Family Journeys: Vegas & the Great Outdoors, what I learned while vacationing with kids at both places!

The past few years we have taken a big family vacation with extended family to LasVegas, NV. You ask my kids where one of their favorite vacation is and they will tell you, Las Vegas.  But, I have found that when I tell others that we are taking a family vacation with the kids to, Las Vegas, they give me a look like I am crazy and usually respond with something along the lines of, "What are you going to do with kids there?" So, I thought I would share what I have learned from being the crazy person who takes her kids to Vegas...

The first thing I learned is, there are a lot of fun things to do with kids in Vegas and there is a lot of sad destructive, harmful things in Vegas. The key is to, Prepare Well!! Research before hand the places that are kid friendly in Vegas.  Even then you will need to be prepared to know what to do or what to say when an inappropriate picture appears or an inappropriately dressed person appears. I am upfront with my kids. For some reason this most recent adventure to Vegas I was more aware of the lack of modesty, I don't know if it was because I have a son in double digits now or what.  My conversation with my son went something along the lines of this: I explained to him that Satan tempts people to do things that are against Heavenly Father's commandments.  These people who are dressed immodestly and those that are trying to pass out pictures, have fell to the temptation. But we have a choice also, and we can choose to follow Heavenly Father and avoid those things and not look at them or pay them any attention.

When we are in Vegas, we do kid friendly activities. Here are some of the activities we have done:

- Most hotels/resorts have a pool. This is a must for our kids, they love it! We usually spend a couple hours swimming at the pool.

- Fun activities in the hotel room. My mother-in-law is super fun and always has activities for the kids to do in the hotel room.  Some of these activities include: Doughnut Dance Party Game, Animal Charades, Hula Hoop Contest, Movie Night, etc.

- Fun places to eat with kids: Hard Rock Cafe (FYI this last time we went they took music video request, the kids thought it was pretty fun!), BUFFETS (we usually eat at two, we've eaten at Harrah's, Stratosphere, Rio, & Excalibur)

- Fun Activities: CIRCUS CIRCUS (Our kids love it!! There are arcade games and there is the amusement park rides. We usually do this in two separate days, arcades one day and rides another.); Stratosphere there are rides on the top of the Stratosphere, we took my oldest on one of the rides, it was pretty fun.  FYI keep a hold of your kiddos while you are out on the observation deck, it kinda of freaks me out to have them out there up so high.; Outlet stores, I am not sure if this is my kids favorite, but I like it.; Caesar's Palace (There is a huge fish tank next to the Cheesecake Factory, that my kids love it has sting rays in it. Also in the same area they do an animatronic show); Venetian (My kids love watching the gondolas and hearing the people sing. There is a candy store in there too, that they love); The walkway by the Flamingo (this year was the first year it's been opened for us to go down. They have these amazing drummers that play in the walkway and then let the kids come up and try the drums out); Mirage (Volcano show is always fun for the kids to watch. We have also been to the Siegfried and Roy's Garden's and saw the dolphins and BIG cats.); Bellagio water show, we did this last year with the kids, they loved it!;
This year we went to the new Container Park that is down in the old part of town.  It was so much fun and the kids loved it. They gave each of the kids a little passport when they got there and they were able to go around to the different places in there and get it stamped.  They loved playing on the tree house. Another highlight was at dusk they do a little drum show at the entrance and the praying mantis shoots fire out of its antennas. FYI, we did not do all of these things in one trip, these are activities we have done over the years.

In contrast to Vegas, we also have been able to take our kids on some camping trips this year.  It has been a new experience for our kids and they have loved it.  Recently, we went camping at a reservoir in Utah called Strawberry Reservoir.  We fished on a boat with down riggers. Our boys were so excited when we got a fish on the line and enjoyed reeling in the catch.  I took treats and some fun games to keep the kids occupied while on the boat.  I found this fun Barrel of Fish game at Walmart that I purchased and took out on the boat. It was probably one of the best purchases I made. It kept my younger two entertained for quite a while.  My oldest son was more into the fishing, he watched the fish finder and the poles. He even baited a worm onto the hook. When we weren't on the boat, my boys were being boys. They used some empty containers to catch bugs, looked for crayfish, played with sticks, as I said, boy stuff. I have loved being able to take my boys camping! Some of the best memories I have as a child was spending time as a family camping and spending time outdoors.  I think when you are camping and in the mountains you are more likely to spend time paying attention to each other. Most of the time the distractions that keep us unfocused on each other are not accessible while camping. There is also something about being in nature that makes you feel just a little bit closer to Heavenly Father and bring what is really important back into focus.

When I have asked my children their favorite things about the vacations they have been on, one of the things they always say is, "Spending time with family".  That is what is important!! To spend time together, building and cultivating relationships with each other. Helping form good family memories.  I am so grateful to my parents in setting such an amazing example to me growing up. We always went as a family on vacation, I can rarely think of a time my parents went on vacation without us kids. We were always included and knew we were wanted to be there.  I hope that I can help build the family unity and great memories with my children as we vacation together. 

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