I must have heard it about a thousand times this past weekend: “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.” In fact, Las Vegas has been making a concerted effort lo, these many years to market itself as a very, well, adult destination.
Don’t believe the hype. While, yes, there are lots of grown-up, all-night, scantily-clad activities in Sin City, there’s also tons to do if you have tweens along for the ride – so much, in fact, that my two girls fought me like cats and dogs when I told them it was time to head to the airport and fly home.
Need ideas? Try these:
Live it up at the lake. Lake Las Vegas is home to a kid-friendly Loews property, the place to kick back and get away from it all. While the lake is in a different part of town than the Las Vegas Strip (where a lot of that scantily-clad stuff happens), rental cars are cheap (we got a mid-sized sedan on Expedia for $17/day), and the hotel provides a free shuttle in to the casinos. What’s nice: You’ll feel like you’re at a Caribbean resort, even while you have easy access to all the city has to offer! The Loews has a giant pool complete with water slide, huge rooms with balconies over the lake, and fun water activities like kayaking and paddle boarding.
- Hit the beach. A fake beach, that is, at the Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino, where the wave pool and lazy river will keep kids happy while mom and dad enjoy adult beverages on the sand. We went whole hog and booked a Skyview Suite on the 62nd floor – the kids loved watching the planes and helicopters take off from the airport across the street, and my husband and I appreciated the mountain view. Best of all? The suite had 1 ½ baths and a full living room with two twin-sized couches, so we had separate sleeping quarters and room to spread out.
- Check out what’s new. The brand new Cosmopolitan has the cushiest pool lounge chairs and the most modern décor on the Strip. While we didn’t get a chance to stay overnight, it’s on our list for next time.
- Bust your seams at a Las Vegas buffet. The classic Vegas dining experience is perfect for families with kids; there’s something for everyone, and kids don’t have to wait for the food to arrive. Our favorite? The Wicked Spoon at the Cosmopolitan, a one-of-a-kind food hall that delivers a multi-ethnic mix of top-quality, familiar staples arranged in an imaginative small-plates format. My kids liked the asiago stuffed gnocchi so much that they went back for sixths; the prime rib carving station and macaroni and cheese made me drool.
- Take in the view. At Marssa in the Loews Lake Las Vegas, you can sit by the window and look out at the lake while you and the kids feast on gourmet steaks, sushi, and fish. While this gem of a fine dining spot has an Asian theme (complete with sushi bar and bento boxes for kids), the menu’s got something for everyone. Don’t miss the chocolate lava cakes and the banana tempura!
- Fill up on pasta. Lupo, a Wolfgang Puck restaurant in the Mandalay Bay, offers small pizzas and kid-friendly pasta dishes, as well as sea bass carved tableside.
- Hit the neighborhood pizza joint. Ask for directions – it’s worth the hunt! Evoking the feel of an authentic New York pizza joint, Pizzeria at the Cosmopolitan is a hidden gem serving whole pies and pizzas by the slice, an ideal stop-in-anytime kind of place. A long, vaulted entry corridor is lined with a curated collection of vintage Italian record album covers, leading to the pizza counter and kitchen with high counters and mismatched antique bar stools. The kids can play pinball while you wait for your pie.
- Laugh for a full hour. Mac King, who has been headlining at Harrah’s Las Vegas for more than 11 years and was recently named Best Strip headliner by the Las Vegas Weekly, presents a super family-friendly show filled with laughter and magic that keeps the audience asking “How did he do that?” The show is G-rated and in the afternoon, so it’s perfect for kids (mine are still giggling).
- Ride an ocean liner. Or pretend you did, anyway, at the Titanic exhibit in the Luxor. When you “board,” you’ll get a boarding pass for a real Titantic passenger. Strolling through, you’ll learn the story of the Titanic’s doomed voyage and see artifacts recovered from the ocean floor. At the end, you’ll find out whether “your” passenger survived the iceberg collision (Abby’s and mine lived to tell the tale, but Steve’s perished in the icy waters).
- Reflect on the circle of life. At the Lion King show at the Mandalay Bay, your kids will be mesmerized by the joy pouring out from the stage (I’m not kidding – Abby smiled from ear to ear for two hours plus). The Las Vegas production is virtually identical to the other companies seen around the globe and is staged with all of the same spectacular music, sets, and costumes that have made it a worldwide phenomenon. Try for an aisle seat, all the better to see the performers dance down to the stage through the audience.
- Get “Tanked.” Yep, the popular Animal Planet show takes place right here in Vegas. Acrylic Tank Manufacturing, the company featured on the program, is open to the public and easy to access if you have a rental car. Even better, Brett and Wayde, the show’s hosts, really work on site and are great with kids.
- Take the plunge. Lots of Vegas options for this one: Ride the roller coaster at New York, New York; slide through the shark tank at the Golden Nugget; or bungee jump off the top of the Stratosphere. Or, if you’re interested in a different kind of plunge, do what Steve and I did and renew your vows with “Elvis.”