Las Vegas Family Fun

By: Robert Thomson

Las Vegas may not typically be the first destination that comes to mind when planning a family vacation, but for many years the city has been increasingly gearing many of its attractions and entertainment options to offer something for the entire family. Planning a family visit to Vegas may require you to forego some of the gambling and drinking with the adults, but many of the family-friendly destinations in town are designed to entertain adults, too.

Broadway shows frequently set up shop on the strip in Vegas, and family-oriented shows can be seen nearly any night of the week to keep the kids entertained. Disney's The Lion King is one of the most popular, and is scheduled at the Mandalay Bay hotel. You can catch the show Monday through Thursday and on the weekends. Tickets can range anywhere from the mid-50's to $200 per ticket.

After a night of taking in a show, the next day you could venture out to the Las Vegas Springs Preserve for a day full of fun. This natural oasis features several educational, entertaining and refreshing exhibits that will teach the entire family about the history of Las Vegas and the Valley's delicate ecosystems. Interactive exhibits keep the kids busy, including the Live Animal Exhibit, a play area, and the Children's Build-A-City Exhibit. Meanwhile, you can enjoy touring the Land Deal Exhibit, Desert Living Center, The Canyons, and the trails and gardens before finishing the day with a souvenir from the gift shop.

If your kids enjoy games and bright lights, several arcades will entertain them during your visit to Las Vegas. New York, New York features a roller coaster and modern arcade games, and there's an ESPN Zone close by if you want to make a quick stop to check the scores. Gameworks is located right next door to the MGM Grand Hotel, and features big screens that mom and dad can watch while the kids get busy on the games.

The Excalibur also holds an indoor midway that may result in significantly increasing your family's stuffed animal collection, among other prizes. Circus Circus offers the indoor Adventuredome theme park that has a rollercoaster, arcade games and miniature golf courses that are enough to occupy the entire family all day and night.

Another great attraction for the family to explore in Las Vegas is the Shark Reef Aquarium at Mandalay Bay. Shark tunnels filled with hammerhead sharks let you experience the true awe-inspiring size of these creatures up close, and the kids enjoy interacting with them in the touch tank exhibits. Komodo Dragons, exotic fish, reptiles and turtles are also housed there.

You'll want to plan a day to explore the Lied Discovery Children's Museum, located just a few blocks from downtown Vegas. The kids will enjoy interactive displays that encourage them to touch, explore and learn about biology and physics, as well as small machines that give them other hands-on experiences. There is also a new exhibit that teaches about environmentally-friendly practices and products, and others that feature interesting waterflow experiments.

For a fun day of shopping, stop at the Forum Shops at Caesars for a trip into the famous FAO Schwarz toy store that offers talking statues and a giant fish tank. Once the little ones have built up an appetite running around, head to The Venetian where there are plenty of food choices at the food courts to satiate any taste, or to the Carnegie Deli in the Mirage for some of the largest sandwiches you've ever laid eyes on. If you need a change of pace, and more adult environment (that still offers stimulation for the young ones) try Margaritaville. They offer a kids menu, make balloon animals and even have a pirate-themed decor to keep them busy while you enjoy a drink or two.

Of course, a family vacation in Las Vegas will also require you to find the appropriate accommodations that cater to visitors looking for more than just a night on the town and hours on end at the local casinos. The Flamingo is considered a very family-friendly hotel that also offers a pool for the kids' entertainment. It is centrally-located, but as with many other hotels in Vegas will requires a long walk or short drive to the other attractions you may be interested in seeing.

A stay in the Monte Carlo caters to any discriminating palate with several fast food choices in its food court. This hotel's Pub and Brewery also offers a kids menu for a sit-down meal option. MGM Grand offers additional fast food choices, and along with the Monte Carlo is very near the Luxor and Excalibur and several of downtown's famous arcades where you'll surely be spending much of your time.

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