Growing up I remember hearing repeatedly how much my dad loved Las Vegas. He had great memories of travelling to the city and was always hopeful to return. When I would ask about going though, I usually received the explanation that Las Vegas was not a place for kids.
Over the years that stereotype has softened. I heard the city wanted to appeal to families and about child friendly shows being added. We decided it was time to check for ourselves and scheduled the trip over our daughter’s fall break. We had just two days to explore so we were going to make the most of it.
Having flown in late the night before, we were excited for a full day exploring the city. We were staying at the MGM Grand, which put us within walking distance of so much. I intentionally didn’t rent a car, figuring we could travel by foot.
Within the hotel, we found the best way to reach the excitement of the strip was to head towards the Virtual Reality Experience venue. From there, a stair case leads up to the New York New York bridge. So much fun is located right near this intersection and you could feel the energy of the city just walking out onto the bridge.
At Emilie’s request, our first stop was to the nearby M&M store. I heard M&M stores were large, but having never been we weren’t sure what to expect. The Las Vegas flagship location did not disappoint. Four floors are all dedicated to the candy coated chocolate with a number of activities aside from just shopping.
The fourth floor offers photo ops with a replica of the number 18 Nascar and various M&M characters. The third floor features a theater with a free 3D M&M movie and a photo booth to create personalized candies.
The second floor was probably our favorite. The ceiling is lined with M&M light features and the back wall is a display of the M&M varieties. Employees hand out samples of flavors like Jalapeno, Pumpkin Pie, Hazelnut, Mint, and Coconut. After scouting all the options we filled a souvenir cup with a blend of our favorites.
And throughout the entire store I found myself stopping for photo opportunities. With so many vibrant backdrops it’s hard not to take pictures!
After our fun, we decided to have an early lunch at the Hard Rock Café. It was within close proximity and their outdoor patio allowed us to take in the sights while enjoying our food. From our table, we could watch the New York New York rollercoaster as it passed in and out of the hotel. Emilie’s kids meal came out on a fun guitar shaped platter. While I ended up ordering the delicious BBQ Bacon Cheeseburger, I was in awe at the burger that had 24K gold leaf on it. I hadn’t realized a burger with gold leaf was even possible.
With our bellies full we decided to keep exploring. Adjacent to the New York New York hotel we found an area of Vegas know as “The Park.” With beautiful stone pathways and a meandering water feature, this tranquil escape was probably my favorite part of Las Vegas. Couples strolled hand in hand and families relaxed among the tables and chairs. Modern planters featuring desert landscaping and stately metal sculptures emphasized the clean serenity of the environment. Definitely unexpected in the middle of such a busy city. At night, I was also surprised to see the fountain wall lights up in a rainbow of colors, adding to the magic of this location.
Tucked away inside of The Park is a pop-up Hello Kitty Café. I’m not sure who was more excited about this mobile restaurant, Emilie or myself. The theming was impeccable and we loved it! The cohesiveness between the décor and the food was very well done. I opted for a doughnut shaped cookie and Emilie selected one that looked like Hello Kitty’s bow. They were almost too adorable to eat and just as tasty.
Our next stop after Hello Kitty Café was Happy Place. Located in the Shoppes of Mandalay Bay, this destination was a fairly decent walk. On a bright note, while making our way we were able to admire the architecture of other resorts up close. We got to see the castle shaped Excalibur hotel as well as the pyramid and Sphinx of the Luxor hotel.
When we arrived at Happy Place, it was well worth the walk. This interactive experience originally opened in Los Angeles with the goal of spreading happiness. Wandering through the numerous themed rooms and backdrops, I can say it definitely does. Emilie got to climb into oversized heels, peek through the chocolate chips of a giant cookie, catch confetti in an inflatable dome, and swim through a giant ball bit shaped like the pot of gold at the end of a rainbow. I personally loved the flower room, created with dangling prisms and 40,000 handmade blossoms. Each backdrop was an inspirational chance to play and smile together.
Exhausted by our fun at Happy Place, we decided it was time to trek back and enjoy the hotel pool. The MGM Grand has a 6.5 acre pool complex with four pools, three whirlpools, and a waterfall feature. Our favorite part was the lazy river. At the time of our visit the hotel did not rent inner tubes. They were available for purchase or you could bring your own though. The resort also allows guests to swim along the river without a tube. We loved floating along this 1 mile stretch of water and continued making laps until closing. I’ve heard it can get fairly busy, but as it was later in the day and a little cool outside, there weren’t a lot of other guests when we enjoyed it.
After a nap back in our room, we went out to see the city at night. Our first stop was inside the New York New York hotel, where a Hershey S’mores kitchen waits for you to select custom S’more toppings. To go along with the giant square marshmallows and Hershey graham cookies, Emilie selected Reese peanut butter cups. And it was delicious!
For our late dinner, we opted to return to The Park to experience Bruxie. I love a good waffle with fried chicken and couldn’t resist trying The Original Bruxie sandwich. It was a well-balanced combination of spicy and sweet. The crunch of the waffle and cider slaw mixed with the chili honey on the juicy chicken was scrumptious. Adam opted for The Big Heat. He’s always had a high tolerance for spicy foods and couldn’t wait to try the Firecracker slaw that dresses this sandwich. He said he could definitely feel the heat, but would order it again without hesitation. After such a full day, Emilie fell asleep while working through her chicken tenders and we decided to call it a night.
We scheduled our flight for early evening to allow for extra time on our second day in Vegas. Our plan for the day was to catch the monorail from the resort so we could see more of the city. We started our day with breakfast on the go from The Dapper Doughnut. This fun little bakery offers mini doughnuts made fresh to order. We got a little adventurous in our selections, choosing several different toppings to make up our 12 pack. With flavors like chocolate peanut butter, chocolate sprinkle, cinnamon sugar, and birthday cake it was hard to narrow down which ones to select. With how tasty they all were though, I’m not sure there’s a wrong choice.
Next we caught the Las Vegas Monorail directly from the MGM Grand. There are several ticket options available, but we opted for the 24 hour pass. This allowed us to catch a ride as needed throughout the day. Travelling by the monorail was great. It was clean and not crowded. Best of all it freed up time from walking to reach more attractions.
We made a point to visit the Bellagio to see the Conservatory and Botanical Garden. Each season hundreds of thousands of flowers are used to decorate the atrium with a unique design theme. At the time of our visit, the theme was Indian Summer. A phrase created when explorer’s reached America and were awed by the warm fall weather, the Bellagio “Indian Summer” used fall flowers to share the rich culture and stories of India. Incorporating moving parts, like smoke pouring from an oil lamp , playful foxes, and a talking tree made the scene even more mesmerizing. I would definitely recommend visiting the Bellagio Gardens to anyone planning a trip to Las Vegas. If you can plan your timing right also, the Bellagio Fountain show is another free activity to take kids too. It features over 1,000 fountains dancing with music and lights.
While exploring the shops and buildings near the Flamingo hotel we were super excited to discover an In-N-Out burger. Being from the Midwest, there aren’t any locations in our part of the country. Emilie surprised me with how much she liked the sandwich spread. I have no doubt the next time we make it out west she’ll be requesting another of their burgers. I loved learning about the history of this chain restaurant. Did you know every In-N-Out restaurant has a pair of palm trees planted out front in the shape of an X? The founder of the restaurant implemented the idea of the tree plantings for each new restaurant because “X marks the spot” and he believed each of his restaurants was a treasure.
To walk off some of our lunch, we headed to the Venetian. If you’re looking for a unique family experience, the resort offers indoor or outdoor gondola rides. We had recently enjoyed a gondola ride in Indianapolis and opted to instead explore the resort by foot. It was amazing that once we were inside, the resort felt like its own little city. Strolling along the indoor canals, window shopping, and watching the “street” performers felt more like a theme park experience than a hotel.
While there were lots of family attractions available near this resort, we decided to visit Madame Tussauds Wax Museum. Full disclosure, I had probably been the least excited of our group about this stop. While I knew Madame Tussauds is a well-known place to visit, I envisioned we would just be walking among and staring at wax statues behind red velvet ropes. I was relieved to quickly realize the museum is nothing like that.
Madame Tussauds is very interactive. There are entire scenes set up around the mannequins and lots of photo ops. Visitors can sit in the stands to watch Babe Ruth hit one out of the park, don a cape a la Elvis, or swing atop a wrecking ball alongside Miley Cyrus. There are figurines of sports, music, and film celebrities across different decades. At the end of the experience is a fun 4D movie featuring the Avengers.
After exploring Madame Tussaud’s it was time to head back to the hotel. The staff had kindly stored our bags after checkout so we could explore the city without having to haul them around. Though our trip to Vegas was a short one with only 2 days, we felt like we really got to explore a see a lot of family friendly options.
The one downside I have to this trip as it relates to family travel and kid friendly activities is how prevalent smoking and drinking are in the city. As we wandered through the strip we went through a number of the resorts. Sometimes it was because that was the shortest path between destinations, but other times it was because these were iconic hotels and we wanted to see how they were designed. As lovely as they were decorated and as amazing as they were to look at, it was hard to breathe at times through the smoke. It’s not as noticeable when outdoors and some resorts were better than others. We still had a lovely time visiting Vegas, but it’s just something to be aware of.
Overall, we enjoyed our first trip to Las Vegas. While it may not be as kid friendly as some destinations, there are quite a bit of family experiences available within the city. Additionally, there are a number of natural attractions nearby as well. We didn’t rent a car for this trip, planning to stay within the city, but Red Rock Canyon and the art installation Seven Magic Mountains are just a short drive from the city limits. After returning, I also discovered a company, Pink Adventure Tours that offers excursions from Las Vegas to places like Valley of Fire, the Grand Canyon, Hoover Dam, and Death Valley. If we had planned a longer trip, I definitely would have worked in an adventure like one of these. Whether you’re planning a weekend or longer trip, hopefully these recommendations will provide ideas of family friendly experiences to try.