Las Vegas with Kids: A Perfect Family Day

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When you think of Las Vegas, you probably envision sun, sin, alcohol and gambling. A vacation spot strictly for the adult crowd. The idea of spending a day in Las Vegas, Nevada with kids may not have been a consideration for you... until now. You may be surprised at how easy it is to plan a fun vacation day with the plenitude of activities this city has to offer children and parents alike.

Experience a day like the one described below, and your kids will want to return again and again.

Morning


Start your day in Las Vegas with kids, by trying the Hash House a Go-Go, one of the best breakfast spots in Vegas. Your eyes will pop out of your head when you see the items listed on this extensive menu -- everything from basic eggs and potatoes, waffles, pancakes, French toast (try the banana cinnamon cream with pecan syrup) to more unusual fare such as barbecue flank steak, griddled meatloaf and smoked chicken scramblers. If you are up for something a little different, order Andy's sage fried chicken Benedict. It's to die for! Prices can be a little high for breakfast, with most dishes over $10 -- but well worth it. There are two locations to choose from: 3535 Las Vegas Blvd. S, (inside Imperial Palace) (702-254-4646, open at 7AM); or 6800 W Sahara Ave., (702-804-4646, open at 7:30AM.)

Insider tip: The dishes are huge, so you'll have plenty of food if you order a couple of dishes to share.

Located just a few minutes down the strip from Hash House a Go-Go is M&M's World (3785 S. Las Vegas Blvd., inside the Showcase Mall; 702-736-7611). Your child's jaw will drop at the sight of four floors loaded with candy goodness. If you love the M&M characters, this is the place to pick up some great souvenirs. Whatever you want, they have it here: T-shirts, Christmas ornaments, home decor, games, and the list goes on. On the fourth floor is a replica of Kyle Busch's M&M's race car. One floor features a wall full of M&M's in over 20 different colors. Let your children grab a bag and create their own mix with their favorite colors. Warning: Prices here are more expensive so keep an eye on how full they fill that bag! They also show a cute 3-D movie starring the M&M's characters. They open at 9AM daily, and it's free to browse the store and watch the movie.

After staring at walls of candy, it's time for a little educational fun. The Lied Discovery Children's Museum (833 Las Vegas Blvd. N; 702-382-5437) is a hands-on learning museum with over 100 exhibits on science, music, the arts and more. Here, your child will interact with other kids while witnessing science experiments, playing in the mini city or dressing up in costumes and dancing on a stage. For those ages 5 and under, there is Desert Discovery, an interactive environment geared specifically for younger kids and their parents. Check out their website for a list of permanent and changing exhibits as well as hours of operation, which change during summer months. Admission is $8.50 for adults and $7.50 for children.


Afternoon


At this point you and your crew have probably worked up an appetite. It's a perfect time to grab a burger at In-N-Out. This popular joint has a small, simple menu but really tasty and inexpensive food. Only burgers, fries and shakes are available here. Before you go, search the Web for their "secret menu" listing unusual ways to order your food that is not on the menu. Try the Neapolitan shake (strawberry, chocolate and vanilla swirled together but not mixed) or order your burger "animal style" with mustard-cooked meat, extra sauce, extra pickles and grilled onions. All food is under $5. There are multiple restaurants throughout Vegas; call 800-786-1000 or check their website for the most convenient location.

It is now time to take a breather from your vacation-day activities and stroll through the botanical gardens at the Bellagio Hotel (3600 Las Vegas Blvd S; 888-987-6667). You and your young ones will marvel at the displays of plants and flowers in this conservatory. Changing with each season and for the Chinese New Year, thousands of plants and flowers are sculpted into enchanting characters and scenes right out of a dreamscape. Add this to your must-see list -- especially if you are visiting around any holiday! While there, check out the fountains located outside the front of the hotel. It is a beautiful water show set to music. It is only a few minutes long but it will capture your child's attention. Check at the front desk for show times. The gardens are open 24 hours a day and are free.

Just a 10 minute walk from the Bellagio is the Mirage Hotel (3400 S Las Vegas Blvd.; 702-791-7111), home to Siegfried and Roy's SecretGarden and Dolphin Habitat. Who knew that you could see dolphins in the desert, along with tigers and other large cats? Let your child get an up-close look at the Atlantic bottlenose dolphins playing in their 2.5 million-gallon pool. Wander through the Secret Garden and gaze upon majestic cats like leopards, panthers and tigers (including white ones). Ticket prices are $15 for adults, $10 for ages 4-12 and free for 3 and under. (You may reserve tickets online.) Open daily from 10AM-7PM.

Insider tip: While at the Mirage, be sure and check out the huge aquarium behind the front desk and the volcano outside.


Evening


What better way to cap off your vacation day in Las Vegas, Nevada than to join your kids for some circus fun? Head on over to the Circus Circus Hotel (2880 S. Las Vegas Blvd.; 702-794-3939), which is home to the Adventuredometheme park. This five-acre indoor park has many rides for smaller children and families, such as the Frog Hopper that takes you up and down, and Thunderbirds, where you can pretend you are a pilot, among many others. Please note that there are some height restrictions for certain rides. Take a spin around the carousel, enjoy traditional carnival games or watch a 4-D movie starring Dora and Diego or Spongebob SquarePants. There are also free clown shows and mini bowling. If you get hungry, there are plenty of places to eat including the Circus buffet and the Pizzeria for a quick bite. Tickets cost $4-$7 per ride, or you can get an all-day pass for $24.95 for adults and $14.95 for children 33"-47" tall. Children under 33" are free with a paying adult. Check the web for discount tickets and for their current schedule.

Now, you're all probably ready to head back to your hotel, where you'll all get a good night's sleep, dreaming about the perfect family vacation day you've just had in Las Vegas with your kids!

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