Like much of the rest of the world, you may be under the impression that Las Vegas has evolved from an adults-only fantasyland into a vacation destination suitable for the entire family. The only explanation for this myth is that Las Vegas was referred to as "Disneyland for adults" by so many and for so long that the town became momentarily confused and decided it actually was Disneyland. Some of the gargantuan hotels then spent small fortunes on redecorating in an attempt to lure families, with vast quantities of junk food and a lot of hype. They now vehemently deny that any such notion ever crossed their collective minds, and, no, they don't know how that roller coaster got into the parking lot.
To put things simply, Las Vegas makes money -- lots and lots of money -- by promoting gambling, drinking, and sex. These are all fine pursuits if you happen to be an adult, but if you haven't reached the magical age of 21, you really don't count in this town. In any case, the casinos and even the Strip itself are simply too stimulating, noisy, and smoky for kids.
In addition, note that Circus Circus has ongoing circus acts throughout the day, a vast video-game-and-pinball arcade, and dozens of carnival games on its mezzanine level; Excalibur offers video, carnival, and thrill cinemas; and The Forum Shops at Caesars Palace has animated talking statues.
Consider carefully the attractions at Luxor Las Vegas: Bodies . . . The Exhibition may be too intense for kids, depending on their age, though others will be happily grossed out and might even learn a thing or two, while only those with interest in the high seas, disasters, the Titanic, or the eponymous movie will want to browse through Titanic: The Exhibition.
Beyond the city limits is Bonnie Springs Ranch/Old Nevada, with trail and stagecoach rides, a petting zoo, old-fashioned melodramas, stunt shootouts, a Nevada-themed wax museum, crafts demonstrations, and more. Lake Mead has great recreational facilities for family vacations. Finally, organized tours to the Grand Canyon and other interesting sights in southern Nevada and neighboring states can be fun family activities. Check with your hotel sightseeing desk.
Also note that there are several Kids Quest facilities around town where you can dump your kid while you're off gambling -- we mean place them under the caring guidance of trained professionals -- at a well-stocked play and activity centers that have everything from games to learning centers. The closest one to the Strip is at The Palms (4321 W. Flamingo Rd. tel. 866/942-7777), but you can check the website at www.kidsquest.com for other locations that may be more convenient.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.