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Suit up: Last one in's a boiled egg

THE CHILL-OUT ISSUE / LAS VEGAS

There's no good reason to roast in Sin City. Pool pandemonium means river rides, waterfalls, 12-foot waves and sharks.

August 05, 2007|Lark Ellen Gould | Special to The Times

A generation ago, being a kid on your parents' Las Vegas weekend meant hanging out in the parking lot of the Silver Slipper or Castaways while the folks ducked into the casino "just for a few minutes."

But you were willing to put up with it for a treat of your own later: jumping into a Las Vegas pool, where you would dog paddle the shallows in small circles around women in flowery swim caps who were trying to keep their gin and tonics... well, just gin and just tonic.

Vegas was an adult playpen in those days, and it is again today. Yet for families savvy enough to pick the pool along with the room, a summer sojourn to Las Vegas can still be the stuff of memories. Some of the slides, beaches and water rides from the family era of the '90s remain, and new features are popping up all the time.

Here are some of our favorites for kids (and their folks).

FLAMINGO LAS VEGAS

This pool has seen a lot of action. In fact, it was one of the original resort-style lounge pools in Las Vegas when the hotel was built somewhere in the middle of nowhere in 1946 by mobster Bugsy Siegel.

Today, almost every trace of that resort is gone and the rambling pool has become a 15-acre tropical oasis with four pools amid pounding waterfalls and mature foliage.

Kids love the 150-foot water slide that drops into a series of terraced pools. Parents can play swim-up blackjack and paddle to the refreshment bars so no one has to leave the water. The pools sit among ponds stocked with koi and containing a mini-park of Chilean flamingos, tropical birds and turtles.

An 80-foot-long heated pool, flanked by 10-foot-high pink flamingo fountains, is one of the few pools in Vegas that accommodates dippers all year.

3555 S. Las Vegas Blvd.

(888) 902-9929

www.flamingolv.com

GOLDEN NUGGET

No one would ever accuse downtown Las Vegas of being kid-friendly. But with the new $30-million pool and shark tank right in the middle of the Golden Nugget, families are finding reasons to play in a tank full of man-eating predators with a three-story water slide that cuts right through it -- safely, of course.

Five species of sharks and several types of game fish call a 200,000-gallon saltwater tank home. That alone wouldn't raise eyebrows, except that tank is surrounded by chaise lounges, cabana boys in Hawaiian shirts and children screaming "Marco Polo" at one another while Pacific Black tips and sand tiger sharks stare at them -- perhaps longingly.

The clear-tubing slide that tunnels through these dangerous waters puts you right in the center of the action, surrounding you with sharks and other sea creatures.

129 Fremont St.

(800) 634-3454

www.goldennugget.com

MGM GRAND

"Big" is the operative word in a hotel that holds the title as the biggest in the world (that is, until the Venetian takes that spot with the opening of Palazzo later this year). So naturally, the pool area obliges with five pools in a 6.6-acre water complex.

It features three whirlpools, fountains, bridges, waterfalls, plenty of garden shade and a 1,000-foot-long lazy river ride that takes 10 minutes to meander. You can also play table tennis and water volleyball or rent inner tubes, rafts or other pool toys.

The MGM Grand pool area is another four-season swim spot on the Strip.

3799 S. Las Vegas Blvd.

(877) 880-0880

www.mgmgrand.com

MANDALAY BAY

This resort gets kudos for putting 6-foot-high swells in the middle of the desert. This was the buzz-making centerpiece of the resort when it opened in 1999, and it's still causing reverberations among the pool pundits of the Las Vegas Valley. They tout the "back 11" at this resort as the place to be if you have energetic children or a desire to party like one in the heat of the day.

Guests tread the 7-foot depths waiting to catch the big one -- waves as high as 12 feet have been sighted, although 2 feet is the norm. OK, you won't find surfboards here (check with the hotel for boogie-boarding hours), but the body surfing is sublime, and lifeguards keep it all in check.

Toddlers get to build their own castles in the sand -- 1,700 tons of it, imported from California. Lush foliage wraps around the other four pools, including the Euro-bathing Moorea Beach Club, well hidden from innocent eyes. Families who play together then float together along the lazy river water ride.

3950 S. Las Vegas Blvd.

(877) 632-7800

www.mandalaybay.com

MIRAGE LAS VEGAS

This crowded but comely pool design puts a little Tahiti and a little Disney right at center Strip. It would be a hit even if it did not have slides, six waterfalls pouring over shaded grottoes and a series of lushly landscaped pool lagoons.

That's because the Mirage is home to six Atlantic bottlenose dolphins (including a baby) that can be observed in their habitat near the pool area. There's a cost for this: $15 buys you a ticket to enter Siegfried & Roy's Secret Garden and the Mirage Dolphin Habitat ($10 for kids 4 to 12, 3 and younger free).

As for where the people swim, the area spreads over about a quarter of a mile with two pools, lots of gullies and coves and three slides in varying shapes and heights to make it all more interesting.

Pool attendants keep watchful eyes on the swimmers, and pool rafts can be rented.

3400 S. Las Vegas Blvd.

(800) 627-6667

www.mirage.com

MONTE CARLO

Who would have thought a French Riviera-themed Strip hotel would have one of the best pools for families on the Strip? The hotel is one of the best on the Strip for families, period.

As for children's pool amenities, this hotel has them all: a 520-square-foot separate kiddie pool, a classic lagoon swimming pool with cascading waterfalls, a small but efficient wave pool and a 400-foot easy river ride running around it all.

3770 S. Las Vegas Blvd.

(800) 311-8999

www.montecarlo.com

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