21 Things For Families in Vegas

Here is a list of great family-friendly activities to consider while in Vegas. Many are free. Most are unique. If they are related to a specific hotel, don't worry, visitors are welcome to enjoy the activities (though there may be discounts or other perks for those staying at the hotel).

1. Lied Children's Museum -- Less than a 10-minute drive from the heart of the Strip, this two-story museum is geared towards interactive imagination. From an Excalibur-sponsored medieval play area to huge foam Lincoln Logs to a stage that begs for improvised kid dress-up performances, that's only the beginning. Upstairs you will find more hands-on exhibits and a classroom area that offers arts and crafts activities throughout the day.

2. Wet 'n Wild -- It's been rumored that 2004 will be the last year for this water park -- its chunk of real estate right on the Northern end of the Strip too valuable to sit dormant when not in use. That doesn't mean that you can't still enjoy it while it's still there. While the park is small in size you will find countless hours of fun in water slides of all types as well as a lazy river to glide you around. Discounts are plentiful. If you don't see a free magazine offering a $4 discount you just aren't looking hard enough. Because the weather seems to be sunny all the time in Vegas get there early and wear your sunscreen. The place gets awfully popular later in the summer and on the weekends.

3. Adventuredome -- Located inside the Circus Circus this five acre indoor amusement park is crammed with carnival rides for all ages. From a daring looping roller coaster to a new in 2004 tower shot and freefall ride to a wide range of kiddie rides, your best bet is the all-day wristband which will give you unlimited rides all day long. And if you're at Circus Circus anyway, don't forget to go to the second floor, above the casino, where a good-sized arcade, prize redemption games and live circus acts will keep you entertained.

4. Stratosphere -- As the tallest building West of the Mississippi, it's almost expected that you will take the long elevator ride to the top and see the beauty of Vegas from the sky-high observation tower. The view isn't as breathtaking as you might expect which is why this is more popular at night where folks clamor to see the Strip aglow in neon from this unique vantage point. So, expect to wait a bit for a night view, but for thrillseekers, the real action happens once you get to the top. There are three rides there -- with a fourth on the way. The High Roller roller coaster is the tamest of the lot. It's a small coaster as far as they go, with the real thrill here being that you are on the ledge of a very tall building. The space shot tower ride is more interesting as it uses hydraulics to launch you up into the Nevada sky. The more daring ride is X-Scream. Passengers board, 8 at a time sitting two by two, into a coaster car. Then the track goes up and down, sending you to the very edge of the track -- tilted towards the city's concrete and swimming pools some 118 floor below. Then you are jerked back. Three times you will be taken to the ledge, each time with a new trick in the programming to really catch you off guard if you don't expect it. The one place to truly experience this is in the very front row. Buy the all-you-can-ride pass and you will eventually be assigned the front, especially since crowds are usually light on the rides because they are usually just there to go to the observation deck.

5. Speed: The Ride -- The Sahara is one of the Vegas originals. It's the old, worn down kind of place you may recall as the old Vegas. It's definitely not a child-friendly place, with the area's highest walker-to-stroller ratio as the older crowd tends to their slots and card games. But once you go past all that you will find the Nascar Café, the Nascar Virtual Speedway and Speed: The Ride -- the fastest coaster in Vegas. It launches you to 35 miles an hour, before launching you again to hit 70 miles an hour through a loop and up the Sahara. Then you do it again -- backwards. The Virtual Speedway has you driving against 8 racers, but this is more than just an arcade as you are sitting in real-sized replica cars. You will get a massive statistical printout at the end of the ride. Your best bet is a $20 pass to do both the Speedway and the coaster all day long. $5 off coupons can be found all over town.

6. Sirens at Treasure Island -- While the old swashbuckling show has been replaced by a sensually-stimulating showcase where sultry female pirates battle their male counterparts it never goes beyond a PG-rating. Finding a good place to see it all isn't easy. While the show takes place several times a night it gets crowded -- particularly on the Strip itself which is actually not the ideal viewing perspective. So, arrive early. Guests staying at the hotel have a special viewing area in front of the visiting audience. It's standing room only but the fiery, musical show is a Vegas tradition just fine for the traveling family. And, yes, it absolutely free.

7. The fountains at Bellagio -- If you have ever wanted to see raging waters dance to Andrea Bocelli or Frank Sinatra just approach the massive fountains in front of the Bellagio to catch the shooting waters in time to the pre-recorded orchestral delights. The shows happen every half-hour and can be seen from just about anywhere near the front of the hotel or from across the street from the Paris hotel.

8. Star Trek Experience -- Trekkies may flock to the Hilton Las Vegas but the Star Trek Experience is bound to stimulate the young 'uns too. Two simulator rides let an audience beam up to the deck of the Enterprise for a Klingon adventure while the latest addition features an assimilating experience with the Borg collective, complete with live actors. A museum also features props and collectables from the campy sci-fi epic show. If you really want to get into the spirit, go all out and eat at Quarks where themed characters will engage you in spirited conversaion with a menu themed to many Trek classics.

9. M&M World . Next to the MGM Grand you will find four floors filled with all of the M&M merchandise you could ever hope to acquire. From a sea of canisters offering every color possible so you can mix your own purchase to an Academy animated film -- yes, it's free -- it's the kind of attraction that melts in your mouth, not in your pocketbook (well, unless you want to buy something). M&M dressed characters are often there for photos. Just don't go for a nibble.

10. Gameworks. Part of the same Showcase Mall where M&M World is housed you will find the biggest video game arcade in Vegas, complete with a mechanical bull and a 75-foot climbing wall. The latest video games and some old school originals are all here.

11. New York, New York. The Manhattan Express roller coaster shoots in front of the hotel with its faux skyscrapers but there's more fun to be had inside with laser tag and bumper cars and other carnival delights and prize games.

12. Excalibur. The generous video game arcade is also home to King Arthur style stage performances, free throughout the day. There is also a Tournament of the Kings dinner theater show which is similar to the Medieval Times jousting and grub performances elsewhere.

13. Blue Man Group. It's at the Luxor, where an Egyptian museum also rests. No, the tickets aren't cheap, setting you back nearly $100 a seat, but the musical show is filled with imaginative science, eye tricks and blue wonder.

14. Primm. 40 miles South of Las Vegas, on the very border rests the three hotels connected by a free monorail. Buffalo Bill's is the one to check out as it features what was once one of the world's tallest roller coasters in Desperado. Going up over 200 feet is impressive and it does race around the perimeter of the property. Just as inviting are the space shot rides and the clever flume ride where riders are given laser guns so they can go target hunting during the tame second half of the ride (yes, shoot the cowboy and his water gun will fire right back!). There is also an outlet mall in Primm for some great bargain hunting.

15. Lake Mead & Hoover Dam. If you need some nature, and you can't be blamed after doing time in the themed pretending of Vegas, Lake Mead is a beautiful national park and it's on the way to the impressive Hoover Dam structure. This is all about a 30 minute drive from Vegas.

16. The Orleans. Hey, who doesn't like to bowl? Orleans has a great bowling alley. It also has a movie theater too, showing the latest Hollywood releases. And, yes, this is the hotel in Vegas that still has a child care program with a good-sized play area so the kids can have some fun if you want to enjoy the resort's other amenities.

17. Buffet Hopping. Vegas is all about food and thankfully most will charge a discounted rate for young children. You can probably skip the simplicity and mediocrity of the Circus Circus Buffet. The cheap buffets are still there but they have been trumped by the high-end fare. Affordable quality? Check out The Orleans. If you want something a bit more adventurous and exotic try the upscale buffets at Paris and Aladdin.

18. Gondola. The Venetian gondoliers will paddle their slender canoes as well as break into song form time to time. Since you are paying by the ride -- and not per person -- go ahead and take the family. The ride inside the shopping center is cheaper and shorter than the journey outside.

19. Shopping. The stores at Caesar's or Aladdin's Dessert Passage offer themed ambience as well as unique shopping experiences. Most casinos have their own strip of stores but you will also find the Fashion Mall and Showcase Mall to be lavish collection of shops and restaurants with retailing goodness for everyone.

20. Touring. Want to get away? For unforgettable (though certainly not cheap) moments you can take a helicopter tour of the Grand Canyon -- passing the Hoover Dam along the way. A bus tour will be cheaper though you will spend 4-5 hours each way just to get there. There are even helicopter tours at night through the Strip aglow itself!

21. Blackjack! Get some rest. I haven't even gotten to the Tiger Habitat and the volcano at Mirage, the Eiffel Tower in Paris, the free lion exhibit at the MGM, the Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum where you can take photos with wax celebrities as if they were real and more. The Guiness World Records Museum? The various afternoon magic shows or nightly Cirque de Soleil staged treats? The Trick Art Museum at the Strat? There is so much to do. Just get there and be flexible. You won't be able to do it all -- but there will always be plenty to do.

Go To Five Tips for Enjoying Vegas With Kids

Go To VegasPointers.com

NEW - LAS VEGAS STRIP HOTEL DIRECTORY! - All of the hotels in the Las Vegas Strip with price ranges and online booking discounts.

Grand Canyon Tour Company offers the BEST tours at the BEST price from Las Vegas. - You can tour by helicopter or by bus. The great thing about this particular company is that their helicopter tour covers both the Canyon and the awe-inspiring Hoover Dam! And, today, they have some great online specials.

Special Las Vegas Hotel Discount Rates - While Vegas is a gambling paradise that doesn't mean that you have play games to get a great rate. Naturally, hotel rates in Las Vegas are their highest on Friday and Saturday nights. Rates fall significantly during the week.

TopEight.com - The eight best hotels in Las Vegas!

Las Vegas Rental Cars - If you want to drive around the Strip or take more ambitious day trips to check out the Grand Canyon or Hoover Dam you will need to rent a car. Here are some great rates.

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