Allison Laypath

Las Vegas revels in its Sin City reputation, but there are still worthwhile stops for families that are either free or inexpensive. Frommer's included the Fountains of Bellagio and the lights of the Las Vegas Strip in its book "500 Places to Take Your Kids Before They Grow Up." If you are planning a trip to the Las Vegas Strip, be sure to wear comfortable walking shoes and take water with you or plan to purchase it along the way. It may be challenging to move your vehicle from one part of the Strip to another, so consider parking in one place and focus your plans on that area or use the monorail, which costs $5 for one trip or $12 for a day. Large strollers could be inconvenient on crowded sidewalks and overhead walkways, which are most easily accessed by escalators. Las Vegas is a unforgettable place that offers many fun activities for families. Kids will appreciate that last look at the millions of glittering lights just before they go to bed and leave the city to its more mature pastimes. Las Vegas is fascinating. Where else can you see the landmarks of Paris, New York, Venice, Egypt and more - all on one street? Our family spent a day exploring the Strip during Spring Break and here are our top finds. Allison Laypath is an expert on family travel and author of the family travel blog tipsforfamilytrips.com. With her family, Allison especially enjoys road trips, national parks and local field trips. Email Allison at allison@tipsforfamilytrips.com.

Fountains of Bellagio and Botanical Gardens
Allison Laypath



If you only see one thing in Las Vegas, it should be the Fountains of Bellagio. This wonderful water show, choreographed to opera, classical and Broadway tunes, plays every 15-30 minutes. Best of all, it is free and centrally located on the Strip. When you finish at the fountains, head inside the Bellagio Hotel to see the Botanical Gardens, which are also free to the public. Colorful live flower displays are accented with charming windmills, carousels, hot-air balloons or even Chinese New Year-themed decor, changing with the season. Turn your eyes upward to the Fiori di Como art glass chandelier as you pass through the lobby. This glass sculpture is the largest in the world, featuring more than 2,000 hand-blown glass flowers. These excellent family attractions are a refreshing contrast to the over-the-top gaudiness that prevails everywhere else in Vegas.

Thrill rides
Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News

If your first thought after filling up at the buffet is, "Let's find a roller coaster," then the Las Vegas Strip is eager to please. Families with young children will appreciate the variety of rides at the Adventuredome indoor theme park at Circus Circus Hotel & Casino. In addition to the Canyon Blaster, the only indoor double-loop, double-corkscrew roller coaster in the world, the Adventuredome has 17 other rides, including some junior and family rides. One-ride tickets can be purchased, but so can day passes, with information on discounts available at Adventuredome's website. Families looking for fewer thrills may also enjoy the Eiffel Tower Ride at Paris Las Vegas. The term "ride" is used loosely here as it is an elevator ride to an observation deck 46 stories above the street with a 360-degree view of Las Vegas. Guides are on hand to discuss points of interest and souvenir photos are available.

The roller coaster at New York New York Hotel & Casino is a short walk from the Bellagio and Paris Las Vegas. Young children may balk at this large coaster, but older children and teens will probably enjoy it as it loops inside and outside the hotel at high speed. If you want epic thrills, then take the elevator to the top of the Stratosphere, where the world's four highest thrill rides await true adrenaline junkies. The SkyJump is the highest controlled free fall in the world. The X-Scream is a teeter-totter ride that will make you feel like you are shooting off the edge of the tower. The Big Shot will send you another 160 feet in the air at 45 miles per hour. A ride named Insanity needs no further description. None of these rides is bargain-priced, but look for discounts online and in coupon books found in hotel lobbies.

Animal exhibits
Associated Press

Where can you find exotic animals and lush tropical gardens in the middle of the desert? In Las Vegas, anything is possible. Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino’s Shark Reef takes the typical aquarium experience and kicks it up a notch with 15 species of shark and more than 2,000 creatures such as sea turtles, rare Golden Crocodiles, piranhas and other exotic fish and reptiles. These are distributed among 14 exhibits, including a touch pool and two walk-through tunnels. Siegfried and Roy's Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat allows visitors an up-close look at tigers, lions, panthers, leopards and a family of dolphins. Themes of conservation and education are prominent here, and visitors seeking a bucket list experience can splurge on the Trainer for a Day dolphin program. While less exotic, the Flamingo's Wildlife Habitat is free, centrally located and offers weary tourists a lovely garden and stream stocked with swans, ducks, koi, turtles and, of course, pink flamingos.

Arcades
Stuart Johnson, Deseret News

Many of the hotels on the Las Vegas Strip have arcades targeted toward gamblers-in-training. Some are just out-of-the-way diversions, but other arcades are huge and offer classic video games, midway games, laser tag and top-of-the-line simulator experiences that may be just as fun for parents as for kids. All of the arcades forbid unattended children. The Coney Island Emporium near the roller coaster at New York New York is 32,000 square feet and claims numerous "best arcade" awards. The MGM Grand also has a large arcade with a variety of games. Our family wandered into the Fun Dungeon at Excalibur Hotel Casino, which has video games, midway games and 3-D rides, and our young children thought it was great.

M&M's World, Coca-Cola Store
Allison Laypath

You don't have to buy anything to enjoy a stop in one of these glossy shops, which are located next door to each other near the MGM Grand, though M&Ms and Coca-Cola have put their logos on just about anything you might want to own. Souvenir hunters will find clothing, toys, collectibles and almost the kitchen sink. At M&M's World, families will enjoy "I Lost My M in Vegas," a free, 10-minute, 3-D movie starring Red and Yellow. It's not a top-quality production, but it's fun for children, and there are not a lot of places to sit along the Strip where you are not expected to spend money, so you might love it just for the free air conditioning.

The Coca-Cola store has a soda fountain on the second floor where you will find all of the usual Coca-Cola beverages, along with bottled water, floats and other fountain favorites. The prices are reasonable, considering that everything on the Strip is priced for tourists. One of the most popular menu items is the Tastes of the World sampler, which is a colorful tray of 16 international soda flavors for $7. All flavors were new to us, all were very sweet, some were fruity, one was minty and there was only one that none of us liked. It was more than our family of four could drink and a nice place to stop for a while.