eleanor Rigby and Lucy in the Sky. In addition, you can always end your night with a free show by simply stepping outside to watch The Mirage’s iconic volcano spew steam, fire and lava.
At Mandalay Bay it’s all about the beach…Mandalay Beach, that is. If you never leave this hotel, which marks the southernmost point on the Strip, your offspring will still adore you. There’s nothing quite like this 11-acre aquatic playground. In addition to swimming in three large pools, your kids can float on rafts along a lazy river (it has a current that runs at 3 mph), build castles with 2,700 tons of white sand and frolic in a 1.6-million-gallon wave pool. Simply stake out a spot when Mandalay Beach opens in the morning, and then sit back and soak up the rays while your little angels enjoy a veritable heaven on earth. When you head back to your room at sunset, they’ll likely fall asleep in your arms. How’s that for a day well spent? If you should desire a break from the beach, check out the Shark Reef Aquarium. This isn’t your typical aquarium. It’s filled with 15 different species of sharks and other marine predators like piranha, jellyfish and a golden crocodile. Fortunately, there’s also a Touch Pool with a collection of less deadly creatures (rays and horseshoe crabs). Mandalay Bay is also home to an eye-popping Cirque du Soleil show, “Michael Jackson ONE,” and restaurants that serve kid-approved foods such as fish and chips at Citizens Kitchen and Bar, pizza at Slice of Vegas and good ol’ hamburgers at The Burger Bar.