Twenty reasons to visit Las Vegas (with kids)

1. DOLPHINS AT THE MIRAGE

When it comes to collecting one-of-a-kind American artworks, forget Pollock or Basquiat and put your money on the bottlenose lovelies at Siegfried & Roy's Secret Garden & Dolphin Habitat at The Mirage (miragehabitat.com). Book your little ones (eight and over) into the Painting with Dolphins experience and they'll get to hold the canvas while Flipper gets to work, and they'll receive the artwork plus a certificate and photo of their experience. At $US199 ($246), it's a little pricey but then so is Pollock. 

2. INDOOR SKYDIVING

Adrenalin junkies young and old will love Vegas Indoor Skydiving (vegasindoorskydiving.com), an experience which simulates the exhilarating freefall aspect of skydiving but with the welcome addition of a mesh trampoline floor and foam padded walls. Although there is no age limit, kids must weigh a minimum of 18 kilograms and be able to understand the brief training session conducted before they suit up and fly the vertical wind tunnel.

3. CRIME SCENE INVESTIGATION 

Budding detectives will enjoy the opportunity to play the role of crime scene investigator at CSI: The Experience at MGM Grand (mgmgrand.com), an interactive challenge based on the hit TV show. For a little under $30, your child has the option to investigate one of three murders and will be guided along by videos featuring CSI cast members and real-life forensic scientists, plus a couple of state-of-the-art forensic crime labs. Recommended for kids 12+. 

4. FREMONT STREET EXPERIENCE

Post-sunset activities for kids in Vegas are few and far between but the Fremont Street Experience, a $17 million dollar downtown light and animation display has to be seen to be believed. The lights, animation and synchronised music work together to project seven shows a night on an overhead canopy measuring the length of five football fields. Elsewhere on the pedestrian mall, there are street performers (good and bad), ziplines and countless street food stalls and trucks. 

5.  GONDOLA RIDE

Take the kids to Italy without leaving the neon confines of the strip by treating them to a gondola ride at The Venetian (venetian.com). $US18.95 ($23.50) a  person will buy you a 15-minute indoor or outdoor ride (the indoor ride with its eerie sky-painted ceiling is infinitely more interesting), then it's a simple matter of sitting back in your golden gondola and taking a breather as you sail under the bridges and past the boutiques and cafes of "The Grand Canal".  

6. EMBRACE CHOCOLATE

Got a sweet tooth? Use the kids as an excuse and run, don't walk to M&M's World, a four-storey wonderland offering everything from personalised M&Ms to a slew of brand products including a movie theatre showing – you guessed it – interactive M&M movies. Not to be outdone, a two-storey Hershey's Chocolate World "retail experience" is open at New York-New York Hotel, while a short drive away, chocolate fans can take a self-guided tour of the Ethel M Chocolate Factory. 

7. PLAY PINBALL

Yes, it's a venue with wall-to-wall machines (it is Vegas after all), but this 3000-square-metre  venue is actually dedicated to the old-school, non-violent pinball games of our youth. The Pinball Hall of Fame (pinballmuseum.org) has 141 pinball machines from the 1950s to the '90s, all lovingly restored and ready to play. Older machines are set to 25 cents a play, while the more recent models will set you back 50 cents. 

8. CONTAIN YOURSELF

There are shopping malls and then there are shopping malls.  Downtown Container Park, a sustainable shopping attraction featuring boutiques, restaurants, bars and galleries housed in a mix of shipping containers and modular cubes is great for adults – but at the heart of it lies The Treehouse, a kids' hub featuring a 10-metre tall slide, NEOS play system and wet zone.

9. HIGH ROLLERS

Eclipsing the London Eye as the world's tallest wheel, the High Roller, which opened in March, rotates at an eye-watering 167 metres. The price varies according to the time of day you want to grace the heavens, starting from $US25 ($31)  for earlybirds. It's important to note the ride alone takes 30 minutes, so it's a good idea to factor in a quick bathroom stop before joining the queue. 

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10. MAKE KISSTORY

Warning: telling your kids you're taking them to KISS Mini Golf will make you feel old immediately ("who's KISS mum?) but regardless of whether they have an opinion on the ageing rockers or not, they will love this 18-hole mini golf complex, complete with neon-paved putts, fog machines and the obligatory Gene Simmons tongue hole-in-one. The venue also features arcade games for the kids, and a bar and wedding chapel for the 'rents. See monsterminigolf.com

11. DISCOVERY CHILDREN'S MUSEUM 

Put on your walking shoes and head  to the Discovery Children's Museum (discoverykidslv.org), a mammoth three-storey, 17,000-square-metre building housing more than 100 hands-on exhibits across the arts, humanities and sciences. Suitable for children off all ages, the museum features nine themed exhibition halls such as Water World, Toddler Town, and The Summit (a 13-level tower that puts regular playground climbing frames to shame). 

12. INDOOR AMUSEMENT PARK

Where else but Vegas could you find a large indoor theme park encased  beneath a pink 2.2-hectare glass dome? Adventuredome (adventuredome.com), is part of Circus Circus Hotel & Casino located right on the strip, and offers 25 rides and attractions including thrill rides, rock-climbing wall, lasertag, an arcade, and the newly opened El Loco Rollercoaster. All-day ride passes are available for $US29.95 ($37.23) for a regular pass and $US16.95 ($21) for a junior.

13. TAKE A HIKE

When you're bathing under the neon lights of the Strip, it can be easy to forget that some of America's most stunning nature reserves are right on your doorstep. Red Rock Canyon, with its towering red cliffs, is just 30 kilometres away and abundant with wildlife, nature trails and kid-friendly activities such as horse-riding. The Grand Canyon is a committed multi-day trip clocking in at 4.5 hours one way but the drive also takes you over spectacular Hoover Dam so well worth it. 

14. NEW YORK-NEW YORK

Geography is not going to be your child's strong suit this year because a trip to Las Vegas calls for a trip to New York. Within Vegas. The New-York  New-York Hotel & Casino (newyorknewyork.com) is built to resemble the New York City skyline complete with a faux Empire State Building, Chrysler Building and 150 foot-tall replica of the Statue of Liberty. What the kids will love however, is the heart-stopping Big Apple Roller Coaster which twists and dives around the resort. 

15. GET JUMPING

'I love it when my kids are bouncing off walls' said no mother ever, but at Sky Zone Trampoline Park (skyzone.com), that's exactly what they'll be encouraged to do. This fun indoor park is kitted out with wall-to-ceiling trampoline courts and offers open jump, a Foam Zone, SkySlam basketball court and occasionally, 3D Dodgeball and best of all, they welcome every age. Prices vary according to the length of  jump sessions. 

16. SHARK TALE

There's only one way to meet a shark and that's when its safely behind reinforced glass; something you'll be thankful for when you're walking through Mandalay Bay's terrific Shark Reef (sharkreef.com). There are 14 exhibits featuring 15 species  some of who are more than eager to say hello as you walk through the aquarium designed to replicate an ancient temple ruin and sunken galleon shipwreck. Children under five enter free.

17. CATCH A SHOW

Vegas is renowned for its entertainment program and while a lot of it is adult, there are many options for young families to enjoy together. Gregory Popovich's Comedy Pet Theatre, with its performing dogs and cats is hugely popular, as is magician David Copperfield's show at MGM Grand (mgmgrand.com), but Vegas isn't Vegas without taking in a child-friendly Cirque du Soleil show such as Mystère or Ka.

18. WET N' WILD LAS VEGAS

Having trouble getting into Wet n' Wild Sydney? You might be better off trying your luck at the Vegas park instead. Admittedly, it's nowhere near as large as many other American water parks, and it's sorely lacking in rides and spaces for toddlers, but admission is only $US39.99 ($49.50) for adults and $US29.99 ($37.10) for kids under 42 inches) and it still offers 25 fun ways to cool down on a hot day. Seet wetnwildlasvegas.com

19. WAX ON

We've all entertained thoughts of visiting Hollywood's golden boy Bradley Cooper inside a hotel room, and with the help of Madame Tussauds (madametussauds.com) new interactive experiences attraction exclusive to Las Vegas, you can do exactly that. The addition of a new 4D theatre ushers guests into celebrity encounters, including an interaction with Cooper in the infamous hotel room from The Hangover. Oh the kids? There's Katy Perry and Rihanna too.   

20. TOURNAMENT OF KINGS

Dancing, fireworks, eating with fingers – sounds like a regular night around the family table, but dinner at the Excalibur Hotel & Casino's Tournament of Kings dinner show is anything but. For $US59 ($73) a  person (children under three free), you'll find yourself transported back to medieval times, feasting on a three-course dinner and cheering on knights jousting on horses under a shower of pyrotechnics and strobe lights. See excalibur.com

The writer travelled at her own expense.

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