Las Vegas has been changing recently and is becoming more family-oriented. You can still find all the partying, gambling, and other sins if you are looking for it. But you can also find a lot of wholesome fun for the whole family. Many 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 resorts, Magic shows, Circus shows, Red Rock Park, Gardens, Dolphins, Tigers, Atomic Testing Museum, Fremont Experience, Water parks, Variety shows, Go-Karts, Speedways, Hoover Dam, Lake Mead water sports and cruises. Continue reading for a more detailed description of those attractions.
Getting there and around
Most people from neighboring states just drive to Vegas. The trip from Anaheim to 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 to LV, your car will be useful to get around, but traffic is a nightmare.
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.
If you fly into Las Vegas, you can get around using public transportation. Taxis are metered and not costly, and you can always use ride-sharing services. A trip between Luxor and Wynn costs about $13.
Monorail service is available along portions of the strip. The trip price is $6 (some are free).
I found out that after the novelty of riding the monorail wears off, you will end up waiting for the trams and walking long distances from stations to destinations. You can get a taxi and avoid the lines for a little extra money.
Bus ride fares are about the same – a single ride for $6 per person. Taking a taxi is much cheaper if you have a group of up to five. On crowded days, you will wait a long time for the next bus that is not already full – 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, my 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 accommodation, 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 an excellent choice.
If you insist on being on the strip, you can still find some bargains at hotels like Luxor, Excalibur, Planet Hollywood, Stratosphere, and Tropicana.
I always like to stay at Luxor. I love the Egyptian decor and the slanted elevators.
I recently stayed at the Venetian and loved every minute of my stay. See the review here.
Staying at the Bellagio was exquisite. The room was spacious and comfortable, and the ambiance of the whole property was elegant.
I also enjoyed the upscale restaurants and the Secret Garden. Read more about the Bellagio here.
Las Vegas on a Budget
It is hard to believe that you can have fun in Vegas without spending much money, but it is possible. Go on a walking tour of the strip, watch the dancing waters at the 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 plenty of shows 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, "Rock of the Ages", and Mystere.
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 view the Titanic artifacts.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:
The Spice Market Buffet has several food stations, each from different countries. The Middle Eastern station is especially tasty – don’t forget to grab Baklava for dessert. The seafood station is good but lacks a variety of sushi. The regular dinner price is $40, but you can get a ½ off promotion from many sources.
Like the Spice market with food from around the world. It has live-action food preparation, more sushi choices, and a wide selection of desserts. The price for dinner was around $32.
Tip: You can buy a twenty-four-hour 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 numerous rating agencies, and it offers the largest variety of cuisines by master chefs.
Most of the cooking is done in front of the guests. Dinners cost from $55 to $65, depending on the day of the week.
The buffet boasts nine international cuisine stations, it is hard to decide what to eat.
You can find Roman-style pizza, Laotian, Filipino, Indonesian, Chinese, Sushi, Thai, and Vietnamese dishes.
And don’t forget about the dessert station with Earl Grey mousse, salted caramel popcorn, and gelato.
I always tell myself that I just take a few bites from each station to try to sample all the fabulous flavors, but it never works, and I always end up overeating.
The service was also outstanding. The server replenished our drinks without asking and immediately cleared the dirty dishes.
During our last visit, we loaded our plates with Asian delights and Sushi, and then we went back to sample some Mexican and some prime cuts.
For dessert, we tried many flavors of gelato.
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, and Middle Eastern dishes, plus a broad selection of desserts. The mixed drinks are also excellent. You can order several drinks for a 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 a remarkable view and delicious dinner, go to the top of the Stratosphere. The food is costly, 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 the 360-degree view.
For drinks, light meals and DJ music, head to the 107 Sky Lounge 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 my 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.