I have been living in Las Vegas since 2007. I have always been impressed by the sheer size of this city, and the huge disparity between the strip and the rest of this town. Some say that Las Vegas is not child friendly, but this is not true because there are so many families that call this place home. If you are planning to visit Las Vegas, then I recommend coming in the Spring or early Winter. Summer is long and akin to living inside a hair dryer with no off switch. Need some ideas for things to do in Las Vegas with kids? Here are my favorites…
1. Visit the Parks. (Yes, Seriously.) I know this seems like a no brainer, but Las Vegas has some serious park offerings and they are all open late into the night to accommodate for the Summer heat. Many parks include separated play structures for toddlers and older children, splash pads, and walking paths.
My favorite park is Craig Ranch Regional park. It has a skateboard park, a lake with ducks, covered picnic areas, and even a community garden. It’s 170 acres of converted golf course, so there are a lot of places with shade from mature trees. The play structures are really inventive and include things like a giant spider or a field of oversized metal daisies.
2. The Ethel M Chocolates Factory Tour is a little out of the way, but promises free samples and a factory tour of the Ethel M Chocolates production site. The “tour” is more like a walk down a hallway lined with windows into the factory and then a sweet old lady passing out a sample at the end. I don’t recommend visiting just for this tour unless you are looking for a chance to show your kids what a factory looks like, but I do think this is a great place to visit during the winter season. Then you can grab a cup of hot chocolate and visit the cactus garden. During the holidays it reaches the point of absurdity through decorations and Christmas lights. I hear it’s nice in the spring too, but I haven’t visited during that time of year. As a side note: The building also has an M&M’s store that is a lot less crowded than what’s on the strip.
3. Discovery Children’s Museum is designed for learning, but who are we kidding, it’s a giant indoor playground. Both older and younger children can find a lot to do here. There is an area called Toddler Town that features a crawl zone where babies can safely explore with a seating area for parents. I also like Water World, which teaches about where our water comes from and includes working models of the Hoover Dam. Kids can play with the water features so the museum has waterproof smocks and hand dryers available.
The museum has many other regular exhibits and also traveling exhibits to keep the place fresh. This can be a pricy visit since adults and children are charged the same rate, but it’s worth checking out for an afternoon free of, “Don’t touch that!” A yearly membership is available that can save large families a lot of money and allows for unlimited trips to the museum. Visitors are encouraged to pack a lunch and eat in designated snack areas. There are also vending machines, and sometimes even food trucks available.
4. Wet n’Wild Las Vegas. For quite a while, and you may not believe this, but there was no water in park Las Vegas. I’m not sure if it’s because July is so hot that the entire thing would be liable to dry up, but you can probably imagine all the excitement surrounding the opening of this place a couple of years ago. It features a lazy river, lots of slides, a wave pool, and a play area designed for kids that dumps giant buckets of water over your head. They give out free sunscreen, too. You can save some money by entering the park after 2pm, but the park still closes pretty early at 6pm. Rumor has it that more rides will be added in the future.
5. Springs Preserve is located on land that historically was a river here and welcomed some of the first settlements in Las Vegas. Hundreds of species of wildlife live inside of this preserve in the heart of our city. This attraction is constantly offering special events, classes, and galleries, with many of exhibits geared towards families with children. They have botanical gardens full of desert plants, hiking trails, and they are opening a butterfly habitat this fall. There is something for everyone.
6. WestWind Drive-In WestWind is one of the few remaining drive-ins, and one of the few theatres you could potentially bring your children and not worry about whether or not they can sit still or be quiet the whole time. Tickets are less costly than a traditional cinema, and they allow you to watch a double feature most of the time. (The exception being some new movies.)
The centrally located store features an arcade, movie snacks, and drinks. The restrooms are pretty clean and they even thought to include a playground. The first time we visited we forgot to turn the car back on in between movies, and also discovered that they can jump your car if you need it.
7. There’s a good reason that our Public Library System has won awards. There are 2.7 million items in its collection, which amounts to almost 20 times the number of slot machines in Las Vegas. Every branch has different offerings, so check the main website to find out where you can go for free puppet shows, movie screenings, and art viewings. Take advantage of the children’s section – where kids can play with toys and puzzles. Some libraries have play meetups organized where you can meet other moms with babies.
8. You can pick your own produce at Gilcrease Orchard, which is something I remember having a lot of fun doing as a kid back in California. I’m still not sure what kind of magic they are employing to grow so much fantastic food here. During the holidays, they offer pumpkin patches and even hay rides. Make sure to check their website or Facebook page for current hours and offerings.
9. Las Vegas Mini Gran Prix is a local favorite located off of the 95. If you’ve never been to a place like this, then think of Mario Kart in real life. There are go carts for both adults and children, small roller coaster rides, an arcade, and a jumbo slide. Younger children can ride with a parent on one of the race tracks. Cheap pizza and finger foods are available to eat. Families like to host birthday parties here because the prices are more reasonable than Chuck E. Cheese.
10. The Flamingo Wildlife Habitat. I tried not to include too much strip stuff on this list, but I thought it was fun to see what a flamingo looks like in person – and it’s free. It’s located outdoors at the Flamingo casino somewhat near to the parking garage and the swimming pool. It can get pretty crowded here with so many tourists trying to get the perfect bird shot, but there are multiple places to stop and spy on animals. They also have turtles, koi fish, and other big birds.
Got any other Vegas favorites with kids? Leave them in the comments!