Having kids is one of the best decisions my wife and I ever made. In fact, even though she and I are no longer together, we’re still good friends because we’re active co-parents.
If you’ve read many of my blog posts, you probably know that she and I spent a lot of time in Vegas while we were married. We went twice a year for about 10 years.
Since we went 20 times in a decade, we got to experience finding things for the kids to do while we were gambling. It’s one thing to find something for your kids to do when they’re 5 years old, and it’s something else entirely to find them something to do when they’re 15 years old.
Las Vegas isn’t the only place we gambled, either. During the latter stages of our marriage, we also spent some time at some of the big casinos in Oklahoma. We lived in the DFW metroplex area, so the casinos in Oklahoma were just too close to ignore completely.
So I’ve also included some ideas for kids’ activities that are available in multiple locations. If you’re going to yet another casino gambling destination, like Reno or Atlantic City, you can use the list of activities below as inspiration for your own trip.
Here are seven things for the kids to do while you’re gambling.
1 – Hire a Babysitter
When the kids were very young, we didn’t take them along with us on our gambling trips at all. We’d leave them with a babysitter. Many times, it was a grandparent, but not always. Grandparents were my favorite option, though, because they’ll often babysit for free. The only problem is that they’ll also often send the kids back spoiled. (Honestly, I wouldn’t have it any other way.)
Sometimes we couldn’t get a babysitter at all, which meant that one of us had to babysit while the other played games. This wasn’t as much fun, but it still worked. My wife didn’t like to play poker, anyway, so I was often on my own when I was playing. We would just take turns babysitting.
Guys, it’s tempting to make the wife take care of the kids while you gamble. Resist this temptation, you Neanderthal. Trust me. Your marriage and your gambling vacations will go a lot better if you put in an equal amount of work taking care of the children.
That can be a lot of fun for the kids, too, because they get to meet other children whose parents also dragged them on a gambling vacation.
I was lucky. My children were really social, so they enjoyed daycare at the casinos which offered the service.
The Station Casinos in Las Vegas are excellent at this sort of thing, by the way. They offer “Kids Quest” childcare, and their goal is to engage your children physically and mentally. Everything they plan is designed to be appropriate for your child’s specific age, too.
One of my wife’s concerns about turning the young ‘uns over to the fine folks at Kids Quest was their safety. We were both impressed with the facilities, which were clearly designed with safety in mind. The rules for how to behave were clearly explained when they checked in for the day. And all their staff seemed well trained for their roles.
This way, the wife and I were actually able to spend some time at the roulette tables together and even catch a show or two.
2 – The Bellagio Conservatory & Botanical Garden
The Bellagio Conservatory & Botanical Garden is a perfect place to turn your older kids loose to explore on their own while you get a little gaming in. If you have multiple children who are teenagers and are willing to stick together, you can turn them loose to check out this one. Just make sure they have their cell phones with them, and keep yours on, too.
The Bellagio Conservatory & Botanical Garden is a 14,000 square foot flower garden which is re-designed every spring, summer, fall, and winter.
They also have a special display specifically for Chinese New Year. You can take comfort that by letting them check out this attraction, you’re supporting the environment, too. Over 90% of the plants in the conservatory are recycled each season during the redesign.
Over 120 gardeners maintain the grounds of the Gardens. They’re good at what they do, too — every flower complements the trees and other items in the garden. You’ll also find gazebos, bridges, and ponds with various water features that also change with the seasons.
They start their season with Chinese New Year, and their displays and designs are based on the season. In springtime, for example, you’ll find plenty of cherry blossoms. During the fall, the foliage is mostly brown, gold, and yellow.
But our favorite time to visit the Garden is during Christmas, when the entire establishment is transformed into a winter wonderland.
The Bellagio is an amazing hotel and casino to begin with, but this is one of the best things you can take your kids to do while you’re there.
And if your children are younger, you might even want to take a break from the slot machines and gambling tables to check this one out as a family.
3 – Send the Kids to a Show (Or Take Them to One)
A lot of the activities on this list are things the kids can do without you if they’re old enough, but many of them are also enough fun that you might want to participate with them. Taking the kids to a show is a great thing to do, and there’s probably nowhere else on earth where you can find such a wide variety of shows to see.
My top pick for a show to see with the kids is The Beatles LOVE by Cirque du Soleil. My daughters have loved the Beatles since they were old enough to start having their own opinions about music.
You (and/or they) can see The Beatles LOVE by Cirque du Soleil at the Mirage Hotel. The show brings to life the many iconic characters from their music, including Eleanor Rigby, Lady Madonna, Sergeant Pepper, and the Walrus.
If you’ve never seen a Cirque du Soleil performance, you might not know what to expect. It’s a circus act, but it’s so much more than that, too.
Another great family-friendly Vegas show is The Mac King Show. King is a comedian and magician who performs in the afternoons at 1pm and 3pm. This is the perfect show to drop the teenagers off at while you get in a couple of hours of gaming.
You can find the Mac King Show at Caesars Palace, which is probably the most old-school casino still located on the Las Vegas Strip. It’s also a more affordable show than Cirque du Soleil, which is admittedly pricy.
4 – Madame Tussauds Las Vegas
Madame Tussauds is a wax museum in Las Vegas. But if you read their website, they’ll correct you on that point and explain that it’s actually a wax “attraction” rather than a wax museum.
It’s located in the Venetian, where it opened in 1999. The attraction features 100+ wax figures of both real people and fictional characters. You (and the kids) will get to see athletes, musicians, and superheroes, all in wax. The museum also features a 4D movie theater.
Your youngsters will learn how wax figures are made. They might not seem that impressive at first, but it takes almost six months to make a single wax figure. The museum decides who to make figures of based on survey results, and they then start gathering information about the celebrity they’re going to make a figure for.
They take into account what the celebrity likes to wear, what kind of expression they usually have on their face, and how they wear their hair. Sometimes they bring the actual celebrities in to take over 100 measurements and over 200 photographs.
The wax figures are also made from steel and clay. They use oil paints to create such realistic skin tones.
Some of the most recent wax figures at Madame Tussauds include Captain America, Khloe Kardashian, and Nick Fury. Starting in the spring of 2019, Madame Tussauds is celebrating the 1990s. The Spice Girls are on display, as are Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake. Bill Clinton is even there, playing his saxophone.
If you think your family won’t enjoy the 1990s nostalgia because your kids are too young, let me reassure you. You’ll be surprised at how much ‘90s stuff they’re already into.
Depending on which options you take, you can get tickets for between $20 and $30.
5 – Movie Parties and Room Service in the Hotel Room
This one’s easy. You’re going to be staying in a hotel room at the casino anyway, right?
Why not set your kids up with a couple of movie rentals on the hotel TV room and let them order room service?
Be prepared, though — pay-per-view movies in hotel rooms aren’t cheap. Neither is room service.
But if you can afford to be gambling, you can afford to make an evening special for your kids in the hotel room.
You don’t have to limit yourself to room service from the hotel, either. At many properties, you can just have pizza delivered.
The approach my wife and I took to this was to really amp up the party atmosphere and aspect of it. We bought decorations and party favors for the room. We made sure they had all their favorite kinds of candy and plenty of popcorn and soft drinks.
One thing you’ll want to do is handle the ordering of the movies yourself. You should also check with the desk to make sure that the adult movies are disabled for the duration of your stay with the kids there.
Most hotel pay-per-view systems allow you to rent movies that are currently in theaters, but here’s another option for you if the kids are old enough.
Let them actually go to a real movie theater to see a movie. One of the best movie experiences I ever had was in Las Vegas when a new Star Trek movie came out. Just make sure that you’re dropping the kids off at a movie they want to see.
As always, I don’t recommend leaving solitary children at the theater unsupervised. Make sure they have brothers and sisters to keep an eye on them.
And don’t forget to have them check in with you via their cell phones periodically. Some casino destinations are safer than others, by the way. Las Vegas can be sketchy, but as long as your kids are aware and travel in packs, they should be fine.
6 – Amusement Park Activities Like Roller Coasters
Las Vegas has a surprising number of amusement park attractions that are perfect for kids. The most obvious of these is Circus Circus, which combines circus acts with amusement park thrills and arcades. But you can also find multiple roller coasters in Vegas.
The Big Apple Roller Coaster and Arcade can keep your kids busy for longer than you might think. It’s the first roller coaster in the world to feature a 180-degree twist and dive move. It’s popular, though — over 1.4 million thrill-seekers ride this roller coaster every year. It’s located near The Big Apple Arcade, too.
The roller coaster opens at either 10:30am or 11am depending on the day of the week, and it’s open until 11pm or midnight. Individual tickets are $15 per person, but you can get re-rides for $8 each. The best idea is to probably spring for the Scream Pass, which allows your son or daughter to ride as many times as he or she wants to during a day.
My family’s favorite, though, is El Loco — the steel roller coaster in the Adventuredome amusement park at Circus Circus.
This roller coaster is relatively new, having just opened in 2014. El Loco features a 90-degree drop. The coaster also features two inversions, and it sometimes banks toward the outside of the turns. You’ll ride in four-rider cars (2×2). The seats have music customized for the ride, mostly hip hop and Latin beats.
You can find more amusement parks and thrill rides in Vegas with a quick search of Bing or Google, too.
7 – Marvel Avengers S. T. A. T. I. O. N.
Marvel Avengers S. T. A. T. I. O. N. caters to fans of one of the biggest phenomena in pop culture today — the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
S. T. A. T. I. O. N. stands for Scientific Training and Tactical Intelligence Operative Network. The exhibit features intelligence files and experiments that highlight the historical and scientific backgrounds of the Avengers. The storyline is that you’re training to become an official S. T. A. T. I. O. N. agent.
The displays include authentic costumes and props from the movies. These include Captain America’s shield and uniform, for example.
They’re open from 10am to 7pm every day, and they’re located at Treasure Island, which is a great destination for a family traveling with kids. Children under three get in free, but it’s hard to leave them unattended for this one. (I’m just kidding — of course you wouldn’t leave a 3-year-old unattended anywhere.)
Adults and children over 13 pay $34 per ticket, and children between 3 and 12 only pay $24 per ticket. In fact, that’s probably the age group that this activity is most appropriate for — children between ages 10 and 12.
If your family enjoys shopping, you’ll also find an 8,000 square foot store with clothes, toys, and other collectibles — all related to the Avengers and the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
The best part is the “Become Iron Man” interactive experience, which lets you try on and use Iron Man’s suit in a virtual reality setting.
You can always find something for the kids to do while you’re gambling, even if you decide that those things to do are just staying behind with the grandparents or other babysitter. That’s what my wife and I had to do when our children were young.
As they got older, though, we got better at taking them with us and finding things for us to do with them. My kids like nature, so The Bellagio Conservatory & Botanical Garden was perfect for them. If you’re not going to Vegas but to another gambling destination, you can find something similar. Just search for the name of your destination and combine it with the word “arboretum” or “botanical garden.”
Las Vegas has multiple shows you can buy your family tickets to. Just keep in mind that the nature of some (if not many) of these shows is adult-themed and might not be appropriate for children. I think Mac King’s show might be your best bet, as it combines magic and comedy in a way that most kids will really enjoy them.
Many casino destinations also have amusement parks or arcades. Las Vegas is well-known for its multiple circus performer attractions, too — and those aren’t always at Circus Circus, either.
Most importantly, have fun!