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More parents are bringing their kids to Sin City

It may not be Orlando, but Las Vegas is giving other family-friendly destinations a run for their money.

Sin City once marketed itself to people with rebellious tendencies with the slogan “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.” Now, what’s happening in Vegas can include Ferris wheels, sporting events, and Instagram-worthy family photos.

A 2021 survey of 4,000 visitors by the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority found a sharp increase in the number of people bringing their children with them. In 2021, children accompanied 21% of tourists, compared to 5% in 2019, before the pandemic.

Overall, according to the survey, 32 million people visited Las Vegas in 2021, a significant drop from 42 million in 2019. It also indicates that the visitors were younger, more ethnically diverse, and more likely to travel from western states within reach of Las Vegas.

Authorities suspect the rise in family travel to Vegas was an outbreak caused by the pandemic. Families have had limited travel options in 2021, they said, as international travel remains problematic and Covid issues come first. Many people prefer road trips to airplane flights.

This year, when the kids are on school holidays, it has become so common to see parents pushing strollers through the casino that even the casino manager barely noticed it. The executive, who declined to be named, laughed and shrugged as a CNBC reporter commented on the spectacle.

The Campbells came to see the sights and sounds of Las Vegas from North Carolina.

Countess Brewer | CNBC

West Coast families weren’t the only ones who went to Sin City with their children.

Mark and Laurie Campbell live in North Carolina. They say they traveled the east coast so they wanted to do something different. For spring break this week, they decided to bring their kids, 11-year-old Madison and 14-year-old Miles, to Las Vegas.

“I knew the kids would love the city lights, the activity and the people,” Mark Campbell said as he strolled around Fremont Street for a photo opportunity from the Chippendales.

Nowadays, the entertainment facilities of the resort town are more attractive to young people.

Maisie Rojas, a 15-year-old girl from Colorado, had only her eyes on superstar boy band BTS. She was carrying a photo of her favorite band member, V. Her parents brought her to Las Vegas to celebrate her birthday at last weekend’s BTS concert at Allegiant Stadium.

She is also a regular visitor here with her family. “This is great. I like it,” she said.

Her five-year-old sister Giselle was more enthusiastic. “This is amazing!” she said. She added that lights are her favorite thing in Vegas.

The Rojas family, who came to Las Vegas from Colorado, came to watch BTS’ concert at Allegiant Stadium.

Countess Brewer | CNBC

New York-based parents Anto and Mel Unanian were considering spending a traditional Orlando Disney World vacation this Easter vacation, but decided to take their family of four to Las Vegas instead. It was cheaper and less stressful for them to go to Vegas and dodge the crowds at Disneyland.

“Vegas is much more low-key and there is plenty for kids to do,” Mel Hunanian said.

The Unanese usually stop at Bellagio when traveling as a couple. But for this first family trip to Las Vegas with their four-year-old daughter and eight-year-old son, they booked a room at the Mandalay Bay Family Hotel. The resort has 11 acres of “water playground” with a wave pool, lagoon and lazy river.

“A lot of people are a little surprised by this,” says Mel Hunanian of her friends’ reactions to her family vacation plans. “They think Las Vegas is really more for adults.”

Residents of Unania say they plan to spend a lot of time in the pool with their family, but also plan to take a walk in the pool. Tournament of Kings in Excalibur and, perhaps World M&M.

The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority doesn’t even make much of an effort to attract families with children, focusing more on conferences, conventions, international tourists and business travelers.

However, the city has a surprising amount of things to do for kids: the High Roller Ferris Wheel, the open-air zipline at The Linq, the Shark Reef Aquarium at Mandalay Bay, the Hunger Games Experience at MGM Grand, the Marvel Avengers Museum, the immersive art experience at Area 15 and colorful shows such as Cirque de Soleil.

“I think it’s just the variety and diversity of activities that you won’t find anywhere else, especially in such a compact area,” said Chuck Bowling, president of Mandalay Bay.

Wheelchairs on the strip. A parent pushes a child through a casino in Mandalay Bay.

CNBC

The city is also becoming an increasingly popular destination for sports. The NFL, in particular, has come a long way in the city with the Raiders franchise playing at Allegiant Stadium, the NFL Draft later this month, and the Super Bowl in 2024. The NHL Golden Knights are selling out their hockey games with family fun. There are also WNBA aces.

While families can help Vegas expand its brand, not everyone is thrilled about the boom in young visitors.

Vegas news and opinion blogger Scott Robin called his 100,000 Vital Vegas Twitter followers are calling for “stop bringing kids to Vegas.”

“Children sleep in their strollers day and night. And grown-up things are happening around them. And I just don’t think they need to be here,” Robin told CNBC, saying he slams parents for bringing kids to Las Vegas. (Roben is not a parent.)

“I’m a big advocate for Las Vegas for adults and kids everywhere. Just make it one place,” he said. “They should enjoy walking down Main Street at Disneyland or they should be walking around Lego at Legoland – they don’t need to be in Las Vegas.”

Not all destinations welcome children. In its early years, Wynn Las Vegas gained a reputation for forbidding strolling along its marble walkways through casino floors, though families now flock to take pictures in front of the famous flower-covered carousel.

Approximately in the center of Las Vegas, it is forbidden to enter persons under the age of 21, even if accompanied by their parents.

“We moved away from the family business, bar mitzvah and wedding business to focus on customer service,” said Circa CEO and owner Derek Stevens. He said he was attracting more customers by saving patrons from the constant requests for ID at bars and gaming tables.

Tourism officials and casino executives insist they don’t want Las Vegas to be the next Orlando.

“I don’t think we want to swing the pendulum that far because we’re still an adult market. What happens here stays here. We are proud of it,” said Bowling from Mandalay Bay.

However, parents who bring their children here say they understand that Sin City has a more nasty side.

Anto Hunanyan brushed off worries about his two young children being exposed to the strip’s more wrong side, including scantily clad dancers, drunken adults, and the smell of marijuana.

“It’s not much different from daily life in Manhattan,” he said.




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