The words themselves evoke a place caustic to families and definitely not for kids or teenagers. It’s true that Las Vegas is a hot spot for nightclubs, strip clubs, high-end restaurants, 21+ pool parties and burlesque shows, but that shouldn’t deter anyone from visiting the city.
Las Vegas can be a family-friendly city, but how is it fitting for those who are older than kids but not yet adults? It’s tough being a teen, and the last thing a 16- or 17-year-old wants to hear is that he or she is “just a kid.”
No worries, though. Sin City delivers for families with teens as well as younger children. Begin planning a trip with your teen with these suggestions in mind:
Not all Las Vegas hotels are created equal, and not all hotels are created for teens either. Get the most for your family dollar and don’t stay in a high-end luxury property like Bellagio and Wynn Las Vegas. Sure, they’ll appeal to parents, but the kids could care less about the thread count of the sheets.
Instead, stay in a hotel that offers fun right out the front door. Resorts that cater to families often offer discounts that bundle room rates with buffet passes or entertainment coupons. Look for these vacation packages when booking your trip.
Excalibur and Circus Circus both have arcade games and teen-friendly entertainment on site. Teens might not be into the circus, but chances are they’ll be at least mildly interested in the theme park.
New York New York is a good choice for the diverse and easy dining options, which appeal to just about every palate (pizza, anyone?). It’s a loud and fun hotel reminiscent of the streets of New York, which is much more teen-friendly than those lobbies with glass sculptures and piano music.
If you don’t mind staying off the Strip, consider booking a room at The Orleans, which is located on Tropicana Avenue. Among the most kid-friendly properties in the city, The Orleans has a bowling alley, arcade and movie theater on site.
>>More information about family-friendly hotels in Las Vegas.
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Things to Do
You’ve got a place to sleep, but how the heck can you fill your days in Las Vegas with activities that are both interesting and appropriate enough for teenagers?
Even if you don’t stay at Circus Circus, you are welcome to visit the Adventuredome, the indoor theme park with more than a dozen rides including a roller coaster and log flume ride. There are also a mini golf course, laser tag area and arcade games in the same area. A day at the Adventuredome doesn’t have to cost a fortune either; though they’ll need to pay for games and extra activities on a per use basis, your teens can buy a all-in-one day pass that gets them unlimited access to all of the rides. And if they really enjoy roller coasters, teens will also want to check out the rides at Sahara, Stratosphere and New York New York. Additional arcade games can be found at Excalibur and GameWorks as well.
A fun stop for the whole family is the Pinball Hall of Fame, which generally appeals to everyone young and old. Sure, you can find the newest pinball machines at Excalibur, Circus Circus and GameWorks, but the Pinball Hall of Fame is cheap and provides hours of entertainment on hundreds of vintage and new pinball machines.
Teenagers who are looking for something a little more intellectually stimulating might be interested in a few of the exhibits on the Strip as well. Bodies, located in Luxor, offers a rare look at the human body with real-life cadavers, while CSI: The Experience, located at MGM Grand, is a fun exploration into forensic science.
For those who are animal lovers, consider checking out Siegfried and Roy’s Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat at The Mirage or the Shark Reef at Mandalay Bay. There are also flamingos at Flamingo Las Vegas and lions at MGM Grand, both of which are free of charge to see.
If your teenagers are active and enjoy the outdoors, there are plenty of areas around the Las Vegas Valley to take day trips. Red Rock Canyon and Valley of Fire offer good opportunities for hiking, and the Springs Preserve is a good place to learn more about the vegetation in the desert southwest.
All else aside, if your teens are noncommittal about what they want to do, all of the resorts in Las Vegas have family-friendly pools. They are more than welcome to grab a soda and settle in for a day of sunbathing and splashing, if that’s what they’d like to do.
Where to Eat
Some restaurants in Las Vegas are much friendlier for teens and their families than others. A safe bet that guarantees something for everybody is one of the many buffets located in one of the Las Vegas resorts. Generally, the more expensive and luxurious the hotel, the more expensive and luxurious the buffet. Save cash by digging through the coupon books found throughout the Strip, and choosing a buffet at one of the less expensive hotels.
Burger Bar in Mandalay Bay, which is a design-your-own-burger dining establishment, is particularly enticing to teens (and a fabulous beer selection appeals to adults). Earl of Sandwich, located in Planet Hollywood, and Capriotti’s (several locations around the city) are both sandwich shops that are affordable and flavorful without being too cliché. If you’ve got a car, hunt down Lotus of Siam, a popular Thai restaurant that offers delicious food at affordable prices.
There are several Las Vegas shows that appeal to teens, but it’s important to note that ticket prices are standard by seating area, not by age, which means this form of entertainment can be a bit pricey. Nonetheless, catching a show is an ultimate Las Vegas experience, so you may want to splurge anyway.
Cirque du Soleil has several shows in Las Vegas, but the two that are probably most appropriate for teenagers are Mystere and KA. These shows are a fun mix of acrobatics, music and theatrics that entertain from lights down to curtain close.
The Lion King was a Disney cartoon first, but the stage show is a kaleidoscope of color, music and costumes that kids, teens and adults can appreciate. Likewise, Blue Man Group is an entertaining ride of music, lights, lasers and comedy without words. You might also consider getting tickets for V – The Ultimate Variety Show for a little bit of everything.
>>More information about family-friendly shows in Las Vegas.
Other Travel Tips
Las Vegas can be a friendly, fun and safe city for teenagers, but it’s important to remember that teens are still kids, and kids can’t do a lot of things in Las Vegas. Though nightclubs should be checking identification carefully, some are better than others, so be mindful of where your teens are at all times. Alcohol is readily available. Again, know what your teen has in his or her hand.
Some times of the year are more family friendly than others. You may want to avoid Halloween, New Year’s Eve and Spring Break in particular, if possible. This is when alcohol and potentially inoffensive behavior will be most prevalent.
Finally, be aware that there is a city-wide curfew in effect in Las Vegas. The curfew runs from 10:00 p.m. Sunday through Thursday (until 5:00 a.m. the following day) and midnight (9:00 p.m. on or near The Strip) on all Fridays and Saturdays, local school holidays and during summer vacation (until 5:00 a.m. the following day). During this time, all children age 18 and under must be accompanied by their “parent or legal guardian or a responsible person over the age of 21 approved by the child’s parent or legal guardian.”