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Gazette Premium Content Las Vegas offers plenty of activities for children

TERESA J. FARNEY Updated: April 22, 2013 at 12:00 am

We were on a mission to find the perfect high school graduation gown for our 17-year-old granddaughter. And what better place to look than Las Vegas?

“OK,” you might be thinking, “take an underage child to Sin City to go shopping?”

While it’s true that Vegas is the hot spot for nightclubs, strip clubs and adult pool parties, it also offers an array of things that shouldn’t make you fear going. For shopaholics, it’s one of the few places where major designer stores are within easy walking distance or, at the most, a short cab ride.

We zeroed in on Caesar’s Palace as our crash pad. The price per night, $167, wasn’t the cheapest but reasonable considering its proximity to the shows we wanted to see and the restaurants we planned to patronize. Best of all, attached to the hotel was the ground zero for teen shopping: the Forum Shops, anchored by the world’s largest H&M store. The Swedish clothing retailer is known for its reasonable prices.

The Forum Shops boast a unique atmosphere that simulates ancient Roman streets. There are more than 160 stores that rival Rodeo Drive in Los Angeles. Think Tiffany & Co., Gucci, Louis Vuitton and Prada. Not that we actually pulled out any credit cards in those luxury stores, but it was fun to window shop.

During our four days, we found perfectly good, moderately priced shopping centers such as Fashion Show with stores such as Dillard’s, Nordstrom, Macy’s, Forever 21, Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue. Two days into gown shopping, we found “the” dress at this center.

On a budget? We spent most of a day at the Las Vegas Premium Outlets with south and north locations. You’ll need to hail a cab for this excursion, but it’s well worth the adventure. The outdoor shopping has designer stores Juicy Couture, Kate Spade New York and Kenneth Cole.

There are hundreds of stores at every price point imaginable, proving there is more than one way to leave your money in Vegas.

Between shopping destinations, we found plenty of other ways to encourage our teenager to keep her iPod and phone tucked in her purse. One day, we caught the fountains at the Bellagio hotel dancing to Sinatra singing “Luck Be a Lady.”

Then there were the booming, tall explosions of the Mirage Volcano, made even more obvious with pounding music by the Grateful Dead’s Mickey Hart and Indian singer Zakir Hussain. We ogled the world’s largest chocolate fountain at Jean Philippe Patisserie while enjoying lattes and a pastry by chef Jean-Philippe Maury. While sweets were on our mind, we toured M&M’s World.

For more adventure, we visited the roller coaster at New York-New York, which lifts you 203 feet, drops you 144 feet and leaves you coasting at 67 mph. It was a thrill I skipped while granddad and granddaughter checked it out.

We wrapped up the afternoon with a visit to Madame Tussauds Interactive Wax Attraction. The 100-plus wax replicas of favorite superstars look so real you’ll find yourself doing a double take.

Another fun spot for children of all ages is Adventuredome at Circus Circus. It’s five acres of indoor amusement park with rides, shows and games. Attractions in other hotels include Shark Reef at Mandalay Bay, Fun Dungeon at Excalibur, and Siegfried and Roy’s Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat.

Come evening, we were ready for dinner and a show. Although you can find the famous buffets in Vegas, they are more expensive than in the past. And, really, there are so many great chefs opening dining rooms, you should try at least one eatery. Bobby Flay, Tom Colicchio, Wolfgang Puck, Gordon Ramsey and Charlie Palmer are a few of the chefs with upscale restaurants.

For show entertainment, we focused on Cirque du Soleil, as the company has several productions based in Vegas.

Our Sin City trip was a huge success and one we’d consider again. We found so many family-friendly things to do that we quickly ran out of time.

Contact Teresa J. Farney: 636-0271

Twitter @tffoodie

Facebook Teresa Farney

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