Like most military spouses, when assignment time rolls around, we often create a list of places we’d like to live and a list of places we’d rather not. Depending on your interests, Nellis AFB in Las Vegas could fall on either of those lists.
As a mother of four, I was not completely thrilled at the thought of raising my kids in “Sin City.” I’ve seen the Griswolds’ misadventures in casinos and shady dance clubs. I’ve seen dudes make bad decisions they don’t remember making in The Hangover. Greed, gluttony and treachery are consistent themes in dramas and even comedies like Ocean’s Eleven, Casino, and Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2. Just about every movie set in Las Vegas is filled with drunkenness, debauchery, and indecent proposals.
So “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” certainly doesn’t scream “family friendly neighborhood,” when you think about it like that.
Nevertheless, those were the cards my husband was dealt a few years ago, and boy did we walk away the winners! The idea that Las Vegas isn’t a great place to raise kids is a misconception. Sure there are bad neighborhoods, but there are really good ones, too. Plus, while Vegas offers up some show-stopping performances for date night, it also offers up some pretty spectacular things for the kids as well!
Here are 10 spots in Vegas worth checking out WITH kids:
Pools, Parks and Splash Pads
It gets HOT in Vegas. Even though it is a “dry” heat, your kids may not want to go out and play when it is 110 degrees. Take them to the park in their swimsuits because some parks offer up splash pads from April through October. Las Vegas has MANY public parks! We were lucky to have a community pool in our neighborhood as well, which is something I looked for when buying a house. If that’s important to you, just know they are financed through HOA fees. Our favorite place to go in Vegas was Tule Springs Park, where the kids could ride horses, chase peacocks, fish, and catch crawdads. Aside from obtaining a fishing license, parks and splash pads are FREE!
Hiking at Red Rock
Red Rock Canyon is a National Conservation Area on the west side of town that offers up a variety of hiking trails that you can explore time and again. It is FREE for Active Duty Military Personnel and their families with the America the Beautiful Military Pass!
Bowling & Movies
Normally, I wouldn’t suggest taking your kids to the casinos, but we would take ours bowling and to the cinema at Red Rock Casino (west side) and Aliante Casino (north side). Some theaters offer discounted tickets on matinees during the summer and on certain days. Tickets are cheaper than you think (unless you are watching a new movie in 3D and get popcorn and a drink for six people, then you’re spending about $80).
Child Friendly Spots at the Casinos
While we’re on the topic of casinos, here are my favorite ones for unique opportunities. These include Blue Man Group at the Luxor, Tournament of Kings at the Excalibur, Marvel Avengers S.T.A.T.I.O.N. at Treasure Island, Siegfried & Roy’s Secret Garden & Dolphin Habitat at the Mirage (a must!) and the Shark Reef Aquarium at Mandalay Bay. Your kids may never get the chance to experience these things without being stationed in Las Vegas, so take advantage of it.
If you happen to go to one of these places in the evening, stop over at the Bellagio for a peek at its indoor Conservatory and Botanical Gardens and take in the fountain show, which begins at dusk. Fountain shows last approximately 5 minutes and begin every 20 minutes after the sun goes down. My biggest tip is to call the casino directly and ask about local/military discounted tickets to save on cost. Also, confirm that your child is old enough to go. Some have a minimum age requirement.
Downtown Las Vegas
If you choose to take your kids downtown, there are not a lot of family friendly places or shows they can see, unless they are over the age of five. One place you can take family members of all ages and interests is the High Roller at the Linq. Ticket prices depend on age and time of day. If you buy online you can save, but if you wait until Veteran’s Day, you can ride the High Roller for FREE! They are great to our military!
Take your kids to Aviation Nation! America’s Air Show at Nellis Air Force Base happens every November. As home of the Thunderbirds, this is typically their last show of the year. The air show is a three-day event open to the public, but the first day is generally open only to military and their families. The smaller crowd means shorter lines and less kids in the kid zone. This is FREE for military, but food can be pricey. You might want to take some extra money for souvenirs as various squadrons will be selling T-shirts, stickers, RMO’s and more.
Whether you are needing a break from the summer heat, planning a birthday party or simply wanting to do something different, Las Vegas has quite a few fun indoor places to let loose! Check out Sky Zone trampoline Park, Flip-n-Out Xtreme (trampoline and lazer tag), Mini Gran Prix (amusement rides, arcade and go-carts), Crystal Palace (ice/roller skating) or the Adventuredome (amusement rides, mini golf, etc.) at the Circus, Circus hotel. These places can get pretty pricey for large groups, but call ahead and go online for special promotions. You might also want to get a family membership at the Discovery Children’s Museum or the Springs Preserve, where you can go back time and again!
The Grand Canyon and Hoover Dam
Want to get out of the city and see one of the Seven Wonders of the World? Then drive south to the Grand Canyon and stop on in at the Hoover Dam. You can take a dam tour and take some dam pictures. I’m sure you’ll have a dam good time and learn something new while you’re there.
Celebrate the Great Outdoors
Go camping and sledding up at Mount Charleston. Take 95 north to the northwest part of town and make your way to Lee’s Canyon. Ironically, you can buy sleds and snow gear in the desert! We bought our stuff at Big 5 and took the kids to the mountain for some sledding. If skiing is more up your alley, that’s available as well. If you don’t want to camp in a tent, there also are cabins available. Book early and get up there first thing in the morning as there are only a couple roads up the mountain. Traffic gets backed up around Christmas when kids are out of school and everyone seeks the snow to make it feel more like the holidays.
Get to know your neighbors
Our fondest memories living in Vegas were simply sitting in the driveway, chatting with our neighbors and watching our newly formed, little bicycle gang ride up and down the street. We also made friends through kids’ activities like baseball, gymnastics, dance and Girl Scouts. The friendships you make with strangers in Vegas will make your lives even richer than hitting it big in one of the casinos!