Planning a trip to or through Las Vegas?
A trip to Las Vegas isn't complete until you've seen the world-famous Las Vegas Strip. And there are more family-friendly activities here than you might expect. I don't gamble, but I enjoy the bright lights and energy of the Las Vegas Strip.
It's not for everyone, though. You can overlook, but you cannot entirely avoid the Strip's “Sin City” reputation – especially after dark. Gigantic signs promote risque shows for mature audiences. Small pornographic ads for strip clubs litter sidewalks. Walking through casinos is unavoidable. It's the definition of “overstimulating.”
Despite these drawbacks, you'll see plenty of families on the Las Vegas Strip. My kids (ages 11 and 14) have been there several times and we have enjoyed a variety of family activities. Here are a few of our favorites.
Las Vegas Sign – You'll find the famous “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas Nevada” sign just beyond Mandalay Bay at the south end of the Las Vegas Strip. There is a parking lot. Expect a line, and probably someone offering to take photos with your camera for tips. This activity is free.
Fountains of Bellagio – This is my favorite activity on the Las Vegas Strip, and it costs nothing. It's a huge water show choreographed to music in front of the Bellagio Hotel and Casino. It runs every 30 minutes in the afternoon and every 15 minutes in the evening until midnight. Shows start at 11 or noon on weekends and 3 PM on weekdays. www.bellagio.com
Bellagio Conservatory and Botanical Garden – When you finish at the fountains, head inside the Bellagio to see the seasonally-changing Botanical Gardens, which are also free to the public. Turn your eyes upward to the Fiori di Como art glass chandelier as you pass through the lobby. It features over 2,000 hand-blown glass flowers. www.bellagio.com
Volcano Las Vegas – This longtime staple of the Strip is fun for visitors of all ages to see. Volcano Las Vegas at The Mirage erupts several times each evening. It's totally free. www.mirage.com
CSI: The Experience – My kids picked this activity at the MGM Grand, and it was fun. We investigated and solved a crime as a team using a realistic crime scene, lab reports and computers. I recommend CSI for older kids. It's not gory or scary, but it won't be fun for most young children. It's included in the Las Vegas Pass, Go Card and MGM Resorts 3 for $57 Package Offer.
Blue Man Group – This show was a big hit with everyone in my family. It's music and comedy and audience participation in a way you've never seen it before. See it at Luxor Resort and Casino. Blue Man Group is included with a 3, 4 or 5-day Go Las Vegas Card. www.blueman.com
Cirque du Soleil: Mystere – This is the show we want to see next. Cirque du Soleil has many popular shows in Las Vegas and Mystere is #1 on several lists of family-friendly shows. See it at Treasure Island. www.cirquedusoleil.com/mystere
Big Apple Roller Coaster at New York-New York – We got an unlimited wristband for this big coaster and rode it 3 times, with short waits every time. This is a thrilling ride for older kids and adults, with great views of Las Vegas. We found the restraints uncomfortable and the ride a little rough. It's included in the Las Vegas Pass and MGM Resorts 3 for $57 Package Offer. www.newyorknewyork.com
Shark Reef Aquarium at Mandalay Bay – Mandalay Bay's Shark Reef has fourteen exhibits that display more than 2,000 animals. There aren't many other places where you can safely get this close to a shark. It's smaller than most aquariums we've visited, but well done. It's included in the MGM Resorts 3 for $57 Package Offer. www.sharkreef.com
Flamingo Wildlife Habitat – The Flamingo Hotel and Casino's Wildlife Habitat features a lush garden and stream where visitors can see swans, ducks, koi, turtles, and of course, pink flamingos. This is a fun, free and fast activity that is especially good for younger children. www.caesars.com/flamingo-las-vegas/things-to-do
Siegfried and Roy's Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat – This paid activity at The Mirage allows visitors an up-close look at white tigers, lions, panthers, leopards and a family of dolphins. It's included in the Las Vegas Pass and MGM Resorts 3 for $57 Package Offer. www.mirage.com
Fun Dungeon at Excalibur – Years ago, this arcade was a good opportunity for us to let our young children loose for a few minutes. We didn't even give them money; they were just happy to pretend to play the games for a little while. Expect top-of-the-line games and old favorites. www.excalibur.com
Arcade at New York-New York – We walked all the way through this arcade every time we rode the Big Apple Coaster. It's big, and filled with fun games for all ages. www.newyorknewyork.com
Coca-Cola Store – It costs nothing to visit this flagship store, but I recommend that you spend a few dollars at the Beverage Bar on the 2nd floor. My family loves sharing the Tastes of the World tray. You'll get samples of soda flavors from around the globe. Some were delicious and others were strange, but all are fun to try. One order is more than enough for my family of four. www.cokestore.com/stores/las-vegas
M&M's World Store – This fun store is located next to the Coca-Cola Store. It has four floors of fun photo ops and merchandise. Families will enjoy “I Lost My M in Vegas.” It's a free 10-minute 3-D movie starring Red and Yellow. www.mymms.com/category/store-locations
Hershey's Chocolate World – You'll find this flagship store just inside New York-New York. We were treated to Hershey's Kisses samples on our way in and out. Inside is a candy lover's paradise featuring Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, giant Hershey's bars and an 800-lb. chocolate sculpture of the Statue of Liberty. https://hersheyschocolateworldlasvegas.com/