Las Vegas: Family Values

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wildly amusing Shooting into the Vegas spotlight in 1968, Circus Circus hit the family market jackpot with its big top flair. The Adventuredome ups its ante as a wild wonderland where even adults forget to act their age. It starts with Canyon Blaster, the park’s signature speedster that crams four inversions along the only double-loop/double-corkscrew track in the U.S. If that’s not enough, The Sling Shot’s rocket launches riders up a 100-ft. tower at 4Gs before free-falling toward earth.

The newest addition is Race Zone, a 65-ft. track designed for remote control car fun. The indoor theme park also offers mellow midway attractions suitable for younger children. A full-day “Five Acres Of Fun” pass is $24.95, or rides can be purchased individually.

There are thrillers, and then there are rare beasts considered downright maniacal. The Stratosphere boasts a trio of the latter, each shoving the adrenalin threshold literally to the edge.

The most cardiac threatening? It’s a toss up between X-Scream and Insanity. The former is a giant teeter-totter propelling 27 ft. over the edge of the 866-ft. tower, while the latter is a massive mechanical arm dangling daredevils over the tower’s edge while spinning at 3G force. The sane and wee ones can catch all the pulse-pounding action from an indoor observation deck.

Covering tower admission, tickets range from $19.95 for a solo ride to $27.95 for all three. Tower-only prices are $13.95 for adults, $8 for children 4-12 and free for kids under 4. An all-day pass offers unlimited madness for $33.95.

Other places to let the good times roll are at the Sahara’s Speed–The Ride and the coaster at New York-New York.

from stages to smorgasbords With all the dough families save on lodging, encourage them to splurge on a show. While “The Lion King” at Mandalay Bay and The Venetian’s “Blue Man Group” are high tickets, they definitely deliver. Of the Cirque du Soleil line-up, “Ka,” “Love” and “Mystere” are most appropriate for teens and tweens. Shows are held at MGM Grand, Mirage and Treasure Island, respectively.

At Mirage, high-energy Terry Fator & His Cast Of Thousands fills the stage with puppets, celebrity singing impressions and ventriloquism. He may toss out a few adult jokes, but they tend to fly over youngsters’ heads.

On the budget side, Popovich Comedy Pet Theatre at Planet Hollywood razzle-dazzles with European-style clowns, juggling, balancing acts and a talented cast of performing pets all rescued from animal shelters. Families with kids under 10 should catch Mac King’s comedy-magic matinees at Harrah’s or Lance Burton at Monte Carlo.

Vegas dining can be extremely kind to both pocketbooks and palettes. When it comes to picky eaters with varied tastes, it’s hard to beat a buffet. Food courts have also popped up everywhere, from The Venetian, New York-New York and Monte Carlo to Fashion Show Mall and Caesars Palace.

Family-friendly themed eateries are also abundant. Tops are MGM Grand’s Rainforest Cafe, NASCAR Cafe, House of Blues, Planet Hollywood, Hard Rock Cafe and ESPN Zone. And the Circus Circus Pink Pony coffee shop lets parents linger while kids hang upstairs to watch festive acts and play carnival games.