Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Kid / Teen / Underage Fun

Coming to Vegas with your kids and/or underage children and worried there won't be enough to keep them occupied? Think again! Here's some suggestions for some fun activities and restaurants geared toward families or younger kids.


New York New York- A roller coaster and an arcade/game area that spans an entire floor and somewhat resembles a carnival. Think Coney Island.

Gameworks - Located next to the MGM Grand Hotel/ A multi-level arcade that offers plenty for kids of all ages (even an upstairs bar for the adults!)

Circus Circus - Huge midway with a circus themed environment and real circus acts take place inside the casino. Even better, the Adventuredome--an indoor adventure park with roller coasters, water rides, laser tag, and arcade games. Check online for coupons before coming. Just be warned parents--this hotel is loaded with little ones. So much so that it can often be overwhelming!

Excalibur - The Carnival-themed midway is a great way to pass the time, but still not as impressive as the ones offered by NYNY or Circus Circus.


The Lied Discovery Museum - A fun museum that is children oriented.

Las Vegas Springs Preserve- Stroll through desert trails, indoor interactive exhibits and various gardens. You will be impressed by this place and your children will have plenty of fun.

Shark Reef at Mandalay Bay - Very impressive aquarium with sharks and a "petting" tank of stingrays and other water dwellers. Can be a bit pricey.

Bellagio Fountains

Bellagio Flower Gardens - Located inside the hotel, right next to the reception area. Flowers are changed several times a year and are themed to holidays, events, etc.

Caesars Palace "Talking" Statues- Two sets of talking statues are in Caesars and are free to observe. One is located outside of Banana Republic, toward the newer tower area. The other, newer statue is located next to Cheesecake Factory and Virgin Megastore.

Fremont Street Experience- Downtown light show. Very neat area, but can be a bit seedy during the later and very early hours.

Sirens of TI- Free 'pirate' show outside the Treasure Island. Get there early to get a front spot on the bridge. Has recently changed to become a bit more risquey, but still appropriate for all ages in my opinion.

Lion Habitat at MGM Grand- Small observation area where MGM lions are kept. Neat to see, but won't take up much time.

Sigreid and Roy's Secret Garden- Another animal observation area. Much larger than that offered by MGM. There used to be a cost associated with the garden, but I'm not sure if that's still in place.

Gondola Rides- Venetian. Can be expensive for a short 15 minute ride. Choose inside to save money, choose outside for a more romantic ride.

Restaurants (kid/underage friendly)

1. Kahunaville- Treasure Island

2. Cheesecake Factory – Caesar’s Palace Forum Shops

3. Grand Luxe Café- Venetian/Palazzo

4. Rainforest Café- MGM Grand

5. Carnegie Deli- Mirage

6. Food Court- NY/NY

7. ESPN Zone- NY/NY

8. Margaritaville- Flamingo

9. Planet Hollywood- Caeser’s Forum Shops

10. Hard Rock Café- In front of Hard Rock Casino

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Booking Vegas and Other Things to Know

Check and if you aren’t particular on the specific hotel. If you are, I recommend For flights, or If you know the hotel where you want to stay and you have a while before your trip, I recommend signing up for the hotel’s emails and wait for the good deals. In my experience, the best time to purchase rooms is within the 2 months before the trip, unless you are traveling during a very busy holiday weekend, which requires earlier reservations. Other good websites,,,

Did you know…..

- Valentine’s Day is one of the most popular times to come to Vegas as it’s the most popular day for weddings.
- The last Monday in October is a 3-day weekend for Nevadans known as “Nevada Day.” You may see an influx in strip visitors.
- July 4th isn’t really a big deal in Vegas. There aren’t any fireworks on the strips or any large parties. It’s nothing special, so don’t expect much.
- It's much cheaper to come to Vegas during the week than it is to come over a weekend, especially a 3-day weekend or holiday weekend.
- What's the most expensive time of the year for Vegas? New Year's Eve. What's the best time of the year in Vegas, IMO? New Year's Eve.
- Perhaps the most important thing to know......It's Nuh- VAD-uh, not Nuh-VAH-duh!!!

What I Don't Recommend

For some reason, I can't think of much to add right now. Trust me, there's tons of things I've done that I wouldn't recommend, so I'll be sure to update this list as I think of things.

Hotels: Anything downtown that wasn’t mentioned above, Stratosphere, Tropicana, Imperial Palace. I used to hate Wynn based on my experience with the hotel during its opening weekend, however I stayed again in February, 2009 and had an AMAZING stay. It's now one of my favorite places to stay in Vegas.

Restaurants: Prime (Bellagio) (overpriced for quality), Hugo’s Cellar (used to be much better, gone downhill, especially the service), the major chain restaurants (treat yourself to something unique to Vegas or something they don’t have in your city/state)

Buffets: Bellagio, Fremont, Palms, Sahara

1. Planet Hollywood
3. Harrahs


My list, based on my experience, Las Vegas reviews and overall popularity.

1. O

2. Mystere
Best show in Vegas, in my opinion

3. Love

4. Danny Gans at Mirage: UPDATE: Danny Gans passed away earlier this year. It's too bad, he was a wonderful entertainer and a real mench. He contributed to just about every charity in Vegas and really went above and beyond for this community. He will be missed. :(

5. Comedy Stop at Tropicana: UPDATE: Closed. Just wasn't popular enough, unfortunately.
-Other popular comedy shows- The Improv Show at Town Square and Bonkerz Comedy Club at Palace Station--both off the strip. Harrah's also has a comedy show that receives good reviews.

6. Blue Man Group
-I'm not a huge fan of this show, but it's pretty popular here.

7. Spamalot: UPDATE: Closed and is no longer in Vegas.
If you like Monte Python, this is supposed to be good

8. Lion King
I have yet to see this show, but it's supposed to be AMAZING.

9. KA
-DH loved it, I didn't. More story line than other Cirque shows. Great theatre/stage

10. Zumanity
-It's ok. More sexual than other shows, not suitable for families.

11. LOVE
Fantastic, especially if you love the Beatles. Even if you don't, the show is a wonderful way to spend an evening. The show room is perfect, giving all seats a great view. The show is entertaining and the music is wonderful, even for this non Beatles lover!

12. Concerts
-Best Venues--Hard Rock (pool, joint), Mandalay Beach (stage is in the water), House of Blues (Mandalay), Lake Las Vegas (concerts on the water at Montelago)

13. Live Music Venues
-Nine Fine Irishmen (Irish bar in NYNY with awesome Irish band, dancing), Fremont Street (not always, but pretty often), NY NY Piano Bar (also one at Southpoint and Golden Nugget, but this is the best), Champagne Bar at Paris


1. Hiking
- (Red Rocks, Lake Mead area, Boulder City, my own neighborhood even has a hiking trail!). There are some beautiful spots.

2. Anything on Lake Mead, especially boating.

3. Fremont Street (although I realize this is similar to the strip)

4. Eat.
-Vegas has some of the best restaurants, and many are off the strip. Rosemary's comes to mind, but there are many.

5. Ethel M Chocolate Company tour.
-Ethel M is a local chocolatier that offers a free tour. It's really fun!

6. Gambling lessons.
-Most casinos offer them. It's really fun and doesn't cost a dime.

7. Poker tournaments.
It typically only costs $10-30 to play. DH even won a tournament once at an off strip casino (enough to buy me a designer purse!)

8. Las Vegas mini grand prix or Las Vegas Motor Speedway to watch some smaller races.

9. Golf
-We have some of the most beautiful golf courses I've seen, and I grew up in Hawaii. Some courses offer great locals and twighlight rates.

10. The Neon Museum where some of Las Vegas' famous neon signs/decor have been laid to rest. It's free!

11. Spa Day.
-I'm not a big spa person, but we have some wonderful off strip spas that are half the price of the ones on the strip.

12. Lake Las Vegas.
-Montelago resort has lots of cute little shops. Loews has a nice pool, decent beach and some great restaurants. It's really beautiful out there--and only 45 minutes from the strip.

13. Hoover Dam and Boulder City.
-Boulder City has a cute little downtown area that you pass through on your way to the Dam. Lots of little art shops. This isn't technically Las Vegas, either. If you stop by Boulder City, check out Milo's Cellar for a great meal (very reasonably priced and an extensive beer and wine menu).

14. Liberace Museum or Elvisarama Museum.
-Both are a riot and very, very cheap!

15. Helicopter tour of the city.

16. White Water Rafting.
-Outside of Vegas, but you can typically book a tour from your hotel on the strip. Usually lasts all day

17. Mt. Charleston
-skiing/snowboarding during winter, hiking/nature/birdwatching during fall, spring and summer


* Higher Priced/Fancy

1. Rosemary’s
- off the strip, but worth every penny of the taxi ride
2. Mon Ami Gabi (Paris)
- best food for the price, very reasonable
3. Fix (Bellagio)
4. Aureole (Mandalay- get the tasting menu)
5. Alize (Palms)
- great food, great view of strip, decent service)
6. Top of the World (Stratosphere)
- pretty good food, awesome view, restaurant rotates 360 degrees for view of entire city
7. Olives (Bellagio)
- Perfect for lunch, tables a little too close together, food is awesome
8. Border Grill (Mandalay Bay)
- Decently priced, Nuevo Mexican, great drinks.
9. Boa Steakhouse (Caesers-Forum Shops)
10. Andres (Downtown)

* Fun Restaurants

1. Margaritaville (Flamingo)
2. Kahunaville (Treasure Island)
3. Battistas Hole in the Wall (decent food, great atmosphere, behind Bill's Gambling Hall/Bally's)
4. Hamadas Japanese (off strip--Flamingo Rd.--5 minute cab ride from Bally's)
5. Stack (Mirage—more pricey, but fun menu)
6. Burger Bar (Mandalay Bay)
7. Lucky Chengs Drag Show (on North strip, heard food is just ok, but show is a blast)
8. Capos (off the strip--old Vegas speakeasy)
9. China Grill (Mandalay)
- a bit more pricey, but cool decor. Voted best bathrooms in the world a few years ago!
10. Nine Fine Irishmen (NYNY)
11. Hofbrauhaus (across from Hard Rock--looks almost identical to Germany's original)
12. Firefly and Cafe Babareeba- Tapas style, good for groups

* Best Restaurants with a View

1. Eiffel Tower Restaurant (Paris)- never been but hear it’s awesome
2. Alize (Palms)
3. Top of the World (Stratosphere)
4. Olives (Bellagio- ask for window seat)
5. Mon Ami Gabi (Paris- sit on patio for view of fountains)
6. Voodoo Lounge (Rio)
7. Mix (Mandalay)
8. Panevino (off strip, but closeby)
9. Viaggio (off strip in Henderson/Green Valley, 30 min drive to strip)

* Best Buffets (list of all buffest and prices:

1. Paris
2. Circus Circus Steakhouse Sunday Brunch (Steakhouse, NOT regular Circus Circus Buffet)
3. Sterling Brunch (Bally’s—fine dining buffet, approx $75 pp. Good, but for half the price, Circus Circus has it beat)
4. Planet Hollywood
5. Rio Seafood Buffet (may have recently closed--checking into this)
6. Gardunos at Palms—Sunday Margarita Brunch ($13.99 all you can drink margaritas included)
7. Carnival World Buffet- (Rio- the original "round the world" buffet and still one of the best)

* Best Cheap Eats

1. Strip Happy Hours
- Café Babareeba (Fashion Show Mall), Ra Sushi (Fashion Show Mall), Sushi Roku (Caeser's Forum Shops), Chinois (Forum Shops), Planet Hollywood Restaurant (Caesers), Several in Planet Hollywood Miracle Mile, McCormick & Schmick (on Flamingo Rd., near strip)
2. Light Meals/Tapas
-Firefly (Flamingo Rd., near strip) has small, individualized portions for sharing. Great atmosphere, too.
3. Ellis Island
-crappy hotel off Flamingo Rd., 10 minutse from strip) Ask for the $4.95 steak at the café. Not on the menu, but it’s awesome.
4. Terrible’s Casino
-lower end hotel on the corner of Flamingo and Paradise(near Hard Rock)--$1.49 breakfasts with HUGE portions. They also have a breakfast buffet that's really small and very basic, but VERY cheap. On Sundays, it's champagne brunch (all you can drink mimosas, champagne, bellinis, etc) for about $5.00 if you sign up for the players card and use the coupon. Otherwise, it's about $10 per person--still a steal. The weekday brunch is even cheaper! If you can't get a coupon through the players card, check out ebay. They usually have coupons for the Terrible's buffet on ebay. Again, it's not the greatest food in the world (DH ranks it a 6/10), but it is a great deal.
5. Earl of Sandwich
- Planet Hollywood casino, across from sportsbook. Great sandwiches for a cheap price.
6. Capriottis
-best sandwich shop in the world (very creative subs, limited selection though) and only a few in the country, with the most in Vegas. Find won't be disappointed.
7. In-n-out Burger
-Fresh fast food, and I hear it's the best burger ever (I don't eat burgers--I go for the fresh fries!) Closest ones to strip are on Industrial and Tropicana and Maryland Parkway near UNLV.
8. Downtown Casinos
This is what Vegas used to be all about--cheap buffets and dining options. Almost every hotel downtown offers a cheap special on food. It's the best place to get deals on food and drinks.
9. Commander's Palace (Planet Hollywood-CLOSED but theres talk it may reopen)
- Not necessarily "cheap," but a great deal for the price. Their "1880" fixed price lunch ($18.80) along with their $.25 martinis. That's right, you can get four martinis for $1 (limit 4).
10. Palms Steakhouse- business lunch
- Also not necessarily "cheap," but for $19.50 you get a multi course meal of high quality food!


1. Caeser’s Palace Forum Shops
-Perhaps the most famous shopping spot in Vegas. Lots of upscale shops and eateries. However, over time they have added some more reasonably priced stores and restaurants, like Gap, Victoria's Secret, Cheesecake Factory and Planet Hollywood. Check out the talking fountains.

2. Miracle Mile- Planet Hollywood
-Neat shopping area that's rather small. Lots of stores you can't find anywhere else in Vegas (Lucky, Aveda, Hilo Hatties). One neat site--it actually "rains" in the mall several times a day (perhaps every hour?). There's a little area outside of Lucky where people can stand and watch the rain. The theme is supposed to be "Miracly Mile" but it still resembles the "Desert Passage" with the Aladdin theme that existed before the recent changeover. Lots of restaurants and bars, many of which offer reduced price happy hours.

3. Fashion Show Mall (strip)
-By far the nicest mall in Vegas and one of the nicest malls I've seen in any city. It's a tri level mall with a layout that can be somewhat confusing. The stores range from the high end (Saks, Neiman) to the standard mall stores (Claire's Boutique, Charlotte Russe, Gap). Lots of restaurants and a food court. Located right on the strip, next to Treasure Island and across from the Wynn.

4. Las Vegas Premium Outlets (downtown LV)
-Lots of major outlet stores are located here, including Banana Republic, Ann Taylor, Coach and Polo/Ralph Lauren. There's also a few restaurants and a food court. Close to downtown Las Vegas, about 10 minutes from the strip. The layout is kinda confusing, but it's big enough to take groups or a family for at least half a day.

5. Mandalay Place
-Not a ton of shopping here, but still a neat place to check out. Many of the stores are one of a kind.

6. District at Green Valley Ranch
-Limited stores but a very fun, outdoor environment. Lots of bars/restaurants as well. About 30 minute drive from strip.

7. Town Square (south strip and I215)
-Located just south of the strip. This is perfect for families. Lots of restaurants, bars, shops, etc.


1. Mirage
2. Flamingo
3. Hard Rock
4. Mandalay Bay *
5. Caesars
6. Monte Carlo *
- This pool is neat and would be higher, but the building blocks the sun over the pool and the construction next door has become a real eye sore.
7. Palms
8. Luxor
9. JW Marriott
10. Treasure Island
11. Bellagio
12. MGM *
13. Tropicana

* Recommended for families/younger children


Best Hotels on Strip

* High Priced

1. Venetian/Palazzo
- Neat, split level rooms. Some of the nicest hotel rooms in Vegas for the price. Great shops, nice pool, vast array of restaurants, nice casino, one of the top sportsbook. Never been to Palazzo but noted bc it is affiliated with Venetian and has received rave reviews since it’s 1/08 opening.

2. Wynn
-I used to be down on the Wynn until I gave the hotel a second chance. Now I'm hooked. Make sure you request a strip view as that made all the difference in the world. The restaurants and bars are fantastic here. The service throughout the casino is even better. Even the bufet is fantastic. Overall, this is my favorite hotel in the city.

3. Bellagio
- Nice, upscale shops, great restaurants, beautiful casino. Nice pool. Fantastic Service.

3. TheHotel at Mandalay Bay
- See review of MB below. This is the more upscale section. If you've got $$ to spend, check out the suites. They are amazing.

4. Four Seasons
-Next door to Mandalay Bay. Gorgeous hotel, impeccable service, but very $$. If you want seclusion and luxury, this is your place. No casino, but it's connected to Mandalay. My favorite thing about Four Seasons is the pool. So relaxing and such wonderful service (love the passed fruit and cold cucumbers!)

5. Encore
-I have yet to stay here, but if it's anything like Wynn, it's the way to go.

* Mid Range

1. Mirage
- Perfect central location. Fantastic pool, great bars/lounges, decent rooms, seems to be drawing a younger crowd lately. Had a recent renovation and the rooms are much more hip than the previous rooms.

2. Caesars Palace
- Perfect central location. Still considered one of the more upscale hotels, but comes at a cheaper price than Venetian and Bellagio. Great shopping, great restaurants, nice pool. Ask for the newer tower.

3. Paris
- Perfect central location, fantastic restaurants.

4. Mandalay Bay
- Some will disagree on this one, but I love MB because it has the best restaurants and best nightlife of any hotel on the strip IMO. Rooms are nice, decent shopping, nice sportsbook, great casino, and one of the most popular pools in town (lots of kids though)

5. Planet Hollywood
- A new casino designed to be more hip than the former Aladdin, fantastic mall/shops, lots of restaurants, lots of bars/lounges. I’ve heard the new club is good but I’ve never been. Rooms are decent. For the price, it’s worth it. Check priceline—it’s a frequently discounted hotel.

6. Treasure Island
- Nothing special, other than a great location. Some decent restaurants and clubs. Pretty good casino. Overall a good choice, especially if you get a good rate.

* Cheaper

1. Bill’s Gambling Hall
- looks like a hole in the wall, but it’s actually a decent place to stay with a perfect location.

2. Bally’s
- Older than most hotels on strip, but perfect location

3. Harrahs
- This is a good deal and great location, but only if the price is right. The rooms are much smaller than most on the strip, in my experience. Check out the Carnaval Court—an outdoor bar with flare bartenders, a band, and a dance floor area connected to the hotel.

Runners up: MGM (nice, but not the most central location), NYNY (across from MGM, tons of kids), Luxor (too far south and nothing special, but decent pool).

* Best Hotels Downtown (about 2-3 miles from central strip, about $15 cab ride)

1. Golden Nugget
- This is a 4-5* hotel, touted as one of the nicest in Vegas. Not the best location if it’s your first time in Vegas or you want to be near the strip. If you want to stay downtown, it’s your best bet. Newly renovated, multi million dollar pool with shark tank and water slides. It’s amazing.

2. Main Street Station
- One of the only other downtown hotels I would recommend. Nice, clean and has some great restaurants. Like I mentioned for Golden Nugget, recognize that this is downtown, not on the strip.

* Best off-strip Hotels

1. Green Valley Ranch Resort and Spa
- About a 30 minute drive from the strip but perfect if you want a casino but want away from the hustle and bustle. One of my favorite shopping areas in Vegas/Henderson—an outdoor mall with shops and restaurants. Great restaurants, really nice casino, fun bars/lounges, nice spa. Shuttle to strip, but it’s rumored not to be very reliable. If you don’t rent a car and they won’t offer you an airport shuttle, it may not be worth it to stay here—taxi will be at least $30 each way.

2. Lake Las Vegas (MonteLago, Ritz, Loews)
- About an hour drive from central strip but again, perfect if you want casino but away from action. On Lake Las Vegas, but the only swimming that I'm aware of is at Loews. Beautiful location. Of the three, the Montelago is the best price and has the most to do. Lots of little outdoor shops, outdoor concerts on the water, wine tasting, etc.

3. Red Rock Resort
- About a 30 minute drive from the strip, close to Red Rock National Park. Awesome pool, great restaurants, fun bars/lounges/clubs. I hear they are adding on and the construction is LOUD, so if you are going in the near future, keep that in mind. Same with Green Valley Ranch—no car may be a problem.

4. Hard Rock Hotel and Casino
- Very young, hip crowd. Awesome pool, but can get absolutely crazy on Sundays during the summer when they hold their epic “Rehab” event. Fun bars/clubs. Decent rooms with actual balconies (rare in Vegas). Wide range of restaurants, from expensive to very reasonable/cheap. Not close enough to the strip to walk, and taking a taxi back and forth may cost you!

5. Palms
- Similar to the Hard Rock but bigger. More restaurants, but most are pretty pricey. Crappy buffet, so be forewarned. Nice rooms, really young and crazy crowd. Known for it’s clubs. Great pool. Like Hard Rock, they have a big pool party on Fridays (Ditch Fridays), so it can get pretty crazy.

6. Rio
- Nothing special. The first “all-suite” hotel in Vegas, so the rooms are pretty spacious. Great restaurants. Love the wine cellar. Otherwise, there isn’t much to see and do. It’s directly across from the Palms, so if you want the Palms nightlife for a cheaper price, stay at the Rio. Famous for their seafood buffet—pricey, but darn good.

7. JW Marriott-Summerlin
- Gorgeous rooms, gorgeous pool, not much other than that. Consistently one of the highest rated hotels in town, but there isn’t much to do other than spa and pool. Nearby shopping, located in one of the nicer Vegas communities.


Map of the Strip Hotels:

Gonna be here more than few nights or during the week? Check out a timeshare. You get the benefit of a larger room with a kitchen/dining area PLUS the cost is usually much cheaper than a hotel. You can book through or check out Some to look into: Polo Towers (on strip next to Aladdin, behind Harley Davidson Café), Signature at MGM Grand, Jockey Club (although building additional condo next door and I hear construction can be bothersome), Hilton Vacation Club (pretty far North on strip, past Venetian), Carriage House. I would personally steer clear of Cancun Resorts and Tahiti Village, only because they are too far South (down toward Southpointe Casino).

For restaurants, check out Sign up for their emails and you will get discount codes emailed to you regularly. Use the discount codes to purchase gift certificates to restaurants in Vegas. You can typically get 60% off coupons, allowing you to purchase $25 restaurants certificates for $4. Some restaurants to try: Café Babareeba, Blondies (Aladdin), Rosemary’s (see review below), Border Grill.