And yet, it was completely awesome.
These are the things we did, but there were many things we ended up missing, even being there a week. We could easily have been there another week and not run out. That city is jam-packed with fabulousness.
***WHERE TO STAY***
Everything I read pointed us to Circus Circus or Excalibur for family-friendliness, but once my boys saw the castle pictures of Excalibur, the vote was cast in stone. We saw oodles of kids there.
I'd heard Excalibur was a bit run-down, so I made sure to reserve the newly renovated Widescreen Tower Rooms. Our rooms were nice, seemed clean, and a good price.
The location was excellent. Right on the strip, and close to MGM (lion habitat in the lobby), Luxor (looks like a pyramid), and Mandalay Bay (Shark Reef Aquarium in resort, $16.95/adults).
Excalibur had a kiddie arcade in the basement, which the kids loved. We did the Polar Express 4-D theater ride (in the arcade) on Christmas Day, where the seats move and it blows real snow at you. $15/ticket. I'm not a huge fan of kiddie-arcades (high cost to win crappy stuffed animals you could buy cheaper at the dollar store), but I reserved my minimalist/frugal judgments and let the kids have fun there. :) They really *did* have a blast.
For full analysis value: There was a "Dick's Last Resort" bar in Excalibur that could be awkward if your children really process a lot of sexual innuendo and you have issue with that. All the awkward things went over my children's head, even things Jack could read. It's completely possible to stay at Excalibur and bypass Dick's, though. The place is gigantic!
If we do it again with kids, we might try staying at Treasure Island (other end of the strip, and pirate themed). If I go back with just Steve, I really liked Venetian (we went to Venice on our honeymoon, so it'd be appropriate) and MGM had great restaurants for dates.
Note also: I've read good things about the Station group casinos (Sunset Station, Red Rock Resort, and Green Valley Ranch) as having childcare, movie theaters, and great pool facilities and arcades.
***WHERE TO EAT***
My kids adored the all-you-can-eat buffet at Excalibur, and we got the all-day passes for $24.95 on 3 days out of the week. Kids under 4 eat free. Not a bad deal, especially considering how much my children gorged out on food. :)
We ate at Rainforest Cafe in MGM, which we all love. If you haven't been to a Rainforest Cafe, definitely check one out. They keep the kids occupied with all the jungle theme decorations, and the food is excellent.
We meant to eat at the Elephant Bar and ran out of time, but it's something else to keep in mind. I also wish we'd gone to Planet Hollywood, since my boys love movies and would recognize a lot of the artifacts.
***WHAT TO DO***
We bought tickets for Tournament of Kings, which is part dinner, part show. Medieval knights on real horses battled a "dark knight." Impressive effects, and Simone was pleased they had groups of dancing princesses to break up all that sword-play. I definitely recommend this if your children are into knights and medieval play. We all loved it.
Other shows that are supposed to be good for families:
Blue Man Group (in hindsight, we should have gone), Mystere from Cirque de Soleil, and magic shows like Nathan Burton or Mac King.
- MGM Lion Habitat (free). We got to see a 12 week old baby cub. Adorable!
- Mandalay Bay: Aquarium in the lobby is free, but the Shark Reef Aquarium exhibit is not ($16.95/adult)
- Mirage: Until 3:30pm, you can see the dolphins and tigers at the Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat. From 6 until 11pm (on the hour), you can see the volcano erupt outside of the hotel. Both are free.
- Live flamingos at The Flamingo
- Pirate ships and free pirate show at Treasure Island
- For $16/person, you can do gondola rides at The Venetian. Children under 2 are free.
***Things I hoped to see but we ran out of time***
Madame Tussaud's Interactive Wax Museum at the Venetian
Lied Children's Museum
Ethel M Chocolate Factory