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Video: Family vacation in Vegas

updated 4/29/2005 11:40:26 AM ET 2005-04-29T15:40:26

Vegas has something to offer to almost everyone — from seniors to singles to families. But not everyone wants to be a slave to the craze of the famous Vegas strip or spend hours at the casinos.  How do you plan the best vacation for you?  Where do you stay and what can you do?  Mark Orwoll, senior consulting editor of Travel and Leisure magazine, shared his ideas with “Today.”

Las Vegas is a great place to visit for young and old, single and families.  But you have to be smart, and plan where you'll stay and what you will do.  Not every place in the city is for families.  You'll want to avoid the all-nude Cirque du Soleil show at the New York-New York hotel, for example.  You have to choose your entertainment wisely.

There's much to do within a 30- to 60-minute drive from Las Vegas.  Hoover Dam, just 30 miles from Vegas, has been called the eighth wonder of the world. You can take an organized tour of the dam and enjoy the views from the top. You can also see the dam from the bottom on Black Canyon River Adventure float trips.

For those who like the outdoors, the Lake Mead National Recreational Area, a stunning body of water in the middle of the desert, is a haven for boaters, fisherman, water-skiers, and families that want to spend some time at the beach. Red Rock Canyon is another must-see. Only 20 miles from Las Vegas, it's got some of the most spectacular desert scenes and rock formations you'll find anywhere, with plenty of opportunities for mountain biking, rock climbing, or strolling.

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To top it all off, you can take a trip back in time at the Bonnie Springs Ranch, 25 miles from the Strip. Set up as an 1880's mining town called Old Nevada, families can walk along boarded sidewalks past old-time saloons, watch stagecoaches drive past, and visit the dearly departed at Boot Hill cemetery.  There are also staged melodrama and gun battles throughout the day.

These places are relatively close to Las Vegas, and are easily explored on your own, with no help needed from a tour company.  Even including the price of a rental car, it would most likely be cheaper to head out on your own — especially if you're with kids or another couple — as opposed to a tour company.  And the flexibility to stay longer or shorter at the sites, rather than being a slave to the tour schedule, is a plus.

Hotel picks for families
The Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino, located on the famous Strip, is home to a casino and an 11-acre tropical water park, with a wave pool and sandy-bottom lagoon. You can take a river ride, or swim in one of their three pools. The more daring can visit Shark Reef, which is filled with sharks, sawfish, stingrays, piranha and crocodiles. It’s the America’s only predator-based aquarium.

The Four Seasons Hotel is one of the few hotels in this desert city without a casino. With a large pool and pool bar set on a landscaped deck, plus a full-service spa and health club, couples — and families with older children — have plenty to do to stay entertained. A room  with a view is in store for every visitor — windows look out on either the desert and mountains or the lights of the Vegas Strip.

For seniors looking for a good time, the Caesar's Palace hotel is a good choice. An all-in-one destination for anyone who doesn't want to go casino and restaurant hopping, it’s got entertainment, a casino and 10 restaurants.  Plus, the pool complex looks like it came straight out of ancient Rome.

If you're looking to stay off the Strip, check out the Ritz-Carlton, Lake Las Vegas. The lake-side resort is just 17 miles from the Strip and contains the elegance of the world’s other Ritz-Carlton hotels.

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