Our first vacation as a family was to Las Vegas for New Years Eve (NYE). I hadn’t wanted to book anything until we’d done a test run on the plane with Baby. We flew from Toronto to Moncton to spend Thanksgiving in New Brunswick with family when Baby Thomas was 2 months old. However, this meant very few places on our bucket list were still affordable to book for NYE come October. Fights to Las Vegas were cheap and I wanted to see the Grand Canyon, so we ended up here.
Despite other travel blogs I read on Las Vegas being a family friendly place, I found it to be quite the opposite. Hotels charge a fortune for cribs (if they offer them at all), we found no kettles to boil water for baby items and formula offered, and there is no where to sit outside your hotel room which made me feel quite trapped. This whole city is designed to usher you into casinos and overpriced restaurants. Everything is loud, cigarette smoke is unavoidable, and there are stairs everywhere which made it less than ideal to navigate with a stroller.
Our baby couldn’t even find pleasure in the lights of Las Vegas. He generally loves lights at night, but he had a look of grave concern on his face for much of our time in the city. He’s usually such a happy baby, but I think he found Vegas overwhelming. Mummy being miserable here probably didn’t help things. I would not recommend travelling here with a baby.
Flight and Arrival in Las Vegas
Baby Thomas did well on the plane. When we arrived in Las Vegas, people passed us upon exit and voiced their surprised to see a baby as they hadn’t heard a peep from him all flight! Luggage carts were $5 USD at the airport which was a shame as we had packed much more luggage than was normal for us. My partner, Matt was a trooper lugging our bassinet, stroller, and activity gym for baby in addition to our luggage as I tended to Baby Thomas.
Research has told us that the airport shuttle was a bit of a scam and that a taxi was often cheaper or comparable as they offered flat rates to hotels. However, our taxi driver appeared to scam us by turning on the meter. We were too tired to argue and ended up paying $65 to get our little family into bed.
First Day in Las Vegas
Baby Thomas adjusted well to the time change. He slept well the first night, but not the second. He gets quite talkative in the morning, so I took him out in the stroller. There was a Starbucks in the hotel but I was horrified to discover the prices were hiked way up. A tall Pike Roast (aka: a regular coffee) was almost $5 USD. A bagel was $4 USD.
I asked the Concierge about where to buy diapers. He directed me to Walgreens on Fremont Street. The strip was very depressing at sunrise. The only people out were unhappy maintenance workers and homeless people begging for change.
Walgreens was charging absurd prices for groceries and essentials. I picked up diapers, some granola and a small cup of yogurt for $20 USD and headed back to the hotel. The staff working there were also very unhappy. No one living in this city seemed to enjoy their life.
I stopped to admire the warm glow of sunrise through the Fremont Experience arches. The sun appeared so much closer due to the flat land of the desert. A friendly homeless person in a wheelchair came up to me remarking on how beautiful it was. I agreed with him.
Once Matt was up, we scoped out our lunch options. Pickings were slim, so we ended up at White Castle of all places. We had heard about this fast food franchise in movies and ordered a slider each and some fries. We vowed never to eat there again. It was terrible.
We then walked from Fremont to Las Vegas Blvd towards the famous ‘Strip’. It took all afternoon. It was entertaining at first to see drive through wedding chapels and unusual businesses adjacent to one another like shooting ranges and bail bond outlets. But after awhile, it became common place. I was amazed that this sort of thing could be so popular that it would be so plentiful on a single street!
Trucks, trikes, and fancy cars revved up and down Las Vegas Blvd. constantly. I regretted not packing Thomas’ ear protection headphones I keep in the stroller at home for construction zones and sirens. He didn’t seem to mind though.
We got lost in Cesars Palace. When we asked a staff person for the pedestrian exit, they were shocked we wanted to walk to our destination. He kept repeating it to make sure we actually wanted to walk – yet the place we wanted to go was only a short walk away once we finally got outside.
I wanted to see the Flamingo Habitat and the recreation of Venice. Unfortunately, all the flamingos were gone as it was winter and the habitat was outdoors. The recreation of Venice was extremely tacky – but there was still a long lineup to take a gondola ride through the mall. We decided to skip the fake Paris. We’d seen the real Paris and Venice after all.
We were hungry and tired, so went on a search for a relatively quiet place with a booth where we could get comfortable with Thomas. We ended up at Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville. For a themed bar, it was actually quite nice. The service was friendly, prices were alright, and it was relatively quiet for a rock star’s bar! We shared a chicken salad between us, which was the lowest calorie entree on the menu. Matt got a beer and I inquired about their non-alcoholic options. Apparently they don’t get asked that very often because the server had to go back to the bartender 4 times about it.
I ended up with a non-alcoholic strawberry daiquiri. It was much too sweet for me, so I added a whole lime worth of juice to it. I would have much preferred a beer, but I had Baby Thomas to feed. They didn’t offer de-alcoholized here beer like was so popular in the UK.
We walked down the strip at night to admire the lights. Once we got to the Strat, we picked up a cab home. I regretted not having more cash on me – they offer cheaper rates if you pay cash here! Same applies to gas too.
On the topic of payments, an interesting thing Matt pointed out to me was the old fashioned payment process here! At home, servers bring a handheld credit card payment device to your table – but everywhere here, they take your card away and you have to manually sign for it. Oh so old fashioned!
It was Thomas’ bedtime by the time we got home. Matt went out to enjoy the strip while I settled in with Thomas for the night. Matt had a great time listening to live music and admiring the hourly light shows. He said Vegas really has some quality music acts!
Matt found joy in Fremont Street by observing it from a marketing and light engineering perspective. It is designed perfectly for highly inebriated people. The suggestive advertising like “Wanna Taco?” and loud auditory walk signs when crossing streets are annoying in the daytime are very useful for inebriated pedestrians. He enjoyed measuring the sound decibels of the musical acts – everything was set just below 100db. Matt had fun finding places to enjoy the music without suffering temporary hearing loss at over 80 decibels.
Day Two in Vegas
Thomas woke up shortly before 6am. I moved his activity mat into the washroom so I could have a shower and watch him at the same time. We got dressed and went for a walk so Daddy could sleep while Thomas did his morning ‘singing’ routine (Thomas is always very excited at the start of each day and expresses it with yelling).
I am counting the minutes until we get to leave Las Vegas. I hate this place more than I feared I would. However, on our second early morning stroll in this depressing city of lights (that not even our baby seems to enjoy), we had an interesting moment.
Now, let me start by saying there appear to be no public parks, city benches, or places to sit in the hotel lobbies in downtown Las Vegas. The only places to sit are at the slot machines, casino tables or at the bar. This is unfortunate urban design on many levels – and also not great for young mothers like myself trying to get their energetic baby out of the hotel room so Daddy can sleep past 6:30 in the morning.
I asked hotel staff for directions to a budget friendly place for breakfast. They seemed surprised I wanted to leave the hotel and recommended Chick-fil-a. I was appalled – but then remembered this was America. There is a huge push to boycott Chick-fil-a back home as they fund anti-LGBTQ2S initiates. It was up to me to find breakfast.
McDonalds in Vegas
After wandering up and down Fremont and side streets scoping out our options, Thomas and I found ourselves a McDonalds (inside a casino) were we could sit at a booth while I had a coffee. I was grateful to find a quiet place to sit that wasn’t charging jacked-up prices like the Starbucks in our hotel was ($5 USD for a regular coffee).
Like every downtown McDonalds, it was a popular hangout spot for people who are under-housed. A man sat at a table across from us eating cold ravioli straight out of the can with his buddy. I was approached for change (something that doesn’t happen too often an account of the baby I expect) by another man and I watched as a suburban looking woman handed out sandwiches to all the homeless people sitting there.
The one person nearby without face tattoos struck up conversation after Thomas gave him a big smile. He was very pleasant and guessed Thomas’ age correctly just by looking at him! The man said Thomas would be a football player and a ‘juice and milk man’.
Las Vegas Misery
My little juice and milk man fell asleep on the stroll back to the hotel. I closed myself in the washroom and cried holding my baby. I felt so trapped and miserable here. This is not my kind of city and it’s definitely not the kind of place you want to be with a baby.
When Matt got up, we discussed our options. He phoned the car rental place to see if we could pick up the car a day early to leave the city. However, they were all booked up on account of it approaching New Years. Other car rentals were incredibly expensive, so we were stuck in Vegas.
The Neon Museum
A number of friends had recommended the Neon Museum to me. It was $30 USD to enter, which worked out to $40 CAD, but I was desperate for something to do nearby.
The museum was a 20 minute walk from our hotel, the Golden Nugget. Matt walked with us there which I was grateful for as Google took us under a highway, past a trailer park, by a slum (comparable to the homes we’d seen in Cuba), and through desolate parts of town where people moved in packs. Matt didn’t want me to walk back alone, but there was nowhere for him to sit and wait for us while we went into the museum. So, I said I’d take a taxi home and he walked back to the hotel.
The open air ‘museum’ was quite small. You bought tickets at a container in a parking lot, then walked around the lot to a security check point. No camera or knapsacks were allowed. The camera thing was surprising as the whole point of the place seemed to be for pictures. There was nothing I could see on the history or science of neon signs or Las Vegas as part of the exhibit. I didn’t see any tour guides or audio tours either – just a bunch of people walking through the ‘exhibit’ of signs discarded on a former dump site.
I spent less than an hour at the ‘museum’ and took a taxi back to the hotel. After a short nap, we went down to the hotel restaurant to take advantage of Happy Hour specials. The restaurant was the one nice experience we had in Las Vegas – the staff was friendly, the prices were reasonable at that hour, and the food was good. We cuddled on the sofa while Thomas slept in his pram. We enjoyed tasty nachos while we relaxed and people-watched. It was the only time I actually felt happy in all our time in Las Vegas.
We went for a walk outside and through the hotel to show Thomas the hotel’s fancy aquarium. The big aquarium was closed for Off Season and the little aquarium was behind a bar, so we admired the fish from afar. Thomas and I then retired to the room to go to bed while Matt went for an evening stroll. He quite enjoyed the hourly light shows on Fremont Street, but he said the decibels were too high for Baby Thomas’ little ears.
Las Vegas for NYE
Our hotel was on Fremont Street, but the street was closed off to everyone who didn’t have a special NYE wristband. It was $60 for a wristband and much too loud and crowded for a baby anyhow. Many other streets were closed down, strollers were forbidden and there was a clear bag policy in effect. So much for enjoying NYE in Vegas!
As lame as it sounds, I was content ringing in the NYE in our hotel room. Matt researched alternative options for us. Apparently car parks and mountain tops were popular spots for viewing the fireworks at midnight. The idea of getting in a car did not appeal to me. I was worried we’d get stuck in traffic for hours with a tired screaming baby – so, we decided to stay home.
Matt got us taco takeout to have in the calm of our room. It was then I discovered I’d lost my phone. After an hour searching, Matt found it between the car seat and the back seat of the car rental we’d picked up earlier that day. Thomas had trouble sleeping, finally settling at 9:30pm, waking every two hours to feed. Timing worked out though as we got to ring in the New Year as a family looking out our hotel room window as fireworks burst in the sky.
New Years Day
Thomas did us the courtesy of sleeping in until 7am after his wakeful night. I had a nightmare about there being a Wild West bank robbery next door while I rummage through my stroller bag hiding my phone and Thomas’ pacifiers with broken baby toys so the robbers wouldn’t take them. Then I slipped through ice and was carried off towards a huge icy waterfall that looked like Gullfoss in Iceland. Thomas did me the kindness of waking me up before things got worse in my dream!
We checked out of our hotel, the Golden Nugget, at 9am and tried to dispute the resort fees that were added onto our already overpriced hotel room. In the end, they only gave us back $36 of the $144 USD fees they were charging us. Not even Thomas’ smile could win them over… We were stuck with a $200 CAD bill on the way out the door after already spending $600 CAD to stay there (which was the cheapest rate we could find at a hotel/motel in downtown Las Vegas).
We had breakfast at McDonalds again. Matt and I split a coffee and orange juice between us while Thomas snoozed in his pram. I realized I had the wrong departure date in our calendar – we were leaving Friday not Saturday, so my road trip plan was botched. I blame Mummy Brain on lack of sleep… Another blip in the trip.
Next we drive out of the city to visit canyons and the National Parks: Grand Canyon, Death Valley, and Zion. We’ve decided that ecotourism is more our thing.
Will the road trip go better? Let’s hope so!