Tuesday, December 28, 2010

USA: Playing Las Vegas with a Child

As we get ready to start our trip around the world, we speak about the destinations we would like to visit: Chiang Mai, Angkor Wat, Penang. Ricky wants to go to Las Vegas. Ricky is very fond of Las Vegas. I know it’s a curious predilection coming from a boy of five. Blame us: we are an easy target, as parents often are.

You may be prejudiced against Las Vegas. You may think it plastic, showy, ugly, greedy, in bad taste, without principles. And it can be all those things, for sure, but not just those things. It has a bad reputation and it does not care. It is full of life. It is real, multifaceted.

Let go of expectations. Go with it. Las Vegas will treat you well.

Cities are like people: New York is charismatic, beautiful, intellectual, snotty. Los Angeles is sunny, pretty, complicated, scattered. San Francisco is the stunning popular kid who would have nothing to do with you in high school (but you can’t help loving). Las Vegas is not a natural beauty and it does not have a scholarly brain, but it’s charming, smart, fun, unpretentious. And it does not give a damn what you think of it. That kind of confidence is attractive.

Ricky has been to Las Vegas at least twenty times, possibly more. We used to go to Las Vegas for work a few times a year, and Ricky came with us, starting when he was two months old. He’s stayed in many hotels: the Tuscany Suites, the Wyndham, MGM, the Signature, Planet Hollywood, The Palms, The Four Seasons, the SkyLofts. Having been there so many times, we know the strip and we know areas where locals hang out. It’s a full city, not part of the Truman Show.

The reason Ricky likes Las Vegas are the same reasons you or I may give for liking it. I don’t gamble and I like Las Vegas (Bryan likes to play a little poker, but I can’t stand losing money). The rooms are ample. The lights are fun. There are many excellent restaurants. There is a lot to look at: fountains that dance, the Eiffel tower, more than one aquarium, lions napping, a Beatles show. You can find incredible food in Las Vegas: great authentic Thai, superb Japanese, an Italian place serving some of the best gnocci I’ve ever had. You can watch bonbons being made at a chocolate factory, and afterward eat some samples and walk around a cactus garden. You can see several Cirque de Soleil shows, all impressive. You can swim at the many pools. You can have an incredible massage. You can just find a place to sit and watch the people go by. Also, you can drive to great nature nearby.

And, on top of the list for Ricky: the play area. At several hotels in Las Vegas, there’s a day care center called Kids Quest where you can drop kids off for up to five hours in a 24-hour period. Ricky, when he was smaller, called it “the school.” He’s been to two different ones: the smaller one at the Palms hotel and casino, and the larger, newer facility at the Red Rock. He likes both a lot. Both locations have plenty of staff members to care for both bigger kids and babies. If you want, children can get a meal or a snack while they play there. Bryan and I have dropped Ricky off there and gotten a meal nearby more than once: at the Palms, we like to have dinner at the Little Buddha, a very good pan-Asian restaurant. At the Red Rock, we’ve loved Hachi, for sushi. If you are going to use Kids Quest service, don’t forget to bring a current vaccination record of your child with you the first time you go, as well as a pair of socks. Kids Quest charges between $7.25 and $8.50 per hour, depending on the age of the child and the day of the week.

The List:

For authentic Thai, a small unassuming place in an enormous strip mall complex, with a great, cheap lunch buffet:
Lotus of Siam
7425 South Durango Drive
Las Vegas, NV 89148

Red Rock Casino Spa Resort
11011 W. Charleston
Las Vegas, NV 89135

For great, fine dining Italian, including amazing gnocci:
MGM Grand Hotel & Casino
3799 Las Vegas Boulevard South
Las Vegas, Nevada 89109

Little Buddha
Palms Casino Resort
4321 W Flamingo Rd
Las Vegas, NV 89103

Ethel M Chocolate Factory and Botanical Cactus Gardens
2 Cactus Drive
Henderson, NV 89014

Kids Quest
The Palms Casino resort
Red Rock casino spa resort and other locations

I would give you the number of one the best massage therapists in the world, Jennifer Korsten, but she no longer lives in Las Vegas. She moved to Flagstaff, Arizona, so if you’re there, send me a message and I’ll give you her info.


  1. What a great blog although I think NY is great for kids and not snotty - okay how about "stand-offish until we get to know you"? Then again, I'm biased. Love your suggestions for Vegas (especially since we're heading there in the summer). What do you think of the Mandalay as a hotel? (heard it's got a great fake beach) And since our kids are bigger (plus we need to knock off more of those pesky 500s) what are the roller coaster rides like?

  2. I love NY! :) The Mandalay is a great hotel, with some of the best pools (and a beach). My favorite hotel in the same price range as Mandalay is the Signature. Although the pool is small, you can use the MGM pools, which are vast and fun (although not as nice as the Mandalay pools). I have never been to the roller coaster rides!