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