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las vegas trip with kids | travel photographer

I had LOTS of requests about our recent Las Vegas trip that we took (as a family).  In short, it was a blast!  We went for 8 days (the 1st and the 8th days were mostly travel days).  Technically we stayed in Henderson NV, just outside of Vegas, which is a HUGE reason why we decided to all go.  My husband was sent there for a conference, and when I saw it wasn’t actually IN Vegas I was on board to go + bring the kids.  It was really quite perfect.  We did venture to the strip a few times to sightsee (more on that below), and I tried to mix up our time between pool days, and exploring days.  I also made sure to incorporate lots of downtime where we would just go back to the room, hang out, grab a snack, and do some independent study work (my 2 big kids took a whole week off school).  Obviously my husband was at his conference the vast majority of the time, so the kids and I were pretty much on our own.  Our motto was “STAY ALIVE!” (seriously… any time we left the room we put our hands in the middle and shouted it!)… the big kids really helped me keep tabs on everyone (namely the resident three year old) so we could do just that.  And we had a lot of fun to boot!  Read more to learn about all the details of our visit.  (FYI  none of these links are perked or paid, I just had LOTS of requests about where we stayed and what we did so I simply want to share!  Also this is a bit long, but again, wildly requested.  So here ya go!)

We stayed at the Green Valley Ranch (the hotel where the conference was) and it was nice.  They were a bit understaffed once all the conference goers arrived (we went early for my husband to take an extra class before the conference started), but overall it was good.  The pool was GREAT!  We started with a couple of pool days before exploring just so the kids could get a break from the car.  There was a beach entry on one side (with actual sand, my kids LOVED it), and then the other side was regular plaster with steps.  The pool was plenty big for everyone, and the sandy area was just a portion of it.  I worried that the main part of the pool would get sandy from the beach part, but it didn’t.  Sometimes the chair situation was a little limited if I wanted to sit right next to the pool, but for the most part it wasn’t a problem!

One thing I had heard about from friends was a place called 7 Magic Mountains.  It’s a large scale, temporary art installation by Ugo Rondinone just outside of Vegas (from California, you can actually see it from the freeway on your way into town).  So on our first morning out exploring, we went there.  We got there sometime before 11am and the heat wasn’t too bad.  The biggest bonus about getting there in the morning was that there weren’t very many people.  We spent about an hour there, sizing up the rocks, building the “8th magic mountain” with small rocks we found, looking at all the different colors, etc.  I think it said the towers will be there until May/June 2018 so if you’re in the area in the next year or so, definitely check it out!

2017-06-15_00012017-06-15_00022017-06-15_00032017-06-15_0004Afterwards, we went back to the hotel for lunch and I had a fun surprise for the kiddos later that afternoon.  During my downtime at the pool the previous two days I searched Groupon for fun, family friendly activities in the Vegas area and stumbled upon GlowZone.  It’s this indoor play area/amusement park and they were having a crazy deal for weekday visits (Less than half off?  Yes, please!)  So we headed there for half a day.  There was mini golf, bowling, bumper cars (my kids could have ridden those all day), rock climbing, a ninja warrior course, a ropes course, laser tag, and more.  AND, free air conditioning!  It was seriously so great.  There was such a nice group event happening towards the tail end of our visit and all the adults there gave us ALL their tickets before we left, so the kids even got to pick some prizes and candy on the way out.  It was a huge hit!

2017-06-15_0005That night, after my husband was done for the day at his conference, we ventured to Vegas for some walking, exploring, and yummy food.  We paid to park at New York, New York and had dinner at Shake Shack.  It was SO good, and I kind of want to say it’s better than In N Out (I feel like such a traitor Californian but seriously it was SO GOOD!).  Then we walked over to the M&M store (across the street) which was so fun!  We drove the kids all the way up and down the strip that night showing them all the different hotels and made a game plan to come back later in the week and sightsee.  Later, when we did come back, we went to the botanical gardens at the Bellagio, walked through the Venetian to see the gondola’s, saw the Treasure Island boats, walked across numerous walkways that span the strip which the kids loved.  We also ate at Gordon Ramsay’s restaurant BURGER which was so good.  We were there on my birthday so we got spoiled as well.  I lumped our different trips over to the strip together because it all kind of ran together in a blur.  I can’t remember exactly what we did each time we went but we went a total of three times (once for the M&M store and shake shack, one more time, and then again on my birthday after Hoover Dam).  Overall the strip during the day was very nice and kid/family friendly.  We had one incident with some photo cards that were just lying on the ground (nobody was actively passing them out) but we just told our kids not to look or make a big deal about it.  After we returned home, we had a talk with our oldest about what it was and it opened up a door to have a really great conversation with him that we’ve been needing to have anyway.

One night that we were there we met up with my friend and uber talented photographer Jamie Rubeis and took a little drive out to the Valley of Fire to explore and take some photos.  This was a MUST SEE for sure.  It’s over an hour away but so worth it!  My kids had a blast.  We went on a night that my husband had a conference thing, but after seeing the photos he wished he could have gone with us.

2017-06-15_00062017-06-15_00072017-06-15_00082017-06-15_00092017-06-15_00102017-06-15_00112017-06-15_00122017-06-15_00132017-06-15_00142017-06-15_00152017-06-15_00162017-06-15_00172017-06-15_0018Our last full day there was my birthday!  The conference had ended the night before so it was our only full day in town with my husband with us.  We decided to venture out to Hoover Dam and it was AMAZING!  The kids loved it.  We did the power plant tour and highly recommend it.  Their tours are all first come first serve and most have age restrictions.  So definitely check out their website and figure out what is the best option for you.  Then plan to head there early before their tours sell out and before it gets too hot!  We explored outside when we first arrived (before it got too hot – although if you talk to my middle she’ll argue it was still too hot… see pic below), then we headed inside for our tour around noon.  It was perfect.  We brought lots of snacks and water as well.

2017-06-15_00202017-06-15_00212017-06-15_00222017-06-15_0023Overall the trip was amazing!  My top five tips for taking such a long trip with kids are:

1 – Have a general plan.  I knew I didn’t want to explore too much on the weekends – to avoid crowds.  So I planned our weekend days to be pool days.  Then, as I mentioned above, I tried to alternate our “outing” days with pool days.  It mixed it up and kept the kids interested.  Every day they were excited to wake up and see what we were doing that day.  Sometimes I didn’t know EXACTLY what we were doing but I at least knew it would either be a pool day or an outing day.  I let them pick what our outings would be if I didn’t have it nailed down exactly, which helped them feel like a part of the planning.

2 – Shop like a local.  One of the first things I did on day one was make a Target run.  I looked for the closest Target (it was only 2 miles away!) and we got granola bars, chocolate milks, fruit, nuts, and other snacks for the room.  Of course I had packed some but a lot of them were eaten on the drive down.

3 – Explore the immediate area.  Just off of our hotel was a great outdoor shopping area that had al fresco dining, cute little shops, bigger shops + chains, and even movie in the park!  We didn’t catch the movie they were showing the week we were there, but I’m sure it would have been awesome if we had!

4 – Check websites first.  I am so glad I checked the websites for Glow Zone and Hoover Dam before we went.  Glow Zone didn’t even open until 2pm and we were ready to head out as early as 10am that day.  That was the day we went to Target so we just did that instead, came back to the room for lunch, and THEN went to Glow Zone.  But I can imagine if I hadn’t checked and we drove all the way there, the kids would have been a little bummed.

5 – Aim Low.  In the famous words of Yan, aim low.  Don’t expect perfection.  Remember my motto from above that I talked about?  Since my husband was gone at his conference the vast majority of the time, I was legit concerned about all of us staying together, nobody getting lost, and just staying alive.  So that became our motto on day one.  Every morning before we ventured out (whether to the pool or to explore) I would remind the kids of this.  Stick together and stay alive.  We would all put our hands in the middle and shout it… “STAY ALIVE!”  Any fun we had on top of that was icing on the cake!

For good measure, here are some iPhone snaps I took throughout the trip… These are in no particular order, I just post them to show that not everything has to be captured with the big camera.  🙂

18556329_10213413501799962_386956388945838788_n18556892_10213412475774312_7186699129348247335_o18556941_10213419411707706_6912389537762875996_n18558860_10213412475734311_615815543835820483_o18558943_10213393944911052_3352368705048982361_o18581861_10213419414227769_2569920359081268835_n18581974_10213413502519980_6032755419883459814_n18582094_10213413502319975_5128612925108307165_n18582113_10213419413667755_1692908161512731588_n18588679_10213402019872921_2895405156771262084_o18588835_10213412682299475_6183178473031601711_o18619908_10213413503239998_7691267497058297668_n18620418_10213449017767839_8435974414262854140_n18620897_10213428992227213_6502076152986957643_o18622177_10213451020137897_9136381038553105212_n18622416_10213451020217899_137191856586314975_n18622532_10213451020177898_4740834973696523226_n18622637_10213419413187743_230838692589073442_n18623236_10213447078919369_2166501565726748397_o18664310_10213422302379971_1983104220367617542_n18664364_10213422301059938_8961803508784926519_n18664400_10213449017127823_7836231187659619464_n18670947_10213451020097896_4016055726247982084_n18671029_10213449017167824_4644420087615535784_n18699924_10213449017607835_7552887589678119780_n18699994_10213449017047821_7756011641150054625_n18739677_10213449017087822_5430472763610033435_nWould love to know if you enjoyed this more personal type of post.  I get lots of requests for them (decor + travel mostly) but never make the time to do them.  Let me know if you want more like these and not just client work!

As always, thanks for being here!  XOXOX

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