|Not New York|
I must have heard these words a thousand times from people in America before we went to visit Las Vegas as part of our holiday this half term. But what if you are the kind of grown-up who hates Disneyland, doesn't like gambling, prefers real scenery and the outdoors, and has two real kids in tow?
I hadn't planned on ever visiting Las Vegas, in fact, but it was the obvious jumping off point when visiting the Grand Canyon (of which more later). We flew from New York, where we'd been visiting our old town on Long Island and our friends, and decided to take in the sights of Las Vegas rather than just hiring a car and getting the hell out of town.
Once we'd planned this, I decided to embrace it, booking tickets to a couple of shows on the recommendation of a friend (Elton John's Million Dollar Piano and Cirque du Soleil's Beatles extravaganza "Love"). I also booked one of the few non-gaming hotels (the Mandarin Oriental) with a pool for relaxing during the day before we saw the shows in the evening. Other than that, I wasn't quite sure what we would be doing during the day with the boys. But there was plenty to explore.
The most amazing thing about seeing Las Vegas with kids is the themed hotel/casinos: in one morning, you can visit Venice, Paris and Luxor, not to mention New York, New York. As Littleboy 1 said in awe as we drove from the airport along the lit-up "Strip" where all the hotels and casinos are laid out in their neon glory, "This place is totally messed-up."
The Venetian is perhaps the nuttiest: with actual canals flowing through the shops in the hotel's basement, complete singing gondoliers, and an indoor replica of St Mark's Square with a fake sky that makes it feel like you are permanently at dusk (quite weird at 9am in the morning).
Of course, I'd rather be in the real Venice, but the fact they have done it at all is just rather surreal and amazing. Luxor has a gigantic pyramid as a lobby, and a huge sphinx outside; New York, New York has replicas of the Empire State and Chrysler buildings, Brooklyn Bridge and the Statue of Liberty, and Paris has a half-size Eiffel Tower. It is, (as Littleboy 2 put it), the "Capital of fakeness".
Another hotel / casino, The Mirage, boasts a volcano that "erupts" every evening on the hour, with fake lava and flames. This hotel is also home to the Secret Garden, a zoo that houses white tigers and dolphins (probably the highlight for Littleboy 2, a tiger fanatic). Next door, the Bellagio has an incredible, dazzling display of fountains, if you hadn't yet been entertained enough.
There is plenty to do, any kind of food you could possibly imagine eating and the shows themselves were spectacular -- my only caveat to taking kids being the jet lag (Las Vegas is eight hours behind the UK, three behind New York and the boys were simply too tired in the evening to really enjoy them properly). The weather in October is warm and fine, but not too hot, and our hotel pool was a delightful place to laze during the midday hours (mornings and evenings were chilly).
Would I go back to Las Vegas? Well, it was great fun. If you're in that part of the world, your kids will be amazed by the spectacle of it all, and they'll probably enjoy it. But let's just say that as we drove out of the city towards the Hoover Dam and Arizona, I knew the perfect music to play from my iPod. I'll leave you with that.