We used the Las Vegas McCarran International Airport as our jumping off point for a quick trip to the canyon country of Nevada and Southern Utah. While the sights at Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon National Park and Nevada’s Valley of Fire State Park are great destinations for a family vacation, our advice about Las Vegas is simple: if you’ve got kids, teen or tweens in tow, get out of town as fast as you can. If your flight schedule calls for an overnight, look for a hotel with a good pool on the Strip if you want to briefly check out the neon and glitz or head to one of the many well known family friendly chain hotels that don’t have casinos. Check locations carefully, on our recent adults-only vacation, we ended up at a no frills Hampton Inn in an industrial zone on the North side of the city our first night! We made up for it with a splurge at the Mirage on our way back out of town.
Regardless of where you stay, make no mistake about it, Las Vegas is definitely a town for the over 21 crowd. Certainly, Las Vegas has more than its fair share of shimmering hotels, great shows and restaurants, and unlimited shopping opportunities, however, Las Vegas is the only US city we have ever visited where billboard trucks with photos that leave little to the imagination drive by endlessly to make sure you know that young ladies can get to your room in 20 minutes or less. Street promoters wear t-shirts and hand out flyers with the same promise. Suggestive posters promoting any number of adult-only shows and night clubs are everywhere, starting with the airport, in the main levels of the hotel concourses, and on 25 foot tall electronic outdoor billboards.
Did we mention that smoking is permitted almost everywhere and that you need to make a point of getting a non-smoking room on a non-smoking floor if you don’t want to be around it all the time? Many of the better restaurants open onto smoky and noisy casino areas and it is virtually impossible to get anywhere in the major hotels without taking the long way through the casinos. We actually walked out after being seated at a high end steak restaurant due to the noise and smoke levels at the Bellagio. We did enjoy the Cirque du Soleil “O” water extravaganza – but aren’t sure it was really worth $170 a ticket. Shows that don’t sell out can be had for much less but the top shows in Vegas are out of range for many families. Some of the outdoor shows, such as the Bellagio dancing fountains are family friendly and free, but watch out…
Even some of the so-called family friendly attractions sink pretty low. The well publicized pirate ship dual that takes place nightly in front of the Treasure Island resort attracts many families. However, once the show gets going, its pretty clear that the pirates are no match for the saucy ”sirens” beckoning from the opposing ship.
All and all, we give Las Vegas a thumbs down when it comes to spending time there on a family vacation. Adults who enjoy shows, luxury hotels, gambling and nightlife will have a great time, but, if teens and tweens are along consider minimizing your time in town. This was the one part of our adult-only trip where we were just as glad the teens were not along for the ride.
Have you ever taken kids, teens or tweens to Vegas? What did you think?