Not long ago I struck up a conversation with a staffer at my orthodontist appointment (in Salem, Oregon where I moved from last fall). When asked what I do for a living, I described my column and how it offers unfiltered reviews/advice/news on all things Vegas. Her reply was an unpleasant “Ugh…Vegas!”.
Obviously there was a story behind her response. “I went to Vegas recently” she offered. “It’ll be a long time before I go back…if ever.” It turns out that she and her husband had decided to take their eighteen-month-old baby for a few days in Sin City. “What was I thinking? It was a miserable experience”.
As a person who cringes at the sight of little children being dragged around Vegas at all hours (and in truly inappropriate locations), I was eager to explore this young mother’s experiences. But more importantly, I had to find out what would ever possess her to take a baby there in the first place.
“I used to hear that it was a cool place for kids. Lots of fun things for them to see and do – animal attractions, amusement rides, neat stores and lots of things to look at. I figured we could stick to those sorts of activities. And if one of us had the itch to do something more “adult”, my husband and I could trade off watching the baby”.
Well, let’s be honest and take a look at that last statement…doing something “more adult”. That’s the REAL reason any grown-up heads to Las Vegas – for things you can’t experience in your everyday life. But don’t some parents want to have their cake and eat it, too?
Check this out, kids. Can you say “Gentleman’s Club”?
Carrot Top frequently disses Vegas-bound families in his comedy show. “What the #&*! is it with all the kids on the Strip?” he asks. “Drugs, booze, gambling, and prostitutes. Yeah, bring the kids!” he intones. And he is so very right.
The fact is that there is absolutely NOTHING family-oriented in and around the Strip (excluding natural attractions like Red Rock Canyon) that can’t be done cheaper/better/funner somewhere else. Your kids want a rollercoaster ride? There are family parks all over the nation. Animal attractions? Same thing. And those places aren’t surrounded by “porn slappers”, suggestive billboards, inebriated revelers, homeless beggars and adults doing grown-up things with a drink in their hand.
Then there’s that small matter of temptation. All the things that parents want to do when the kiddies aren’t around are suddenly within reach 24/7. Sure, parents can trade off, leaving one adult feeling left out and completely eliminating the opportunity to do things together as a couple or family. Or little Bobby can stay with a sitter in the hotel room while you get your groove on. And that circles right back around to “Why did you bring your children here in the first place?”. Could it be absolute and utter selfishness?
Another role-model mother lavishes attention on her brood at Fremont Street…
That selfishness manifests itself in another significant but frequently unmentioned way. Having your children around in an adult playground completely disregards the fact that many if not most Vegas tourists come here to GET AWAY FROM KIDS! A screeching, bawling baby on the casino floor at 2 am is hardly what somebody wants to hear when they’re about to roll the dice.
Who feels like watching their language and behavior when they’re strolling around with a cocktail in their hand? I’ve encountered situations where entitled parents have scolded revelers both on the Strip and at Fremont Street with a stern “Watch your mouth, there are kids here!”.
Family outing to Budweiser Beer Park at midnight. Nothing wrong here…
Alrighty, mom….that’s your fault, not theirs. Thanks for displaying your self-importance and driving a stake through other peoples’ good times. Nobody wanted to stumble over your rugrats on their way to the bar. Put them in bed or leave them at Grandma’s house…where they belong.
Little Sally loves dancing in the streets….right next to that stumbling drunk…
While these parents are here spoiling fun for others, they also make it difficult for our service employees to do their job. I’ve witnessed a mom and dad arguing with Golden Nugget security to allow them to bring their stroller out onto the Fremont Street Experience after midnight on New Year’s Eve, despite the fact that 1) it was an over-21 ticketed event, 2) there were thousands of drunk people crammed into that tiny four-block area, and 3) their baby didn’t even have a blanket over it and the temperature was below freezing.
Don’t worry, kids. Security only comes around every 30 minutes or so…
Another common thing I see is parents allowing their children to sit at slot machines, which is blatantly against the law. After security comes and orders them to get up, those irresponsible moms and dads tell them “Okay, he’s gone. You can sit back down now”. What a way to teach your children right from wrong, eh?
How about that time I spotted Dad sitting down with his two boys at the LINQ Sportsbook. Or the Mom that settled in with her babies at the Art Bar of Downtown Grand for a little story time? Again they had to argue with security when informed that they weren’t allowed here. It’s a scenario that just gets repeated over and over and over….
“Kids in Vegas” is one of the hottest and most volatile subjects on any Vegas message board. I’ve gotten into many a heated discussion with those of dissenting opinions. My stance is that your children should vacation in places meant for children. A tourist destination promoting “sin” is not that place.
The most frequent defense that people use for being pro-kids is “My parents took me to Vegas and I turned out alright”. But did you really? There are plenty of parents who would contend that deliberately exposing children to the dangers and excess of Las Vegas is anything but “alright”.
The classic Vegas of a few decades back is long gone, my friends. Mobsters notwithstanding, the Strip and Fremont Street are much grittier and more dangerous now than ever before. Visits here are no longer classy affairs filled with evening gowns, elegance and lounge singers.
I’m cutting straight to the truth at this point. Contemporary Vegas is the worst place for a caring parent to take a kid. It regularly sees violent crime in the streets, casinos and sidewalks. Shoot-outs, robberies, murders, police stand-offs and a deliberate attack on Strip pedestrians by a motorist have filled headlines in recent months. I could also bring up the deadliest massacre in modern American history if you’d like, but if you haven’t gotten my point by now you’re never going to.
Then of course there are the rapes, muggings, pick-pocketing, suicides, drug overdoses, etc. that go unreported or unpublicized. You’re unlikely to encounter any of that with your family at Magic Mountain or Lego Land.
Here are a few sobering statistics to consider before packing a suitcase for the little ones:
The overall crime rate in Las Vegas is 37% higher than the national average.
For every 100,000 people, there are 10.73 daily crimes that occur in Las Vegas.
In Las Vegas you have a 1 in 26 chance of becoming a victim of any crime.
Las Vegas is graded an F for crime compared to all U.S. cities. (Source – areavibes.com)
Another popular argument from parents who bring their families to Vegas is “The kids wanted to go”. Did they, really? If so, ask yourself where their information comes from. Surely your precious little ones haven’t been allowed to watch The Hangover or CSI. So they must be hearing how fun Vegas is from Mom and Dad, right?
It’s doubtful that parents share the true Vegas experience with their kids. Those descriptions get sanitized and romanticized, leading kids to envision the city as one big carnival. Somewhere along the way, details about drinking, gambling, smoking joints, three-ways and lap dances got left out of the story. So don’t blame the kids if you’ve made Vegas sound appealing to them.
Remember that bizarre 90’s attempt to rebrand Vegas as family-friendly destination? It’s now viewed as ill-advised phase, if not downright embarrassing. Most of the rides, attractions, free shows and kid-friendly casino themes have been scaled down or stripped out altogether.
Back then, the MGM Grand had a theme park and the hotel itself was designed as a replica of Emerald City. But Dorothy and the Munchkins are long gone, and with good reason. The concept didn’t work.
Let’s circle back to the mom at the beginning of this piece. She told me that bringing her baby along truly spoiled the love she and her husband felt for Vegas. “We couldn’t do anything we wanted to do. I felt guilty – just awful – for exposing my baby to that kind of environment. It made me second-guess what I loved about going there, and it’s unlikely that we’ll be returning before my daughter grows up”.
She paused to think for a moment, then offered a final bit of wisdom that stuck with me…and inspired this article.
“You know, we’re the ones who wanted to be parents. Nobody forced us to take our child along. We chose to do that ourselves. Only one of those decisions was a mistake…and we won’t be making it again”.
Other sites give you a glossy vision of Sin City…you won’t find that here. Get real.