This Web Page is made up of links that I found while researching
my vacation trip to Las Vegas. I visited Vegas a couple of years ago when
I went to Comdex. Previously, I had always had the impression that Vegas
was a flashy place to lure adults to separate them from their money. I
had never had any desire to take my family there. After I visited it, however,
I found it was going through a major image change. It was putting in attractions
to appeal to families. I visited the Luxor, MGM Grand, Circus Circus, and
Excalibur, and was pleasantly surprised to find that they had things that
kids would like. Since then, they built the Stratosphere, New York New
York, and the Hilton put in the Star Trek Experience. The latter is what
clinched it. My wife and son love Star Trek, so I felt this was something
they'd enjoy. I enjoy outdoor activities, and I found that there were lots
of things to do in the surrounding areas. I started researching information
on the Internet and ended up with a book of printouts a couple inches thick.
This information and more is listed in the links below.
Star Trek Experience, Las Vegas Hilton
My purpose for visiting Vegas was to have a family vacation, not to gamble. (Actually, I ended up spending only a couple dollars in the casinos, but hundreds of dollars on souvenirs and attractions.) My research involved looking for family attractions and affordable restaurants and lodging, so the links below have that as an emphasis.
My daughter wanted to stay in hotel one night, so we stayed
at the Excalibur the first night. The Excalibur was a fun place. It's decorated
in a colorful King Arthur theme. (I wish we had seen the TV show "Merlin"
before we went. My daughter would have appreciated it more.) It was in
a strategic location, next to the MGM Grand, Luxor, and New York,
New York. We had a room with a great view of the Luxor. The light atop
the Luxor was so bright, it made a nice night light. We had a buffet dinner
at the Excalibur, which had a huge selection for $8. The Excalibur was
a fun place to stay, but staying in a hotel is better for air travelers,
who only have 1 or 2 suitcases. We were travelling by mini-van and had
a ton of stuff. Like most hotels, it was a long walk from the parking lot
to the room.
New York, New York
For the rest of our stay in Vegas, we stayed 3 nights at the Budget Suites motel, centrally located near the Strip behind the Stardust Hotel. It was like an apartment complex, with daily to monthly rates. The rooms had a complete kitchen and separate bedroom. It was nicely landscaped and had a 24-hour laundry room, large pool, weight room, and 4 jacuzzis. We saved money by cooking many of our meals in the room.
We saw most of the interesting hotels: the MGM Grand, Luxor, Excalibur, New York New York, Bally's, Imperial Palace, Caesar's, the Tropicana, Harrah's, Flamingo, Mirage, Treasure Island, Circus Circus, Las Vegas Hilton, and Stratosphere. The hotel lights were dazzling at night. We saw a realistic and educational 3D Imax movie on sea life at the Luxor, the shorter but more exciting "Race for Atlantis" 3D Imax action simulation at Caesar's, watched the dragon battle at the Excalibur, rode the wild roller coaster at New York New York, hopped on the free monorail from MGM to Bally's, watched the light show at the Bally's entrance, saw the pirate battle at Treasure Island, toured the auto museum at the Imperial Palace, wandered through the Grand Slam Canyon amusement park at Circus Circus, and got a breathtaking view from the top of the Stratosphere. We spent a lot of time at the Star Trek Experience, looking at the Star Trek memorabilia, marvelling at the huge starship models, and shopping in a simulated Deep Space 9 for souvenirs. The Star Trek simulator ride was short but thrilling. (I noticed that most motion simulator rides are short, probably to avoid motion sickness.) The buildup to the ride, a transport into the future, was entertaining. We went window shopping at the Forum Shops at Caesar's. My kids were amazed by the huge FAO Schwartz toy store, which was an attraction in itself. It has a 3-story moving and steam-snorting Trojan Horse at the entrance. We had lunch at Planet Hollywood, which was like a museum of Hollywood memorabilia. Later in the week, we went to downtown to see the famous lights and neon signs in "Glitter Gulch" and the incredible computer-animated overhead light show of the Fremont Street Experience.
Red Rock Canyon
We took a day trip to Red Rock Canyon and spent time hiking among the rocks. This is an incredibly scenic area and a great place for hiking and rock climbing. Steep mountainsides, capped with snow form a jagged wall cut by narrow canyons. The different minerals form a crazy quilt of colors in the rocks. You could spend many days hiking and exploring the area and the surrounding mountains. It's amazing that an area of such wild, rugged scenic beauty is less than half an hour from the glitz and neon of the Strip.
On the way home, we stopped at the Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve near Lancaster and walked through the hills that were blazing with colorful wildflowers. The El Nino rains made this an especially productive year for wildflowers, so they put on a spectacular show.
It was a fun trip, but despite the fact that we spent 4 1/2 days in Vegas, there were still many things we didn't have time to see: MGM Grand's Grand Adventures theme park, the Mirage's dolphin and white tiger habitats, the "In Search of the Obelisk" motion simulator show and King Tut's tomb at the Luxor, the aerial Brazilian carnival show at the Rio, the Coca Cola Museum, Wet 'N Wild water park (it hadn't opened yet when we went), and Stephen Spielberg's Gameworks game facility. We didn't see any stage shows in Vegas, because 4 tickets would have cost a bundle, but there are some great shows for the whole family (I can't vouch for the age-appropriateness of these shows, check with the hotels): Siegfried and Roy (the hottest but most expensive show at $90 a ticket), EFX (one of the best shows, a music and special effects spectacular), Mystere (the most artistic show, from Cirque du Soleil), Lance Burton: Master Magician, Caesar's Magical Empire, King Arthur's Tournament, Legends in Concert, and Madhattan.
Outdoor wonders I wish we could have seen were Lake Mead (including Hoover Dam), Valley of Fire State Park, Mount Charleston, Spring Mountain Ranch, and Lake Havasu. If we had a couple more days, we could have seen Zion, Bryce Canyon, and Grand Canyon National Parks. In the vast Mojave desert, we could have seen Mitchell Caverns, Providence Mountains, Kelso Dunes, Cima Dome, Amboy Crater, Afton Canyon, Rainbow Basin, Devil's Punchbowl, Saddleback Butte State Park, Antelope Valley Indian Museum, Desert Tortoise Natural Area, and Trona Pinnacles, among other sites. We've been to Calico Ghost Town near Barstow, the inspiration for Knott's Berry Farm's Ghost Town and a fun place for kids. Death Valley isn't too far away from Vegas. A couple years ago when we visited Death Valley, our motel reservations in Beatty got botched up and we almost ending up driving to Las Vegas to stay overnight. We ended up in Amargosa Valley, but Vegas was less than an hour's drive farther.
Here are the links. I hope you find them useful:
Click here to return to my Bay Area Back Pages Home Page
Ron Horii, San Jose
Created 4/28/97, updated 9/6/98.