If you think Las Vegas is just for adults, think again. While many of the top attractions are adult-oriented, such as the nightclubs, world-class shows and pool parties, there are many of other things to enjoy for the entire family. What’s more, despite the images of glitz and glamour, a Las Vegas vacation can be very affordable, with many of the world’s largest hotels and the largest collection of rooms. Throw in budget dining and low cost attractions and you have enough to make for a memorable vacation for everyone in your family. For tips on places to stay, where to eat and what to see, here’s a family-friendly guide to Las Vegas.
How To Get There
Traveling by air might not be the most economical way to get to Vegas, but it’s certainly the fastest and easiest. The city is served by McCarran International Airport, located just minutes from the Las Vegas Strip. Several ground transportation options are available, including shuttle services, taxis, public transportation and rental cars. All arriving visitors with rental car reservations must take a shuttle from the airport to the McCarran Rent-A-Car-Center three miles away.
Surprisingly, there is no Amtrak route serving Las Vegas, with the closest stations in Barstow and Needles. However Amtrak does operate a bus service from Salt Lake City and from Southern California. Amtrak buses arrive at the Greyhound Station in downtown Las Vegas.
Greyhound offers several bus routes primarily from Southern California on the Lucky Streak Casino Service. Departure cities include Anaheim, Los Angeles and San Diego. The only city outside of California with Greyhound bus service to Vegas is Phoenix.
The majority of visitors traveling by car will take Interstate 15, which extends between California and Montana. Motorists coming from most Arizona destinations will take Interstate 40, which connects with U.S. Highway 95 near Needles, and then continues on to Las Vegas.
Best Family Friendly Lodging On A Budget
Circus Circus Las Vegas
One of the most popular and most affordable family friendly hotels on the Strip is Circus Circus. Featuring free circus acts, the Midway with carnival and arcade games and the country’s largest indoor theme park, this hotel is the most kid friendly hotel in Las Vegas. With room rates as low as $25 nightly, no other family-friendly hotel can compare in pricing. For even lower rates, there’s even an RV park at Circus Circus, featuring a swimming pool and convenience store.
One of the closest major hotels to McCarran International, Excalibur is another great choice for budget minded families. Indeed, one of the most affordable hotels along the Strip, Excalibur offers rates as low as $29 and has an assortment of attractions for the entire family. The top choice is the Tournament of Kings dinner show, featuring 38 cast members dressed in medieval costumes and 10 horses for each performance. Other selected attractions for families with children include arcade games at the Fun Dungeon and swimming in the hotel’s seasonal pool.
Many of the most affordable hotels in Las Vegas are centered in the downtown section. But the most family friendly destination in this section is the Golden Nugget, one block from the Fremont Street Experience. The main attraction is The Tank, an award-winning pool with a three-story waterslide and its very own shark tank. Guests who try out the waterslide get to pass through a gigantic tank filled with sharks and other sea creatures before finally plummeting into the pool. Lastly, families must take the kids to witness at least one of the free light shows at the Fremont Street Experience, featuring the world’s largest screen.
With rooms going for as little as $55 per night, New York New York is a smart choice as a family-friendly hotel. And the casino area itself is an attraction, with neighborhoods like Times Square and Tribeca and eateries like Nathan’s and New York Pizzeria. Top things to do for families with children include Hershey’s Chocolate World, CSI: The Experience and the Big Apple Coaster and Arcade.
It’s pricier than the other hotels mentioned here and it’s actually several miles from the Strip. But Red Rock is often cited as the best family-friendly accommodations in Las Vegas. Part of what makes this a recommended spot are attractions like the Red Rock Lanes Bowling Center, and a 16-screen movie theater.
One of New York’s most famous delicatessens actually has a location right on the Las Vegas Strip. Carnegie Deli can be found inside The Mirage, best known for its volcano attraction. Carnegie Deli is open 24 hours daily and features many of the most popular food items from New York, such as hot pastrami, corned beef and roast beef sandwiches and its famous cheesecakes. Because sandwiches are so large, families might want to split it into pieces for everyone to savor.
Earl Of Sandwich
With four locations in Vegas, Earl of Sandwich is among the top rated spots to dine on a budget. And it’s not just sandwiches served here as the name implies although it’s the featured food item. Guests can also order salads, artisan soups, wraps, desserts and breakfast items. In Las Vegas, the Earl of Sandwich can be found at Planet Hollywood, Palms Casino Resort, the Forum Food Court and its newest location in downtown Summerlin.
Las Vegas has many choices for dining but among the most affordable are businesses operating in the many food courts. Recommended spots include the Venetian Food Court, Fulton Street Food Hall, Village Eateries and the Forum Food Court. Another great suggestion for cheap eats are the ABC Stores, frequently found all over Hawaii. There are eight locations in Las Vegas, including Fremont Street, Fashion Show Mall and two at the Miracle Mile Mall at Planet Hollywood.
This rainforest-themed café has been a very popular restaurant choice for nearly 20 years. Featuring a 10,000 gallon saltwater tank amid rainforest plants and animals, the Las Vegas Rainforest Café can be found near the main entrance of the MGM Grand on Las Vegas Boulevard. The kid-friendly menu includes favorites such as the Rumble in the Jungle Turkey Wrap and Rainforest Natural Burger.
Like Carnegie Deli, Shake Shack has New York roots and ranks among the best dining spots for budget dining. With several locations primarily in the Northeast, the popular burger joint made the move west to Vegas’ New York New York. The family-friendly menu includes the world famous ShackBurger along with other goodies like hot dogs, crinkle cut fries and hand-spun shakes.
Located on five acres at Circus Circus, Adventuredome is America’s largest indoor theme park. Housed within a massive glass dome, the park has 25 rides and attractions, including coaster rides, midway games and bungee jumping. Adventuredome has been recognized by local media as the Best Family Attraction and Best Place to Take the Kids.
Located on the former property known as the Imperial Palace, the High Roller Observation Wheel is one of the newest attractions on the Strip. Known as the world’s tallest observation wheel, the High Roller was recently voted, Best Attraction, Best Place to View the City and Best Amusement Ride in Las Vegas. The amazing attraction has 32 cabins, each with a capacity of 40 guests and takes 30 minutes for a single rotation. The High Roller can be found on the promenade of the reasonably priced LINQ Hotel.
Hershey’s Chocolate World in Las Vegas is the first Hershey’s Chocolate retail store west of the Mississippi. Located in front of New York New York, visitors can enjoy a huge variety of chocolate goodies, including some molded to resemble New York city landmarks like the Empire State Building. Among the attractions to see here are the Hershey’s Kisses Flavor Wall, a towering chocolate sculpture of the Statue of Liberty and a chance to create a chocolate bar at Hershey’s Taste Happiness. If one mega-chocolate store isn’t enough, visitors can cross the Strip to the Showcase Mall, home to attractions like M&M’s World and the Everything Coca Cola store.
With summer weekday rates of as little as $29 night for a family of four, the Stratosphere is another excellent spot for affordable accommodations. The top attraction is the Stratosphere Tower, tallest observation tower in the country and second tallest in the entire Western Hemisphere. But above the observation towers are a handful of thrill rides including what is arguably the most exciting ride in the city – SkyJump Las Vegas, allowing guests to bungee jump from the 108th floor to nearly ground level. The other thrill rides – Insanity, X-Scream and Big Shot are also quite extraordinary.
With summer temperatures extending into the 100s, there’s no better way to cool off than in a pool or a waterpark in Vegas. Situated about nine miles west of McCarran Airport, Wet ‘N’ Wild is a 41-acre park with two enormous pools and 26 rides and attractions. Among the popular things to do here are a ride on the Colorado Cooler, the Hoover Half Pipe water slide and new this year, slideboarding at Zipp Zapp Zoom.
Randy Yagi is a freelance writer covering all things San Francisco. In 2012, he was awarded a Media Fellowship from Stanford University. His work can be found on Examiner.com Examiner.com.