The New Las Vegas: for Adults and Kids . April 2001

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The New Las Vegas: for Adults and Kids

by Howard Berenbon

If you're considering a family trip to Las Vegas, because you've heard that it's a place for kids as well as adults, you may be surprised to find it less kid comfortable than you think.  A family trip to Las Vegas is tempting because it has more activities for kids then ever and is relatively inexpensive to visit with great room rates, bargain round trip airfares and hotel packages as well as inexpensive food.  Here's some of what's new, what to expect and avoid (if you can), when traveling with your kids to Las Vegas.

The New Las Vegas

The newest hotel, the Italian themed, Venetian (in place of the old Sands Hotel) offers a working replica of the canals of Venice with gondola rides and a 500,000 square foot shopping area surrounding the canals. When you enter the hotel and look up at the ceiling you see a beautifully decorated fresco painted from the registration area through to the 120,000 square foot casino. The Venetian has 3,000 plus rooms nicely decorated and continuing the theme, including Italian marble in the bathrooms.

Another fairly new hotel, Paris-Las Vegas, offers a 540-foot replica of the Eiffel Tower, 2900 plus rooms, a very grand casino and a monorail connection through Bally's/MGM system.  See a two-thirds replica of the Arc de Triomphe, the Hotel de Ville and even part of The Louve.  Nearby, there's the hotel New York New York offering an impressive skyline including the Empire State Building, Statue of Liberty and the Chrysler Building with the red track roller coaster, Manhattan Express, looped within the view.  South, across the street you'll find a medieval castle hotel, the Excalibur, and east across Las Vegas Boulevard (the Strip) you'll see the MGM Grand lion guarding the entrance to its hotel.   Next to the Excalibur you'll find the Luxor Hotel, a replica of an Egyptian pyramid with the Sphinx at its entrance.

North, up the Strip you'll find more fun.  There's the Mirage Hotel with nightly volcanic eruptions and next door is Treasure Island with a live pirate encounter.  Caesars Palace offers the Forum Shops with a fountain of talking statues and the first IMAX3D motion simulator ride called Race for Atlantis.  Also new on the Strip is The Bellagio Hotel and Casino, featuring the gardens and red tiled roofs of a lakeside Italian Villa with a 9-acre manmade lake.  The Monte Carlo hotel, fairly new, offers the themed elegance of the Mediterranean.

Visit the Forum Shops Connected to Caesars Palace

Back to New York New York, at the casino level, you'll take a walk through Times Square to catch the deli smell of corn beef, burgers, fried potatoes and more.  Don't forget to visit MGM Grand Adventures, a 33-acre theme park behind the MGM complex.  You'll find mostly adult water rides, bungee jumping and three boxing rings for wrestling in inflated suits.  Then take a stroll past the Excalibur and through the lobby of the Luxor for an impressive look at their ancient Egyptian motif.  Stop by the Luxor Imax Theater for 3-D movies and the "Secrets of the Pyramid," the IMAX 3-D motion simulator ride, which takes you on a virtual adventure two miles below the Luxor.  If you're a Star Trek fan, don't miss Star Trek: The Experience in the Las Vegas Hilton. First you'll walk through a Star Trek exhibit and then hop on the simulator for some real Star Trek virtual action.

The Kids Side of Las Vegas

Las Vegas is more family friendly than ever before with theme hotels like the Excalibur, its exterior, a medieval castle, and the Luxor, a replica of an Egyptian pyramid with the Sphinx at its entrance, at the south end of Las Vegas Boulevard (called the Strip) near the airport.  Circus Circus, owner of the Luxor and Excalibur, is the original hotel built some twenty years ago with kids in mind.  It's at the north end of the Strip with circus acts daily and a midway one floor above the casino.  The kids can win stuffed animals and toys, or lose dollars playing carnival games while their parents are gambling their day away at the casino below.

Circus Circus has a 5-acre theme park called Grand Slam Canyon with a roller coaster that winds its way around the enclosed park, and activities for kids of all ages.  It features a dinosaur exhibit as well as restaurants and shops.

The Excalibur has a kids' activity area called the Fantasy Faire with medieval theme carnival games one floor below the casino and kids shows above, near the restaurants and shops.

Las Vegas has its share of museums to keep the kids entertained as well as two malls on the Strip, at least 3 Omnimax large screen theaters (one at Caesars Palace) and a Wet 'n Wild water park.  There's even a Disney Store in the mall at Caesars Palace.  And for a diversion, you can take short side trips to the Hoover Dam, Red Rock Canyon and The Valley of Fire State Park (to view red rock formations and prehistoric petroglyphs).

What to Avoid

If you plan to stay at a hotel with a casino and walk up and down the Strip with your family to see the lights and sites, you'll notice a different side of Las Vegas, one you'll want to avoid.  We ended up exposing our kids to some of the unappealing sides of the city.

Since most hotels require that you walk through the casino to get to their restaurants, unless you can find an alternate route, don't let your kids' even stop at the slot machines.  There's no loitering allowed for anyone under 21.  With the exception of the Luxor, the other nine or ten hotels we visited required a stroll through the casino to get to the restaurants.

When you book your room, especially if you're taking small children, make sure your hotel has bathtubs (most kids under six don't take showers) and cribs available if needed.  The Excalibur's rooms only have showers; and cribs are not available.

Probably the worst display Las Vegas has to offer is right on the street, near the hotels.  All up and down the Strip, men and women distribute the prostitute papers with pictures and descriptions of what's available for the potential customer.

Las Vegas is a fun place for adults who like to gamble, eat inexpensively and enjoy some great entertainment, but be careful when you're with your kids.  It may not be the best destination for the whole family.