With 125,000 rooms for rent, including those in the world's 10 largest hotels, Las Vegas should have more than enough room for you and your brood. Or so it seems. But when a convention, a fight, or other major event happens--and they do, almost weekly--all of a sudden, the rooms evaporate into the desert air, or at least skyrocket in price. However, with advance planning, you should be able to choose your vacation in a Vegas version of Paris, Venice, New York, Ancient Rome, King Arthur's England, Egypt of the Pharaohs, or simply a pleasant hotel with a gorgeous pool.
Hotel rooms in Vegas are low-priced compared to similar rooms in other vacation locations, but there are some drawbacks. Most hotels are casino/resorts, which means huge premises with long walks, through often-smoky casinos, to get to and from your room to anywhere else on the grounds. Minors cannot be unaccompanied at any time in casino areas, meaning that you'll have to walk with them whenever they want to go to the pool, the arcade, or the animal attractions.
Non-gaming properties (yes, some places in Vegas actually do not have casinos) are located off the main drag, requiring a bit of planning and a car or cab in order for you and your kids to make it over to the Strip so that you can gape at all the wonderment it offers, such as volcanoes and talking statues. While these non-gaming resident and apartment-style hotels, where each room comes with a fully-equipped in-room kitchen, make it easy to cut meal costs by preparing food en suite, again, you will need a car to get to the market or convenience stores in order to take advantage of the pots, pans, and plates these hostelries provide.
Las Vegas's new identity as a resort location has yet to settle in completely. The pools at the self-proclaimed luxury resorts are often chilly, close early in the evening, and at some properties, may partially shut down during the non-summer months. Plus, some kids can quickly get bored with the whole pool experience, in which case, staying in a place with cool stuff to do, or at least an arcade and a lot of television stations to keep them preoccupied, is a really good idea. Keep in mind that though these properties bill themselves as getaway locations with astounding shopping opportunities, we couldn't find a real bookstore in any of the hotel malls, so if your child likes to devour books on vacation, you should plan ahead and bring a supply or be prepared to drive to the nearest bookshop. The same situation applies to CD stores, so it's a good idea to load up on music in advance.
The most important factors, after your family's needs and interests, naturally, are location and price, because at a certain point, most hotel rooms are surprisingly similar. Granted, some rooms are larger than others and some have nicer furnishings, but basically, your room is only a place to rest between sightseeing adventures.
Most of the time in Las Vegas, the difference between paying $69 for a room and $250 for the same bed/bathroom/TV combo is the date you plan to stay, because Las Vegas has incredibly fluid room prices. Be aware that there is no standard for what is considered a "child." Some hotels charge an extra person fee for anyone over 7; others feel the cut-off age is 17, and some grinches will charge no matter how old or young the extra person. At certain properties, the extra person fees are seasonal or changeable, based on "specials." Don't be afraid to ask.
One thing you'll notice is that while, in many cities, hotel chains have the corner on ultra-luxurious, or at least large, substantial properties, in Las Vegas, with its abundance of over-the-top, super-sized resorts, the usual, standard-name hotels recede into the background. Sure, they are still nice (especially if you are on one of their frequent-visitor programs and get points for laying your head on the pillow), but they do pale by comparison to the pyramids and palaces that are almost mini-cities unto themselves.
The one thing that is fixed about room prices is the tax; as of press time, you will pay an additional 9% tariff in Clark County and 10% in nearby Henderson for hotel room taxes.
You should know that price might not have anything to do with the quality of the hotel's other clientele. Even the nicest hotels can have rowdy--well, let's be blunt, drunken--guests, especially if there's a holiday, convention, or big sporting event in town, or even if it's a Friday or Saturday night. And because the rooms are mass-produced--no matter how nice the hotel--you will hear plumbing noises, conversations (and sometimes more) from next door, along with the pitter-patter of little feet in the room above you.
Many of the classic Las Vegas hotels have fallen to the wrecking ball and demolition experts, or have been renovated so they no longer resemble their old images. In their places are the new kids on the block, bigger, but not necessarily better.
Everyone thought entrepreneur Steve Wynn was nuts when he envisioned, then built, the huge Mirage, with its jungle foliage and erupting volcano. But the naysayers were mistaken; the Mirage was a success, and the race to build successively more stupendous resorts was on. Circus Circus, Excalibur, the MGM Grand, and Treasure Island began courting families, until the bottom-line men realized that Las Vegas was never going to be the next Orlando. Wynn, in a firm anti-kid move, built the Bellagio, which, while its gift shop has some cool stuff for kids, isn't otherwise exactly the most kid-friendly place to stay. The MGM Grand, which also owns New York-New York, banished their kiddie-oriented ethos and took over Wynn's Mirage group (Bellagio, Treasure Island, and the Mirage). Suddenly, the latter two of these hotels revised their welcome with regards to families, while, according to numerous visitors, service and attention to detail dropped noticeably.
Meanwhile, Downtown, which had gotten progressively shabbier, underwent a major revitalization, thanks in great part to the Fremont Street Experience, a multimillion dollar light-and-laser show that draws crowds nightly to what is now a pedestrian promenade lined with cafes and shops. It's a nice place to visit; but we still don't suggest you stay there with your family.
Both the Stratosphere Hotel and Sam's Town Hotel & Gambling Hall have undergone major re-dos. In the case of the former, most people feel the current semi-theme of upscale amusement park coupled with a decent, low-cost hotel works as well as anything could, given the hotel's location at the very furthest end of the Strip. But many regular visitors bemoan the changes at Sam's Town, including the loss of its diner with tasty, traditional food.
Steve Wynn has now gone off on his own, to build anew. His latest project, a hotel called Le Reve--named after one of the Picassos in his collection--will stand on the location of the old Desert Inn; currently that spot houses the Wynn Collection, featuring 13 paintings by modern masters, including the resort-to-be's namesake.
Allegedly there's to be a London-themed hotel/casino to be built on the North Strip, and a San Francisco-based resort going in as well. Only time will tell--and quickly at that--the fates of the Aladdin (newly updated, but facing bankruptcy); the Tropicana (reported to be teetering on the brink of closure, or at least a major renovation); the Hilton (supposedly on the auction block); and any other hotel that doesn't meet the expectation of the corporate owners.
The majority of visitors with families stay on the Strip, because that's where most of the attractions can be found. Downtown is not a suitable location for families, trust us on that one. Both to the east and west of the Strip are decent to fine hotels, but you'll need transportation to get you there and back. And while staying on the Strip provides you with heaps to do and see, keep in mind that the hotels are farther apart than they appear, especially while walking in 100°F (38°C) weather or on a cold, windy night, with children in tow.
Price guidelines are rough, given the flexible nature of Vegas's room rates. But that doesn't mean that you shouldn't call the hotels directly to see what kind of rates you can get. Given the state of the travel industry since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, as well as the continual stock market fluctuations, you might be able to land a truly great deal. Expect to pay a bit less than rack rates Sunday through Thursday, and a bit more on Friday and Saturday nights. For complete reviews of these recommendations, visit our complete accommodations listings in our Destinations section by clicking here
Frommer's Best Hotel Bets for Families in Las Vegas
Most Family-Friendly on the Strip: Both the Excalibur, 3850 Las Vegas Blvd. S. (tel. 800/937-7777 or 702/597-7777; www.excaliburlasvegas.com), and its North Strip sibling, Circus Circus, 2880 Las Vegas Blvd. S. (tel. 800/444-2472 or 702/734-0410; www.circuscircus.com) were designed with families in mind and feature regularly scheduled free entertainment and large arcades. Circus Circus also has its own theme park (with rides for all ages) and miniature golf.
Most Family-Friendly off the Strip: The Orleans, 4500 W. Tropicana Ave. (tel. 800/ORLEANS or 702/365-7111; www.orleanscasino.com), has a bowling alley and movie theatres and offers child care. Sam's Town, 5111 Boulder Hwy. (tel. 800/634-6371 or 702/456-7777; www.samstownlv.com), also features a multiplex theatre plus the free Sunset Stampede show and a large, beautiful indoor park with animatronic animals.
Best Suite Deals Close to the Strip: The Carriage House, 105 E. Harmon Ave. (tel. 800/221-2301 or 702/798-1020; www.carriagehouselasvegas.com), offers plenty of room for families in a non-gaming environment 2 minutes from the Strip. A full kitchen in each suite also makes eat-in meals an option. And unlike hotels, there's full cable TV with over 40 channels and in-room VCRs, along with Nintendo at an hourly rate, plus free board games and videos.
Best Suite Deals off the Strip: A non-gaming resort ideal for short-or long-term stays, Desert Paradise, 5165 S. Decatur Blvd. (tel. 877/257-0010 or 702/257-0010; www.desertparadiseresort.com), offers complete apartments with their own washer/dryers, huge kitchens, full cable, and patio. With a barbecue area, lounge with large screen TV, and a nice pool, this resort was designed with families in mind, and is a perfect getaway location.
Most Peace and Quiet on the Strip and the most Child-Pampering Hotel: You can't beat the non-gaming Four Seasons, 3960 Las Vegas Blvd. S. (tel. 877/632-5000 or 702/632-5000; www.fourseasons.com), located at the southernmost tip of the Strip. The luxurious hotel pampers children as well as parents, providing small bathrobes and gift baskets for the kiddies. Rooms can be childproofed in advance of your arrival, insuring your peace of mind.
Most Peace and Quiet off the Strip: Staying in Henderson, at the ultra restful Green Valley Ranch resort, 2300 Paseo Verde Drive (tel. 866/782-9487 or 702/617-7777; www.greenvalleyranchresort.com), will give you plenty of peace and quiet in luxurious surroundings, plus many activities for the children. There's a casino on-site, but you can avoid it completely and just go to the on-site multiplex, play golf, or sun by the pool.
Best View: Unless you are on a low floor, at night, you should get a view of something sparkling no matter where you stay. But the view standing on the tower atop Stratosphere, 2000 Las Vegas Blvd. S. (tel. 800/998-6937 or 702/380-7777; www.stratospherehotel.com), located at the northernmost end of the Strip, tops them all.
When Price Is No Object: Caesars Palace, 3570 Las Vegas Blvd. S. (tel. 800/634-6661 or 702/731-7110; www.caesars.com), with its hilarious Greco-Roman theme, provides an over-the-top vacation experience for all ages. And the Fountain Show and Forum Shops just add to the fun.
Best Lobby: Huge statues of ancient Egyptian rulers greet you when you walk into the Luxor, 3900 Las Vegas Blvd. S. (tel. 800/288-1000 or 702/262-4000; www.luxor.com), making this a jaw-dropper for almost everyone.
Best Pool: You can bob on a lazy river ride or body surf the gentle swells in the pools at both Mandalay Bay, 3950 Las Vegas Blvd. S. (tel. 877/632-7000 or 702/632-7000; www.mandalaybay.com), or the Monte Carlo, 3770 Las Vegas Blvd. S. (tel. 800/311-8999 or 702/730-7777; www.monte-carlo.com), but the best pool scene is at the Flamingo, 3555 Las Vegas Blvd. S. (tel. 800/732-2111 or 702/733-3111; www.flamingolv.com), where there are five pools, two whirlpools, a kiddie pool, and waterslides set in a tropical environment complete with exotic birds and koi ponds.
Best Hotel Arcade: Even though its not a 24-hour game room, the Coney Island arcade in New York-New York, 3790 Las Vegas Blvd. S. (tel. 800/693-6763 or 702/740-6969; www.nynyhotelcasino.com), is the cleanest, best lit arcade in the entire city, with gleaming hardwood floors instead of the usual dark carpet.
Best Fitness Center: Though the Four Seasons, 3960 Las Vegas Blvd. S. (tel. 877/632-5000 or 702/632-5000; www.fourseasons.com), is a very expensive hotel, unlike other casinos/resorts in the area, the use of their ultra modern, state-of-the-art health club is free. Other hotels like the Crowne Plaza, 4255 Paradise Rd. (tel. 800/2-CROWNE or 702/369-4400; www.sixcontinentshotels.com), and the Fairfield Inn by Marriott, 3850 Paradise Rd. (tel. 800/228-2800 or 702/791-0899; www.fairfieldinn.com), also offer free use of their exercise rooms, which, though small, can still make you break a sweat. For those who don't mind paying $25 a day for access to spa facilities, the Venetian, 3355 Las Vegas Blvd. S. (tel. 888/2-VENICE or 702/414-1000; www.venetian.com), offers Canyon Ranch, a branch of what is considered one of the best spas in the United States. The fee gets you access to all the machines, saunas, and exercise classes Canyon Ranch offers, including yoga and Pilates. There's also a rock-climbing wall.
Best Bathrooms: Marvelous marble everywhere graces the very large bathrooms at the Venetian, 3355 Las Vegas Blvd. S. (tel. 888/2-VENICE or 702/414-1000; www.venetian.com), but for sheer shower and bath opulence, we opt for Mandalay Bay, 3950 Las Vegas Blvd. S. (tel. 877/632-7000 or 702/632-7000; www.mandalaybay.com), with glassed-in showers and sunken tubs, plus bathrobes available upon request.
Best Shopping Area: While grown ups may love the luxuries on display at Via Bellagio in the Bellagio, 3600 Las Vegas Blvd. S. (tel. 888/987-6667 or 702/693-7111; www.bellagio.com), kids will have more fun at Caesars Forum shops at Caesars Palace, 3570 Las Vegas Blvd. S. (tel. 800/634-6661 or 702/731-7110; ), the Venetian's Grand Canal Shoppes, 3355 Las Vegas Blvd. S. (tel. 888/2-VENICE or 702/414-1000; www.venetian.com), or even the Desert Passage at the Aladdin, 3667 Las Vegas Blvd. S. (tel. 877/333-WISH or 702/785-5555; ), for their mix of family entertainment and eye candy.
Best Hotel Coffee Shop: Kids under twelve will enjoy the carousel theme of the Pink Pony Cafe inside Circus Circus, 2880 Las Vegas Blvd. S. (tel. 800/444-CIRC or 702/734-0410; www.circuscircus.com), with its circus placemats and crayons. The hipster groove of Mr. Lucky's 24/7 at the Hard Rock, 4455 Paradise Rd. (tel. 800/473-ROCK or 702/693-5000; www.hardrockhotel.com), is more appealing to teens. But hands down, visitors go out of their way to visit Calypsos at the Tropicana, 3801 Las Vegas Blvd. S. (tel. 888/826-8767 or 702/739-2222; www.tropicanalv.com), a classic coffee shop, which allows you to build your own burger and features classic coffee shop fare (try the slab of pound cake topped with fruit and frozen yogurt) in a tropical-themed environment.
Best Hotel Restaurant for Kids: The Rainforest Cafe at MGM Grand, 3799 Las Vegas Blvd. S. (tel. 800/929-1111 or 702/891-8580; www.mgmgrand.com), features a kid's menu, crayons, good food, and, best of all, animatronic animals and thunderstorms, plus sleight-of-hand magicians at breakfast.
Best Hotel Kids' Program: The Youth Center at MGM Grand, 3799 Las Vegas Blvd. S. (tel. 800/929-1111 or 702/891-7777; www.mgmgrand.com), provides day care for children ages 3 to 16. Parents whose kids are in the program are provided with a pager so they can be located on the MGM property, if necessary.
Best Hotel Pet Programs: Hawthorn Suites, 5051 Duke Ellington Way (tel. 800/811-2450 or 702/739-7000; www.hawthorn.com), welcomes any size, well-behaved Fido.
Best Hotel Buffet: The Flamingo, 3555 Las Vegas Blvd. S. (tel. 800/732-2111 or 702/733-3111; www.flamingolv.com), feeds kids under 12 for half price at breakfast, brunch, and dinner, with a view of birds, habitat, and fishponds.
Tops for Toddlers: For convenience, the Boardwalk Hotel, 3750 Las Vegas Blvd. S. (tel. 800/635-4581 or 702/735-2400; www.hiboardwalk.com), wins hands down. The elevators are close to the main entrance and the casino is out of sight, making checking in and getting to your room a breeze. The self-parking is also very close to the entrance if you'd prefer to use that to its valets. But for sensory stimulation, Circus Circus, 2880 Las Vegas Blvd. S. (tel. 800/444-CIRC or 702/734-0410; www.circuscircus.com), offers a midway, clowns, jugglers, and lots of flashing lights. While the Excalibur, 3850 Las Vegas Blvd. S. (tel. 800/937-7777 or 702/597-7777; www.excaliburlasvegas.com), also has jugglers, they throw in puppet shows and story times as well.
Tops for Teens: Staying at the Hard Rock, 4455 Paradise Rd. (tel. 800/473-ROCK or 702/693-5000; www.hardrockhotel.com), can fill your teen with rock star dreams, plus you'll get points for being cool. Young sophisticates will enjoy the Monte Carlo, 3770 Las Vegas Blvd. S. (tel. 800/311-8999 or 702/730-7777; www.monte-carlo.com), or the Venetian, 3355 Las Vegas Blvd. S. (tel. 888/2-VENICE or 702/414-1000; www.venetian.com), with their luxurious European style.
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