Las Vegas may have given up on pitching itself as a family friendly destination, but families have not given up on Vegas. For Keaton’s 10th birthday he begged for a trip to Vegas. Though I reminded him that he could go anywhere in the world, his desire to hit the strip did not wane and eventually I gave in. What’s the draw for a ten year old you might ask? Cirque du Soleil and dancing fountains. Here are my best tips on taking your kids to Vegas without exposing them to more than you planned on.
Where to Stay with Kids in Las Vegas
We stayed at the Cosmopolitan Hotel in a suite and then switched to the Vdara Hotel and Spa. On the surface you would think the Vdara with no casino would be the better family choice. It isn’t. The rooms are not as nice as the Cosmo and the lobby is just too quiet. The most important factors in choosing a hotel for kids: the pool and a comfortable room. I’ve stayed at the Bellagio without kids and think I would put that at the top of the list based on the pool alone.
Here is Keaton’s video checking into our suite at The Cosmopolitan Hotel:
I think the Cosmopolitan has the best views, the most comfortable rooms and feels like a scene without being too dodgy for kids. We loved everything about this hotel, and the casino has a super swell 50’s glam vibe that is fun to walk through. It’s on the one part of the strip that is almost ok to walk with kids. You can head down in front of the fountains and across the street to my favorite restaurant, Mon Ami Gabi. The rest of the time, you’re better off in a car. Even in this part of town I wouldn’t walk the strip at night. It’s hard to explain really drunk people to little kids.
The pool has a great view, great food and no sketchy stripper scene. The weekend we were there it was packed and the only way to get a chair was to book a cabana, which meant spending the required $300 minimum on food and drink. I invited a girlfriend and her daughter, we popped a bottle of rose champagne and told the kids to order all the smoothies they wanted.
We didn’t spend any time in the casino, but we did a photo shoot there and I loved the Rat Pack vibe, I highly recommend booking Flytographer for at least a 30 minute shoot to get photos like these. We paid $250 for the thirty minutes and I felt like we got more than enough photos. Getting shots of kids in a casino can be tricky (laws and all) but we managed to move fast and not get into any trouble.
Cirque du Soleil Shows to See
Some kids love the Disney Channel, some kids love dinosaurs. Keaton loves Cirque du Soleil. He has watched every behind the scenes video on YouTube, been backstage at Amaluna and was singularly obsessed with heading to the Cirque mothership, Vegas. He chose the three shows he wanted to see, and when we left town he made me promise that we would come back to see Love and One in the future. Plan ahead. Some shows are dark on certain days and you don’t want to be disappointed and end up drowning your sorrows in a slot machine.
We saw three shows. I got the tickets three different ways to see which was easiest. PR comped us to see Mystere. I used Ticketmaster to by tickets to “O” and I used American Express Platinum Concierge to buy tickets to Ka. Far and away the best experience (besides a comp obviously) was the Amex concierge. They got me better seats at a better price and it was all done with one phone call. I accidentally bought tickets for the wrong night and realized my error while on a chair lift in Utah. One call to Amex, from the chairlift, and the problem was solved. You can’t beat that kind of service. If you are looking for a deal, it pays to go to the Cirque du Soleil wesbsite, as they are often offering promotions. Also, Zumanity is definitely NOT for kids.
Mystere is the oldest Cirque show in Vegas and the most child friendly. It’s a sweet story with a baby and some fun clowns. It was Keaton’s first choice for a show and we both loved it. He had been dreaming of seeing a live Cirque show in Vegas for so long that I spent most of my time watching his reactions. It’s at Treasure Island, which isn’t really a hotel or casino you want to hang out in, but the Cirque gift shop just outside the show has some show specific souvenirs like Redbird posters, which you know we had to buy.
Showtimes are Saturday through Wednesday at 7:00pm and 9:30pm. I highly recommend the earlier show for children. Arrive early for pre-show entertainment. The actual show is about 90 minutes long. Duffy Bears get in for free.
Attend an open rehearsal and get an inside peek at Cirque du Soleil magic. The public can attend rehearsals at no charge on Sundays from 4:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturdays from 3 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. Keaton met some of the performers and got his Redbird poster signed, he was like a 13 year old girl at a Justin Bieber concert, such is his Cirque du Soleil obsession.
This is the iconic show you probably know as “the one with the water.” It is as fabulous as you’ve heard and my favorite of the three shows we saw. It’s at the Bellagio which has a gorgeous lobby and great shopping, get there early just to look around. They have photographers at the entrance to the show, not cheap, but make great souvenirs, and clearly I’m a sucker for photos. He bought the mask in the gift shop before the show. While doing research for this piece I found the option to buy VIP seats with cocktails. If I were going again I might choose that option.
The show runs Wednesday through Sunday at 7:00pm and 9:30pm, and the run time is 105 minutes. They set an age limit of 5, likely not for the children, but for the audience. It’s a grown up crowd but kids love the show.
This show was my least favorite, and Keaton’s most favorite. It’s a hard to follow story that appears to be mostly about extraordinary feats of stage construction. The stage goes vertical, people hang on, there is banging and fire. I bought front row seats to this one and regretted it, however Keaton loved every single minute. The activities outside the theater were a lot of fun for kids. They had some of the real costumes and a “wheel of death” replica.
Showtimes are Saturday to Wednesday at 7:00pm and 9:30pm. This show also has a minimum age of 5 but I’m not sure I’d bring anyone under 10. There is no dialogue and it’s not as engaging for children as Mystere.
When we left, the taxi line was around the corner. I knew it would take an hour to get a cab and Vegas makes using Uber challenging. I thought I would thrill Keaton with a fun stretch limo ride back to the hotel so for $60 we got a ride and I got great photo opps. He refused to partake in my idea of fun, hanging out the window and taking selfies. “People think you’re weird mom.”
Getting Around Las Vegas
From the airport you can catch Uber, but they make you go up to the second floor of the parking garage. In general, they make Uber so challenging I gave up and took taxis. The taxi stand lines can be long but there are always limos for hire, it depends on how much you want to spend and how desperate you are.
Walking the strip can be a little too eye opening for young kids. There are homeless people with tragic signs, daytime drinks and some scantily clad women. While eating lunch Keaton spied this truck and asked me what it was, I told him “Those are ladies who will come to your hotel and give you kisses for money.” He answered, “Wait, they have trucks full of prostitutes?”
Where to Eat in Vegas with Kids
My favorite restaurant is Mon Ami Gabi at the Paris Hotel. It has a lovely street cafe, great rose and a lovely view of the Bellagio fountains. They serve classic French food, but there were enough choices that the kids were happy.
The Country Club at the Wynn Hotel is not actually a club, but many people think it is so it’s usually not very busy. It’s a quiet steakhouse, the food is great (really expensive, but great) and the view of the golf course is a nice retreat from the chaos of the strip. The toy store in the Wynn is a must stop. Keaton had lunch at Steve Wynn’s “regular table” and then managed to talk me into buying this tent he found in the toy store. It was his birthday trip after all.
Spend a few hours at Caesars Palace. There are a variety of restaurants, including a Serendipity with the world famous frozen hot chocolate. You really can’t go wrong. Keaton loved the Forum, we watched the statues come to life, and he found a Zoltar machine (from the movie Big). I even got some shopping in so it’s seriously a win/win situation. If you’re feeling extra fancy, and sick of fried food, there is a Nobu.
I got my Easter dress at Ted Baker in the Forum Shops. I know! Who would think you’d find this in Vegas? The shopping is world class and it’s not all leather and sequins.
Before you take your kids to Vegas, research your hotel, buy show tickets and have a plan. It’s not a great city for winging it. We plan to return so Jeff can check out the Butch Harmon School of Golf and everyone wants to take a glass bottomed helicopter ride to the Grand Canyon. We would definitely stay at the Cosmopolitan again and selfishly, I really want to see the Cirque show One with the Michael Jackson music.
If you are looking for any advice, shoot me an e-mail. Would also love to hear your recommendations for our next trip.
We paid a media rate at the Vdara, but even a discount didn’t increase my love of the hotel. We received complimentary tickets to Mystere. All other expenses were covered by me, for Keaton’s birthday. Remind him of this when he becomes a teenager and finds me annoying.