Good Old Fashioned Christmas Family Vacation

In keeping with timely posts, I'm just getting around to this two three months late.

I mentioned in my last post we didn't really do gifts as a family this Christmas. Rather, we opted to go on a vacation.

After some consideration and planning we decided to brave Vegas with the kids.

Before doing any research I was a little worried Vegas wouldn't have much to offer in the way of family friendly entertainment. When I think of Vegas I don't immediately think family hot spot (I think more along the lines of 23-year old Desiree in Vegas). To my pleasant surprise, I was totally wrong.

To start, no trip would be official without the first stop being at *the* most touristy location, complete with a wait of 45 minutes. But, I pulled the mom-card, tossed the family in front of the iconic Vegas sign, rounded up a stranger to snap a photo, begged the crew to give me their best cheesy pose, and called it a solid start.
Our crash pad for the trip was Planet Hollywood. We did some pretty extensive research, and ultimately decided location with little kids trumped all else. We were right in the thick of the strip. Nearly every single location we wanted to get to was within walking distance, even with little people in tow. It was so convenient to be in the middle of all the excitement, as well as near several really good restaurants and tons of shopping.
Bonus points for our bathroom being as big as our room, complete with a small swimming pool disguised as a tub.

Moving along to the beef of this post:
What We Did With The Kids In Vegas.
As alluded to earlier, I was initially worried we'd be looking for things to do. However, by the end of the trip I was bummed we weren't able to fit in all the things we wanted.

The first full day on the strip was filled with all sorts of Vegas highlights.
1. M&M World.

Because with young kids there is no such thing as sleeping in, we made it to the store right at opening. Note to anyone with kids - GO EARLY - you'll be rewarded with a three-story candy store essentially to your selves. As we were leaving, the store was noticeably busier.
The kids were in chocolate heaven, and we spent the better part of an hour perusing each level of M&M glory.
We also decided this was a great place to give the kids some freedom to spend some of the money they'd been saving in their piggy banks. This was also a hard and fast lesson for them, as they quickly learned $20 doesn't go nearly as far as they were hoping. Welcome to my world, kids.

2. New York, New York Arcade
Like every other kid I know, my kids love an arcade. So, we thought NYNY would be a fun stop for them. We weren't wrong. It's the Vegas For Those Under 21. But, as soon as the money was used up on the kids arcade cards, we rounded up the crap they'd won and got the hell out of there. And, I managed to snap exactly zero photos because I was too busy trying to prevent a child gambling addiction from happening at Whack-a-Mole.

3. The Blue Man Group
Our "big gift" to the kids - entire trip aside - was to see a real Vegas show. The Blue Man Group was perfect: kid friendly, funny, engaging, captivating. The kids loved it, Scott and I loved it. We highly recommend to anyone who wants to see a show appropriate for kids. Pro tip: it is a very LOUD show, so proper noise blocking earphones is a really, really good idea.
Because photography wasn't allowed during the performance (which meant we were able to enjoy it fully), the only picture I snagged of the evening was the kids in front of King Tut inside the Luxor.

4. The Bellagio Fountains
Can you even say you went to Vegas without seeing the fountain show at least once?
I was really surprised with how much the kids enjoyed the show. Julia was full of oooh's and aaah's, while I could hear Marcus laughing with delight. My only regret is we didn't go back a few times to watch.

Day two brought the biggest surprise of all for the kids.
My parents flew in to spend a few days with us! Marcus and Julia were so excited to have Grandma and Grandpa just a few doors down from us.

We went right to work exploring more of Vegas with the Grands.

5. Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art - Yayoi Kusama
When I discovered Kusama had not one but TWO exhibits showing right across from where we were staying, going to see them was a must.
Aftermath of Obliteration of Eternity 
Narcissus Garden
Art museums are probably not real high on most kids lists, so I'm not sure I'd recommend this to families who don't frequent museums. I feel I've dragged the kids to enough museums and exhibits that they were pretty engaged with this one. 

6. The Bellagio Conservatory
The Conservatory is free, but holy cow, it is a showstopper. It's akin to the Rose Bowl Parade floats - where everything is made of flowers, plants, etc. And during the holidays it is simply beautiful on the most grand scale.
I wasn't sure the kids would enjoy the displays, but they were just as in awe of everything as the adults. The Conservatory is worth popping in, no matter the time of year! 

7. Circus Circus Adventuredome
Ok, how do I put this nicely... The adventuredome was not my favorite. It was like traveling circus meets town carnival meets small town amusement park. 
The kids seemed to love the rackety rides, and Marcus even surprised me with some of the more adventurous rides he went on. I was so underwhelmed with the place that the only photos I took were in front of "Santa's Village."
There were a couple of roller coasters that Scott, my mom and I went on that were pretty legit. But that said, this was my first time inside the Adventuredome, and I wouldn't be sad if it were the last. 

8. Red Rocks Canyon National Conservation Area
Grandma and Grandpa were absolute saints one morning and gave Scott and I a pass to skip out of the city for a bit to do some hiking.
I had no idea how close this canyon and these trails were to the city! A short 35 minute drive, and the city was nothing but a memory, and we were surrounded by towering red sandstone and the most scenic 13.5 mile loop drive.
 If you've been to Vegas but never made it to Red Rock Canyon, add it to the list. It's definitely worth the drive.

9. Slotzilla
In my mind I had these grand ideas of old Las Vegas and Fremont Street. I remember going there as a kid and thinking the light show in the Fremont canopy was really cool. Naturally, I wanted the kids to experience that as well.

Reality check. Fremont Street is just a big tourist trap with vendors pushing crappy t-shirts and even crappier souvenirs.
Our only saving grace (at least for Marcus), was the Slotzilla zip line that goes over Fremont.
Initially, Marcus was pretty apprehensive to get in the harness. But once he was buckled in and flying above us, his smile was plastered on.

If you've got plans to go to Fremont, I'd suggest going for the zip line and then promptly leaving.

10. Absinthe - Caesar's Palace
God bless my parents for giving Scott and I not one but two opportunities to enjoy Vegas kid-free.
We had an evening to ourselves, which is rarer than a blue moon for us. We grabbed some appetizers and drinks, enjoyed conversation, and then headed to Caesar's Palace to see Absinthe, which came highly recommended. The show was hilarious and raunchy and heart-stopping and unbelievable and so. damn. good. If you can take some (really) dirty humor, enjoy amazing human acts, can handle off the cuff and completely non-PC dialogue, and love to laugh, GO SEE THIS!

Before we even left L.A. for Vegas I was really anxious about how the trip would go. Would the kids enjoy it? Were we in over our heads thinking there were enough "kid things" for us to do? Omg, will my kids starve if we don't find a restaurant that serves either mac and cheese or cheese pizza? (Read: most restaurants have those items on the menu.)
But, here we are, three months out, and the kids are STILL talking about the Blue Man Group, and the M&M store, and seeing Grandma and Grandpa in room 3815.
I'm not sure what we have planned for next Christmas, or where we'll go, but if I were a betting person (fun fact, I didn't bet a single dollar while in Vegas), our LVNV 2018 Holiday Trip is going to be a tough one to beat.

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