Story by Jody Robbins
Vacay.ca Family Travel Columnist
LAS VEGAS, NEVADA — If you think Las Vegas is an adult-only playground, think again. With kid-friendly restaurants, animal habitats and pools galore, more and more Canadian families are taking to the Strip. Worried about taking a gamble on Sin City? These activities (ideal for capturing short attention spans), just might change your mind. But remember: what happens in Vegas never stays in Vegas, when tots are in tow.
Swim With the Sharks
Yes, your hotel probably has a pool, but I doubt it has a three-storey water slide that goes through a shark tank. One of Vegas’ iconic hotels, the Golden Nugget is still your classic joint, but its recent $30-million pool renovation is anything but retro. In addition to the winding water slide, you can rent a private cabana or get a behind-the-scenes Shark Tank tour with marine biologists to learn about the inner workings of this 200,000-gallon aquarium.
Admission: Shark Tank tickets are $30 per person. Water slide use is free for guests, and $15-$20 for non-guests, free for kids under two years old.
Location: 29 Fremont Street
Hours: Shark Tank tours begin at 3:30 pm Thursday through Saturday.
Contact: 866-946-5336; click here for the website.
Catch a Show
1. It’s hard to believe a performance based upon the neural network of the human brain can be mind-blowing and kid-friendly at the same time, yet Blue Man Group manages to accomplish both. Bombastic beats and electrifying technology capture kids’ short attention spans, as does the innovative ways these brilliant blue men interact with the audience and their inventive musical instruments.
Location: Monte Carlo Resort and Casino; 3770 South Las Vegas Boulevard
Contact: 1-800-BLUEMAN (toll free); www.blueman.com.
2. Can you escape Vegas without seeing a Cirque du Soleil show? Likely not, and Mystere is an ideal introduction to acrobatics for kids. Elaborately costumed performers strut like birds, prance like graceful horses, and thrill audiences with remarkable stunts and gymnastics.
Admission: $34.50 to $119
Location: Treasure Island, 3300 South Las Vegas Boulevard
Contact: 1-800-392-1999 (toll free); click here for showtimes and more
Tip: Half-price tickets can be scored at Tix4Tonight kiosks outside many hotel and casinos.
Ride the Gondola
You don’t need to head all the way to Europe to glide down a canal in a gondola. No trip to The Venetian is complete without a float in one of the hotel’s romantic boats. As gondoliers croon like Jimmy Durante, kids are enthralled cruising past diners, beneath bridges, and through the decadent, manufactured Venetian street-scape.
Admission: $18.95 per person. Reservations must be made in person at The Venetian. Ticket sales open daily at 10 am.
Location: 3355 South Las Vegas Boulevard
Contact: Click here for the gondola rides page on the hotel’s website.
AdventureDome at Circus Circus
Thrill seekers should head straight to the AdventureDome, America’s largest indoor theme park. Here, you’ll find North America’s only double-loop, double-corkscrew roller-coaster, plus more than 25 rides and attractions. Littered throughout the 5.5-acre park are bumper cars, miniature golf and clown performances, in addition to thrill and carnival rides. The best part? With super high ceilings and canyon fixtures, it almost feels like you’re outside. You’re not, but an afternoon here is a breath of fresh air compared to wandering through dimly lit casinos.
Admission: $5-$10 per ride. All-day passes are $29.95 for adults and $16.95 for children 33-47 inches tall. Toddlers under 33 inches are free.
Location: 2880 South Las Vegas Boulevard
Contact: 702-794-3939, Toll free 1-800-444-2472; www.adventuredome.com
Sweeten Up at M&M’s World
The destination for all things M&M, this 28,000-square-foot entertainment-retail complex next to the MGM Grand gives visitors a chance to wander through a waking chocolate dream. Four floors of cocoa paradise reveal walls of new colours and flavours visitors can scoop up and bag home. You can even personalize your M&M’S by getting your name or event stamped on the treats. Be sure to watch the free 3D movie, “I LOST MY ‘M’ in VEGAS” starring Red and Yellow before leaving. Sadly, movie snacks aren’t complimentary.
Location: 3785 South Las Vegas Boulevard
Contact: 702-736-7611; www.mmsworld.com
Where to Eat in Las Vegas
1. Dining in Vegas has become pricey thanks to the onslaught of restaurants operated by celebrity chefs and their clientele of high-rollers willing to pay astronomical prices. Fortunately, there are still some bargains to be found. Many drugstores such as Walgreens stock light meals and snacks, and there are food courts in almost every hotel and casino.
Cake Bosses signature restaurant Buddy V’s dishes up hearty Italian fare at reasonable prices (an average dinner cheque rings in at $45). Meals are American-size (meaning: easily shared) and aren’t outlandish. With a menu based on Buddy’s own favourite family recipes from meatballs to mac and cheese, there’s something to satisfy even the pickiest of eaters.
Location: The Venetian; 3355 South Las Vegas Boulevard
Contact: 702-607-2355; www.buddyvlasvegas.com
2. The best place for family breakfast has got to be Cabo Wabo Cantina. Don’t scoff. While 80’s rock might play softly in the background, Sammy Hagar and crew are nowhere to be seen — at least not before noon. A platter of pancakes (three flapjacks each the size of a dinner plate) comes in at $6 and sides of toast, bacon or two eggs are $2 each. Kick back with Clamato and beer or Mimosa for $6 a pop, and don’t forget to doggie bag your leftovers.