5 Kid-Friendly Activities in Las Vegas

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This article was written by Sarah Vernetti, a freelance writer who loves exploring the American Southwest. Follow her adventures at sarahvernetti.wordpress.com or @SarahVernetti on Twitter.

Las Vegas may be famous for a certain two-mile stretch of Las Vegas Boulevard, but that doesn't mean the fun stops once you leave the Strip—beyond the busy casinos, the city is home to a beautiful performing arts center, unique museums, and beautiful parks. It's also a great jumping-off point for further adventures in the American Southwest, so why not bring the kids along? Venture off the Strip with these five things to do in Las Vegas with kids.

Clark County Museum: This regional museum just might be the best way to spend $2 in the greater Las Vegas area. With exhibits covering the history of Southern Nevada from pre-historic times to the present, this is a great place to discover the region's past. After you've explored the museum, step outdoors and take a stroll down "Heritage Street,"  to view several well-preserved historic homes. Each is decorated with historically accurate items from the era, giving visitors a vivid look at what life was like before smartphones and big-screen televisions.

Smith Center for the Performing Arts: This beautiful facility joined the Las Vegas downtown scene in 2012. Featuring a wide array of performances from Broadway musicals to comedians, the Art Deco-inspired Smith Center is a beautiful place to catch a show. Upcoming programs include the Salzburg Marionette Theater, The Nutcracker, and A Mari-achi Christmas: Mariachi Sol de Mexico de Jose Hernandez. The center's Broadway series also includes musicals like Evita and Mama Mia. Arrive early to explore Symphony Park, part of the Smith Center campus, which features several large-scale sculptures.

Discovery Children's Museum: Located on the Smith Center campus, the new Discovery Children's Museum offers families three stories of interactive fun. Learn about water and physics in the Water World area. Then, climb net ladders, cruise down slides, and enjoy interactive displays in The Summit, the museum's three-story climbing structure. Imaginative kids will want to play in the museum's pirate ship or put on an impromptu performance on the theater stage in the Fantasy Festival exhibit.

Red Rock Canyon and other area parks: A great place to experience the Mojave Desert, Red Rock Canyon offers visitors ample opportunities for hiking, picnicking, and horseback riding. Visit the LEED gold-certified visitor center and then take the 13-mile scenic drive to see park highlights and gain access to trailheads and picnic areas. Active families can go horseback riding on one of the designated equestrian trails. Down the road from the park's main entrance, travelers will find Spring Mountain Ranch State Park, which features hiking trails, picnic sites, and a historic ranch house. The nearby master-planned community of Summerlin also offers a variety of parks and walking trails, providing yet another way for the kids to expend some energy. Further afield, families seeking a day-trip from Las Vegas can find outdoor activities at Valley of Fire State Park near Overton, NV, and Death Valley National Park, located just over the border in California.

Neon Museum: Older kids and their parents will enjoy a visit to this outdoor museum, which features examples of famous signs that once decorated the streets of Las Vegas. During a one-hour guided tour, museum-goers will take a stroll through the Neon Boneyard where you can see remnants of the Las Vegas of yesteryear. Reservations are recommended, and tickets can be purchased online. If your family isn't in the mood for a guided tour, refurbished signs have been reinstated as public art along Las Vegas Blvd. north of Fremont St. and can be viewed free of charge in this "urban gallery."

Although families visiting Las Vegas will want to explore the Strip, they should be sure to add a few off-Strip activities to their itineraries. From nature to the arts, Las Vegas has a lot to offer travelers seeking off-beat adventures.

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