Las Vegas Nevada Welcome signA Las Vegas family vacation is full of attractions, sightseeing and natural wonders.

By Apryl Chapman Thomas

The Vegas – funny, you don’t look 100. That’s right; the bastion of entertainment is celebrating its centennial this year. At first glance, you might be shocked that I am suggesting Vegas, yes Vegas, as a family destination. Everyone has differing opinions on whether or not you should take children on a trip to the Oasis in the Desert. I can remember being at In ‘N Out Burger Restaurant off the strip and surprised to see a little league team ordering double doubles and fries. Standing there, staring at the team, it hit me – families do live in Vegas, and there are quality activities for all ages.

Las Vegas Strip

On the Strip:

From dancing fountains (Bellagio;;888-987-6667) to erupting volcanoes (Mirage;;800-374-9000) to pirates (Treasure Island;; 800-288-7206) there is something for every age. Perhaps the best hotels for children, about up to age 11 or 12, would be Circus Circus and Excalibur. Circus Circus (;877-224-7287) is exactly what it says. At this (yes, it is a ), families will find midway games, circus performances, and Adventuredome (;877-224-7287), roughly 5 acres of indoor fun, with rides for all ages. Excalibur’s (; 877-750-5464) architecture was inspired by castles in England, Scotland, and Germany. One of the main attractions for families is the Tournament of Kings Dinner. Don’t miss out on the Court Jester Stage and performances by puppeteers and magicians

 dolphin habitat

Animals – Oh My!

Enjoyable for all ages, the Mirage Hotel (; 800-374-9000), home to Siegfried and Roy’s Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat. This 2.5 million gallon habitat is home to a family of Atlantic Bottlenose dolphins. While you are there, visit the White Tiger Habitat shelters Siegfried and Roy’s (famous) royal white tigers. MGM Grand (; 877-880-0880), whose movie trademark, Leo the Lion provided a welcome roar to moviegoers for decades, houses a lion habitat. At Mandalay Bay (;877-632-7800), you will find the Shark Reef, said to be the largest exhibit of its kind in North America. The aquarium houses over 1,200 different species of aquatic life, including sharks, sea turtles, and exotic fish. Families can take a self-guided tour. The Flamingo (; 888-308-8899) has a wildlife habitat with 300 birds, including Chilean Flamingos.

Fremont Street Las Vegas

Don’t forget: Good Old Freemont Street,

The oldest street in Vegas. Located in downtown, this area was once forgotten about as tourist tended to stay and play on the strip. Attracting tourists back is the Freemont Street Experience (, a one-of-a-kind light show only in Vegas.
Who doesn’t like candy? Ethel M’s Chocolate Factory and Cactus Garden ( 888-627-0990) offer tours and tastings. Visit M&M World (; 800-651-2437) to learn more about the colorful chocolate.

Stratosphere Tower

Thrill Seekers:

For the older crew, head straight to Stratosphere Tower (; 800-998-6937), and ride any of the three rides. A bit of trivia: the High Roller roller coaster happens to be the world’s highest. Can’t get enough of roller coasters, New York New York (; 888-693-6763) has the Manhattan Express. Not a thrill ride, but still an adventure is riding up the Eiffel Tower at the Paris Hotel (; 877-769-2096). At the top is a breathtaking, 460-foot panoramic view of The Vegas. A professional guide/elevator operator points out famous landmarks along the journey.

Away from the Strip

Active families:

Red Rock Canyon ( 702-515-5350) located about twenty miles west of The Strip, is one of the most scenic places to visit in Las Vegas. Here you can explore, hike, bike and picnic. Mt. Charleston (702-385-6500) at 12,000 feet is Nevada’s third largest peak. This is a popular destination winter or summer. During the winter, many flock to the Las Vegas Ski & Snowboard Resort; and summer, families can hike, picnic, or just enjoy the outdoors. Lake Mead (; 702-293-8907), the 16th largest man-made lake in the world, and the largest in the Western Hemisphere, offers a large recreational for all taste – whether it’s water activities, hiking, or viewing wildlife, you will find it here.

A bit of history:

Grand Canyon (; 928-638-7888) may be in Arizona, but it is well worth the four hour drive. Whether everyone decides to ride down into the canyon or carefully peak over the edge and race back to the car, it is an experience that each will not soon forget. If it wasn’t for the Hoover Dam (; 702-294-3517), there really wouldn’t be a Las Vegas, or many of the cities in the southwest. This greatest engineering work built in 1937 is the number one sightseeing attraction in Nevada. Nevada Test Site (702-295-1198) is a one room exhibit featuring a timeline of the country’s nuclear testing program.

Sandy Valley Ranch

Miscellaneous Fun:

View the largest collection of limited edition clowns, designed by artist Ron Lee at Ron Lee’s World of Clowns (; 800-829-3928). Bonnie Springs (; 702-875-4191) and Sandy Valley Ranch (; 877-726-3998) offers families a true experience of the old west and cowboys.

This is just a sampling of all what Vegas has to offer families. Find out more by visiting and

Apryl Chapman Thomas is the mother to Shay Thomas, who is three years old. When Apryl is not chasing her around, she finds time to write.

A professional writer for over seven years, Apryl’s articles have appeared in a variety of magazines. In her free time, she enjoys reading and traveling. Apryl and Shay, along with Apryl’s husband and 7 year old minature daschund, Dudley, live in Watkinsville, GA (outside of Atlanta).

Joan McCray

Joan McCray is a travel writer living in NYC. Her work has appeared in the NewYorker,Travel & Leisure, Town & Country, Condé Nast Traveller, Food & Wine,and many local publications.She has published travel anthologies in and Lonely Planet. McCrayAre we there Yet?Family TravelA Las Vegas family vacation is full of attractions, sightseeing and natural wonders. By Apryl Chapman Thomas The Vegas - funny, you don't look 100. That's right; the bastion of entertainment is celebrating its centennial this year. At first glance, you might be shocked that I am suggesting Vegas, yes Vegas,...Parenting Advice| Family Fun Activities for Kids