Q. Las Vegas is on our destination wish list. However, we have a 10-year-old daughter who we would prefer not to travel without. Whilst we appreciate it's probably not the first place you would think of to take children, could you advise if it's a definite no-go area for kids, and, if not, could you provide some tips.
Lynn and Jim Strange, via e-mail
A. Long gone are the days when a trip to Las Vegas (or "Sin City") meant booze, gambling, and watching showgirls in itty-bitty sequinned costumes. Circus Circus, the first family-themed casino hotel on the Strip, opened in 1968. The 1990s saw a building boom in mega-resorts, where casinos were suddenly just one attraction among many. Today Las Vegas sells itself equally as a family holiday destination, with theme parks, aquariums, cinemas, bowling alleys, hi-tech video arcades, and even child-friendly stage shows.
While many parents may think twice before bringing their children along to Las Vegas, with careful planning your daughter can have just as much fun as you. Bear in mind, though, that under-21s are not allowed in casino gaming areas, and the city has a curfew for children. By law, under-18s are not allowed on the Strip or in any other public areas after 9pm Sunday to Thursday, and 10pm at weekends and holidays, unless accompanied by a parent or guardian.
The most important aspect of planning your trip will be choosing the right hotel. That said, almost any concierge desk can recommend a licensed and bonded babysitting agency that can send someone to your hotel to stay with your daughter should you want a night out by yourselves.
On the Strip, many families with younger children stay at Excalibur (3850 Las Vegas Blvd S; 001 702 597 7777; www.excalibur.com), Circus Circus (2880 Las Vegas Blvd S; 001 877 434 9175; www.circuscircus.com), or the Stratosphere (2000 Las Vegas Blvd S; 001 702 380 7777; www.stratospherehotel.com). All of these wacky, themed casino hotels have rooms costing from around $60 (£33) on weekdays, $100 (£56) at weekends. Note that breakfast is not usually included in room rates in the city.
But don't feel limited to these low-budget options. Many of the Strip's premier resorts have plenty of diversions for your daughter. Consider the MGM Grand (3799 Las Vegas Blvd S; 001 702 891 7777; www.mgmgrand.com) with its gigantic swimming pool complex; rooms here start at $100 (£56). Mandalay Bay (3950 Las Vegas Blvd S; 001 702 632 7777; www.mandalaybay.com) has an artificial surf beach and shark aquarium, and offers rooms from $120 (£67). New York-New York (3790 Las Vegas Blvd S; 001 800 689 1797; www.nynyhotelcasino.com) boasts a cityscape roller coaster and state-of-the-art amusement centre; rooms start at $90 (£50).
Once you've booked your hotel, it's wise to plan some daytime sightseeing and night-time entertainment in advance. Many of the Strip's most spectacular all-ages attractions are free: don't miss the exploding faux Polynesian volcano outside the Mirage (3400 Las Vegas Blvd S; 001 702 791 7111; www.mirage.com), the dancing fountains of the Bellagio (3600 Las Vegas Blvd S; 001 702 693 7111; www.bellagio.com), or the MGM Grand's walk-through lion habitat. Other casino hotels offer themed diversions, such as free circus acts at Circus Circus, the replica of the Great Temple of Ramses II and the King Tut Museum inside the Luxor (3900 Las Vegas Blvd S; 001 702 262 4444; www.luxor.com; $10/£5.60) and the ersatz Eiffel Tower at Paris-Las Vegas (3655 Las Vegas Blvd S; 001 877 603 4386; www.parislasvegas.com; adults $9/£5, under-12s $7/£3.90). Gondola rides are even offered along the artificial canals of the Venetian (3355 Las Vegas Blvd S; 001 702 414 1000; www.venetian.com; adults $15/£8.50, under-13s $7.50/£4.20). To navigate the Strip with ease, hop aboard the double-decker "Deuce" buses ($2/£1.10 per ride, $5/£2.80 for a 24-hour pass) that shuttle up and down Las Vegas Blvd.
Most attractions in Las Vegas offer discounts for families. At Mandalay Bay, the Shark Reef (001 702 632 7777; www.mandalaybay.com; adult $16/£8.90, under-12s $11/£6.10) is an award-winning aquarium focused on marine conservation. If she loves art, check out the Venetian's Guggenheim Hermitage (001 702 414 2440; www.guggenheimlasvegas.org; adult $19.50/£10.80, under-12s $9.50/£5.30), or the Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art (3600 Las Vegas Blvd S; 001 702 693 7871; www.bellagio.com; adult $15/£8.50, student $12/£6.70). Madame Tussauds wax museum (3377 Las Vegas Blvd S; 001 702 862 7800; www.madametussaudslv.com; adult $24/£13.35, under-12s $14/£7.80) has interactive displays, where your daughter could strike a pose with Captain Jack Sparrow from Pirates of the Caribbean. Finally, take a heart-pounding elevator ride up the 108-storey-high Stratosphere Tower (2000 Las Vegas Blvd S; 001 702 380 7711; www.stratospherehotel.com; tickets from $10/£6.70).
Some say it's a crime to leave Las Vegas without seeing a show. A few casino hotels offer productions specifically geared towards children, such as Excalibur's kitsch medieval-styled Tournament of Kings dinner show (001 702 597 7600; tickets $50/£28). But some of the Strip's top shows are also appropriate for children. These include illusionist Lance Burton at the Monte Carlo (001 702 730 7160; www.montecarlo.com; tickets from $67/£37.25), celebrity impersonators in Legends in Concert at the Imperial Palace (001 888 777 7664; www.imperialpalace.com; tickets from $50/£27.80 per adult, $35/£19.50 for under-12s), and the fantastic Cirque du Soleil at TI (Treasure Island, 3475 Las Vegas Blvd S; 001 702 894 7722; www.cirquedusoleil.com; tickets from $60/£33.35).
To save money, Tix 4 Tonight (001 877 849 4868; www.tix4tonight.com) has multiple Strip locations selling same-day discount tickets for a variety of attractions.
For more ideas about Las Vegas for families, contact the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (001 702 892 0711; www.visitlasvegas.com).
Send your family travel queries to The Independent Parent, Travel Desk, The Independent, 191 Marsh Wall, London E14 9RS or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org