Tuesday 9 October 2012

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Taking Your Kids to the Vegas Buffets

It's not like they make it out to be in Vegas Vacation. When cousin Eddie steps up to the buffet and orders "a little of the yellow" since the food is only distinguishable by it's color, everybody thinks back to the worst buffet experience they've ever had and groans. I've been to some of those buffets, but I'm happy to say I've never encountered one in Las Vegas itself. In fact, with only a couple of mild exceptions, almost all of my buffet experiences in Las Vegas have been excellent. So when it comes time to feed my kids in Vegas, I have no hesitation taking them to the nearest buffet.

There are some tricks to it however. While mealtime is a family event, in Vegas almost everything has a grown-up slant to it. Discounted buffets are that way to draw in gamblers, not children, so while most buffets are accommodating to kids, it's not exactly your play place at McDonalds. I'm here to help though. I've told you before how to entertain your kids in Vegas, now here are some tips for taking your kids to the buffets.

#1 - Get Off the Strip

If you're rich or just coming off a huge win, feel free to ignore this. The buffets on the Strip are amazing, but they're also priced that way. Dinner for a family of five will easily run you $200 at Bellagio, and unless your kids have an acquired taste for caviar and escargot, you're going to have a hard time getting your money's worth. Off Strip casinos generally cater to locals, and locals have families. Places like Silverton, Red Rock Casino, or the M Resort all have fantastic buffets and are usually available at a fraction of what it costs to eat at the big Strip buffets. They also have coupons available quite often. Friday and Sunday's paper are a great source of 2 for 1 coupons, as are casino websites and local freebie mags. You should also check at the slot club desk for any promotions that are going on. Sometimes it's cheaper to run $10 through a slot machine for a free buffet than it is to pay for it (although your kids can't help you with that). 

#2 - Don't Let Them Start with Dessert (Or Salad)

It's always the first station your kids will see. Rows and rows of cakes, pies, and all sorts of other delicious treats are neatly lined up and just begging for you to dive right in and make your selection. I've let my kids start with dessert before. It doesn't end well. So we made a rule against it and the next time we went I was delighted to see my kids trot off to the salad station to select their first course. My dreams of the perfect parenting award were shattered however, when the kids returned with plates of jello and whipped cream. On what planet does jello count as a salad? Consider this your warning that merely disallowing a start at the dessert station is only half the job.

#3 - Play Keno

I'm not advocating underage gambling here, but it won't take your kids long to notice the Keno boards posted all over the buffets. Every few minutes a new game starts, and a new set of numbers start flashing up on the board. My kids love to compete, so seeing who can choose the most numbers that are going to appear is a natural game for them. We don't actually fill out tickets...it's only for bragging rights, but it helps the kids to pace themselves from too many return trips to the buffet. It also gives them something to hold over me because I absolutely suck at picking Keno numbers. 

#4 - Go Ahead and Ask

The new buffets are all full action kitchens that are constantly producing food. If you've got a picky eater, chances are somebody can help you out. If you need some plain pasta, go to the Italian station and ask if they can get some for you. They might not be able to help you, but they won't get mad at you for asking. We've gotten cereal at dinner when one of our kids wasn't feeling 100% and just wanted some Cheerios to eat. We've also been able to request a certain kind of pizza, although we did have to wait for a bit. Just remember, if somebody goes beyond the norm to help you out, a tip is appreciated but don't worry. You don't have to tip me for pointing that out.

#5 - Have Some Fun with the Desserts

Once you've eaten all your veggies (yeah right) you can go to the dessert station. There's plenty to choose from, but the most fun comes from combining. Grab a couple of brownies, dump them in a bowl, then go to the self-serve ice cream station and build up. Ever wonder if caramel sauce on M&Ms is a good idea (It isn't)? Go ahead and try. My kids have tried some really crazy concoctions at the dessert station because they know if they get it wrong, they can go back and try again. Of course they also know that Dad will eat the dessert they didn't like. That's a given.

This post is a part of Travel Tips Tuesday at Suitcases and Sippycups and Walkingon Travels. If you didn't get here from there, you should go check it out. There's people there who probably know why Jello counts as a salad. I hope somebody can explain it to me.

Written by Steve Pratt