Downtown Las Vegas. Las Vegas with kids.
Some would say that this whole combination of words is a little off-kilter, so let me clarify how it all comes together.
“The Strip” isn't all there is to Las Vegas. No, this neon jungle actually has a whole other historic side called “downtown.” The strip is the more well-known, updated area with tons of glitz, glamor and crazy bachelor parties (think Bradley Cooper in The Hangover).
Downtown is the smaller, old-school version where the mobsters used to play (think Robert De Niro in Casino).
And it's one of the coolest places we've taken our kids in awhile.
We spend a good deal of time in Las Vegas visiting family and going to conferences, but last week was an extra-special treat when we got to stay at the Golden Nugget with our sponsor BF Goodrich to cover the thrilling Mint 400 Off-Road Race.
I should start by saying that the Golden Nugget is one of the less family-friendly hotels we've been to. The downstairs casino is thick with smoke and the property charges $10 for in-room coffee pods and $30 a night for a crib. Who DOES that? Honestly, though, it's Las Vegas. Those things are pretty much par for the course here. The on-site dining options were plentiful, the pool has a slide that goes through a SHARK TANK (seriously) and nearby attractions can't be beat.
Stepping out of the hotel lands you right on Fremont Street. This covered marketplace is like a strange cross between a shopping mall, a frat party, and Disneyland. Zip lines run along the top of this several-block promenade, and spectators are delighted with free community concerts, evening light shows overhead and costumed entertainers. The kids had a blast spending a couple winter weeknights playing around here, but I don't recommend bringing kids on a Friday or Saturday when the crowd's blood alcohol level skyrockets and those costumes become a bit…scant.
Just down the street, you'll come across Container Park. This open-air boutique center is comprised of repurposed shipping containers housing trendy eateries, shopping, and a massive playground to entertain kids of all ages. It's 21-and-over after 9 pm, but we wiled away the better part of an afternoon here and could have happily stayed for hours more.
You'll want to plan ahead to see the Neon Museum. This historic Las Vegas sign “boneyard” is only accessible through paid, one-hour guided tours that tend to book up days in advance. The adults on our tour enjoyed the historic insights, and our kids enjoyed scavenger-hunting for various remnants among the neon lights. If your children have trouble keeping relatively quiet or resisting the urge to touch everything, you may want to skip this until they're older.
One place that encourages hands-on exploration is the Mob Museum. Set in the restored 1933 neoclassical courthouse that once held the Kefauver hearings, this incredible spot tells the history of organized crime in the area along with law enforcement's response. Due to the nature of the museum, there were a couple graphic displays that were marked in advance with warning signs. We simply steered the kids clear of those areas. We arrived near closing, absorbing a surprising amount of information in just 45 minutes. Thank goodness for Vegas' businesses unusually long hours, which allowed us to squeeze a ton of activities into a short trip! You can save a bit on tickets by booking online.
Next time we're near Las Vegas with kids, we have a couple more historic spots on the docket including Bonnie Springs and the Las Vegas Natural History Museum. Of course, camping near the Hoover Dam is always a fun diversion in this area as well.
What are your favorite things to see in Las Vegas with kids?