A couple of weeks ago, my husband and I took our daughter out for a vacation in Las Vegas! My husband was attending the Jeff McBride Magic and Mystery School and while he was busy during the day, Kat and I would venture forth on our own adventures to see what the city of glitz had to offer traveling families. Since casinos aren’t exactly appropriate places for kids (and I don’t care to gamble anyway), I decided to look off the strip to plan our family fun. This led to a pretty tough question: What can you do with your kids in Las Vegas, that doesn’t involve the Las Vegas strip?
To find the answer, I had to get creative. I turned to the locals for advice and asked where they take their kids on a hot summer day (the desert equivalent of the elusive “rainy day”). I found a wonderful blog called Wandering Off, written by Sarah Vernetti. She lives in Las Vegas with her husband and daughter, and reviews various Vegas locations (and other travel destinations!) from a parent’s perspective. I also asked the wonderful community of people on The Scientific Mom’s facebook page, and was fortunate to receive some great responses from people who have visited with their kids, as well as from people who live there!
Without further ado, here are the fabulous places we went during our family trip to Las Vegas!
The Las Vegas Natural History Museum
Hours: 9am – 4pm daily (except Thanksgiving and Christmas)
Admission: $10 for adults, $5 kids ages 3-11.
This place was by far, the highlight of our trip. We loved this museum so much, we went twice! As soon as you walk in, you find yourself faced with a huge room filled with dozens taxidermied (stuffed and posed) animals, all grouped according to their places within the animal kingdom. You’ll find large predators posed in chase after their prey, and you’ll find large herbivores standing guard over their cousins as they bend down to eat. It is overwhelming to see such power and majesty, all in one room. It doesn’t end there either! You’ll find yourself transported into the great pyramids of Egypt, walking through humanity’s evolution in time, exploring Nevada’s gorgeous geology and desert wildlife, and of course, walking with dinosaurs. They even have a real working Paleontology lab staffed by a UNLV Paleontology Professor, researching their latest finds and showing off recently unearthed fossils!
Every Saturday, this lab will become a busy center of science, education, and discovery!
Join Paleontologists as they show off their latest finds, answer questions, and encourage paleontology exploration!
They also offer classes and demonstrations every weekend for children. As a homeschooling family, it was really great to be able to continue a bit of our school while we were on vacation. Call ahead to see what activities they’ll have available, as there is always something new! If you happen to be in the area (or if you live there!) during the first week of May, don’t miss out on their fantastic Science and Technology Festival, a week-long celebration of science and technology, with hundreds of hands-on activities, demonstrations, and experiments to participate in!
Discovery Children’s Museum!
Hours: Tues-Fri: 9am-4pm Sat: 10am-5pm Sun: 12pm-5pm
Admission: $12.00 for ages 1 to 99
This place was a child’s dream come true! As soon as you walk in, you are faced with a giant climbing structure that spans three floors. Within the structure are several hands-on activities exploring the concept of sound (including a giant interactive model of the ear canal!), simple machines, perception, electricity, and more! There are twelve levels within the structure, as well as slides and climbing structures for the kids to play on.
The children’s museum is also home to an indoor castle complete with cannons, a dungeon, a life-size marionette with strings, and a dress-up trunk with clothing that’s truly fit for a king (or queen, or princess, or jester)! There is also a life-size pirate ship, with an underbelly, cannons, steering wheels, the flags of various countries, and of course, a dress up trunk filled with pirate gear!
There is also a stage with different set backdrops, curtain, stage lights and sound effects so kids can put on a production for their friends and family. They’ll also find opportunities to become auto mechanics, home construction planners (and builders!), grocery workers (and shoppers), and veterinarians, all with the appropriate props, tools, and of course, dress up outfits!
Pinball Hall of Fame
Hours: Sun-Thurs 11am-11pm Fri-Sat: 11am-12am
Admission: Free, arcade games range in price from $.25 to $1.00 per play
This was an awesome way to spend an afternoon! Kat and I walked in and were immediately awed by the sheer number of pinball machines that were available for us to play. There were machines that spanned several decades in operation, and they even had the very first commercial pinball machine ever made! Most of the newer pinball machines cost $1.00 per play (you get 3 balls per play), but there were quite a few that were $.75 (with 5 balls per play), and at least two dozen games from the 1950’s that only cost $.25 to play (3 balls per play)!
The pinball museum was a great deal, we walked in there with $18 in quarters and stayed for over two hours! We also got to watch the curator as he worked on old and broken down machines, and we were able to talk about how the pinball machines themselves work. The staff is friendly, informative, and definitely open to questions about pinball and how it all works.
Arrange A Meetup With Local Parents!
Before we left, I asked on various parenting forums whether there were any parents who lived in Las Vegas, and if they would like to meet at a park for a morning /afternoon of play. I was very fortunate that a very kind woman from the Las Vegas Freethinking Homeschoolers responded and invited us to a homeschool meetup at The Rio. The pools at Hotel Rio are free, and there are so many of them to dive into! We tagged along and had a blast! We had so much fun, we spent almost five hours together! From now on, I’ll definitely be reaching out for play dates whenever we go on vacation. We left with some great memories and wonderful new friends that we can visit anytime we’re in town!
The Gardens of Bellagio
Hours: Open 24 hours
The Conservatory at the Bellagio is an extravagant indoor garden, built to delight and inspire visitors from all over the world. The displays change with the seasons; depending on when you visit you can find beautiful fall displays, summer patio walks, ornate statues made from flowers, spring gardens filled with exotic birds, or wintry Christmas wonderlands.
Attend Mac King’s Magic Show!
Being that my husband was taking a trip to Las Vegas to hang out and learn from some of the world’s best magicians, there was a lot of magic during our trip. A lot of the magic happened within the mystery school itself, where were able to see private magic shows, demonstrations, and talks from the likes of Jeff McBride, Eugene Burger, Mac King, and Lance Burton!
However, most people visiting Las Vegas aren’t going to be able to hang out in the homes of these magicians, and will likely find themselves seeking entertainment from the strip. Here, we saw Mac King, a delightfully mischievous comedy magician, whose magic was amazing, and jokes were hilarious! We loved it so much, we even bought his magic book after the show and had it autographed!
For tickets, you can either look on his website, or check for deals on yelp.com. You can usually get discounted tickets that come with drink vouchers. You can use this drink ticket for alcoholic or non-alcoholic beverages within the venue. We got a great deal for a fantastic show! Here’s a video of some of his act, to give you a taste of the silliness you’re in for!
Las Vegas really can be a great place to take your kids, and you can have a great time and not even touch the strip! There were several places that we wanted to go to, but didn’t have time for. The next time we go, we’ll definitely check out Red Rock Canyon for their guided nature hikes and kid trails, The Springs Preserve (I am REALLY excited to check this place out, we’ll definitely go next time!), The Ethel M Chocolate Factory Tour, and the Skyzone Trampoline Park. This means that the next time we go, we’ll still be able to have a fantastic time, visiting old favorites, and establishing new loves, and we’ll get to keep it educational, active, and fun!
Viva (a fun and educational) Las Vegas!