Las Vegas is as iconic as it is infamous. And while people typically associate sequined showgirls, neon lights and gambling with the city, the four million families who visit Las Vegas every year are discovering that there is still plenty of clean, family fun available. Mixed in among glitz, glamour and gaming are kids activities galore, such as the Adventuresome Theme Park, Wet’n’Wild Las Vegas and helicopter trips to the nearby Grand Canyon just to name a few.
About Las Vegas
Las Vegas facts
Las Vegas Strip
The iconic Las Vegas strip is the place to start when you visit Sin City, with so much to see and do that it would take months to check everything off your bucket list.
Known for its concentration of resort hotels and casinos, kids and parents alike will love exploring these over-the-top surrounds day and night. The Bellagio water show is best seen under the cover of darkness for maximum wow factor, but taking a gondola through the canals of The Venetian and strolling the replica St. Mark’s Square is fun at any time of day. Visit the incredible horticultural wonderland inside the Bellagio Conservatory, climb the miniature Eiffel Tower at Paris Las Vegas or ride a roller coaster through the New York skyline at the New York- New York Las Vegas. You can go to Egypt at the Luxor, spend a day under the sea at the Mandalay Bay or head back to medieval times at Excalibur Hotel and Casino. In the space of a few hours, you can travel the world in a stretch of less than seven kilometres.
The strip is also known for the plethora of Vegas shows it has on offer, sure to enthrall even the most fidgety children. The variety of performances on offer is unmatched; comedy, dance, magic and concerts are all options when choosing what to see. Long-time family favourites include the multitude of Cirque du Soleil performances, the Blue Man Group and David Copperfield.
Downtown Las Vegas
Although not as well known as the Strip, downtown Vegas should definitely be on your list. Just like its famous sibling, downtown is full of neon lights, the most famous of which is Vegas Vic. While the 12-metre cowboy no longer waves or talks, he still makes for a great photo and is well worth a stickybeak. Fremont Street is also home to a whole lot of neon and runs a state-of-the-art light show, Viva Vision, which dazzles the street every hour throughout the evening (start and end times are season dependent).
The area is also home to the many Vegas museums, ready to entice children of all ages. The Discovery Children’s Museum, the Las Vegas Natural History Museum and the Neon Museum are all great options for the whole family and those with older kids might enjoy a visit to the gritty Mob Museum, for a look into the seedy underbelly of times gone by. If the museum isn’t your thing, head to the many, many shops to grab some Vegas souvenirs. For an extra-fun spending spree, check out the Container Park for a range of unusual eats, unique boutiques and even a wedding chapel.
Red Rock Conservation Park
West of Las Vegas you’ll find the Red Rock Canyon, revered by locals and tourists alike. As the name suggests, the park is home to a lot of crimson rocks, as well as plenty of hiking paths, opportunities for adventure and Native American history. The park is a great taster for other canyons and national parks in the surrounding area (such as the dramatic Grand Canyon) with the rock formations reaching more than 900 metres into the sky and attracting climbers from all over the country.
There are 26 different hikes of varying difficulty to enjoy in the park but if you’d prefer to keep to your wheels, you can jump on one of the mountain bike trails or enjoy the 20-kilometre Scenic Drive with plenty of stops along the way. If you want to give rock climbing a go, there are plenty of spots for beginners and those more advanced, and a climbing guide can help provide you with photos, route descriptions, and directions.
This incredible feat of engineering was built just five years into the Great Depression, designed to separate the Colorado River and help irrigate the desert, generate hydro-electricity and prevent flooding in the area. The Hoover Dam also straddles the Arizona – Nevada state line, which is a great photo opportunity. Receiving over one million visitors a year, the dam is a great place to go for fascinating history and engineering, regardless of age. Sign up for a tour or simply enjoy the view from the top of the dam, marvelling at the immense structure. Make sure to stop at the Mike O’Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge, an example of incredible engineering in its own right, and walk over the bridge via the pedestrian foot path. The drop and spectacular views are sure to give you an adrenaline rush.
Best time to go to Las Vegas
Las Vegas averages almost 320 days of sunshine per year, has an annual rainfall of 10.5 centimetres and humidity around 29% all of which make it fantastic holiday weather. Although many people think Las Vegas is hot year-round the seasons do vary.
Winters generally offer crisp, blue-skied days suitable for long-sleeved shirts and light jumpers, while winter nights can get cold.
Autumn and spring are glorious, with warm days. Once again, it can get quite cool in the evenings.
Las Vegas summers are hot so schedule outdoor activities for early mornings.
In the months of June to August, the average monthly rainfall is eight millimetres and the average temperature is 40 degrees Celsius.
In the months of September to November, the average monthly rainfall is eight millimetres and the average temperature is 28 degrees Celsius.
In the months of December to February, the average monthly rainfall is 11 millimetres and the average temperature is 15 degrees Celsius.
In the months of March to May, the average monthly rainfall is eight millimetres and the average temperature is 25 degrees Celsius.
You will need a valid passport to travel to the United States. Make sure the passport is valid for at least six months after you intend to return to Australia.
To enter the United States, you need either a visa waiver or an entry visa. You can get a visa waiver as part of the visa waiver program (VWP) if you are travelling to the US for business or pleasure for 90 days or less. To apply for a visa waiver, you need to apply online for an Electronic System for Travel Authorisation (ESTA). The ESTA costs US $14 and an ESTA application needs to be done for each traveller.
Apply for your ESTA or visa at least three months before you travel to the US. Even if you are only transiting through the US, you will need an ESTA or visa.
When you check in at the airport, you will need to show an onward or return ticket. You will also need to provide an address in the US, including a postcode.
Make sure there are no discrepancies between your ESTA or visa, your plane ticket, and your passport.
Las Vegas is the capital of Nevada and is around a four-hour drive or one-hour flight from Los Angeles. It is an ideal base for the Grand Canyon, Lake Mead and Hoover Dam, which are all within half a day’s drive.
McCarran Airport is the main airport serving Las Vegas. It is ranked among the 10 busiest airports in the world based on passenger volume. It serves almost 30 airlines and has over 950 flights arriving and departing daily. Services include a 24 hour Fitness Centre, the first of its kind located inside a major US airport with a cardiovascular workout area, showers, locker room facilities, a steam room and dry sauna; an unsupervised aviation-themed Kids Play Area with interactive mini control tower and mock jet engine; and a wide range of dining options.
McCarran Airport is located 1.6 kilometres or 10 minutes from the Las Vegas Strip and about 10 kilometres from Downtown Las Vegas. A wide range of transfer options are available including buses, taxis, limousines, car rental and shuttle buses. The average taxi fare from the airport to a Strip hotel is $US11. If you have more people than can fit in one taxi, a limousine may be a cheaper option.
The Las Vegas Strip is well serviced by cabs.
For those driving, most hotels offer free car parks and valet parking.
The Las Vegas Monorail is an option for those wanting to travel between the MGM Grand, along the Strip and out to the Las Vegas Convention Centre. Various ride passes are available and the monorail runs between 7am and 2am.
Trolleys run every 15 minutes and stop at the main Strip hotels. Trolleys run from 9.30am to 1.30am and the fare is $2.50.
Food and drinks that kids will love
Las Vegas has restaurants to suit all budgets and tastes. Most hotels on the Las Vegas Strip will offer a range of restaurants, buffets and food courts. There are also lots of unique eateries the kids will love.
Some favourites include the Rainforest Cafe, where diners are surrounded by lush vegetation, cascading waterfalls and animals; the casual Rollin Smoke Barbecue which serves great barbecue meats, sandwiches and seafood plates; and Honey Salt, which serves modern American food and has a particularly good kids menu.
If you want a break from American food, try Chin Chin for some Chinese and Japanese sushi. This restaurant is located inside the New York-New York Hotel and has a separate kids menu.
Chocoholics beware: this appropriately named store features a massive range of chocolates. Choose a packaged product off the shelves or mix and match your favourite colour and type of M&M from the colourful ‘wall of M&Ms’. To quench your thirst head next door to the Coca Cola store where you can buy a huge range of merchandise or sit down for a range of Coca Cola drinks.
Las Vegas has three factory outlet malls (Fashion Outlets of Las Vegas, Las Vegas North Premium Outlet Mall and Las Vegas South Premium Outlet Mall) offering brand names such as Gap, Nine West, Levi and Osh Kosh all selling goods at 25 to 65% below retail price.
You don’t have to be buying to enjoy a day of shopping in Las Vegas. Just as many of the hotels of Las Vegas are themed, so too are many of the shopping centres. The kids will love the cobblestone walkways and gondola ride at the Grand Canal Shoppes at the Venetian. At Caesars Forum Shops, light, fire, smoke and special effects are used to tell the story of Atlantis every hour after 10am.
Tipping is customary in the US. This is because base salaries in the US are very low, and hospitality workers rely heavily on their tips to make a living. Even more importantly, the government taxes hospitability workers on a predicted level of tips for the year. It is important that Australians respect the culture of tipping when in the USA.
The following guide outlines normal tipping levels:
- 15% to 20% for table service with food and drink.
- A token tip for food or drink where you serve yourself.
- While gambling in Las Vegas, all drinks are free. A $1 tip per drink for the waitress would be the norm.
- Hotel personnel – $1 to $2 per bag taken to your room. (You can opt to carry your own bags.)
- Maids – a $2 tip per day is generally left in the room for your room maid.
- Dealers and poker machine attendants – a small bet made for them is the standard reward. If the bet is successful, the attendant keeps the winnings. If not, your tip is still considered paid.
- Taxi drivers – taxi drivers usually receive a tip of $1 to $2.
- Tour guides receive $1 to $2 per person for tours with a lot of people, 10% for more individualised tours.
- Valet parking – this service is free but a $2 tip is usual.
What to wear
There is no dress code in Las Vegas, however, most people dress fairly casual, although some restaurants may have dress restrictions. In summer it can be very hot so wear light clothing, but be aware that in can get surprisingly cool in the winter months so a jacket is recommended. Remember to bring comfortable shoes for sightseeing; it is easy to cover a lot of ground while strolling between the properties.
The USA uses Type A (two pins, 100 – 127 V) and Type B (three pins, 100 – 127 V) electrical sockets.
It is safe to drink the tap water in Las Vegas.
The United States is generally considered a safe destination, but practice caution when in the streets late at night. If unsure, simply ask the concierge or information desks at your hotel if there is anywhere you should avoid or be careful of.
The United States has the potential for a variety of natural disasters including earthquakes, wildfires, floods, hurricanes, landslides and tornados.
Most photographed places
With so much going on in Vegas, it’s no surprise that there are plenty of photo opportunities in and around the city. Stroll the streets, duck into themed hotels and restaurants, look out for celebrities and enjoy the show that is Las Vegas.
Though Vegas has plenty of fantastic hotels that are full of photo opportunities, The Bellagio is undoubtedly the best spot as a whole to grab the perfect picture. This luxurious property was inspired by the Lake Como town of Bellagio in Italy and is now world-famous for its elegance and aesthetic attractions. The iconic water fountains should be the first stop for a photographer – make sure to capture the spectacular fountain show, complete with lights and music that run regularly throughout the afternoon and evening. After you’ve enjoyed a performance by Vegas’ most tireless performer, head inside the hotel and hunt out Bellagio’s Conservatory & Botanical Garden, where each season talented horticulturalists and designers transform the space into a floral playground. These displays are always stunning, and provide a gorgeous backdrop for a family photo.
If there is one thing Sin City is known for it is the neon signs that light up this desert metropolis. First and foremost, you haven’t been to Las Vegas unless you have taken a photo with the iconic ‘Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas’ sign. Located south of Mandalay Bay on Las Vegas Boulevard South, the sign has been greeting visitors into the city since 1959. Now, it’s a great selfie spot and well worth a trip. For more fabulous light displays, grab yourself a ticket to the Neon Museum, where you can explore the collection of vintage signage they have on display in the ‘boneyard’. You won’t be able to take a camera in but you can get some great shots on your mobile phone or tablet, creating a quintessentially Vegas souvenir.
Valley of Fire State Park
For those wanting some natural landscape shots in their Las Vegas gallery, the best option is driving an hour (approximately) to the Valley of Fire State Park. The drive into the park is spectacular and on arrival you’ll be rewarded with plenty of hikes, lookouts and fantastic scenery. A lot of these walks are short and easy on little legs, with plenty of opportunities for clambering up rocks and sneaking into caves. Rainbow Vista is a favourite among visitors, with panoramic views of the Valley of Fire and beautiful contrasting shades of rock. The lesser known pink canyon is equally stunning and the Fire Wave and White Domes are yet more great places to explore with the kids. There are limitless opportunities for photos throughout the park but if you can hold out until sunset, your snaps will be next level. Make sure to pack hats, sunscreen and water – the sun in this desert park can be very unforgiving.
Part of the magic of Las Vegas is the way this city can take you through time and space, all within the confines of the town. The luxury themed hotels that line the strip are all great spaces for photos, but some of the best are the ones that make it seem as if you’re in a different city. The New York-New York Las Vegas features a replica New York skyline, a roller coaster and even a small-scale Statue of Liberty, the perfect starting place for those wanting an around-the-world photo shoot. Stop number two has to be Paris, Las Vegas, where you can clamber up a much smaller Eiffel tower or snap photos of you holding it up to your hearts content. Finally, pop to Venice at The Venetian and send the kids on a gondola ride down their replica canal – you’re guaranteed a photo with at least one of them smiling.