In this guest post from Helene Vece, we tour the desert landscape close to Las Vegas with the family, for camping, hiking and natural rock formations as well as some family friendly shows in the city itself.
It has been a year since I moved outside of Las Vegas to the sleepy town of Boulder City, Nevada. When I heard that my family, little ones included, was set to arrive in Vegas for a week, I thought I was more than qualified to play tour guide. I lived in Las Vegas for thirty years and thought I knew everything the city had to offer and more. One week later and my adventure took me to the best-unknown spots that Sin City could offer. I was more amazed than my guests because I had lived there. Las Vegas has this mystique about it. It is a city of legendary tales and also legends that headline! After my week in Las Vegas, I had discovered more about the city from a traveler’s perspective than I did living there. Most notable? That Las Vegas is extremely kid-friendly.
Scenic beauty at Red Rock
The family wanted an affordable and unpopular activity. They didn’t want to be crammed into a smoky casino with tons of other tourists, so we piled into two cars and headed west! Only a half hour away from Las Vegas is a beautiful natural display of amber colored mountains. The road to Red Rock is mostly desert. There are enough people on the road, so don’t expect to feel completely isolated. I had only been to Red Rock once and that was years ago. Now, Red Rock had its own visitor’s center and a drive through route for people who don’t like to hike or have mobility challenges. The route is a total of thirteen miles and well worth the cost – yes, you are charged a small fee per car. The sites are amazing and so are the photo opps. You can pull the car over to the side of the road and take photos with the family and/or with the scenery! The only misgiving of this adventure was the gift shop. Everyone was trying to get into the restroom at once so I advise packing a little patience on this short road trip.
Relaxing in the desert
Our family spent the next couple of days touring Las Vegas’ amazing desert landscape. We stopped at Spring Mountain Ranch State Park. Howard Hughes once owned this 520 acre ranch, which is now opened to the public. We spent the afternoon having a picnic and enjoying the trees, which are over 400 years old! The older children in our group took themselves on a self-guided tour of the ranch house’s interior. There were also plenty of volunteers around to help us figure out what trees and bushes were from what lineage. The ranch is a great way for the family to spend an afternoon without spending a lot of money. The best part is that it is only fifteen miles outside of Las Vegas. Bring a light jacket since the ranch is higher in elevation which made it about ten degrees colder when we arrived at the picnic area.
Native American history
One of the last natural Las Vegas adventures we took was to the Valley of Fire. We spent a night camping here. You are missing out on all Las Vegas has to offer if you don’t stop here. The Valley of Fire boasts 3,000 year-old Indian petroglyphs and it is only 36 dollars to camp per family! Yes, pets are allowed. The Valley of Fire was only an hour drive outside of Vegas. It is exactly 55 miles northeast of Las Vegas via Interstate 15. I am not the world’s greatest camper, but I was excited to see shaded tables, grills, water, and restrooms were readily available. There are numerous natural rock formations at the Valley of Fire. The kids all loved the different stories behind each formation. We picked up a few brochures to guide us from the visitor’s center. I would say the kids loved the White Domes the best. These formations were only a five minute drive from the visitor’s center. We walked, so it took a little longer. I would have to say if you could only chose between Red Rock, Spring Mountain Ranch or the Valley of Fire adventure, go with Valley of Fire. It is so breathtaking! All the kids had a wonderful time – as did the adults!
Classic Las Vegas showmanship
When we did head back to Las Vegas, our group decided to see the Penn and Teller show at The Rio. I was told this would be a great show for little kids. Of course, a ticket salesperson sold me this line. I would say use your own discretion. The show is fantastic. But there are lots of loud noises and the magic duo shoot a prop gun at the end which can be scary. If your children are sensitive and under age eight, I would hold off. The best part of this show (besides the locals discount) was the meet and greet at the end. Penn and Teller patiently stand outside the theatre and sign tickets or take photos with everyone who was at the show. This is a really nice thing for them to do considering another Vegas show charges a hundred dollars per person for the exact same experience!
My Vegas family adventure went on for several more days. I learned about artwork and gluten-free restaurants that I didn’t know existed. I discovered that Las Vegas has many more kid-friendly concessions than I originally thought or knew about, and I found that being a tourist in Sin City (or on the outskirts) is a wonderful thing that can be experienced with family or when visiting solo!
Many thanks for this article to Helene Vece who regularly writes for Vegaskids.info. She has lived in Las Vegas for 35 years, raised her kids in Las Vegas and for the last few years has been taking her grandchildren on daytrips or weekend trips to Las Vegas.
Photo credits: All photos belong to Vegaskids.info
Other family friendly experiences
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