Traveling Mamas

Inspiring you to explore our world

  • Las Vegas isn’t really a top family destination, but with family road trip planning, many families opt to overnight in Sin City on their way to a final stop. Las Vegas tried to market as a family travel spot, but let’s face it, Vegas is really an adult destination. We’re not saying you shouldn’t take your kids to Vegas, just use common sense when you venture out after dark. Keeping that in mind, here are some of the best free family friendly things to do in Las Vegas that will keep even the littlest travelers entertained.

    Las Vegas Strip at Night by Shannon Hurst Lane

    Catch a Ride – Once you park your family vehicle you can take public transportation or travel by foot. The monorail has to be one of my top suggestions for saving money in Las Vegas. A three day monorail pass can be less than the cost of a roundtrip taxi ride from your hotel. Plus, you can hop on and hop off as this transportation option runs along the strip. Keep in mind, you still will have to walk, but it does keep you out of traffic on The Strip.

    Time Travel – Visit the Pyramids at Luxor and pay a few bucks extra to see a replica of King Tut’s Tomb. Maybe you’d rather look for a knight in shining armor at Excalibur or search for a Roman goddess at Ceasar’s Palace. Want to go forward instead of back in time? Check out the Las Vegas Hilton which is home to the former Star Trek attraction and has a few shops near the lobby area.

    Take a picture with your favorite candy in Las VegasSugar Rush – Next door to the MGM Grand is M & M’s World store which has a free display of our favorite candy characters. At the end of the tour, grab a free snack pack of these famous chocolate candies. The gift shop offers M & M’s in every color and logo items. Need something to wash down that candy? Hop next door to the World of Coca Cola and get a 14-16 flavor sampler from all over the globe. Price is $7 for the sampler and is located on the 2nd floor. After all this sugar, I would suggest walking the strip to wear off the sugar rush.

    Bellagio Fountain Show by Shannon Hurst LaneDancing Fountains – No trip to Vegas is complete without a visit to the Bellagio’s water show. The fountains put on a light and music show every half hour from 3-8pm on weekdays and noon -8pm on weekends. After 8pm, shows run every 15 minutes until midnight. Can’t get enough? The Fall of Atlantis Fountain show runs daily at The Shops at Ceasar’s Forum from 10am to 10pm.

    See the Animals – No, I’m not referring to the party people who come to Vegas, although people-watching is at its peak in Sin City. The Lion Habitat at the MGM Grand or the White Tiger Habitat at The Mirage are a great places to take some photographs and get out of the Nevada heat.

    Watch a Volcano Erupt – Every 15 minutes this five minute show spews fire and music that kids will love. Be sure to line up early and be aware that there is a large amount of heat coming from this attraction. The attraction is located on The Strip in front of The Mirage.

    Visit Venice – The Venetian Hotel also houses the Grand Canal Shoppes, an indoor replica of Venice, complete with live opera singers and walk under a gorgeous sky that never gets too cloudy. Gondola rides are available for a charge, but just watching them float by is entertainment in itself.

    Grand Canal Shoppes by Shannon Hurst Lane

    Things to be aware of:

    • The Treasure Island Pirate Show that we’ve all heard of has been adultified. This means that no longer is there a family-friendly pirate battle, but now there are scantily-clad women pirates to re-enact the battle. The name has changed to Sirens of TI and the hotel even states parental guidance is suggested.
    • Smoking is allowed in casinos. If a member of your family has any allergies or asthma, smoke from these connected areas may affect you.
    • Don’t let your children pick up advertising paraphernalia from the sidewalk or from people handing them out. A colorful advertisement just may introduce your five year old to a topless woman named Destiny and the the entertainment she and her twin perform for a set price.

    We love Las Vegas for a romantic escape or girlfriend getaway, but we understand that some travelers will want to experience Las Vegas as a family. We hope this list helps you get the most of any family travel that takes you through Las Vegas, Nevada. Do you know of any other free things to do in Vegas? Feel free to leave them in the comments, helping those who are planning a future family trip to Vegas.

     

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  • I grew up with the Griswolds Vacation movies. In fact I sometimes thought we were the Griswolds, especially when we set off on our annual family vacation. Now that I’m a parent, I see the humor in travel with kids as we’ve even had our own travel mishaps, just like the recent Hotel Hell Vacation by HomeAway.com.

    I’ve been to Grand Bahama Island on a family vacation where we ended up in an ant filled hotel room. In fact, that one particular trip set me on the travel writing path so that I could help other families avoid these types of situations.

    My husband and I purchased one of those travel agent specials for a romantic getaway to Cancun. You know the trip I’m referring to – the last-minute too-good-to-be-true-because-you-can-actually-afford-it package. I even once traveled on a comped media press trip that turned out to be the worst hotel in St. Louis, MO. In fact, a fellow writer threatened to take an early flight out because the lodging was so unacceptable.

    Do you have a similar “hotel hell” story to share?

    HomeAway – the world’s leading online vacation rental marketplace – is asking travelers to share their stories of hotel horrors in the form of a text, photo or video entry between now and March 2 for the chance to win one of four $10,000 family vacations at a private, spacious HomeAway vacation rental.

    Contest entries will be voted on by the general public, and finalists will be judged by the king and queen of travel mishaps – Chevy Chase and Beverly D’Angelo, who recently reprised their roles as Clark and Ellen Griswold from “National Lampoon’s Vacation” for a new HomeAway advertising campaign. Watch the full episode below.

    Be sure to visit http://vacation.homeaway.com to enter your travel mishap story.

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  • Hogwarts Castle at Universal OrlandoUniversal Orlando just released this information about The Wizarding World of Harry Potter so that families can start planning their summer vacation. I know that I have a Harry Potter fan in my household who has been avidly keeping up with the park progress through this site and MuggleCast. Here’s the latest on Universal Orlando’s The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

    It’s one of the most highly anticipated theme park entertainment experiences of our generation and, for the first time, guests can now book an exclusive vacation package to visit The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando Resort with their families.

    “The Wizarding World of Harry Potter Vacation Package” includes accommodations at an on-site hotel at Universal Orlando Resort and admission to both Universal Orlando theme parks – along with a wide-range of benefits available only by booking through Universal Orlando Resort. Benefits include early park admission, allowing guests to experience The Wizarding World of Harry Potter before other guests each day, as well as a traditional British breakfast at the Three Broomsticks, the signature eating establishment within The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. And by staying at an on-site hotel, guests get exclusive Universal Express Access to select attractions and shows, allowing them to bypass regular lines.

    To best enjoy all Universal Orlando offers, guests may consider the four-night package featured below. Guests can add additional nights and also upgrade their theme park tickets to include park-to-park access, allowing them to go to both Universal theme parks each day. Additional packages are available with prices starting at $285 per-adult ($829 for a family of four) for four nights at a hotel near Universal. All packages and prices are available at UniversalOrlando.com.

    “There has been worldwide anticipation for this one-of-a-kind entertainment experience, and we are thrilled to be offering families a way to experience the magic and excitement of Harry Potter’s world,” said Alice Norsworthy, executive vice president of marketing and sales for Universal Orlando Resort.

    The Wizarding World of Harry Potter Vacation Package – 4 Nights
    On-site package starts at $645 per-adult ($1,548 for a family of 4)

    • 4 nights at Universal’s onsite hotels (Loews Portofino Bay Hotel, Hard Rock Hotel and Loews Royal Pacific Resort)
    • 3 days admission to Universal Studios and Universal’s Islands of Adventure (Park to Park not included)
    • Complimentary Universal Express to bypass the regular lines at select theme park rides and attractions (a $70 value per day)
    • Early park admission to The Wizarding World of Harry PotterBreakfast at The Three Broomsticks
    • Commemorative Ticket for The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

    Additional packages are available at lodging near Universal Orlando starting at $829 for a family of four. All travel for these packages starts May 28 and is not representative of the official opening date for The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

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  • I’ve always been reluctant to cruise, but when Princess Cruises invited me to experience a cruise with a guest of my choosing for a Twitter press trip, it turned into the perfect opportunity to enjoy a romantic week with my husband. After all, Princess Cruises IS The Love Boat!

    Princess Cruises Crown Princess

    This was the first cruise for both of us and also our first romantic getaway in years. We were giddy with excitement as we chose our excursions and packed accordingly. We not only had to pack for ourselves, but we had to make sure the kids were prepared for a week with their grandparents. We took off on a flight to Ft. Lauderdale and our escape plan aboard the Crown Princess was implemented.

    Piazza of Crown Princess by Shannon Hurst LaneWe boarded the Crown Princess and were shown directly to our stateroom, a mini-balcony suite. We met our cabin steward, Ed, who promptly delivered a glass of Champagne to each of us. Hubby and I enjoyed the fresh air on our balcony and toasted the start of our romantic getaway and discussed our first impression of stepping aboard the ship.

    Passengers aboard the Crown Princess are welcomed in the Crown Plaza, a spacious Italian piazza style atrium that is the center of onboard activity throughout the cruise. The ship can accommodate over 3,000 passengers with 900 staterooms offering private balconies.

    Mini Balcony Suite on Crown Princess by Shannon Hurst LaneStateroom: We enjoyed a mini balcony suite which included a separate sitting area with sleeper sofa, two televisions, a very comfortable queen-size bed, bathroom with tub/shower and a spacious balcony with seating for four. These mini-suites are approximately 323 square feet (including the balcony) and offer extra amenities such as in-room refridgerator and welcome Champagne. Suite occupants are also allowed exclusive use of Sabatini’s Restaurant for breakfast. A fresh flower arrangement decorated our room as a welcome and each afternoon we were treated to canapes and Twitter-themed treats. Tip: Be sure to take advantage of a romantic evening meal on your balcony ($50 per person).

    Dessert on Crown PrincessDining: There are a variety of dining options, including Traditional dining at Boticelli’s, Anytime dining at Michaelangelo and Da Vinci, Specialty dining (cover charge) at Sabatini’s, Crown Grill (steak and seafood) and balcony dining , as well as casual dining at many of the other places located around the ship. On one evening, we experience dining at the Chef’s Table, which includes a tour of the galley complete with appetizers and Champagne followed by a multi-course outstanding culinary experience ($75 per person). Tip: If you like soft drinks, purchase a soft drink card at the start of the cruise and get unlimited colas for around $4 per day.

    Activities: We explored the ship and hubby was excited to discover a nine-hole putting course and virtual golf simulator. During our time at sea, he entered a golf tournament, ping-pong tournament, and bingo tournament. Each evening at turndown, Ed placed a copy of the Princess Patter which listed the following day’s activities. Tip: Bring a highlighter to mark activities of interest.

    Crown Princess Pool Area

    Entertainment: The Princess Theater offers Las Vegas style performances with lots of music and dancing. There are also many other entertainment venues and bars located throughout the ship. We preferred an evening of Movies Under the Stars (MUTS) where we lounged in poolside chairs snuggled up together under blankets provided by the ship. Movie candy and popcorn is served, along with a variety of movies throughout the cruise. Tip: Smokers can light up in Speakeasy Cigar Bar.

    For the Kids: I did a walkabout of the children’s activity areas just in case I wanted to cruise aboard the Crown Princess at a future date with kids in tow. Activities are age appropriate with three age groups: Princess Pelicans (3-7), Shockwaves (8-12) and Remix (13-17). The youth and teen center has its own game room and movie room along with their own pool. I was more interested in the tween and teen areas which looked like pretty cool hangouts. Tip: Parents can take advantage of kid activity time to catch a spa treatment or other activity.

    Champagne and Chocolate Covered Strawberries

    My Favorite Things: I loved the aspect of visiting different places and still sleeping in the same bed at night. I enjoyed eating at a restaurant and not having to pay a bill or drive home. I LOVED the couple’s massage at the Lotus Spa and laughed with the masseuse girls when my husband started snoring during his treatment. Most of all, I really enjoyed those morning cups of coffee with my husband as we gazed out at the ocean and realized we had escaped completely on our romantic cruise aboard the Crown Princess.

    Coffee for Two

    Our trip was hosted by Princess Cruises and would cost a consumer approximately $3900 in total to experience the same amenities, excursions, and all the extras that we enjoyed on the this trip, including airfare to Ft. Lauderdale. This is equivalent to to a week at a high-end all inclusive resort except you have the added benefit of visiting four destinations instead of one. I would recommend this experience for a honeymoon, milestone anniversary, or any special time for a couple to reconnect. Check out Princess Cruises Department of Romance for more ideas on how to enjoy a romantic escape.

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  • Cruising has been one of the oldest forms of family travel and it only keeps getting better! Nickelodeon and Norwegian Cruise Lines have partnered to offer Nickelodeon at Sea, with family-friendly amenities that will keep everyone entertained. Families can enjoy character meet and greets, interactive games and more on the Norwegian Jewel and Epic. The three-year partnership also includes select specialty Nickelodeon-themed cruises each year, featuring Nickelodeon TV stars, show premieres and continuous themed-entertainment on the ship.

    “Nickelodeon is an incredible family brand that is well-known to kids and parents of all ages,” said Kevin Sheehan, Norwegian’s chief executive officer. “Combining its worldwide appeal with our signature Freestyle Cruising will create the ultimate experience at sea for families. For any family considering a cruise vacation, there is no better value and experience than Nickelodeon at Sea on Norwegian Cruise Line.”

    Nickelodeon at Sea will launch on Norwegian Jewel when the ship begins sailing from New York in late April, and on Norwegian’s latest addition to its fleet Norwegian Epic–when she launches in July. Each cruise will feature live Nickelodeon-themed interactive shows, including: SlimeTime LIVE! with Nick’s signature slime; Nick Live! Poolside entertainment; character breakfasts and meet and greets; Nick-themed dance parties; and more. Nickelodeon-themed elements will also be incorporated into Norwegian’s Kids’ Crew program.

    Can’t get enough of Nickelodeon at Sea? Don’t worry! Special Nickelodeon-themed cruises will be offered annually where families can immerse themselves in everything Nickelodeon all day, every day. These unique cruises will include: special appearances by the Network’s live talent; show premieres; more live game shows; even more opportunities to visit with kids’ favorite Nick characters; and much more. The first of the Nickelodeon-themed specialty cruises is scheduled on Norwegian Jewel later this year.

    The Norwegian fleet is full of Freestyle Family Fun. Just-for-kids splash pools are on Norwegian Dawn, Norwegian Gem, Norwegian Jade, Norwegian Jewel, Pride of America, Norwegian Star and Norwegian Spirit. Norwegian Dawn, Norwegian Spirit and Norwegian Star also offer water play areas with slides and water squirters. The new Norwegian Epic takes it all up a notch with three multi-story water slides and The Epic Plunge – the only slide of its kind at sea.

    Norwegian Cruise Lines was awarded the best family friendly cruising accommodations in 2009. My family has yet to cruise together, but I have personally experienced NCL’s FreeStyle Cruising on the Norwegian Spirit to check out the staterooms for TravelingMamas.com readers. Norwegian offers interconnecting staterooms, multi-room Suites and Villas, and everything you need for the entire family to be more than comfortable.

    While Freestyle Cruising, I bumped into a group of 13 year old boys and asked them what they loved most about their cruise. One boy answered, “I love how we get to see so many places on one vacation.”

    To book your Nickelodeon or Family Freestyle Cruise with NCL, visit the Norwegian Cruise Line official website or call your favorite travel agent.

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