It's that time of year again. Next month I'll be taking the Edible clan on that dreaded annual rite -- the summer vacation. We're following the Griswolds this time, out to the West Coast for a couple of weeks chasing boredom and blue highways.
Here's where my curse kicks in. I'm a compulsive planner. Some folks would be fine by just clicking over to our Travel Center and then filling in the blanks randomly. Not me. I probably spend more time hammering down the finer details than I will on the actual trip.
It's been a few years since I've been out to California. While as a Floridian Fool I'm at Disney World seemingly every other month, the last time I went to Disney's
Naturally I'll be fitting in a trek out to Arizona's Grand Canyon and checking out the red rocks of Sedona. My wife insists on hitting one natural park for every unnatural one we hit. We still haven't found the proper way to classify Legoland, and I don't think she's buying my case that Six Flags'
However, the hardest part of the planning process has been the three nights that we have slated to spend in Vegas. I know. The predominant online sentiment has been not to do it. Vegas is no longer a family-friendly place, if it ever really was in the first place. However, it doesn't take too long to realize that this mindset isn't coming from folks who have tried to enjoy Sin City with kids. It's from adult gamblers who have bruised their ankles one too many times after being bumped by errant strollers.
I'm sensitive to that. Nothing grinds decadence to a halt the way a kid tugging on your leg does. Nobody can enjoy a dinner show with a toddler screaming for a potty break two tables down. But we've got coasters to ride, attractions to see, and flavors to experience. You won't even notice me -- and my kids. That's just not us. Promise.
To grant the Los Angeles daytrippers a bit more hedonistic elbowroom, I even scheduled our stint in Nevada to coincide with the quieter middle of the week. And, yes, I had initially booked us into the Circus Circus kid haven.
It was a sentimental choice. When my now 10-year-old son was born, my artsy mother-in-law painted his room in a dazzling carnival theme with clowns and coasters galore. I had to put in my two equity-minded cents. We hung up a single share certificate of Circus Circus stock. The company eventually took the name of one of its more upscale properties, Mandalay Resort Group
I ran my selection past fellow Fool and Vegas guru Jeff Hwang and I could tell he wasn't impressed. Mandalay has plenty of fine properties on the Southern end of the Strip. Why stay all the way at Circus Circus?
My meticulously planning ways weren't content. I kept looking. I found a great rate at the Aladdin -- in the heart of the action -- but canceled it on principle. The hotel wanted to charge my kids staying in my room almost as much as we were paying for the room itself. The reservation specialist claimed that I wouldn't find a hotel that wouldn't be charging me $60 a night for my two sons. I knew better. Besides, if that policy was put into place to dissuade young families from staying there, I was doing the adult Vegas a favor by sticking to a place with a family-oriented bent.
I finally settled on the MGM Grand, the lion-sized MGM Mirage
I realize that the MGM Grand isn't as family-friendly as it used to be. The amusement park is gone. The children activity center to aid wagering parents has been shuttered. It's not just the MGM Grand. All through Vegas that stiff breeze you feel in the desert heat is the wind of change. We don't need no stinkin' rugrats! The upscale Bellagio, part of the MGM Mirage family, won't even let you bring in a stroller unless you're a guest staying at the hotel. Obviously that move will find some grownups with healing ankles overjoyed.
But is Vegas making a mistake? Take away the family attractions and you're left with an overbuilt Atlantic City. With new casinos popping up all over the country, will Wayne Newton and Danny Gans be able to hold up Vegas? Where would Blue Man Group and the zillion Cirque incarnations in Vegas be without the draw of young families?
What makes a poker table in Vegas any better than the next one going up at an Indian reservation near you? Does booze taste any better in Nevada? Is legalized prostitution such a draw in these mortally contagious times?
Debauchery is a goal, but it is never a destination. While some diehard gamers relish the gritty old school ways of the original Fremont Street gaming hub of Vegas, it's the over-the-top eye candy that's alluring to all ages in the Strip that has given Vegas the spotlight it deserves and, in turn, bankrolled its popularity.
What do casino operators Harrah's Entertainment
The latest risqué marketing campaign pitches that whatever happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas. I agree. Skycraper thrills. Star Trek attractions. M&M chocolate candy stores. Coney Island and the Eiffel Tower recreated. Fountains dancing. Volcanoes erupting. Animal habitats. Conservatories. It all happens in Vegas. It should stay there.
Rick Aristotle Munarriz won't be talked out of taking his kids to Vegas. He promises a full trip report at VegasPointers.com when he gets back next month. He owns shares in Disney and units in Cedar Fair. Rick's stock holdings can be viewed online, as can the Fool's disclosure policy.