Vegas With a Toddler? Why not!
I know you're probably judging me but I will show you why you should rethink your thoughts on Vegas only being for adults.
Day 1 In Las Vegas
We landed in Vegas at 9:30AM with a full day ahead of us. Jordyn didn't sleep on the plane at all so I wasn't really sure how that would affect our day. We were heading straight to the Hoover Dam which is a 40min drive from the airport but with holiday traffic it took us about an hour. Of course she fell asleep 20mins before we got there.
Parking at the Hoover Dam is $10. If you just want access to the Visitor's Center without any tours it is also $10. The Power Plant tours lasts 30mins while the Hoover Dam tour takes 1hr. The Hoover Dam tour is only accessible for those over 8 and wheelchairs and crutches are not allowed, if either of these apply to your group you can only do the Power Plant Tour. Honestly we got most of the information from the short movie they show you before each tour so if you can't do the Dam tour you aren't missing too much.
All tours are free for kids 3 and under. The Power Plant tour is $15 and the Dam tour is $30. They have special discounts for seniors and military personnel and you can find more info here.
On the way back to Vegas to stopped at the Lake Mead Overlook- don't skip this! It's a short stop but quite a beautiful view of this man made lake.
By this time in the afternoon it was about 112 degrees so we rested a bit. Around 5PM we headed out to 7 Magic Mountains, a temporary art exhibition 10 miles south of Las Vegas. The 30-35 foot colorful boulders are quite a site to see in the middle of the desert. It will only be here until May 2018 so make your visit quickly!
Day 2 in Las Vegas
We spent our 2nd day exploring Red Rock Canyon a National Conservation area located about 13miles from the strip. They have a 17 mile scenic drive in addition to quite a few trails ranging in difficulty. Don't worry you can still see lots of its beauty from the several overlook stations if you're not up for a hike.
The park opens at 6AM and closes at 8PM during certain times of the year so be sure to check out their website to confirm the hours during your stay. The current cost is $7 per vehicle. The Visitor's Center is a great place for kids to explore and learn about the canyon and the wildlife that live there. It is only open from 8AM so if you are headed there earlier you will have to kill some time before it opens.
If you are really adventurous you can also camp overnight in the park. The amount of time you spend in the park really depends on how many trails you hike or overlooks you stop at and how long you spend at each one. We spent about 3hrs in the park.
There are restrooms at each overlook but they are basically an outhouse so be prepared to hold your breath or hold it until you get to the visitors center.
Day 3 in Las Vegas
We spent our 3rd and last full day in Vegas exploring the strip. Are there things for toddlers to do on the strip? Plenty, and best part, a lot of them are free!
We started the day at the Flamingo to visit their free wildlife habitat. It is a small outdoors habitat with various birds: parrots, pelicans, and flamingos. Nothing exciting for an adult but Jordyn was very excited to see the Flamingos. They open at 8AM and have two daily pelican feedings at 8:30AM and 2:00PM. We parked in their parking garage which is still free, (all MGM properties have begun to charge for parking unless you have a Nevada license). You can find out more info on the Wildlife Habitat here.
Next we drove down to the end of the strip near Circus Circus and had breakfast at the Peppermill, a neon-lit diner that has been on the strip since 1972. They have their own parking lot which is free for customers to park in. Both the food and service was great and they have high chairs :-). Check out their menu here.
It would of been smart to head right over to Circus Circus to check out the free circus they have every 30mins, starting at 11AM until midnight. However, it was 10:30AM when we finished eating and killing 30mins with a toddler is like killing 4hrs for an adult. So we went to the complete other end of the strip to Mandalay Bay to check out the Shark Reef Aquarium.
Mandalay Bay is apart of MGM properties and parking is no longer free unless you self park and stay less than 60mins. Nevada state license holders are granted free parking with ID until December 30, 2016. You can find out about parking fees at each hotel on the strip here.
Shark Reef Aquarium is small by adult standards but a great size for toddlers. They have a touch tank that Jordyn did not want to leave, two cool walk through aquariums where the fish are swimming on both sides of you as well as above you. Admission is free for kids 3 and under, 4-12 is $14, and adults are $20 for standard admission. If you have a Nevada license you receive a $3 discount per person. Find out about more admission options here.
After the Aquarium it was time for a nap. We waited until it cooled down to head back to the strip and drove to the Wynn (free valet) to check out their sick array of flower displays including a hot air balloon and carousel. It is so amazing what they did with flowers and Jordyn was so excited, jumping up and down when she saw them.
We left Wynn and drove down to the Bellagio (no more free parking) so we could go to their Conservatory and Botanical Garden. When I tell you the level of excitement on Jordyn's face and her screeching when she saw this place was so unbelievable and made me so happy. It is by the main lobby and people of all ages were snapping pictures and taking in the amazing flower work.
After the botanical gardens we walked to the front of the hotel to take some pictures with the Eiffel tower in the background and watched the fountain show. Then we got some gelato and walked to the other side of the fountain to watch another show- they are each different as the water moves to a different song. The shows are from 3PM-midnight, every 30mins from 3-8PM and every 15mins from 8PM-midnight. It was nearly 9PM so we headed back but Jordyn had a great time.
Here are some other toddler friendly activities both on and off the strip that we did not get a chance to do:
The Adventuredome at Circus Circus
Siegfried + Roy's Secret Garden + Dolphin Exhibit at The Mirage
Discovery Children's Museum
Springs Preserve Las Vegas
If you are staying at a hotel on the strip The Monte Carlo and MGM pools have lazy rivers and the Flamingo has a few water slides.
I hope I have convinced you that Las Vegas can definitely be a family vacation, we had an amazing time and I loved the quality time spent with Jordyn. Can't wait until our next mother and daughter trip and I can't wait until Kennedy is old enough to enjoy these activities.
So I booked a 7:30AM flight for a solo mother/daughter trip with my two year old. She wakes up at 6AM regularly and we've done earlier so this should be no problem right? Well I set my alarm for 5AM and she woke up at the same time no problem. With a 5hr flight skipping breakfast was not an option so I made us oatmeal. Mistake #1- I should of definitely made something that doesn't take as long to cook nor require as much cool down time without burning my poor child's' tongue off. I couldn't get her dressed before eating because she refuses to accept help and half her food usually ends up on her clothes.
Even though it was just the two of us going on this trip I still had to pump since my 4 month old was sleeping and my husband would have to give her a bottle. This was more so for comfort since I didn't want to have to risk having to pump on the plane as I had more than enough milk in the freezer. Mistake #2- I should of just pumped in the car with my Evenflo single electric pump, which can be operated with batteries, it's great for road travel. This would of saved me at least 15mins.
Thank God my 4 month old did not fight the car seat this morning. There have been many times where we have to pull over once or more because she is crying bloody murder. Sometimes she just wants to be rocked to sleep, other times she needs to burp, and sometimes she is just hungry. All I know is this morning we would not have had time for either of those. In hind-sight we were extremely lucky and maybe next time it would have been better for us to take a cab to the airport since I was already traveling with the car seat.
Mistake #3- I meant to put the stroller in the trunk from the night before but of course I didn't! We had to turn around to get it, luckily we were just down the street. By this time it was 6:15 and it would take 30mins to get to the airport. I checked us in online so all I would have to do when we got to the airport is drop the car seat off.
We got to the airport at 6:40AM and the line wasn't too long but I didn't get to the drop off counter until 6:47AM. They close checked baggage 45mins prior to the flight departure so even though I had checked in online she said I could not check the car seat. She tried to get a supervisor to help but there was nothing they could do and I was running out of time. Ok, no problem just a little hiccup, I will check it at the gate. She tried to tell me I wouldn't be able to check it at the gate because the car seat was too big and that I would have to fly stand by on the next flight. Negative, not happening! I have seen way too many people with an oversized carry on allowed to check their bag at the gate for free and that is exactly what I was going to do.
At this point it was 7AM and our flight was boarding. This may seem daunting but we stayed calm and sailed through security, you can learn how to do that here.
When we got to the gate, the gate agent was so nice and checked both our suitcase and car seat for us so I wouldn't have to pull the suitcase when we landed in Vegas. I am so glad I listened to my gut in knowing that I could check the car seat at the gate and did not listen to the ticket counter agent.
Don't make the mistakes I made today and you will have a much easier time as you won't be rushing. It was a struggle carrying our suitcase, car seat, stroller, and my back pack through security but my baby girl was a trooper and walked the entire way to the gate. I was so proud of her! If you're thinking why didn't I just push her in the stroller it's because it would of been impossible for me to push her and pull both the suitcase and car seat.
We are 2.5hrs into our flight and she is on her best behavior. Learn how to survive a flight with an infant/toddler here.