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What Happens in Vegas... Your Kids Shouldn't See

John Deiner

Even for me, two visits to Las Vegas in five weeks was a bit much. But there I was for various reasons, in late July and early September. And a question that's been in the back of my mind for ages finally burst forth: Why do parents bring kids to Las Vegas?


My own personal hypothesis -- selfishness -- probably won't sit well with the moms and dads who drag Biff and Tiffany to the Strip. But seeing how the city has changed in the past few years just reinforces my opinion.

First, some figures: According to the statistics on the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Association Web site, about 10 percent of those visiting the city in 2006 had persons under age 21 in their party. The average stay of visitors among all stays was 4.6 days.

There's no doubt the city is changing. It went through a weird phase a while back where families were encouraged to visit; the MGM Grand, for instance, opened with a giant amusement park attached to it, and just about every resort had some family-friendly attraction. MGM's park closed a long time ago, though there are plenty of money-suckers scattered about town for kids to enjoy (a SpongeBob attraction at Luxor, the sharks at Mandalay Bay, the Wet n Wild waterpark, roller coasters at New York New York and the Sahara, the theme park at Circus Circus, etc.). But you can go to lots of other places in the States for these sorts of things, and parents have to do a lot of casino-hopping to get to them.

I'm not saying that kids shouldn't see Vegas -- it's a cool place, in moderation. Swing through for a day, look at the lights, the Bellagio fountains, the volcano, maybe the Secret Garden & Dolphin Habitat at Mirage. (But not the pirate show at TI, which turned skanky a few years back.) Shop a little; there are tons of choices. Then head to Hoover Dam on your way out of town.

In recent years, the town has been putting more of the emphasis on the "Sin" in Sin City, and I'm always alarmed to see kids exposed to so much of it. There's porn littering the streets, and public drunkenness (fun if you're the drunk) is everywhere. Last week outside the Pussycat Dolls Lounge at Caesars, scantily clad dancers were wrapped around poles elevated above a circle of gaming tables in the casino. While the dudes at the tables drooled, parents pushing strollers and clutching children were navigating the skeezily dressed crowd. I should note that it was after 1 a.m.

Even most pools are adult-oriented (Mandalay Bay's is particularly kid-friendly, but it's often so crowded and loud it's a waste of time even visiting) and generally close fairly early. Drinking is de rigueur, and many resorts are introducing private European pools (that is, topless). At the Flamingo pool last week (which includes a great, fairly secluded area with a slide area that kids were enjoying), patrons were screaming at little ones every time they ventured into the bigger swimming area and started splashing about. And many folks were clutching cocktails -- more so after 4 p.m., when a three-hour happy hour commenced and the music was cranked up.

But the saddest sights were the bored kids sitting around waiting for their parents to come out of the casinos. Or the dad who had to be told twice last week that he couldn't park his baby's stroller next to the slot machine he was playing. Or the preschoolers clinging to tired shoulders at 3 in the morning while their parents were returning to their room at TheHotel.

So what gives? Why do people take kids to an adult playground that's becoming more adult by the moment? Am I missing something? Is it a more wholesome family experience than I realize?

By John Deiner |  September 6, 2007; 2:28 PM ET  | Category:  Family Travel , John Deiner , Rants
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I was at Caesars three weeks ago and those ladies were on their poles at 9:00pm. And there were plenty of families around.

What ever happened to discretion?

Posted by: stevo | September 7, 2007 12:41 PM

I bet some people still remember that random interval of family-friendliness and don't realize that advertising message is over. It really was a pretty confusing message to put out there, and I know it stuck in my head.

Posted by: h3 | September 7, 2007 3:36 PM

Some parents just dont care. They have no one else to take care of the kids so they drag them to Vegas and the casinos. Kids are bored and acting up. If the Koreans and Chinese drag their kids from thier home countries to Vegas to gamble. Its Vegas the dancers outside the Pussycat Lounge werent topless or nude so if dont like it go to Salt Lake City. What worse is seeing some heifer at one of these Euro style sunbathing pools topless! Yech no self respect. Hey were are your calfs honey! Moo!

Posted by: Anonymous | September 8, 2007 6:40 AM

Why do families with kids dictate how everything should be? Can't we have some things that DO NOT cater heavily to families and children? Why is this so appalling to most people? Not everybody has or even likes kids! Nobody sips cocktails on the playground - why would you bring your kids to a casino after bedtime?

Posted by: Families last | September 10, 2007 8:48 AM

Families last, did you even read the blog? That's his whole point - he's not saying Vegas needs to become kid-friendly, he's saying people shouldn't bring their kids there.

Posted by: Joe | September 10, 2007 10:29 AM

We took our daughters, then 13 and 10, to Las Vegas in December 2000. I needed to be there for a week-long conference with my wife and kids joining me for the first three days. This was, I believe, a more family-friendly Vegas and we hit the rides and attractions at all of the hotels: Excalibur, New York New York, Bellagio, Treasure Island, and Venitian. We also took a day trip to Hoover Dam and Red Rock Canyon.

The response was that they enjoyed Vegas more than Disney and we were fortunate to have an older teenager available to watch them in the evening so that we could go out with another couple to a show or the casinos. They enjoyed ordering room service and playing games with kids their own age.

A recent trip, however, convinces me that that was a LONG time ago and I would never attempt the same trip today since even my wife would have a hard time with what goes on there.

Posted by: Lester Burnham | September 10, 2007 3:34 PM

FYI, the Wet 'N Wild was torn down 3 years ago and the site is slated to be turned into a mega hotel/casino over 1600 feet tall, if the plan comes together. But yeah, families and Vegas are a very very bad mix.

Posted by: EricS | September 10, 2007 3:48 PM

Hey, Eric. Thanks for the update -- that's good to know. And now there are even fewer reasons to take your kids to Las Vegas.

Posted by: John Deiner | September 10, 2007 3:52 PM

I think parents take their kids to Vegas because they just don't know how skanky it is - "What Happens in Vegas, Stays in Vegas" is by definition not a tell-all. If you've never been there, you might not realize that even the advertisements on the taxis amount to soft-core porn. Also, it's relatively cheap to get to and there are often package deals available. Some people also likely see Vegas the way my extended family does: neutral ground midway between several homes, with activities suited to most of the family. (The sick part is, my family lives in fun places! We could rotate the holiday festivities, but no...)

But parents who take their kids back for a second time are probably the same people who take their kids to R-rated movies.

Posted by: BxNY | September 10, 2007 3:52 PM

The idiots who tried to turn Vegas into a family destination (when was that? 7 or 8 years ago?) should be drawn and quartered. My sister and her young family spent a week there during that brief period, and she continues to tell people what a great time they had, and how family-friendly it all was. She thinks I'm crazy when I try to tell her it's not the same Vegas she went to back then. But boy, am I ever forwarding a link to this blog to her today!!!

Posted by: What were they thinking? | September 11, 2007 12:35 PM

How timely -- i just got back from vegas and was amazed at how many families were there. The most depressing, anger-inducing sight were the parents pushing/carrying/dragging their toddlers around at 1:00am -- just so wrong.

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