Vegas Babies

[It’s Friday here, and I haven’t had time to put something together about the usual insane shenanigans involving my awesome and crazy daughters. Thus, I am taking the easy way out and re-posting here something that I wrote a while back about what it’s like to go to Las Vegas with a couple of toddlers. If you have kids, you will understand.]

Here are some of the activities you can participate in when you go to Las Vegas that don’t involve gambling, drinking, shopping at overpriced stores or strip clubs:

Shoot a machine gun
Drive an earthmover/bulldozer
–Rent and ride a Harley
–Dine at any of The Strip’s innumerable celebrity-chef restaurants
–Take an off-road ATV/ dune buggy tour around and outside of town
–Lose your lunch on the roller coaster atop the 1,149-foot Stratosphere Tower
–Act like you’re in the Indy 500 while spinning around a go kart track.And here are how many of those activities I participated in during a recent week-long sojourn in Sin City:Zero. Exactly zero.

I did, however, change a few dozen diapers, minister to some ow-ees and boo-boos and watch innumerable episodes of Dora The Explorer. Welcome to Vegas with toddlers in tow.

Visiting the famous Vegas welcome sign is a necessity.

I have always loved traveling to new places, and my wife and I have done our fair share of traveling both here and abroad, and also before and after the births of our daughters. Traveling has been aided by the timeshare we own. It’s in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico which, for many Americans afraid of getting greeted by gun-toting bandits as soon as they cross the border, is known as Safe Mexico. Pick up any celebrity gossip magazine and you are almost certain to find a picture of Jennifer Aniston frolicking at some resort in Cabo. I doubt Rachel from “Friends” would willingly travel to a war zone owned by a drug cartel.

But…I’ve never been to Cabo. Something has always come up when it’s our week for the timeshare unit. Either we were about to get married, or my wife was pregnant with our first daughter, or we had just had our second daughter, or we had some other commitment, such as my wife being a bridesmaid in her best friend’s wedding. Something always came up, and we always had to “bank” the week for use later, or trade it for a week elsewhere. This has helped us go to places such as Australia and Hawaii.

However, this year, as our week in Cabo got closer on the calendar, we realized that we had nothing to keep us from finally heading south of the border. No appointments, no one coming to visit, and no pregnancies. We had no commitments. Then we looked at our daughters. The older one was using my TV remote to “call” Mam Maw, aka, my mom, and our one-year-old was making another break for the cat food dish. We actually had two commitments, and, unlike the cats, we couldn’t just leave them in the house for a week with a big bowl of kibble and the toilet seats up for drinking.

And unlike many other parents of young children, we aren’t blessed with grandparents nearby to babysit. For example, my mom is awesome with the girls, but living about 700 miles away, in Tacoma, Wash. doesn’t make it very easy for dropping the kids off for an afternoon, or for a week in Mexico. But Cabo doesn’t lend itself to toddlers, and my wife also feared that our daughters would find the nearby Sea of Cortez too tempting, run straight into the rip tide-filled waters, and be swept out into the Pacific. Cabo was out.

So, we looked to trade the week in Cabo for a stay someplace else. Someplace close enough to drive, if we chose. Someplace that was family friendly.

And what other place could be more family friendly than…Las Vegas?

The fountains at The Bellagio at night

It didn’t matter. We loaded up my giant quad-cab truck and hit the road. After two days of driving, we rolled down The Strip and into our hotel. We unloaded everything, got back in the truck, and, wanting to make things relatively simple, went to dinner at the Red Lobster down the block. And after the meal, we couldn’t bring ourselves to return the rest of the week.

>>Check out our tips for having an indie travel experience in Las Vegas.

Our older daughter kept getting out of her chair and roaming around the nearby tables, all the while whining about how she had to, uh, “go”. I had to take her outside for a time out that only got her crying even more. Our younger daughter refused to stay in her high chair, climbed out and spent the rest of the meal being shuttled between us as we took turns holding her and eating with one hand. The circus continued for the rest of the week. We did manage to take in a decent amount of activities, but most of them were toddler-related.

The Mandalay Bay had the outstanding Shark Reef Aquarium, which included enclosed glass walkways that let us see sharks swim overhead. The girls loved the dolphins, white tigers and other big cats at The Mirage. The Flamingo had, well, the Flamingo Habitat.The MGM Grand let us get up close to a couple of the hotel’s bored lions and the handlers that tried to excite them.

There were the famous nighttime displays of the fountains at The Bellagio, which our two-year-older adored, partly because we told her that the hotel was actually “Princess Bellagio’s” Palace. We took a drive out to the Hoover Dam, and in spite of the 100-plus degree heat, it was hard not to be in awe of the 726-foot-high masterpiece of engineering and art deco construction.

Standing at the edge of the Hoover Dam

My wife loved shopping in the stores of The Venetian, and I have to admit that the hotel-casino’s representation of one of Venice’s canals wasn’t as corny as I thought it would be. And our older daughter was enamored of who she called “The Queen”, a woman who was one of a few people dressed like royals from the Venice of old, and who gave her some chocolate coins.

I also had a good time, and didn’t even mind paying Sammy Hagar $13 for one of his Cabo Wabo cantina’s margaritas, about a quarter of which I accidentally spilled on our two-year-old’s head during one of her in-the-stroller tantrums. We ended up spending most of our money on photos with the girls at the various hotels, dinner at places like the local Blueberry Hill family restaurant chain, or on takeout that we ate at the hotel so as not to subject other diners to one of our girls’ episodes.

But my wife and I never got any time to ourselves.

No shows, no blackjack, no dinners at Cut or any other steakhouse. We just couldn’t bring ourselves to pay the $35-an-hour-with-a-four-hour-minimum requirement that most Vegas babysitter services charge. If you’re keeping score at home, that’s at least $140 out of pocket before you even sit down to order your first appetizer, or $13 margarita.

I love my daughters, but the next time we go to Vegas, we’ll leave the girls at home. Or at least bring Mam Maw along to watch them while we go off to fire machine guns, catch the latest Cirque du Soleil extravaganza and always double down on 11.

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