In the last decade of the 20th century, Las Vegas tried to reinvent itself as a family-friendly destination. Mega hotels such as the Excalibur, the Luxor and the Mandalay Bay were designed as self-contained attractions with water parks and museums on the premises.
But in the first half of the 21st century, Las Vegas has returned to its roots by throwing out the wholesome family feel and bringing back the showgirls and adult attractions that made the city famous. With this return to classic Vegas, parents who bring their kids to the city may wonder what to do with their youngsters. Fortunately, there are still a few attractions that are still kid-friendly in Las Vegas.
The Secret Garden of Siegfried & Roy/ The Mirage Dolphin Habitat
The Secret Garden is a small zoo and botanical garden located in the Mirage hotel. This attraction is the brainchild of longtime Mirage Illusionists Siegfried & Roy. Although the duo retied after Roy’s stage accident in 2003, the big cats from their act remain on display in the Secret Garden. Along with the big cats, visitors can interact with dolphins at the dolphin habitat. The Secret Garden is open Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 5:30 and on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays from 10:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Hours vary seasonally. Admission is for a fee, which is subject to change.
The volcano at the Mirage erupts every hour on the hour between dusk and midnight. The show comes complete with streams of fire that shoot out 100 feet over the lagoon below and fireballs that pop in time to an audio recorded drum beat. The best vantage point for this free show is near the driveway entrance of the hotel.
Another free show occurs at the fountains in front of the Bellagio hotel. Geysers of water shoot out from a man-made lake inside the hotel’s driveway. The plumes of water seem to dance, spin and move in time to music such as the theme from the pink panther, Sinatra tunes, opera and old show tunes. At night, choreographed lights enhance the show. The performances take place every 30 minutes Monday through Friday from 3 to 8 p.m. and on Saturday through Sunday from 12 noon to 8 p.m. Each night the shows take place every 15 minutes from 8 p.m. to midnight.
Circus Circus is the only hotel that has catered to families in Vegas for decades. Although the hotel is older and less glamorous than resorts such as the Mandalay Bay or the MGM Grand, it has a midway on the property complete with carnival games and a big top with circus acts. The circus performs under the big top continuously Sunday through Thursday from 11a.m. to 11p.m. and Friday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to midnight. Admission to the circus and midway are free, even to non-hotel guests, although the prices of the games vary. Visitors can play the games 24 hours daily.
Mandalay bay offers a giant wave pool and lazy river to its guests. The attraction is so popular that hotel guests must show their room key to enter the pool area. Non-guests can still visit the shark reef attraction, a giant aquarium that allows visitors to walk through tunnels beneath the water and into what appears to be a sunken pirate ship. Through the broken sides of the ship visitors can watch various sharks swim over, under and around them. The attraction also features a pool where kids can touch and pet stingrays.
The Shark Reef Aquarium admission is free to children 4 and under. Adults and children ages 5-12 must pay a fee for admission. Hours of operation are Sunday through Thursday 10:00 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Friday thorough Saturday 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Last admission is one hour before closing.