Las Vegas Weekend Guide

See recent posts by Maxwell Barna

We know what you’re thinking: Why on Earth would you take your children to a place so fondly nicknamed “Sin City?” Because it’s also known as The Entertainment Capital of the World — for adults and kids alike. Look past the poker tables, clubs and partying, and you’ll discover a desert paradise with more than enough family-friendly fun to hold your crew over for a few days.

Treat the kids to a tour of the nearby Grand Canyon or Red Rock Canyon, go see one of the city’s many famous theatrical performances (Cirque du Soleil, The Lion King, Blue Man Group, Mac King Comedy Show, Jersey Boys) or just take a stroll down the strip and check out the sights and sounds Las Vegas is known for: the Bellagio Fountains, The Sirens of TI pirate show outside Treasure Island, the Volcano at The Mirage, the Eiffel Tower at Paris and more.

Written by Maxwell Barna


Day One: Visit the Circus

Start your trip to Las Vegas by hopping in the car and heading 17 miles west of the strip to Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area. This stretch of the Mojave Desert, comprised of almost 200,000 acres, is simply breathtaking and offers visitors a variety of ways to explore. There's a 13-mile scenic drive through part of the preserve, along with a variety of trails, ranging from easy three-quarter-mile paths for youngsters, to strenuous 5-mile loops for the more experienced hikers. The panoramic views of the desert are absolutely beautiful, and guests are offered a variety of terrain ranging from steep hills, walls and crevices, to relaxed, twisting dirt trails.

Late Afternoon/Evening
If you get back to the strip with some time to spare before dinner, head on over to the Adventuredome at Circus Circus for more thrill-inducing fun. America's largest indoor theme park, this 5.5-acre fun zone is home to a slew of traditional carnival-style games and rides, as well as miniature golf, an arcade, laser tag, bumper cars and Canyon Blaster, a rollercoaster that reaches speeds up to 55 miles per hour on America's only indoor double-corkscrew, double-loop track. You'll also find a 4-D Special FX Theatre, a trampoline jump, rock climbing, bungee jumping, clown shows, photo booths, a full arcade and more. And when the kids get bored with all that, head on over to the Midway Carnival (same building) and check out the world's largest permanent circus, where you'll find a huge variety of the world's best acts -- from trapeze and acrobatics, to juggling and roller skating -- all for FREE.

Day Two: Family-Friendly Entertainment

Take a 15-minute ride up to the other end of Las Vegas Boulevard to the Discovery Children's Museum, where you'll find interesting, educational and interactive activities for kids of all ages. Permanent exhibits include Water World, where kids play with and learn about water in a variety of ways; Patent Pending, a varied laboratory-style sprawl where kids are presented with problems and, using large-scale testing stations, can invent, test and tweak ways to solve them; and The Summit, a 70-foot-high, 2,200-square-foot, 3-floor tower featuring a variety of different activities about topics including space science, energy, sound, air pressure, flight and magnets. There are also a variety of traveling exhibits that pass through the museum.

Take a walk down Las Vegas' famous Strip, where you'll encounter a variety of shows and attractions, as well as plenty of opportunities to eat. Check out The Bellagio Fountains, which erupt into a beautiful orchestration of music and synchronized dance every 15 minutes. Walk a little further down to the volcano at The Mirage -- a must-see. Through the use of red and orange underwater lights, along with excellent sound effects, the hotel's multi-layer fountain is turned into a volatile volcano, ready to burst. And when it does, a flame shoots up from the top of the fountain, emitting a beautifully bright light and a flame so hot you can actually feel the heat on your face from 50 feet away!

You're in the Entertainment Capital of the World, so take the kids to one of the Strip's family-friendly shows, which range from live concert performances to magic shows and musicals. Some of the most popular family-friendly selections include: Cirque du Soleil at Treasure Island, KA Cirque du Soleil at MGM Grand, and Blue Man Group at the Monte Carlo.

Day Three: Explore the Grand Canyon

All Day
The Grand Canyon is just a few hours from Sin City, and you can't miss an easy opportunity to see it. Reserve a bus tour; many operators, such as Grand Canyon Tour Company and Papillon, offer trips to both the Grand Canyon and Hoover Dam. Plus, they offer several different tours, with options to experience the Grand Canyon via van, bike, whitewater raft or helicopter. If you choose to take a traditional bus tour, consider itineraries that include the West Rim and Skywalk, which is the horseshoe-shaped bridge you've seen in photos.

Plan to make a day out of this trip -- the Grand Canyon is approximately five hours from Vegas. The Hoover Dam is only about an hour away, so if you opt to see both, a stop at the Hoover Dam will break up the trip nicely. Also, book your tour in plenty of advance, as bus excursions to the Grand Canyon are extremely popular.

Top 5 Restaurants Not To Miss

1. Bouchon
This casual French-style bistro serves arguably the best brunch on the Strip. Though it's not necessarily the cheapest eats out here, nor is there any kind of kids' menu or activities, the food at Bouchon is simply delectable, with items from Tartine de Thon to Chicken & Waffles. There's also a variety of fresh bread and pastries, including ccones, Beignets du Jour (house-made spiced doughnuts and homemade jam), baguettes and croissants. We recommend this place for breakfast and brunch rather than dinner.

2. Carnival World Buffet
You haven't eaten in Las Vegas without sampling one of the Strip's many all-you-can-eat buffets, and Carnival World Buffet is easily one of the best. With more than 300 dishes (ranging from pizza to Asian barbecue), you're sure to find something to please even your family's most selective gastronome.

3. Lindo Michoacan
If you're looking for authentic Mexican food in the Las Vegas valley, Lindo Michoacan should top your list. Friendly wait staff, live music and some of the most excellent and budget-friendly menu options are sure to put a smile on everyone's face. And with two Vegas locations (one at the Desert Inn and one on West Flamingo), getting there is never difficult.

4. Jean Philippe Patisserie
Located in the Bellagio, Jean Philippe Patisserie is the Strip's first legitimate European-style pastry shop and cafe. Kids marvel at the beautiful and large chocolate fountain, and the delectable and masterfully crafted cookies, crepes, sandwiches, cakes and chocolates will offer you a slice of pure Heaven in the middle of Sin City.

5. Wolfgang Puck Bar & Grill
Swanky dining and kid-friendly rarely mix, but at Wolfgang Puck Bar & Grill, they mix, and mix well. Located in the MGM Grand, the world-famous Austrian chef's restaurant offers families an excellent fine dining experience. Friendly and courteous wait staff members complement delicious menu items, included Grilled Prime Cheese Burgers with Vermont cheddar to Cappellini Pasta Puttanesca. The top-tier kids' menu includes items like one of Puck's gourmet, wood-oven pizzas, cheesy parmesan pasta, chicken fingers and grilled cheese sandwiches with French fries.

Planning & Tips

Seasonal Events and Attractions
With its excellent weather, fun tourist attractions and plenty of indoor and outdoor family fun, Vegas doesn't really have an off season. The high season is long, lasting roughly from January (after New Year's Eve) to around November. People love traveling to Vegas for New Year's Eve through the winter vacation season (until around the end of February). Tourism picks up heavily in the (very) hot summer months, from late June through early September. Rather than look at seasons when planning your trip, consider whether you'd prefer being there in the more mild cooler season or in the heat of the summer, and whether you'd like to visit during the more popular (and pricier) weekends, or during the week, when many hotels and resorts offer relatively steeply discounted room rates and packages.

Getting Around
We recommend driving a car in Las Vegas. While the Strip is only a little over four miles long, it gets exceptionally hot in the summer months, making walking somewhat difficult. Plus, there's as much fun to be had off the Strip as on. Valet parking in Vegas is great, as just about every major hotel offers free valet services -- just don't forget to tip!

Fares start low and then increase for every additional mile. While that can be expensive, using a taxi to get up and down the four-mile strip of Las Vegas Boulevard won't be too costly.

The city's monorail exclusively services the strip, beginning at Bally's Hotel on the south end and ending at Sahara Station on the north end. A single-ride pass is $5 and a one-day pass is $12.

RTC Transit provides double-decker bus transit, with stops at nearly every casino, starting at Mandalay Bay and ending at the Bonneville Transit Center downtown. There are also a series of free trams that operate on the west side of the Strip, connecting Mandalay Bay, Luxor and Excalibur, Monte Carlo, Crystals and Bellagio, and Treasure Island and The Mirage.

There are also a series of complimentary shuttles that run along the strip at various hotels. However, if you'd like to use the shuttle services, make sure to keep a room key on you.

Las Vegas is one of the most pedestrian-friendly cities in the world, offering walkers wide, smooth and well-paved sidewalks from the beginning of the Strip to the end. Just be sure to drink plenty of water in the summer months, and wear comfortable shoes! Plus, with all the sidewalk attractions and shows occurring up and down the Strip, walking and seeing it all at your own pace is ideal.

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