I’ve been to Vegas three times in my life. The first: when my husband surprised me with a trip and we eloped. The second: when I attended a conference. And then our most recent trip as a family.

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The first time, it was new and exciting. And I got married, so there’s that. The second time I was completely frazzled. It took what seemed hours to find a restaurant on the Strip (nestled so evilly within a casino). The visual overstimulation wore me out. This time, my son and I were accompanying my husband while he attended the Consumer Electronics Show. My goal was to minimize our exposure to the Strip and to find family-friendly things to do.

We more or less succeeded in that mission, though I still was drained from the flashy signs and loud advertising. Here are my tips to get the most out of a family stay in Vegas.

1. Don’t Stay on the Strip.

1.a. Rent a House on AirBnB.

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The only way to remove yourself from the madness of the Strip is to not stay there. Stay in a hotel on the Strip, and you’ll be challenged to find easy or affordable food options within walking distance. We rented a house that was a 5-minute drive to the Convention Center and the Strip. It had 3 bedrooms and an ample backyard. $200 a night. Try to come close to that during CES! Or any other time of year. (This is the house if you’re looking for one. I highly recommend it).

2. Find Things Your Kids Want to Do. 

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We went to the Natural History Museum. It was smaller than some museums in big cities, but provided plenty of entertainment. It had the requisite dusty stuffed animals (think taxidermy, not teddy bear) and animatronic dinosaurs. Yawn. I really enjoyed the Egypt exhibit, though. Part of it was set up to make you feel like you’re walking into King Tut’s tomb. And you could scan a mummy and see its MRI.

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3. Visit a Tacky Gift Shop. 

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There’s a gift shop on the corner of Las Vegas Blvd and Sahara that claims to be the biggest gift shop in the world. Max, my son, challenged this statement. I said, “You’d have to do a lot of traveling to prove it wrong.” Looking at Vegas dice and shot glasses is a requirement for a visit, even if you only buy your friends gifts and nothing for yourself because you don’t want any of the crap lovely items. Kids love crap lovely items.

4. Dip onto the Strip.

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I’m not anti-Strip. (no stripper jokes, please). We did go to the Venetian to walk down memory lane from the day we got married. We showed Max the indoor mall with the ceiling that’s painted like the sky, and the gondola drivers (stick pushers?). He preferred Houdini’s Magic Shop, where we found an old friend from the ’80s.

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We then ate a buffet at a casino. It was great, but clearly I can’t even remember what casino we were at! Then we visited Madame Tussauds Wax Museum. The replicas of stars and sports players were pretty spot-on. My only complaint is that the tour was pretty short. I’d be mad if I’d paid 40 bucks per, but there was a guy with coupons on the street for 40% off. Find him!


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We wrapped up that day with treats from Thomas Keller’s Bouchon. Mmm. Baked goods and delicious coffee!

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I won’t be going back every year, but I did find ways to make Vegas tolerable.