Las Vegas offers so much more than people realize, especially for families. But I wish I knew some things before traveling to Vegas. So, here’s my guide for you!
by Kimberly Pangaro | Kimberly is a proud mom of four daughters, devoted wife, and the owner of Atomic Mommy – a media company dedicated to empowering parents. When she’s not running her company or momming all day, she’s writing about family life. She’s been featured in Parents magazine and Voyage Savannah magazine. She’s considered by many as the time management queen of parenting and an uplifting inspirational mompreneur. You can follow her on Instagram and Twitter @atomic_mommy.
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So you’re planning a trip to Las Vegas and you need to know all the ins and outs of visiting this iconic destination. There’s just one thing… you’re traveling with little ones and you don’t know how to exactly explore Las Vegas with kids. Don’t fret! You’re in the right place because I just got back from Vegas with my four kids, and I have learned some interesting dos and donts from talking to the locals and experiencing as much as I could that Vegas has to offer.
Here’s everything I wish I knew before I went to Vegas with my kids!
#1 Vegas Blocks are HUGE
If you’ve ever visited New York City or another large city, then you how know city blocks can be quite daunting for kids to walk for lengthy periods of time. But when it comes to Las Vegas blocks, multiply one city block by 3! That’s how big they are, and depending on when you visit Vegas, the weather could also be against you. So, here are a few tips to keep you and your little ones happy while walking in Vegas.
Stick to walking the strip or Fremont Street, where there’s lots of distractions to keep your kids’ minds occupied and off of how much walking they’re doing. Make sure you all pack super-comfortable sneakers, as you will be walking a great deal, several hours a day. Always carry water and snacks in a small bag, because let’s face it, kids get hungry often. Lastly, Vegas weather can be tricky especially when walking outdoors. One minute you could be cold as heck, and the next dying of heat stroke. So, if you travel to Vegas during the winter months, always wear a t-shirt under a hoodie or jacket with the ability to wrap around waists. During the summer months, when the heat is extreme, plan to wear light clothes, moisture wicking, and that keep you cool.
#2 The Strip Is Not The Same As Fremont Street
When we got to Vegas, everyone kept talking about the free live shows down on Fremont Street. The local taxi drivers made sure to mention it so often that we just had to go. One problem we ran into, it’s no where near the strip – a fact those taxi drivers failed to mention. So while we stood waiting for the Bellagio Fountain show to start, we realized we had to take a taxi drive about 8 miles away (which was quite costly).
Inevitably, we bit the bullet and hailed a taxi (you can’t actually hail anything in Las Vegas, but I’ll explain that below). When we got to Fremont Street, it was absolutely stunning. I suggest going when it is dark outside this way you can experience this amazing place with full viewing pleasure. There’s a ton to do there that every age will love – zip lining, ceiling light show, live concerts for free, and tons of great food!
#3 The Stadiums Don’t Allow Tailgating Or Parking
If you’ve ever gone to a football game, you know that tailgating is a huge deal! Not to mention, being able to bring your car into the parking lot to do so is kind of necessary. Well, in Las Vegas, tailgating and parking is actually illegal! Crazy as it sounds, I kind of get why they did this, and it’s a total money maker for everyone involved (except for football fans).
Whenever there is a live game, fans have to either take a taxi or Uber or Lyft to get to the game, and while not all hotels offer it, there are also free shuttles. You can expect to take a free shuttle if you stay at the LINQ, Caesars, Mandalay Bay, and several others (this is where you’d have to do your homework). Of course, you can also take the very affordable Game Day Express Bus, too. So if you really want to take the kids to see the Raiders or Vegas Knights, be sure to plan ahead and schedule your rides to the games.
#4 Vegas Has Wintry Days, Too
Our family trip to Las Vegas took us out there at the tail-end of January. Weather apps told us the weather would be around 50-60 degrees Fahrenheit during the day, and a low of 40’s at night. Boy were they wrong!
When we arrived (we’re from New Jersey), it was like we never left New Jersey’s winter weather. Daytime temperatures hit a high of 40 on some days, while other days were very windy which made those days feel like it was actually 30 degrees. And the nights were bitter cold. Let me add that the way Las Vegas sits on the land, a sweeping wind blazes through it and bites you in the booty! So if and when you decide to travel to Las Vegas with kids and it happens to be in the winter months, be sure to pack a decently warm coat just in case.
#5 Vegas Is Super Close to Other Amazing Locations
I cannot tell you how breathtaking Las Vegas is! Just from the hotel view, we were in awe. The mountains that surround Vegas are unbelievable. The air was crisp and clean. The sky was bright, and there wasn’t a cloudy day at all. We all felt this huge pull of energy from the land around us. The entire experience of natural Las Vegas was intoxicating.
The truth is, Las Vegas has so much more to offer than just the strip. You are extremely close to Death Valley, Grand Canyon, Hoover Dam, and other amazing trips. Because of this proximity, we couldn’t miss the opportunity to tour as much as we could afford to. Check out a few of our photos below for reference. By the way, we booked everything through TripAdvisor and used all of the reviews from other travelers to help us choose.
#6 There Are Lots of Peddlers
When I say peddlers, I mean peddlers for naked ladies! I didn’t see one peddler for a show or experience on the strip. Instead, we were bombarded with tons of reps trying to hand each one of us (the kids included) little cards with naked women on them to entice us to go to one of their locations. Normally, I wouldn’t care, but the amount of times we were approached was obnoxiously overwhelming. It reminded me of the greasy-haired car salesmen of the 70s who purposely licked his lips and gawked at women while they shopped for a car. Yes, it was that bad!
Of course there are also a ton of homeless people on the streets, but no where near as many as San Francisco or New York City. Lastly, there was a rather large and in-your-face type of Bible group. They would block the roadway with their signage and protests, and would be doing so well into the late hours. So, if you don’t want your kids to see boobies, vaginas, homeless people, or weirdos, try not to be out at night, too late.
#7 Stay Away From Restaurants On The Strip
While there are many restaurants on the strip worth trying, they are also very expensive. One bottle of beer or pint on the strip costs roughly between $15 and $17. You can also expect to pay $25 and $50 per plate, per person when dining on the strip. Of course, these numbers vary from restaurant to restaurant, but you should still be forewarned. If you want to save yourself a few bucks with the kiddos, try eating at In-N-Out Burger. At first glance, it looks like its always packed, but the turnover rate is really high so you can get in, sit and eat, and be out in under an hour.
#8 Expect To Walk… A Lot
Walking in Vegas is a must if you expect to get anywhere and not pay a fortune. However, if you travel with children, then you already know how walking is a thing they’re not fond of. And if you don’t want to hear “carry me” the entire time in Vegas, I suggest you plan your itinerary with many stops and breaks in between the walking. For example, I often scheduled a show or tour to break up our long walks. You will enjoy Vegas a great deal more if you do the same.
#9 The Hotels Are Filled With Smoke
Most hotels in Las Vegas, if not all, have a casino in them. They all allow smokers inside of them. Some hotels will wreak of smoke before you even enter the building, while others uniquely built their structures in such a way that the casino smoke never finds its way onto the other floors. If you’re not a smoker and you don’t like the smell of smoke, this will be a rude awakening. But don’t let this health risk keep you away from visiting the hotels. Many of the higher end hotels like the Bellagio, Luxor, LINQ, Caesars, Mandalay Bay, and more, all have barely-there hints of smoke. As a matter of fact, the Mandalay Bay actually smelt like we were on a Caribbean beach. So, keep this in mind as you visit each hotel & casino with the kiddos.
#10 Everything Is More Expensive Than NYC
From beer to fries to burgers and steaks, everything in Vegas is more expensive than New York City – that is if you eat, stay, and play on the strip. This is not to say that eating on the strip is not worth every penny. This is more of a heads up to expect to pay more than you would visiting NYC.
Some of our favorite places to eat (which did cost $$$) were Cabo Wabo Cantina, Carmine’s Italian Restaurant, and Gordon Ramsay Burger. The food at each of these locations was great and totally worth the extra cash, but if you’re trying to save a few bucks, don’t eat on the strip. Choose locations off the strip, eat like locals, and be brave in trying new foods.
#11 Hotels Don’t Allow For Free Self-Parking
As I’ve mentioned, there are many places in Las Vegas that do not allow you to drive into and park your car. Most hotels require taxis to drive under their hotels, to a specific pick-up/drop-off area. And while this doesn’t mean that there is no parking available if you say, decided to rent a vehicle, it’s important to note that there is no such thing as free self-parking in the hotels in Las Vegas. Self-parking in the hotels comes with a steep daily rate, with in and out privileges of around $40 to $45 per day, per vehicle. Some hotels may be a bit cheaper, but those numbers seem to be the range for 2023. This is not to say you shouldn’t pay the fee, but I find it’s better to be in-the-know than not.
#12 Renting A Car Is Not As Wallet-Friendly As You Think
As a mom and a master budgeter of my family’s finances, I made sure I did the math on whether it would be more budget-friendly to rent a car than to taxi. I found that it wasn’t. Here’s why.
When you rent a car, you’re going to be paying a daily or weekly rate. Then you need to put gas in it for your travels, plus put gas into it for the return. Every time you gas up, you are paying a gas tax. Every time you hit the strip, you’re paying to park at one of the hotels parking garages. On top of it all, every single hotel you stay in Vegas requires a driver to pay a daily self-park rate or valet rate. There is no transferring your self-park rate from one hotel to the next, either. And then of course is the strip itself, where there is no parking on the street at all. Literally, the entire strip has no cars parked. It’s not like NYC, where you can drive in, find a miraculous parking spot, park, and then go about your travels. Nope, the Vegas strip is not car-friendly for car renters/owners. Thus, it is much better to not rent a car for Vegas.
#13 Plan To Taxi/Uber/Lyft To Many Places
Since you now know it’s more affordable to take a taxi than it is to rent a car, let’s go over the actual taxi/Uber/Lyft rates. First, from the airport to your hotel during the day time on a weekday, it’s much cheaper to take an Uber or Lyft. Whereas if you fly into Vegas on a weekend and at night, you will find that the taxi’s flat rate fee is the more affordable option. We flew out on a Thursday morning and we paid the $25 flat rate fee for the taxi to shuttle us from airport to hotel. Keep in mind, that these rates can go up or down as the economy changes.
Now the above information is also true for traveling in and around Vegas. If it’s during the day time on a weekday, an Uber is the cheaper option. At night, on weekends, during big events like the Formula or Cheer events in Vegas, Uber hikes up their prices (we know this as surge pricing), so the taxis are the cheaper options.
If you plan it just right, you will find that a 5 night/6 day trip to Vegas, Thursday to Tuesday, will probably cost you about $350 in total, for taxi/Uber/Lyft fees, which includes the tips to the drivers. As a bonus tip, I will leave you with an important piece of information that one driver shared with us: do not overly tip the drivers as they see a lot of action every week, enough to be making over 5K a month without having to work a 40-hour work week.
#14 You Can’t Just Hail A Taxi
Before you head to Vegas be sure to setup your Uber/Lyft accounts and download the apps, because you will need these. For the taxis, there are several different companies in service in Vegas, so you won’t need an app.
With that said, every location in Vegas has pick-up points and drop-off points, where taxis/Uber/Lyft are required by law to only stop at. So, don’t expect to be on the strip, put your hand out, and a taxi driver just pick you up. That’s not how it works in Vegas. If you need a ride, head to the taxi pick-up and drop-off areas of each hotel. They all have them. At the Bellagio, it’s at the main entrance. At Planet Hollywood, it’s under the hotel. These are the designated areas for pick-ups and drop-offs.
Additionally, if you use Uber or Lyft, you will need to verify the pick-up point as you could be at Point A and the legal pick-up point is on the other side of the hotel. So, always make sure you verify where you’re being picked up up from.
#15 Hotel Rooms Don’t Come With Microwaves Or Fridges
If you’re used to hotels coming with a microwave or refrigerator, think again! Las Vegas hotels do not come with either of these, and if a hotel says they do, it’s for a nightly charge of somewhere around $25. Even the luxurious hotels don’t come with these items, regardless of what their room descriptions say. Be weary of this and make sure you ask upfront about the charges associated with these features.
For those with small children that may need a microwave, you’re out of luck. This is a strategic decision made by the Las Vegas government and the hotel owners, and is done so for money purposes, or so we’ve been told by some of the locals that work there. If you have no refrigerator or microwave, tourists are forced to leave their hotel room and walk through the casinos before you can get to food, beverages, and even convenience stores, all as a ploy to get you to spend money in their casinos, stores, restaurants, and more.
However, the upside to this is that every casino has a convenience store in their lobbies, so you won’t have to worry about buying milk, water, snacks, clothes, band-aids, Tylenol, etc. Though, if you need diapers, wipes, makeup or other toiletries, you will need a CVS or Walgreens, which are not far from the hotels.
#16 People Are Actually Really Nice
I know this is a weird addition to this list, but it needs to be said. My family and I are from New Jersey, about 15 minutes southeast of Manhattan. We are in an area where people do not say hello to their neighbors, do not greet you kindly with a smile, do not ask if you need help just to be kind, where they just stare at you with an angry grimace for even being present, and don’t just randomly talk to you to be sociable.
Oddly enough, Las Vegas locals and even the tourists from certain parts of the country, were unbelievably nice! We were shocked by the random acts of kindness, the not-so-salesy or flirty conversations we encountered, and the amount of social awkwardness we felt towards it all.
The reason I am adding this to the list is because we didn’t expect to find this. Even in the south, like the Carolinas, Georgia, and Florida, people are no where near as friendly as in Las Vegas. Shocking, I know! So when you go to Vegas, be sure to bring your most sociable self possible on the trip because you don’t want to come off as rude or cold.
Las Vegas is truly a great place to visit with kids, and because of its proximity to so many other awe-inspiring locations, it’s one of the better choices to plan a family vacation. Trust me when I tell you that if it weren’t for Las Vegas, we would have never known that we could visit Arizona, Colorado, Utah, and California all in the same week!
I hope you enjoyed this guide and there will be other travel guides for Las Vegas and other areas, geared towards families, in the very-near future. So, I wish you the best fun in Vegas and if you liked this guide, let us know by following us on Instagram @atomic_mommy!