How to have fun in Vegas with an 11-year-old

I already know what you’re thinking. Vegas is no place for a child, right?

Well, yes and no. Since E and I don’t drink or gamble, two big reasons NOT to bring a kiddo there are removed from the equation.

And there are actually plenty of fun things to do with kids on the Strip, at Fremont Street and in the surrounding areas.

But if you do take your kid to Vegas, you have to be okay with the possibility of a few not-so-kid-friendly elements.

Just like everything, there are pros and cons of taking kids to Vegas. For us, it made a lot of sense as a travel stop because it was the exact halfway point from where we started (Los Angeles) and where we were going (Page, Arizona). Vegas is also a great place to fly into because you can get reasonably priced flights and then drive to some pretty amazing places – like the Grand Circle filled with national parks galore.

I’ll let you decide for yourself whether it makes sense to spend a little time in Vegas as a family, or just travel through without stopping. Here are our pros and cons!

The cons of taking kids to Vegas

A week or so before we were headed out west, a good friend of ours traveled through Vegas with her kids. She gave me a lot of tips and heads-ups since it had been a long time since our last trip to the Strip – and we had never been with kids.

I remember there being a lot of cigarette smoke in Vegas, but my friend alerted me that there would be a lot of marijuana smoke, too. She was right – on this trip, we smelled so much weed that my 11-year-old can now correctly identify its skunk-like odor.

Xage also got to see lots of adults behaving badly – even in broad daylight – out on the Strip. Of course, there were feather-bedecked showgirls wearing thongs and fishnets, and that took some explaining. But there were also plenty of drunken visitors putting on a show. Our poor kiddo got to see some woman, half out of her mind, throw up all down herself while stumbling along the Strip one afternoon. Oops. I was glad we were driving by in a car and not actually walking near her when she erupted!

There are also many mobile and digital billboards for strip clubs, brothels and more. Tweens don’t miss a thing and to ours, Vegas felt like a hotbed of inappropriateness. They had never seen anything like it, even in NYC. Z wasn’t upset by it though – more like fascinated. We definitely tried to explain everything in a nonjudgmental way, and used it as an opportunity to talk about life lessons.

For the most part, we had the best experiences actually inside the resorts and adjacent shopping malls. I don’t recommend walking the Strip with children, unfortunately – especially at night. There’s just too much potential for drunken shenanigans and things they can’t unsee. Driving the Strip is a little better because you feel protected in your car. You can also direct their attention over to the other side of the car pretty easily if something shady is going down within view.

The pros of taking kids to Vegas

There is so much to see and do with your family on the Strip! The fancy resorts are all themed so well and there are many can’t miss experiences, such as the dancing fountains at Bellagio. There are flashing lights, colorful digital screens and a sense of spectacle everywhere – it’s like an even fancier version of Times Square, which our kiddo also loves.

We drove up and down the Strip a few times in daylight, and then of course had to do it again by night. The Treasure Island fire and water show is incredible at night – and you can really feel the heat coming off those volcanos.

The place we ended up spending most of our time was in the Grand Canal Shoppes at the Venetian and in the Forum Shops at Caesar’s Palace. Both are basically super upscale, fancy malls with great theming, awesome spots for photo opps and even a few fun things to do.

At Caesar’s, the Forum Shops are uber fancy and themed like a street in ancient Rome, complete with fountains, sculptures and cool architecture. Usually, there’s an aquatic-themed Atlantis show in the Shops that runs on the hour, but alas, that is on hold due to Covid. There’s also an aquarium worth taking a peek at; it has seats around it so you can sit, relax and take selfies with fish.

At the Venetian, the Grand Canal Shoppes are centered around a Venice-style canal that runs down the middle with gondola boats cruising along by day and night. You can purchase gondola ride tickets (about $30 to 40 per person) and it’s a lot of fun whether you choose the outdoor or indoor canal. There’s a musical performance included as you sit in your gondola and imagine you’re being serenaded on the canals of Venice. We loved it and our gondolier told us they are all trained opera singers.

We found both malls to be the perfect place to grab a great meal, stretch our legs and do a little shopping before getting back in the car and continuing our drive. If we’d had more time, we might have checked out a few other kid-friendly Vegas attractions – there are plenty.

Xage loved Vegas so much, during our road-trip stop at the start of our trip, that we ended up visiting again on our way home. Now I’ve seen about as much of the Strip as I can handle for another few years. I personally find that a little Vegas is plenty and it’s easy to get burned out there.

Have you been to Vegas with kids and if so, what were your favorite things to do? I know they say that what happens in Vegas stays there – but we’d love to hear your Vegas stories in the comments below or over on Facebook!

About the author

Proud and loving midlife mama. Lucky and devoted wife. Dog, cat and snake mom. Travel nut. Writer since birth. PR and social media pro by day - tattoo doula by night.

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