For the past several years I’ve attended a large convention in Las Vegas. As it happens, it’s always in January or early February, which means that the weather can be iffy—sometimes pleasant, sometimes freezing, sometimes rainy. And, the hotel pools are closed for the season, which means that if you’re traveling with kids that time of year you’ll need to look for other things to do. Luckily there are great activities both indoor and outdoor that make Las Vegas a great mid-winter family destination.
Deals on Shows and Activities
There’s bound to be a show you want to see. When I was there, the Cirque Du Soleil show “La Reve” was playing at The Winn, and tickets were out-of-my-budget expensive. Friends who had seen this show said it was amazing and well-worth it, but trying to buy tickets a month in advance showed that the ticket price for a Friday night (the only night I had free from work events) was $109. That’s a bit much. I used the website Smartervegas.com, looked for codes for The Winn, and bought my tickets that day for 25% off. This site has codes for shows at every hotel, so check here before you blow your budget.
Another great site to check for deals on activities, such as Hoover Dam tours or the interactive Marvel’s Avengers S.T.A.T.I.O.N. (Scientific Training and Tactical Intelligence Operative Network) exhibit at Treasure Island on The Las Vegas Strip is Tix4Tonight.com. Tickets for the S.T.A.T.I.O.N. show through Treasure Island are $34 for adults and $24 for children but for adults through Tix4Tonight start at $29.
If you know there’s something you want to do there, such as get a massage, order pizza, or go shopping, check Las Vegas’s local Groupon.
One of the cool things I did last time was visited the Neon Museum. Kids might not appreciate the display of decommissioned Las Vegas historical neon signs like you will, but it’s still a very worthy visit. Tickets are cheaper for a self-guided tour during the day time, but I recommend paying extra for the nighttime guided tour, so you can see the lights lit up, and get knowledge from the guide who knows the unique history of all the signs. The museum has an additional exhibit called Brilliant! That is highly recommended. This is an additional ticket and allows you to experience sound, light, and vision in an outdoor amphitheater that brings the signs and the history of Las Vegas to life, depending on who the guest artist is.
There’s an exhibit of movie director Neon Museum and how it relates to the history of Las Vegas neon signage (think Mars Attacks!)
running from October 15 through February 15, 2019, and tickets are going fast. If you want to try to visit this popular exhibit, I recommend securing your tickets to the Neon Museum on the day and time that you want to visit, then booking your Las Vegas strip hotel.
Pelican Feedings at The Flamingo
It’s free to walk through the gardens at The Flamingo, and, true to the hotel’s theme, there are flamingos, lush plants, and palm trees. The flock of flamingos is fun to watch and is open daily to visitors of all ages from dawn to dusk. Plan to go there for the twice daily free pelican feedings at 8:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. The 15-acre gardens are also home to other exotic birds, fish and turtles. The Flamingo gardens are a welcome respite from the business and the heat of the strip, even though the strip is just steps away. And, it’s free all the time!
Circus Acts at Circus Circus
Circus Circus may be in an out-of-the-way part of the strip (it looks like it might be walking distance to other spots but it’s not), but it is worth a visit, particularly if you have young kids. The hotel has a huge indoor “midway” complete with games and popcorn just like you might find at a real fair.
Just next to the midway is an arena offering free daily circus acts every half hour starting at 11:30 a.m. daily. That link has a weekly schedule, so you can plan exactly which acrobats, jugglers, feats of strength, or aerial or trapeze performers you want to see.
In my opinion, the volcano display in front of The Mirage along with the Lake of Dreams show at the Wynn are the best free shows on the strip. (Skip Caesar’s Palace’s Fall of Atlantis Show . . . it’s little better than a Chuck E. Cheese mechanical puppet display, sadly, although the aquarium that is right next to the show area is quite nice.) The volcano truly brings the strip to a halt, with lights, smoke, an intense soundtrack developed by the Grateful Dead’s Mickey Hart, and a real island eruption experience. Experience it nightly at 8 p.m., 9 p.m., and 10 p.m.
Glass Elevator at The Rio
The Rio might not be right on the strip, but the 202 bus takes you right to it from the Flamingo in just minutes for a lot less than an Uber. Once there, plan to take the glass elevator (free!) on the outside of the building from the ground floor up 51 stories to the VooDoo Rooftop Lounge for a stunning view of the lights of nighttime Las Vegas. Once up there, you do not have to eat or drink at the Lounge. Note that the elevator does not run if the weather is windier than normal, and you can’t take the elevator up until the restaurant opens at 5 p.m. The lounge opens at 8 p.m.
Lake of Dreams Show at The Wynn
Head to The Wynn, and their two bars called Parasol Up and Parasol Down, for spectacular experiences. Take the circular escalator from Parasol Up to Parasol Down, for an outdoor patio where you can overlook the Wynn’s stunning “backyard”: a lake surrounded by pine trees and a 40-foot waterfall that looks straight out of Oregon. You don’t have to order a cocktail at Parasol Down to enjoy the free shows that happen every 30 minutes, but you might want to because the drinks are really good (although kinda pricey).
The Lake of Dreams shows are short videos that are projected as holograms, and they rotate every half hour beginning at 8 p.m. until 12:30 a.m., so if you stick around for a couple of hours you’ll see different ones. They are truly stunning, and you’ll want to see them all.
The Bellagio Conservatory and Museum
The other must-not-miss spot on the strip that is free to walk through is the Bellagio Conservatory. In January, the conservatory and gardens are always impeccably decorated for Chinese New Year, with displays of dragons and the animal of the year. Displays change every three or four months. Also worth checking out is the chocolate fountain at the Bellagio confectioner’s shop, and if you want to purchase a separate admission of only $10, it’s worth checking out the rotating art exhibits at the Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art.