So you get to vacation in Las Vegas but you have to bring along the family?  You can still have a great time and so can the kids, but you need to approach things differently.  Here’s a few tips to make sure you don’t end up sleeping on Cousin Eddie’s couch.

  • First, let’s be clear.  There may be very good or even compelling reasons to bring children to Las Vegas, but it is not a particularly good family vacation spot.  The tourist areas, like the Strip and Downtown, are adult playgrounds with sex, gambling and alcohol front and center.
  • That being said, there are a lot of things for kids to do in and around town.  If you are bringing them along, be sure you are spending time doing things you can all do together.   Of course, most kids love pool time and many hotels also have pretty nice arcades, but don’t just hang around your hotel.  Some of the best attractions are a little off the beaten path.
  • This is one instance where I actually recommend a rental car.  There are just too many activities quite a ride from the Strip and you’ll want to check out as many as you can.  In fact, you may want to consider staying off Strip.  Parking will be free and you won’t constantly be exposed to extreme Las Vegas.  The Orleans, South Point and Silverton are all good choices and not too far from the action.
  • An exhaustive list of family friendly attractions would be quite large, but the activities that are best for you depend on the age and preferences of your children.  Most ages will enjoy the aquarium at Mandalay Bay and the wax museum at Venetian.  Riding to the top of the Stratosphere tower should be fine unless someone is scared of heights or elevators.
  • If your children are a bit older and more adventurous, there are plenty of rides, including the High Roller, the Madhattan Express, the Adventuredome at Circus Circus, the thrill rides at the Stratosphere and three different ziplines.
  • Of course, the Las Vegas area has a number of outdoor activities far from the Strip.  The Red Rock Canyon is a beautiful drive as is the Valley of Fire and Mount Charleston.  In addition to the natural beauty, these areas offer an opportunity for kids to get out and explore and exercise, burning off some of that excess energy.  Hoover Dam and Lake Mead area offer a peak at a couple of man made wonders and older children will likely enjoy the dam tour.
  • Believe it or not, there are also museums worth visiting.  The best, though probably a bit much for younger children, is the Mob museum right off Fremont Street.  Also Downtown is the Neon museum and the Natural History museum, as well as the Discovery Children’s museum.
  • Finally, if your trip to Las Vegas is an extended one or is part of a larger road trip, don’t miss the Grand Canyon, one of the natural wonders of the world.  I don’t recommend those quicky bus tours, as it won’t do the place justice.  Many include the gimmicky Grand Canyon Skywalk.  It’s kind of cool but a true park experience should include a visit to either the North or South rim and deserves more time.