If you visit Las Vegas with kids, stop by the free attractions at the Bellagio Hotel
Elvis impersonators, street performers, gardens, fountains and free family fun in Vegas
Sin City ... Doesn't exactly sound kid-friendly. And by most accounts, this party-friendly city of strip clubs, porn slappers and yard-long margaritas is anything but a kid's playground.
On the other hand, a tourist-driven city like Las Vegas knows it would be foolish to exclude a generation of future vacationers. And that's why there are plenty of family-friendly attractions catering to visitors of all ages.
Every now and again, even the Vegas resident (yes, we do exist) likes to play tourist. But tourist traps are typically prohibitively expensive (and overrated). Thankfully, there are plenty of free family things to do in Las Vegas.
I wouldn't normally categorize the Bellagio Hotel Las Vegas as one of the more kid-friendly properties in town The food is expensive, there's no arcade, and it can be a bit hoity-toity. That said, there actually is an array of free family-friendly fun housed on this one famous street corner of the 2.5 mile Las Vegas Strip: Las Vegas Boulevard and Flamingo.
It's actually pretty funny that the luxury hotel, which prohibited strollers and young visitors when it first opened in 1998, is now home to so much free family fun.
When you enter the hotel from the parking garage, the conservatory is straight ahead and slightly to the left. If you enter via the lobby, it is straight ahead. When you enter from the City Center walkway, it is on your left as you walk toward the casino.
Thanks to my excellent parking karma (or "car"ma, as I like to call it), we landed the perfect parking garage spot, right by the entrance to the Bellagio Conservatory. Just a hop, skip, and a jump away is this masterful seasonal extravaganza of fresh foliage, including more than 10,000 potted plants and flowers.
The Bellagio Conservatory is dramatically updated five times a year, once for each season, and a fifth time for the Chinese New Year (although individual flowers themselves are updated constantly). The change-over of the 13,573-square-foot conservatory is a show in and of itself. It happens over the course of a week, 24 hours a day, with the help of more than 100 workers utilizing cranes and tunnels running underneath the Conservatory's floor. The displays are of magnificent proportions, including an array of foliage, colorful flowers and full-grown trees as well as props like hot air balloons, Ferris wheels, fountains and aviaries.
Cost of Admission: $0.
Dale Chihuly Installation
When you enter the hotel from the parking garage turn right just before the conservatory. If you enter via the lobby, look up. If you are coming from the City Center walkway, continue straight past the conservatory and the casino entrance until you hit the lobby.
Things are looking up
Dale Chihuly's glass work graces more than 200 museum collections globally.
Whether you're checking in, checking out, or simply passing through, the Chihuly Installation on the ceiling above the Bellagio lobby is a sight to see. Adults and children alike are captivated by the vibrant bursts of color.
Cost of admission: $0.
A Chocolate Fountain
When you enter the hotel from the parking garage turn left just before the conservatory (away from the casino). If you enter via the lobby, go straight and slightly to your left past the conservatory. In both cases, the chocolate fountain will be on your right. If you are coming from the City Center walkway, the fountain will be on your left as you walk toward the casino.
They had me at chocolate
Not only does The Bellagio have a chocolate fountain, it's the largest chocolate fountain in the world. Located inside the hotel at Jean-Philippe Patisserie (just around the corner from the Conservatory away from the casino) the 27 foot high glass-encased fountain has more than 2,000 pounds of melted chocolaty goodness flowing through it.
Dark chocolate. Light chocolate. Milk chocolate. My son was entranced. I was hungry.
Cost of admission: $0 (but don't be surprised if you find yourself buying a chocolate-topped crepe or a hot chocolate).
And speaking of fountains ...
When you enter the hotel from the parking garage turn right and continue through the lobby out the front door to the outside walking path to the fountains. Or stay to the far right as you walk through the casino until you hit the Via Bellagio shopping mall. Continue walking through the mall and exit at the fountains on Las Vegas Boulevard.
Wet and wonderful
Even if you haven't visited the famed Bellagio Fountains in person, you've probably seen this aquatic masterpiece in films like the remake of "Ocean's Eleven" or your friends' photo albums.
Created by WET Design, the fountains -- located on The Las Vegas Strip in front of the Bellagio Hotel -- feature professionally choreographed musical routines and streams of water that shoot from more than 1,200 water-emitting devices. They dance and soar up to 460 feet above an 8.5-acre lake. The show is captivating, even emotional. You may find yourself wanting to watch it over and over again.
Cost of admission: $0.
Random and unexpected photo opps
Is this Disneyland?
The sidewalks on both sides of Las Vegas Boulevard, between Flamingo Road and Harmon Avenue (in front of the Bellagio and Bally's hotels), often house a collection of interesting characters, including a barrage of pan handlers dressed up in interesting costumes.
While street vendors were banned from the Strip, crazy costumed characters are still good ... for now.
One one visit alone, we saw Mickey Mouse, Mini Mouse, Winnie the Poo, two Transformers, and a Showgirl. I've also seen mimes and other street performers, as well as my fare share of Elvis impersonators.
While my husband and I were busy rolling our eyes at the cheapness of some of their costumes (I totally saw Winnie the Pooh's wrists) my son was fascinated and excited (might has well have told him we were at Disneyland).
Cost of admission: $0 (unless you decide to take a photo with the character, in which case I would suggest leaving a tip of no more than $1 to $2).