Las Vegas has been changing in the past years and becoming more family oriented. You can still find all the partying and gambling - and other sins - if you are looking for it. But you can also find a lot of wholesome fun for the whole family. A lot of those activities and attractions are free or inexpensive but expect to pay a premium for major attractions.
Just to name a few of the family-oriented fun: Strolling down the strip; watching the various waterfalls and dancing water shows; Aquariums inside some of the resorts; Magic shows; Circus shows; Red Rock Park; Gardens; Dolphins; Tigers; Atomic Testing Museum; Freemont Experience; Water parks; Variety shows; Go-Karts; Speedways; Hoover Dam; Lake Mead watersports and cruises. Read further for a more detailed description of those attractions and more.
Getting there and around
Most people from neighboring states just drive to Vegas. The trip from Anaheim or Los Angeles is about 4 hours with good traffic. If you are unlucky and end up driving during peak hours on major holidays, you may get stuck in traffic for up to 9 hours.
If you drive in, your car will come in handy. You can always find free parking in this city. You can park the car yourself or you can use Valet services at all major resorts. The valet service is always free, but you are expected to tip the driver who delivers your vehicle.
Tip: most people drive along the main thoroughfare called Las Vegas Boulevard (or the Strip) to get from place to place. It is fun to do so once to take in the views, but avoid it whenever possible. There are a lot of back streets you can take. Ignore your GPS insistence on driving along the Strip and venture out to parallel streets.
Monorail service is available along portions of the strip. The trip price is $6. I found out that after the novelty of riding the monorail wares off you will end up waiting for the trams and walking long distances from stations to destinations. For a little extra money, you can get a taxi and avoid the lines.
Bus ride fares are about the same – a single ride for $6 per person. If you have a group of up to 5 taking the taxis is much cheaper. On crowded days you will end up waiting a long time for the next bus that is not already full to capacity - very inconvenient.
Free shuttles are provided by some resorts. The purple bus starts from the Hard Rock Café resort and stops at several strip hotels.
Finally, the favorite mode of transportation along the strip is walking. Save money and enjoy the views.
Where to stay
Every time I go to Vegas I see new construction going on. New mega resorts pop up every few months. So there is no shortage of places to stay. You just need to pick the right place for you based on location, taste and budget.
If you are on a budget and you really want to save on accommodations, then venture outside the strip for great deals. You can try Rio; Hard Rock; LVH; Palace Station and Red Rock. Some of them go as low as $20 a night.
Rio All Suites Resort is a very good choice.
If you insist on being on the strip, you still can find some bargains at hotels like Luxor; Excalibur; Planet Hollywood; Stratosphere and Tropicana.
Experiance multiple Las Vegas attractions for one price. Get the Las Vegas All-Inclusive Attraction Pass
I always like to stay at Luxor. I love the Egyptian decor and the slanted elevators.
If you like to stay in luxury, you must try the Venetian; Bellagio and Wynn to name a few.
I recently stayed at the Venetian and loved every minute of my stay. See the review here.
Las Vegas on a Budget
It is hard to believe that you can have fun in Vegas without spending a lot of money, but it is very possible. Go on a walking tour of the strip, watch the dancing waters at Bellagio, experience a volcano at Mirage, enjoy an operatic performance at the Venetian - and much more free or almost free entertainment. Read the full article here.
Everywhere you go on the Strip you will see huge electronic billboards announcing the next big show or attraction. Take your pick from magic shows, standup comedy, dancing showgirls, daredevils, impressionists, ventriloquists and celebrity singers. Some shows are for adults only, but there are a lot of shows that are geared towards the whole family. Most shows are pricey, but you can get some good deals on the Internet (like Groupon) or from discount ticket booths like Tix4Tonight. Read the full article here. My all time favorites are "O" and "KA" by Cirque Du Soleil and "Rock of the Ages".
Attractions, Museums and Tours
When you have had enough of free entertainment and major shows in Las Vegas, you still have a lot of fun to discover around town. Go skydiving indoors or go for a real jump; Take a tour in the city or venture out to Hoover Dam or the Grand Canyon. Take the kids to a body parts museum or go view artifacts from the Titanic.Read the full article here.
Where to eat
Las Vegas is known for its extravagant buffets and celebrity chef restaurants. Almost every casino has a Buffet, several restaurants and some even have food courts.
Spice Market Buffet at Planet Hollywood: Several food stations, each from a different country. The Middle Eastern station is especially tasty – don’t forget to grab Baklava for dessert. The seafood station is good but lacking variety of sushi. Regular dinner price is $40 but you can get a ½ promotion from several sources.
Carnival World Buffet at Rio: Similar to Spice market with food from around the world. It has live action food preparation, more sushi choices and a large selection of desserts. Price for dinner around $32.
Tip: You can buy a 24 hours buffet pass for around $50 that is good for many of the main buffets on the strip. It includes: Carnival World Buffet at the Rio, Village Seafood Buffet at the Rio (Additional $10), Flavors at Harrah's, Paradise at the Flamingo, Emperor's Buffet at The Quad, Le Village Buffet at Paris, Bacchanal Buffet at Caesars Palace (Additional $15 for Breakfast, $20 for Lunch, and $25 for Dinner), and the Spice Market Buffet at Planet Hollywood.
Bacchanal Buffet at Caesars Palace: It is considered the top buffet in Las Vegas by several rating agencies. It offers the largest variety of cuisines by master chefs. The majority of the cooking is done in front of guests. Dinners cost around $46.
The Buffet at Aria: This is now my all-time favorite buffet in Vegas. The variety and quality of food are exceptional. You can find American, Asian, Sushi, Latin, Middle Eastern dishes plus a great selection of desserts. The mixed drinks are also excellent. You can order several drinks for fixed price of around $20.
Some of the less expensive but good buffets are The Buffet at Golden Nugget, Chop Chop Buffet at the Plaza downtown, Ports O' Call Buffet at Gold Coast and Fantasy Market Buffet at the Palms.
For an amazing view and delicious dinner got to the top of the Stratosphere. The food is very expensive but you are really paying for the top-of-the-world view of Las Vegas. The restaurant rotates slowly so you can relax and enjoy all angels of the view.
For drinks, light meals and DJ music, head to the 107 SkyLounge on the 107th floor of the tower.
After dinner, you can go to the top for an unobstructed 360 view or for thrill rides.
Can you add to the list?
Finally, one article can’t cover all the family fun you can have in Las Vegas. There are many more shows, water parks, speedways and excursions to nearby places. If you have a favorite attraction, hotel, casino or adventure to add, please submit an article or make comments on this page. Better yet, you can volunteer to be the local expert on Las Vegas – just let me know.