Recently, a friend went to Las Vegas with her 4-year-old son and totally sold me on the idea. We were planning on taking our sons to Legoland *again* *yawn*, but this seemed…way better FOR ME. So, I packaged and resold the idea to my family like this:
I figure Vegas is basically a giant amusement park, just with drugs and legal prostitution. The Strip smells like weed and pee-pee, but OH, THERE ARE SO MANY FLASHING LIGHTS AND THINGS TO BUY! If you have a high tolerance for chaos and are low risk for COVID, Vegas might be right for you and your family, too!
Where we stayed
The Bellagio is the mack daddy of The Strip, and remember, I had to impress my family. Room rates were surprisingly low, so we got a suite with a bedroom—so we could close the door and continue to party while our kids went to bed. If you can swing it, a separate room is worth its weight in casino chips.
The conservatory at the Bellagio is a 14,000-square-foot, indoor botanical garden that is decorated seasonally. Upon our arrival, the 42-foot Christmas tree had just been erected, and there were polar bears and arctic foxes made entirely of white roses. Even through our masks—which were surprisingly required throughout Vegas—we could smell the holiday cheer.
The Bellagio has 5 pools, but only 2 were open during our stay. Check the time of year because Vegas pool season is roughly March to October, and we went right before Thanksgiving in November. Still, there was plenty of pool life and a few hot-as-shit hot tubs.
Where we ate
Bellagio has several high-end dining experiences, like Picasso, which recently sold several Picasso masterpieces for approximately $110M. And Lago, which is elevated Italian. But we ate at Prime, a 4-diamond steakhouse that’s dark and moody, expensive and delicious. (I’m also on a diet journey, so I ordered the ginger margarita instead of beer or wine. HIGHLY recommend.)
Prime has a dress code, and I made my kids practice “Vegas manners” before our trip, which consisted of napkins on laps, closed-mouth chewing, no growling, and pinkies-out drinking—just because kids with their pinkies out while taking a drink is hilarious to me.
We also dined at Hexx at Paris, primarily because it’s right across the street from Bellagio. And because it had availability. The kids could get things like burgers and grilled cheese, and I could get ranch waters.
America at New York, New York is billed as “kid friendly,” which is partly why I’m writing this post: Because kid-friendly stuff sucks. I prefer “kid accepting,” meaning they’ll tolerate your children if you spend enough money.
America does have a donut counter, which is good to take snacks back to the hotel room for the morning. And a surprising amount of vegan options (see diet journey). But things can go south quicky at an American-themed restaurant that plays Rock ‘n’ Roll. I’m looking at you, Lynyrd Skynyrd.
While at the Mirage for the Secret Garden (more on that below), we lunched at Diablo’s Cantina. Being from San Diego, Mexican food is our go-to. We know our kids will eat it and only complain minimally. Having lived in Los Angeles, I think everyone is competing with me for everything, so we put ourselves on the waitlist using the QR code at the entrance on our way to the Secret Garden. That way, when the show let out and everyone came flocking for food, we’d be top of the pops. HA! Beat you!
What we did
Walked the Las Vegas Strip
We walked a ton. Like, 25K steps in one day. And yes, our kids walked that too. The key to getting kids to walk is to keep promising them stuff…just…a…bit…farther…
Walking down The Strip, you’ll pass showgirls/fancy ladies. My husband didn’t understand that we needed a picture with them, and that the picture was not going to be free, but now he does and luckily we have this timeless treasure:
After a stop at the Forum Shops at Caesar’s and a ride on the notable spiral escalator, we made it to the Venetian. <<I just kept telling my kids we were trying to find a magic boat.>> We reserved a gondola ride and got a drink and a gelato at Brera Osteria. We didn’t eat there, but something about the European-ness tells me they have decent food.
The gondola ride was lovely. Somewhat short and with our gondolier singing loudly in my ear, but hecka relaxing after the trek from the Bellagio.
Siegfried and Roy’s Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat
As mentioned above, we visited Siegfried and Roy’s Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat at the Mirage. It was featured on the fake invitation I used to lure my kids to Vegas, so I actually had to come through with this one. I booked tickets ahead of time—twice, on accident. There are lions, tigers, and a dolphin show. They preach conservation, so you don’t feel as bad about it all. But what I remember is that it’s right next to the adults-only nude pool.
The Big Apple Arcade & Coaster
For those of us old enough to remember the glory days of Vegas, The Big Apple Arcade at New York, New York is the new Circus Circus. We played video games and tried our luck at that claw game that’s impossible to win—but I won it ONCE on my first try during a trip to the East Coast, so my kids think it’s possible to win—and cried when we lost. Vegas, teaching life’s hard lessons.
Will we do it again?
Despite how it looks from the crying child above, Vegas was a treat. Was it easy? Nope. It’s crowded, weird, and everything fills up. But did I sell it AND deliver it? Yep. This thank-you note on hotel stationary doesn’t lie:
Let’s face it: All trips with kids are ABOUT the kids, unless you’re like my parents, in which case CONGRATULATIONS on not letting children get in the way of your fun! For the rest of us, we can make it work. Even Las Vegas can be kid friendly…ish.
*Identities obscured to protect the innocent. Because what happens in Vegas…