Some colleagues and I walked down the Las Vegas Strip about midnight during a recent work trip. We saw a variety of people: tourists of all shapes, sizes, races, demeanors, and sobriety levels. Attraction hype people. Security and police officers. Vendors. Street performers.
You know, the typical Vegas Strip crowd. (Really, people you may see in any major city.)
We also saw some families with children in strollers.
One of my work friends asked our group a colorfully-phrased, rhetorical question:
“What kind of s—-y, f——g parents take their kids to Las Vegas?!”
I grinned and gave her an answer I don’t think she expected.
Color drained from her face and her eyes shot wide open.
“I-I-I-I-I —“ she said, embarrassed. I wasn’t offended by her question. In fact, I completely understood what inspired it.
Remember this was midnight — a time when most children are in bed. There were drunk people wandering the Strip. Some people were yelling and screaming with delight. So why were these kids out and about?
I don’t know. I didn’t ask their parents. Maybe they couldn’t sleep and their parents took them for a walk (though the sensory overload probably wouldn’t relax anyone). Perhaps they arrived from a late flight or long car drive and everyone was amped up. But kids out and about at midnight on the Sin City Strip isn’t something most of us see every day.
“So, um, what do you do in Vegas with your daughter?” she asked. (And, by the way, I love this friend who shall remain anonymous. She’s truly sweet, a fantastic colleague, and a good person. And very direct and honest.)
If you’ve asked the same question my friend did (though perhaps not in those exact words) maybe these answers may help.
Why We Bring Our Daughter to Vegas
My wife and I have twice brought our daughter to Las Vegas. The first was two years ago for a family friend’s wedding. The second was last weekend — to celebrate the first birthday of said friend’s little son.
To be clear, we don’t take our daughter out to OMNIA for dancing and drinks. (She more of a Hakksan girl 😉 I’m kidding!). Heck, my wife and I don’t take ourselves out for dancing and drinks. My kid doesn’t belly up at black jack tables and double down. (Though her calling out “red!” upon seeing the color on roulette table’s electronic number board was a tad unnerving. And she happily screamed, “I wanna play!” when we passed a Wheel of Fortune slot machine. Great.)
I Get It
Vegas was built on gambling, alcohol, fine dining, and production shows. It’s not designed for children. Many adults visit Vegas for a weekend away from everyday life. Seeing kids in an adult-oriented atmosphere is distracting.
When I work in Vegas — or am there with friends or wife for a weekend getaway — it’s nice to be among adults. What do most of us do, though? Spend time talking about our families and showing off pictures of our kids.
What We Avoid in Vegas
Delano Las Vegas is our favorite hotel. We love the Mandalay Bay pool and some of the restaurants (like Della’s Kitchen and Fleur). Technically, it’s on the Strip. That being said, we purposely avoid walking on the Strip — and some other areas — unless absolutely necessary. Why? A few reasons:
We’ve been there in the summer and it’s really hot. We stick to inside or in the pool. The trams and enclosed walkways between Mandalay Bay, Luxor, and Excalibur are godsends.
The “Other” Elements
There’s plenty of alcohol-fueled behavior, bad language, and cigarette smoke. Yes, you’ll find those almost anywhere. But there’s plenty of it on the Strip. And the Vegas atmosphere gives some people — not everyone — an inspiration to act however they want. Not everything in Vegas is family-friendly — and I appreciate that. We simply prefer to keep our daughter away from those situations.
Walking with a stroller while navigating crowds isn’t pleasant or easy. For as much space as it takes up on the ground, Vegas also uses plenty of vertical real estate. That means escalators and stairs — which aren’t conducive to strollers. Yes, there are elevators but some of them are another walk out of the way.
Yes, there’s booze, swearing, and smoke in the casinos. And Vegas resorts make it almost impossible to go anywhere without twisting and turning through their casinos. So we hustle through as quickly as possible. (Also, the casinos tend to frown upon children — accompanied or not — hanging out in casinos).
What Do You Do with Kids in Vegas?
I’ve been to Vegas about 70 times (many for work). I’ve enjoyed food, beverage, gambling, kicking back at the pool, and staying out much past my bedtime. Up until a few years ago, I couldn’t imagine what to do with a child in Vegas. So if you find yourself in a similar situation, here are some ideas:
Again, we love the Mandalay Bay Beach and its pools. (Though the lazy river spooked my two-year-old.) My daughter enjoyed the sand and playing in the kids’ pool.
Fun Dungeon at Excalibur
Carnival games, prizes, small rides — you’ll find them all at Excalibur’s Fun Dungeon. My daughter thrilled to virtual bowling with me, skee ball with Mom, and tooling around on rides.
PSA: cocktails are allowed, fellow parents.
Naturally, outside the Fun Dungeon’s elevator doors on the casino level was a shirtless star of the Thunder from Down Under male revue posing for pictures with swooning females. (“Ugh, that guy” my wife said while pointing at Mr. Thunder. “I told my boyfriend to stay away from Vegas this weekend while I’m here with my husband and daughter!” Thanks, honey.)
Walking Around the Convention Center in the Evening
Does that sound like wild and crazy fun or what?!
We visited during a major convention and took long walks to Mandalay Bay’s Convention Center. It was deserted at night; my daughter had a great time looking at the giant, colorful signs and running (read: tiring herself out) through the massive, empty hallways between meeting rooms.
Would We Bring Our Daughter to Vegas Just to Bring Her Vegas?
Aside from visiting our friends, I doubt we’d bring our daughter — at least, until she’s much older — to Las Vegas. My wife and I enjoy relaxing by the pool, walking around the Strip, going out for dinner and drinks, and maybe gambling a little. In other words, having grown-ups time.
Being in Vegas with my daughter is a much different experience than when I’m there with fellow adults.
Not to mention, Las Vegas is a lot more expensive than when I started visiting almost 20 years ago. You have to use points to afford decent hotel rooms or take full advantage of something like Chase‘s Luxury Hotel & Resort Collection. We used my wife’s Chase Sapphire Preferred card to save a bunch of money on food at Delano and Mandalay Bay.
I understand some people love Vegas (I’m sometimes one of them). Maybe they have no choice but to bring their kids because of babysitting issues or whatever. And, as my family exemplifies, others venture to Vegas to visit family and friends.
What Do You Think?
Do you — or would you — bring kids to Vegas? What other (helpful and nice) tips do you have for kid-friendly activities in Las Vegas? Please share your thoughts in the Comments section below!