While taking your toddler to Sin City may sound like a sin all its own, I assure you we both made it out alive and unscathed. In fact, I have never had more fun in Vegas than when showing the lights, spectacles, and glamour to my son. I was in town for the Rock ‘n’ Roll Mini Marathon because running the Las Vegas Strip at night with zero vehicular traffic has long been a bucket list item for me. Did I train? Not really. But hiking with Gavin all summer certainly helped. My friend, Heather, flew in from Nashville to be my running sidekick and my mom flew in from Indianapolis to babysit Gavin and be our moral support. I’m also happy to report that Ian flew in all the way from Kalispell, even though he hates standby travel, so he could cheer me on. Melt.
Vegas may be known for its, ahem, exxxotic entertainment and gambling, but we still found plenty of family-friendly attractions and sights to keep ourselves entertained. I honestly felt a little silly with a baby in Vegas until I saw other families with little kids and babies even younger than Gavin. Granted I’m sure the running crowds brought in scores of families that may not have otherwise been there, but I was comforted nonetheless. Many of the hotels actually have attractions designed for a younger crowd, like the aquarium in Mandalay Bay or the zoo in the Mirage. And don’t even get me started on the dancing fountains at the Bellagio because Gavin loves water and was completely entranced by the spectacle.
We were only in town for three nights, but here are the tips we gathered from our short time in Sin City.
Stay on the Strip.
We stayed off-strip at a resort with a free bus shuttle to and from the Strip, but next time around I would prefer to stay on the Strip for the sake of convenience. I got way too anxious holding him on my lap for shuttle rides. Plus, you can spend so much time en route that it cuts in to your playtime.
If you take one of the shuttle vans/busses from the airport to your hotel and you plan to use the carseat for your child under the age of 2, you will have to pay for the seat they occupy. At the time we went, there were two shuttle busses in operation and one of the companies required a carseat while the other did not. The carseat rules and regulations are always changing, and the companies typically have their own take on them, so I like to be prepared and travel with the carseat. Is it a pain? Yes. Hassle? Yes. But I am comforted knowing that my child is safe and secure, even if that’s costs more money, and that is more than worth it.
Get the Monorail pass.
When dealing with tired feet, heat exhaustion, and a toddler on the verge of a meltdown, there is nothing like the sweet reprieve of an air-conditioned place to sit while you take a ride around the strip. You aren’t fighting the crowds on the street or the bumper to bumper traffic either.
You can purchase a single ride for $5, or partake in day passes that give you unlimited rides starting at $13, with discounts being offered for each additional day purchased. Good news: children under the age of five ride free with a paid adult and the monorail is stroller-friendly. You can even purchase your tickets in advance online and stay sane with the convenience of a mobile ticket. Visit the Las Vegas Monorail website for up-to-date information, fare prices, and FAQs.
Even better, stay on the strip at a hotel with a monorail stop.
The Strip is nearly 4.5 miles long, one way, with so much to see that you could easily wander most of the way before realizing you still have to make the return trip. And you’re exhausted. And you’re starving. And you just want to sip a cocktail by the pool. Fear not! If you took my advice and purchased a monorail ticket, you can make your stay even less exhausting by selecting a hotel on the Strip that has a monorail stop within the hotel itself or adjacent to the hotel:
- Caesar’s Palace
- MGM Grand (I have personally stayed at the MGM Grand [pre-baby] and I loved the effortless accessibility to the monorail)
Book a hotel or resort with a pool.
My baby is a water baby and having a pool was a legitimate requirement for our stay. Plus I wanted a hot tub to help relax my muscles after the race. We spent a lovely morning poolside eating snacks, swimming, and basking in the sunshine underneath palm trees.
Ditch the stroller.
And baby-wear instead! Remember the bumper to bumper traffic I mentioned earlier? That’s a sight to see all on its own. The city’s answer to managing the foot traffic without stalling the vehicular traffic was installing pedestrian footbridges that go up-and-over the intersections. While these bridges are handicap- and stroller-accessible, you will spend a lot of time waiting on the elevators to take you up and down. Plus, the streets are so crowded that the stroller can feel like more of an inconvenience as you shuffle through the tourists.
I recommend wearing a Tula because that’s what I personally use, but there are gobs of other baby- and toddler-wearing contraptions out there. I like the Tula because it’s easy to use, secure, comfortable, and my kid loves the free ride. Plus it’s easily adjustable so everyone can take a turn wearing Gavin. I can wear him against my chest if he’s tired and wants a cuddle and a nap, or I can carry him on my back without the worry of him falling out.
If you absolutely must have a stroller, the more compact the better. I understand that some kids do better in strollers or maybe the crowds aren’t actually that bad once you get there. We use the Good Baby Pockit Stroller when we travel because it’s compact (folds small enough to fit underneath airplane seats) and weighs less than ten pounds, making it easy to carry while it’s compressed and a breeze to push when it’s extended.
Water feature. Water feature. Water feature. My kid is obsessed with water. The Bellagio is famous for its hourly synchronized water fountain show, which is absolutely a must-see for water lovers, but just outside of New York New York you’ll find walls of color-changing water fountains that you can touch. Gavin was so mesmerized that we lost track of time and missed the last shuttle to our hotel. Oops.
He really liked the street performers and, much to my chagrin, the showgirls. If you pose for a photo with folks on the street (showgirls included), just remember that it’s courteous to tip a few dollars.
The people watching and window shopping were also great ways to entertain the little dude. He particularly enjoyed the magic shop in New York New York, which made Grandpa proud.
And don’t forget about the Flamingo Wildlife Habitat in the Flamingo hotel. This place is totally free and open daily to the public for viewings of flamingos, turtles, and fish.
Be patient. Be flexible. Have fun.
Let’s take your child’s normal schedule and flip it upside down for the sake of a good time. HA. Sounds like a disaster, but I promise you will get through it with only your happy memories intact. Vegas is a sensory-overload kind of town, even for adults, so bear that in mind that meltdowns will happen and you will be okay. Be patient with your child and understand that schedule changes and overloaded senses are stressful for everyone. You are a safe place for your child. Meeting their negative emotions with patience and love will go a long way, especially as they grow up.
Have you been to Vegas with a toddler? Share about your experience in the comments below!
P.S. The airport has a play area for kids.
If you get to the airport extra early, or maybe your flight is delayed in departing, you can pass the time with ease at the play area for children located in Terminal D, which has large windows for airplane sightings, a miniature air-traffic control tower to climb over and under, and tower viewers.