I was in Las Vegas last week. When I told friends and family I was going, I got similar reactions from everyone: “You?” “Why?” “Are you serious?” Some were speechless. When I told them I was going for a nutrition conference, that helped ease the mystery. They all know it’s not my “kind of city.”
How did it go? Let’s just say I endured my time there, mostly because my nutrition conference was very good and I enjoyed my travel companions. And I went there knowing what to expect, although it certainly has changed since I was there more than 25 years ago. What surprised me, though, was the large amount of tourists who brought children to Vegas.
I was baffled why parents would bring children to the Strip. There were so many strollers and umbrollers on the Strip, I thought I was at Disneyworld. Sure, there are SpongeBob and Frozen characters children can meet along the way. Parents can pay money for caricatures or face paintings for their children. Yes, there are plenty of toy stores along the Strip. But there are also hookers and smokers.
Smoking was so rampant, my head hurt and my eyes burned, and this was outdoors! I have to point out that it wasn’t even me who angrily said out loud, “What is wrong with this picture? Cigarettes hanging in people’s hands the same height of children’s faces in strollers?” I turned to see who said it, and saw a young man, about the age of 30, walking with a buddy, shaking his head in disbelief.
I wondered how middle-schoolers could miss school on a weekday, but it didn’t matter — they were getting quite the education watching pictures of almost-naked showgirls wallpapered to buses. And there were plenty of women on the street wearing little to nothing. One mother tried to shield her young son’s eyes from a woman wearing just a tiny bra and thong as she walked ahead of them. The little boy kept saying, “Look, mama!” The mom said, “Don’t look! It’s just a bottom!”
I also noticed all the slot machines with cartoon characters: the Jetsons, Hercules, the Flintstones, etc. So why was I surprised me to hear a little boy in a stroller yell to his mom while waiting in line at Baja Express, “Mommy! Machines! Let’s go play Machines!”?
Then it dawned on me — the slot machines are luring children the same way the tobacco companies lure children with candy-flavored tobacco. Get ‘em hooked while they are young, of course.
As a person who likes to seek the positive, I will say I found one very nice part of Vegas in the Bellagio Fountain. This is a huge pond in front of the Bellagio Hotel that has fountain shows set to music. Seeing “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” was magical, and it was free. My favorite nonfree event was Cirque du Soleil Michael Jackson, but the price set me back from doing too much else while there. I still have “Smooth Criminal” in my head, so at least I got my money’s worth.
When people say, “There’s so much to do in Vegas!” that’s true for some people. But for those of us who aren’t into gambling, drinking, partying, show-hopping or tossing money, it’s a different story. And The Strip is not my recommendation for children. If parents want to give their children a rewarding vacation, I have a much better idea. Bring them to North Dakota or Minnesota, where they can run freely in our tobacco-free parks, play to their heart’s content without worry and maintain their status as innocent children.
If I were a betting woman (not!), I would bet that a sunny afternoon in one of our lovely parks would beat shaking hands with SpongeBob on the Strip from the confines of a stroller in the environment of secondhand smoke.
Children, of course, don’t usually have a voice in such matters, so hopefully parents can give some serious thought to this one when vacation planning.