It may not be Orlando, but Las Vegas is giving other family-friendly destinations a run for its money.
“Sin City” once marketed itself to people with a naughty tendency with the slogan “What happens in Vegas is in Vegas”. What will happen in Vegas now could include ferris wheels, sporting events and Instagram-worthy family photos.
A survey of 4,000 visitors in 2021 by the Las Vegas Convention and Visitor Authority shows that the number of people bringing children with them has increased dramatically. In 2021, 21% of tourists had child tagging compared to 5% in 2019, before the epidemic.
Overall, Las Vegas had 32 million visitors in 2021, down significantly from 42 million in 2019, according to the survey. This further indicates that visitors were younger, more ethnically diverse, and more likely to travel from the western states within the driving distance of Las Vegas.
Authorities suspect the increase in family travel to Vegas was a blip, triggered by the epidemic. As families say travel options were limited in 2021, international travel is still problematic and cowardly concerns are at the top of their minds. Many have chosen road trips instead of plane flights.
This year, during the school holidays with the kids, it has become so common that parents are pushing the stroller into a casino, not even a casino executive has noticed it. The executive, who declined to be named, laughed and shrugged as a CNBC reporter commented on the scene.
Campbells came from North Carolina to see the Las Vegas site and the sound.
Contessa Brewer | CNBC
West Coast families are not the only ones who traveled to Sin City with their children.
Mark and Laurie Campbell live in North Carolina. They say they vacationed on the East Coast, so they wanted to do something different. For the spring break this week, they decided to bring their children, 11-year-old Madison and 14-year-old Miles, to Las Vegas.
“I knew the kids would somehow be blown away by the city lights and the activity and the people,” Mark Campbell said as he walked the chance to photograph Chipendless on Fremont Street.
Resort City’s entertainment options are also becoming more welcoming to young listeners these days.
Macy Rojas, 15, of Colorado, was the only eye for superstar boy band BTS. She carries a picture of her favorite member of the group, V. Her parents brought her to Las Vegas last weekend to celebrate her birthday with a BTS concert at the Allegheny Stadium.
He is also a recurring visitor here with his family. “It’s great. I like it,” she said.
Her five-year-old sister Giselle was even more enthusiastic. “It’s amazing!” He said. His favorite thing about Light Vegas, he added.
The Rojas family, traveling from Colorado to Las Vegas, came to see the BTS concert at the Allegiate Stadium.
Contessa Brewer | CNBC
New York parents Anto and Mel Onanian had planned to go on a traditional Orlando Disney World holiday this Easter break, but instead decided to move their family of four to Las Vegas. For them traveling to Vegas and avoiding the crowds at Disney was less expensive and less stressful for them.
“Vegas is much less important and there’s a lot to do for the kids,” said Mel Onunian.
Onunians usually stay in Belgium when they travel as a couple. But for their first family trip to Las Vegas with their four-year-old daughter and eight-year-old son, they booked a room in the family-friendly Mandalay Bay. The resort has 11 acres of “aquatic playground” with a wave pool, lagoon and lazy river.
“A lot of people are surprised,” Mel Onanian said of her friends’ reaction to her family vacation plans. “They think Las Vegas is really more for adults.”
The Onunians say they plan to spend a lot of time in the pool with their families, but will also include the Kings tournament in Excalibur and possibly an outing at M&M World.
The Las Vegas Convention and the Visitor Authority do not even try to entice families, including children, by focusing too much on conferences, conventions, international tourists and business travelers.
Yet the city has amazing entertainment options for kids: the “high roller” ferris wheel, an outdoor zipline at Link, the Shark Reef Aquarium in Mandalay Bay, the MGM Grande Hunger Game Experience, the Marvel Avengers Museum Experience, and the Nile in the Area 15 Color shows like this.
“I think it’s just a matter of diversity and diversity that you won’t find in any other destination and especially in a compact area,” said Chuck Bowling, president of Mandalay Bay.
Strollers on the strip. A parent pushes a child into a casino in Mandalay Bay
The city is also a growing destination for sports. The NFL, in particular, has given the city a strong push by playing the Ryder franchise at the Allegiance Stadium, the NFL Draft later this month and the 2024 Super Bowl. The NHL’s Golden Knights sell their hockey games with family-friendly entertainment. There are also WNBA Aces.
While families can help Vegas expand its brand, not everyone is excited about growing young audiences.
Vegas News and Opinion Blogger Scott Robben has asked for 100 100,000 Vital Vegas Twitter followers say “Stop bringing kids to Vegas.”
“Kids are sleeping in their strollers day and night. And adults are happening around them. And I don’t think they need to be here,” Reuben told CNBC. (Robben is not a guardian.)
“I’m a Las Vegas advocate for adults and children to stay everywhere else. Just make it a place,” he said. “They should enjoy a walk on Disneyland’s Main Street or set foot in Legoland – they don’t have to be in Las Vegas.”
Not all destinations welcome children. Winn Las Vegas gained a reputation in its early years for banning strollers on marble pathways through casino floors, although families are now flooding in front of the famous flower-covered carousel for photos.
The center of Las Vegas bans anyone under the age of 21, or even anyone with a parent.
Circa CEO and owner Derek Stevens said, “We left the wedding business to focus on family business, bar mitzvah business, customer service.” He said he was drawing more business by freeing patrons from repeatedly asking them to provide IDs at bars and gaming tables.
Tourism officials and casino executives insisted they did not want Las Vegas to be the next Orlando.
“I don’t think we want to swing the pendulum so far, because we’re still an adult market. What happens here still stays here. We’re proud of it,” said Mandalay Bays Bowling.
Parents who have brought their children here say they understand Sin City has a big side.
Anto Ounanian has expressed concern about the exposure to the seam of his two young children’s strips, which include short-sleeved showgirls, drunken adults and the smell of pot smoke.
“It’s not very different from everyday life in Manhattan,” he said.