Sunday, November 29, 2009

Las Vegas with toddlers

We didn't really intend to take our little one to Las Vegas.  Some stars aligned to allow us to take a quick, inexpensive getaway when my husband would miss very little work, and we decided to make this adventure a family affair.

First we looked into Disneyland, but soon realized that even with our accumulation of various points and miles (the primary reason for taking this trip in the first place), we would be forced to spend more than we were comfortable with for a seriously sub-par vacation.  The alternate choices that fit our criteria were somewhat limited, thus we ended up settling on Las Vegas as the best option. We had enough points for a two-bedroom suite and were very happy to find a good friend who was able to join us with her two children as well.

There was a period of about 6 of the last 10 years during which the city of Las Vegas toiled to make its image more "family-friendly."  Casinos added roller coasters and arcades, and much of the marketing imagery tended to resemble Summer Camp more than Sin City.  People began to change their mindsets to view Vegas as a place with perfectly acceptable entertainment for the whole family.  Whatever the reasons for forming this respectable image, it seems that the entities who "run" Las Vegas have realized the futility of such an effort.

This trip was my 8th visit to Las Vegas, but my first bringing along an actual child.  I probably wouldn't have noticed the attitude shift if it weren't for the results of my pre-departure search for child-friendly activities in the vicinity.  I came across a legitimate article that reluctantly provided ideas for family fun on the Strip after a not-too-subtle announcement that Vegas is not a place for children. Okay, I suppose that is generally a true statement, and has been all along.

Other than the constant construction of new and more scintillating hotel/ casinos, not much has actually changed in the city over the past decade. By this I mean that even when Vegas was allegedly campaigning for recognition as a family-oriented place, the cabs still featured scantily-clad showgirls, smoking was still allowed everywhere, and a person could still expect to be accosted by dozens of pornographic flyers walking down the sidewalk after 4pm.  So perhaps it was an errantly perpetuated myth that Vegas ever wanted to cater to families (those arcades were for the grown-ups...yeah).  My more likely guess is that either casinos lost a lot of money having too many people visit but not gamble, or the loyal, typical Strip-crowd advocated against the unwelcome wholesomeness.

At any rate, only once were we outwardly condemned for the presence of our children. This was by a man snapping call-girl cards at people along the sidewalk, who asked (rhetorically, I'm sure) why we would bring our family to a place we didn't like. By which I assume he referred to our polite declination of his lewd advertisement. The rest of the time we were generally left alone, save the occasional raised eyebrow.

I believe we did a mighty good job of finding the perfect ways to enjoy Las Vegas with children.  Our entourage consisted of three adults, two around-3-year-olds, and one 3-month old. You probably won't be too surprised to learn that this is the ONLY picture I have of all six of us, out of around 300 pictures.

Kristen, Madelyn, Gary, Lilly, Kylah, Wiyaka
Venetian ~ Las Vegas

If anyone else is searching for activities for kids in Las Vegas, here are some ideas:

I expected more sharks, actually. A really nice aquarium, kind of expensive, but the kids got in free.

A peaceful break (except for overhead aircraft, but you can also choose an indoor ride if you prefer the sounds of shopping), and perfect for my little one who loves water and boats. There is a state-regulated four-bodies-per-boat maximum regardless of age, so consider how you can divide your group.

We kind of stumbled upon information about this little show, and it turned out to be a highlight of the trip. We worried about the attention span of preschoolers, but it was highly entertaining for all ages from start to finish.

The water show is obviously a must-see no matter your age. I've never missed it on any trip--except I'm not sure it existed when I first visited as a teenager (with my family).

But you should also venture inside the grand Bellagio hotel and check out the amazing Botanical Gardens.

The only thing we did that I wouldn't recommend for children is a visit to the Fremont Street Experience. I've visited Fremont Street a couple of times before and always been underwhelmed, but I did think that the overhead light show would entertain the wee ones. To my disappointment, they have replaced the 1.9 billion lightbulbs with an LED light system. This "upgrade" trades the intrigue of a coordinated light show for all the excitement of a really huge television screen. And to top that off, the "show" was basically a giant (literally) advertisement for Vegas: bikini girls, martinis, poker chips, etc. all glamorized and set to hip music.  Every time I leave Fremont Street I determine that I have no reason to ever return there, but this time I mean it!

But we did get to be up on the largest TV screen in the world, so that was pretty cool.

It was challenging being in such a busy place with such small children and an equal child to adult ratio. They were all young enough not to be affected by the scandalous surroundings, and could be entertained by something as simple as an escalator.  Getting around took triple the normal allotted time because we would frequently have to stop to let one child out of a stroller, then later the other one in. Pick up a dropped toy. Find a bathroom and go through that whole process. Stop and explain the importance of holding hands when crossing the street. Change a diaper. Calm a stolen-toy induced tantrum.  Ride the escalator an extra time just for fun. But everybody got a night out child-free while one parent stayed in the room with the sleeping kids.We managed to have a really good time in spite of the inherent obstacles of our situation.


Anita said...

Glad you had a good time! I've never been to Vegas, and I must admit that it's not on my list of places that I want to visit with my children. But you've described a place that can be fun - probably if it's planned well.

Jennifer said...

I'm glad your trip was fun, even though we missed the chance to see you!


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