If you are taking the family to Las Vegas this winter, here are a few things you need to know.
Once a tiny spec on the Old Spanish Trail, it became a railway stop when irrigation started up at the beginning of the 20thcentury. Las Vegas (Spanish for ‘the meadows’) was initially all about moving goods between the East Coast and out to the West. In this role, the town prospered until nearly 1920 but fell on hard times even before the stock market crash of 1929. The Hoover Dam project, which began in 1931, started a veritable flood of mainly male workers to Vegas who took up the ensuing jobs. It wasn’t long before theatres and casinos appeared to provide the large-scale entertainment required for this audience. Incidentally, this is the same year that the state legislature of Nevada legalised gambling. It wasn’t long before Chicago Gangsters saw an opportunity to make a profit and moved into town.
But gone are the days when the mob, including the famous Bugsy Siegel, ruled the hotels and casinos of Las Vegas. The FBI and local law enforcement, among others, put an end to the rule of mobsters in the 1980s and, now, Las Vegas is more family oriented than you might have ever imagined.
Speaking of the mob, the National Museum of Organised Crime and Law Enforcement on 300 Stewart Avenue, is a great place to find out about the actual events of mob history through interactive exhibits and artefacts. Truly worth a visit. More mature children find it fascinating, too.
Before I go further, I should explain that for those who grew up in Orange County in days of yore, including myself, Vegas was as normal a place to go for a family break as Centre Parcs here in England. It was nearby, it was inexpensive, the weather was great and you could take advantage of the fantastic swimming pools all year round.
I stayed recently at the Excalibur Hotel and the children in our party absolutely loved it. The theme, as you might have guessed, is Knights of the Round Table with Maid Marion type damsels in attendance. The Tournament of Kings Dinner Show is great entertainment for the under 12s with jousting, invading armies, fireworks and much more to entertain them during the meal. While the medieval fantasy engages the kids indoors, the enormous pool outdoors offers enjoyment for hours. Yes, even in January, day time temperatures can reach 17C though, be warned, in the desert it can be quite chilly at night. *
There are some truly incredible attractions for families these days. The Shark Reef Aquarium allows children to walk through a glass tunnel and get up close with sharks, giant sting rays (Southern Rays), green sea turtles, piranhas and golden crocodiles. There are more than 2,000 unusual aquatic animals housed in the aquarium. There is even a petting tank with pre-historic looking horseshoe crabs and baby stingrays for the kids. Another fishy attraction is the Atlantis Aquarium at Caesar’s Palace at the Great Roman Hall. This 50,000-gallon aquarium is intriguing for the young as it is full to the brim with exotic and colourful species of tropical fish. Children can watch also watch daily dives from 1:15 pm to 5:15 pm.
The most likely favourite for kids will be the Adventuredome at Circus Circus. America’s largest indoor theme park has a mind-boggling variety of rides and a massive arcade to keep children happy for many hours. Also, in Circus Circus, are the Midway Acts – circus jugglers, contortionists, balancing acts and more – are all free and take place every half hour until midnight on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
I personally love roller coasters and the Big Apple Coaster at New York-New York Hotel and Casino is really a blast. After raising the adrenaline all around, it is great to race in the latest, sophisticated go-carts at the Las Vegas Mini Gran Prix. 1401 N. Rainbow Boulevard.
The Boneyard, aka the Neon Museum, is something that the whole family will enjoy. The art of Las Vegas, and much of its history, is expressed through Neon signs and there are over 2 acres of the old and discarded signs here to enjoy.
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