Hot Days, Cool Kids
Monday, August 3, 2009
I have two young children. (Translation: I am in charge of two fragile, little people who cannot entertain themselves without help.) It’s summertime in Las Vegas. (Translation: It’s too freaking hot to go outside until late September.) What this means is that I must find fun, age-appropriate summer activities to do with young children before the entire household goes blind from too much TV.
I wrestle with this problem every year, usually when May comes around – that’s when spring quietly steps back and summer opens its doors wide to let the blazing heat in. Over the years I have found some great ways to beat the heat, with my kids in tow.
Town Square. Located just south of the Strip on Las Vegas Boulevard, Town Square outdoor mall has one of the best playgrounds in the city, and it has a water feature. There’s plenty of parking and there are several restaurants close by for a meal. The shopping is excellent and water misters keep us cool as we stroll on the streets. My husband usually lets me browse the shops while he watches the kids get soaked on the splash pad. Everyone wins!
Mount Charleston. About a 30-minute drive from our house (35 miles northwest of Las Vegas), Mount Charleston gives us the chance to get out of our flip flops and into some hiking shoes for an afternoon of fresh air. It’s a leisurely drive, and the hiking trails are easy to spot from the road on the way up to the top. Although my kids don’t “hike” for very long, they do enjoy walking among the tall pine trees, looking for wildlife and breathing the cool air – and it’s free! At the top of the mountain (at 7,717 feet) the Mount Charleston Lodge offers a nice place to have lunch. The kids love to watch for hummingbirds while my husband and I enjoy the crisp, mountain air and the view from the Lodge’s outdoor patio.
Kids Quest. When we can afford it, my husband and I call up a few of our friends who have kids and make a movie date at one of the Station Casinos that has a Kids Quest (not all of them do). For an hourly fee, the kids get to run amuck (supervised by professional childcare providers) in an indoor play park full of slides, video games and kid-friendly snacks. My husband and I enjoy our adult fun time – an R-rated movie and margaritas with lunch afterward – secure in the knowledge that when we pick up the kids they will be fed, happy … and totally exhausted. It’s a pricey afternoon (about $7 per kid/per hour not including food) but worth every penny on a hot summer day.
The Springs Preserve. With ideas and resources on how and what to recycle, arcade games that teach kids about Las Vegas and its sustainability, and won’t-put-you-to-sleep local wildlife information at every turn, the Springs Preserve is sure to please the whole family for an entire afternoon. There’s plenty to do outside, too, if we’re feeling cooped up. My kids like searching for lizards and birds on one of the many offered trails, while I’m just happy to listen to their squeals of surprised delight as I follow their lead. If we get hungry there’s a cafe that offers a menu created by Wolfgang Puck. So even if I get bored, there’s always lunch to look forward to! Open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily; general admission prices range from $4.95 to $18.95; an annual family pass is $75.
A family-friendly movie. When my husband and I can’t agree on an R-rated movie, and there’s an animated movie out that the kids want to see, putting on some 3-D glasses and lounging in an air conditioned theater can be a great way to spend an afternoon. Movie tickets can cost a family big bucks (it cost us $60 for four tickets, drinks and popcorn for everyone on our last visit … ouch!), but some of the theater groups are having summer specials on selected movies at certain times. For example, Regal Entertainment Group has a special called Free Family Film Festival that offers family movies … for free! Popcorn and candy are not included. Bummer!
Station Casinos’ pools. Station Casinos permit the general public to use their pools for $10 per person on weekdays and $20 per person on weekends. This is a sweet deal since the hotel pools are quite a bit nicer than the local, public pools – and a bit of a secret, since it’s not advertised online. At Aliante Station you can even use the poolside beds – for free – during the week. Just walk directly to the pool and check in at the pool desk.
The local public pool. My husband splurged on a family membership to the YMCA this year, and we’ve been to the pool every other weekend since it opened. With our membership, we get unlimited access to all their Las Vegas pools. The Y also offers classes like basketball and gymnastics, as well as swimming lessons. Visit the YMCA of Southern Nevada for summer specials and family membership rates.
Las Vegas offers many activities to enjoy in and around the city during the hot summer months. You just have to know where to find them. I know my family will be taking advantage of all of the ideas above. Maybe I’ll see you there?