Looking for all-ages activities in Las Vegas? I’ve been to Vegas many times! Heck, I was even married there back in 2013! Every Vegas trip I spot dozens of advertisements for the Shark Reef Aquarium at Mandalay Bay! On Haylie & I’s most recent trip, we moved this excursion to the top of our to-do list since all-ages Las Vegas was exactly what we were after! Would it live up to the hype?!? Or was it a cash grab?!?? Keep on reading to find out!
Shark Reef at Mandalay Bay
Shark Reef Aquarium is an exciting journey through a slowly sinking temple overcome by some of the most dangerous predators in the world. View a diverse cross-section of magnificent aquatic creatures, including 100 sharks, (15 species in all) along with exotic fish, reptiles and sea turtles. Featuring more that 2,000 animals, Shark Reef Aquarium is comprised of nearly 1.6 million gallons of water in 14 exhibits, including rare Golden Crocodiles, Piranha, a Touch Pool Experience and over 30 sharks in our 1.3 million gallon Shark Exhibit. Guests also experience two walk through tunnel exhibits giving a "diver's view" of the underwater world.
Conceived in the mid 1990's, Mandalay Bay was destined to be different from the moment the concept was born. Included in the initial discussions and designs was something totally different from a Las Vegas perspective - an aquarium - a full size aquarium with cutting edge technology which would prove to be an excellent platform for research, conservation and education. This addition to the property would be recognized as something quite different in the middle of Nevada's high desert.
Completed at a cost of nearly $60 million, the fully themed facility was designed with the idea of immersing the visitor into this underwater world in the desert. Since opening on June 20, 2000, Shark Reef Aquarium has inspired nearly a million visitors a year, and tens of thousands of the Las Vegas Valley's school children have had the opportunity to visit Shark Reef under the school group program.
In March 2003, Shark Reef Aquarium became the first animal care facility in the State of Nevada to be accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. We continue to hold this distinction as first and only to this day.
Shark Reef is dedicated to establishing and maintaining the highest standards of animal care, to providing its visitors with an entertaining and educational experience, and to the practice of meaningful research and conservation initiatives.
Shark Reef Aquarium and Polar Journey Package:
Seniors (65+) $23.00
Children (Age 4-12) $19.00
Children (3 & under) Free
Nevada Resident Admission:
Children (Age 4-12) $17.00
Children (3 & under) Free
Best Value Package:
Available at the Shark Reef Box Office.
Includes: one admission to Shark Reef and one admission to Polar Journey, once 6x9 photo and a souvenir gift.
Best Value for Nevada Resident:
Children (Age 4-12) $30.00
Children (3 & under) Free
Check Expedia or Groupon for deals!!!
The question on everyone’s mind!!! Was it fun?! Or a total cash grab?!?! What if I said it was both?!? Honestly, the reason I took so long to even post a Shark Reef review was that I didn’t know if I should spend my time writing out a neutral review! I can’t just spew out positives 24/7, so I figured y’all deserve to know the scoop!
I like to think of the Shark Reef as a mini version of the chain aquarium, SeaLife! While my 7 year old had a blast pointing out all of the fishes, the Shark Reef at Mandalay Bay is a tad bit small. You will see all that there is to see within an hour. Perfect for little ones, but if you’re older, you might leave a tad but disappointed when you walk through the aquarium thinking you must have missed a section, but nope! That was it!
However, for $20+ adults in Vegas, you get exactly what you pay for! $20 doesn’t exactly get you far in Sin City. Heck, a slice of pizza and a drink at the food court will come close to that, so to see live fish and badass sharks, the price is right for Vegas!
Would I go back?!? If someone handed me free tickets, absolutely! If I was staying at Mandalay Bay and needed to kill some time before heading to the airport? Sure, why not! If I’m ever in Vegas with kids under 10 years old, heck yeah I will take them to see the sharks. Would I pay $20 to roam the aquarium with a group of adults? Nope! I can think of other ways to spend that cash. Date night at the Shark Reef? Take your date somewhere else lol.... I think y’all get my point ;-)
Have you been to the Shark Reef Aquarium Mandalay Bay
Did you even go to Las Vegas if you didn’t take a ride on a Gondola at the Venetian?!?! It’s one of the things my daughter wanted to do so bad!!! It was literally number 2 on her bucket list with Circus Circus Adventuredome being her number one.
However, when we arrived at the fabulous Venetian, we were told outdoor Gondola rides had a 3 1/2 hour wait! Unfortunately you can’t phone in reservations, so it’s literally a first come first serve bases.
We were then informed that the indoor gondola rides had a 45 minute wait. Same cost. Same concept. These gondola’s just cruise indoors around the mall inside the Venetian. We took the indoor reservation and kept our fingers crossed it was as awesome as an experience as the videos we watched on YouTube of the outdoor Gondolas.
Venetian Indoor Gondola Rides
No trip to Venice — or The Venetian — would be complete without a graceful and romantic glide down the Grand Canal in an authentic Venetian gondola. Float beneath bridges, beside cafes, under balconies, and through the vibrant Venetian streetscape as your singing gondolier sweeps you down the Grand Canal for a ride like no other.
Among the many things to do in Las Vegas, stepping back in time and into one of our Old World gondolas is among the most fun and romantic. Surrender to the romance of a live serenade and take in the sights from a one-of-a-kind vantage point as you float along the Grand Canal and under bridges, absorbing the enchanting atmosphere of Las Vegas’ most unique and elegant resort. Or choose the outdoor ride and enjoy an open-air experience right on the Strip.
Shared Gondola (Seats Four):
$29.00 per person
Private Gondola (For Two):
Photo packages start at $22! You best believe we scooped up our souvenir photo since we didn’t have a third person with us to snap those epic Insta photos.
Sunday - Thursday:
10:00 a.m. - 11:00 p.m.
Friday - Saturday:
10:00 a.m. - 12:00 a.m.
While I have never had the opportunity to cruise the outdoor canals at the Venetian, I can tell you Haylie and I had one heck of a time! Just watch the video above! My child legit could not stop smiling and giggling. You definitely get your money’s worth.
That was actually the thing I was curious about when it came to the indoor ride since they are both the same price. Outdoors you have the glamorous Las Vegas scenery. Indoors? It wasn’t that bad! The mall ceiling is actually beautiful!! Such a glam mall!
Our gondolier did an amazing job keeping us entertained as well! He sang his tunes and was so informative when it came to info he shared with us about the history of gondola’s and Vegas itself!
I would highly recommend taking an indoor reservation if you can’t score and outdoor one! We had one heck of a time! My daughter literally watched her video over and over she was so happy with her experience! Hopefully next Vegas trip we can take an outdoor cruise and I can compare the two for y’all!!!
Have you been on the Gondola’s at the Venetian?
Safe to say there isn’t a child out there, heck not even that many adults that aren’t obsessed with all things Frozen. So when we heard one of our favorite staycation spots, The Peek n’Peak was hosting a frozen themed family dinner, you best believe we scooped up tickets! We even made sure to get an extra one for Haylie’s Elsa obsessed cousin.
Peek n’ Peak Let It Snow Family Dinner
Spend the evening with some of your favorite characters while enjoying sing-a-longs, short performances and photo opportunities. Dinner will be served, including a variety of fresh pizzas and salads.
- $25 per Adult
- $15 per Kid (Ages 3-12)
- FREE (Kids Ages 2 and under)
The eats on the evening menu were cheese and pepperoni pizza. Salads, dinner rolls, lemonade, water and a hot chocolate bar! Basically as kid and parent friendly as foods can get! All served buffet style.
I actually went back & forth about writing this review. We are obsessed with the Peek n’ Peak! We practically live at the pool all winter long! So when I have to tell you guys, the event was just ok. It sort of breaks my heart.
To start out, the room was set up fabulously! Gave me wedding vibes!!! Each person had a marshmallow snowman to put together while waiting for the show to start, which I thought was a very festive touch.
The food? Exactly what we expected. Pizza and salad. You can’t go wrong with that combo! Only issue was this was set up buffet style and kids had to wait in super long lines to get food. If the Peek were to ever do this event again, I would hope for maybe being served family style? Bring a giant bowl of salad and a pizza to the tables. Keep refilling if needed. The lines and the amount of people in attendance just wasn’t a good mix. This was an event for kiddos and kids do not wait very well.
Also there wasn’t bar service. While this wasn’t that big of a deal for me personally, there were so many guests walking back and forth to the bar that it made me sit back and wonder why they just didn’t send a cocktail waitress upstairs to serve everyone? Major money the Peek could have made! Maybe next time have a beer/wine list and have that setup upstairs so there isn’t so much back and forth for the waitresses and guests. I think a lot more people would have been chill and more relaxed with a drink in hand. Maybe they wouldn’t have even minded their antsy kids behavior when it came to the long food lines?
As for the entertainment, the cast was fantastic! My daughter and her cousin were so happy to meet their favorite frozen characters and to see them perform!
So our overall experience was just ok! Would I go again? Probably! I would have to read the schedule of events and see if anything was tweeked.
My daughter and her cousin loved everything about the characters! They just wish they could have eaten when they wanted to eat. 3 & 7 year olds aren’t exactly that patient.
I really do hope to see more events like this in the future! I hope if anyone at the Peek does read this, that they take this criticism with love. We are huge fans of the peek! You did a marvelous job trying to entertain our kiddos! Just learn from the mistakes and plan an even better event next time!!! Hope to see an event invite in my inbox for another family dinner real soon :):):)
Are you a Frozen fan?
Another Disney trip has come & gone, which means I’m due for another Disney Hotel review!!! At this rate I think I might make it a goal of mine to stay at ALL the Disney Springs hotels so I can give you the real scoop since I just love how y’all trust me enough to be your #BoujeeOnABudget queen! Such an honor :):)
If you’re a newbie, I love high end things & I’m the queen of finding high end things for a deal so #BoujeeOnABudget became my thing thanks to my loyal readers!!!
If you’re fancy and looking for a killer Disney hotel deal without taking away from your Louie fund, then you’re in the right place since I have a goodie in store for you!!!
Let me introduce you to the Hilton Orlando Buena Vista Palace Disney Springs! Omg!!! Try saying that more than once. Total tongue twister lol. Located in the Disney Springs area, it’s an official Disney Hotel and located right across the street from Disney Springs! Location, location, LOCATION my friends!!!
Official Disney Hotel Perks!
It’s crazy how many people don’t know that the Disney Springs Hotels are actually Official Disney Resorts! That’s right, hotels like Hilton Orlando Buena Vista Palace offer the same Disney hotel perks!!! Guests of the Hilton Orlando Buena Vista Palace can enjoy Disney’s Extra Magic Hours benefit, complementary park shuttles and FastPass+ Service meaning you can book your fast passes 60 days in advance and not 30 days like non-Disney hotel guests! If you’re trying to score fast passes for hot rides in Toy Story Land or the new Star Wars, booking a room at the Hilton may be your best bet for that hard to score pass!!
Food & Drinks
From classic American fare to a Sunday breakfast with beloved Disney characters, that’s right, The Hilton Buena Vista Palace has their own character breakfast!!! With five onsite dining options there is definitely something to satisfy every craving!
We enjoyed many beverages poolside at Shades! There are waitresses that walk around to cater to your every need so you don’t even have to walk up to the restaurant yourself! Just sit back and relax and take advantage of the fact you’re not severing anyone for a change!
The lunch menu was pretty yummy as well. I enjoyed chips and guacamole and Haylie grubbed down on a grilled cheese sandwich!
Unfortunately for us, we were unable to make the Character Breakfast! They host the character breakfast once a week on a Sunday and that’s when we were checking out. Bummer!
The question on everyone’s minds when I stay anywhere!!!! How are the rooms?!?!? We were placed in a suite in the Island building (poolside)! A total shock since our reservation was for a standard room!!! Nothing better than scoring an unexpected upgrade. WooHoo!!!
When you walk into our suite you walk through a little hallway which is home to a tiny “kitchen” area. Mini refrigerator, cupboard to store snacks, a coffee maker and a microwave. This is something I’m always looking for when I book rooms. Between my wine and Haylie’s nonstop “mom drink”, a mini fridge is a must! A microwave is also a super huge bonus since who doesn’t want to heat up leftovers!!! Thankfully most hotels have both these days and the Hilton was no exception.
Then you enter the living room which had a pullout couch and a mini dining area. Basically a table with two chairs. The pullout couch was where Haylie slept!
Then there is the master bedroom and bathroom. Both were just your standard bedroom/bathroom areas. Overall I was happy. The room was clean, the ac was ice cold just how I like it and plenty roomy.
Chill. Splash. Rejuvenate. Savor – the choice is yours. In between days at the parks, take some time to hit the pool!! The pool is literally the reason most people book the Hilton Buena Vista Palace! So many pools to choose from! A lazy river!!!! A “splash pad” area of the pool! Cabana rentals!!! Towel service!!!
The best part? The pool is heated in the winter! That’s right! If you’re visiting Mickey in the winter and your kids are crying to go swim in 50-60 degree weather. Let them! Pool is heated in cooler weather!! WooHoo!!!
My opinion?!?! Is the Hilton Orlando Buena Vista Palace #BoujeeOnABudget ?!?! My answer is yes! The lobby is pretty! The pool area, ahhhhhhh!!!!! You almost forget that the pool is not the focus of the trip, but Mickey is. So hard to leave!!!
You are also literally right across the street from Disney Springs so you can eat and shop and go back to the room all day long without a car or Lyft! This is a huge perk to me. I am Disney Springs obsessed, so to be able to come and go as I please without transportation is pretty sweet!
The rooms could be a tad bit more glam, but hey! They are clean, which is definitely a huge plus when it comes to Orlando hotels. As a former local, there are some pretty sketchy hotels in the Orlando area and the Hilton ia definitely not one of them!
The best part of staying at this fabulous resort would have to be the Disney hotel perks! A standard room during non-peak dates will cost you around $129 for a standard room. This exact hotel is actually listed as a Disney “deluxe” category hotel. So you are getting a Deluxe category room for less than a Disney themed “budget” resort such as the all-stars. You can’t beat it!! A deluxe category room, with 60 day in advance fast passes AND Disney Extra Magic Hours right across the street from Disney Springs?!?! Can’t beat it! If location and pools are your thing, you will fall in love with Hilton Buena Vista Palace!
Have you stayed at the Hilton Palace Disney Springs?
Being a special needs parent is definitely unique. While most days it really doesn’t phase me. I’m blessed that my daughter is higher up on the autism spectrum. However, when it comes to activities and inclusion, ughhh!!!! This is the one area that really makes my heart ache. My daughter misses out on so much. Camps are too scared to take special needs kiddos no matter how high functioning they are. She “can’t” play certain sports. After school programs? Unless I’m wanting to pay out of pocket for an aide to attend or attend myself until the program feels confident she can do things on her own (I’ve done this with many activities, just call me the assistant teacher/coach lol), we are out of luck! While most parents send their kids off to camps and sports during school break to chill with their peers, us special needs parents are pretty much with our kiddos 24/7! As much as I love my daughter, 24/7 around anyone will eventually drive you mad!
When my husband and I first found out that ALL Beaches Resorts are IBCCES certified and everyone is included in everything, even the included in your fees kids camp ?!?! We didn’t believe it! We could run away to the tropics during school breaks AND my daughter can chill with other kids while hubby and I actually get some alone, one on one time?!?! I swear I reread the Camp Sesame page on the Beaches Resorts website 1000 times thinking there was a catch. THER HAD TO BE A CATCH!!!! This could not be real!!??!?
I’m here to say it’s 100% legit!!!! We went to Beaches Resorts Turks & Caicos and lived like a normal family for an entire week!!!! No one asked 72892 questions. No one glared at us. My daughter had the opportunity to take part in every kids activity the resort had to offer!!!! She had a blast!!! My husband and I had a blast!!! We all had a blast!!!
When Beaches says that "The Resorts for Everyone" they mean it!
Camp Sesame is the children’s camp at Beaches Turks & Caicos open from 9am-9pm.Beaches team members have the requisite knowledge, skills, temperament, and expertise to cater to ALL children, including those with autism and other special needs, and offer age‐specific programs for infants, toddlers, pre‐teens and teens!!! At Camp Sesame, kids can truly have a blast and splash the day away in toddler pools, go on a shell collecting hunt, have their face painted, go on treasure hunts, watch puppet shows, costume time, magic shows, sand castle building just to name a few. My daughter even had the opportunity to celebrate Elmos birthday with cake and all!!!
Beaches is the first resort company in the world to complete the rigorous IBCCES training and Autism Certification! Beaches is proud to offer families like my own and others with children with autism and other special needs specialized service, engaging activities and custom dining options so that all families may enjoy a memorable, award-winning Beaches Luxury Included experience.
If you made it this far in the post, I’m sure this is what you have been waiting for! Our experience!
We did email Beaches Resorts concierge for info on Camp Sesame the week before our trip. We wanted to be as prepared as we possibly could! They sent us a two page questionnaire asking everything they possibly needed to know about my daughter and her diagnosis. Apparently they even cater to dietary needs! Honestly I loved that everything the certified nannies could possibly ask me was on those two sheets of paper meaning they wouldn’t have to ask me anything! I filled them out and sent them back ASAP.
When we arrived at Camp Sesame the staff already had our paperwork on hand. You just need to have your child’s passport with you to prove identity so do not leave the passport I the room.
This is when I got scared. Right off the bat, I was offered one on one nanny services for $15hr. Ummmm I like to think I’m successful and make decent money, but that was not budgeted at all. I was thinking to myself omg here is the catch!!!Once I stated I wasn’t interested and only wanted Camp Sesame they quickly changed the subject. I’m guessing they try to make a sale with everyone so do not get alarmed as I did! I almost had a heart attack lol.
We packed a backpack with a change of clothes, swim suit, sun screen, left it with staff with my phone number and off we went.
Not a single text!!! We went back several hours later after a fun day at the pool and as we arrived we saw my daughter giggling and smiling away before she spotted us!!!! She was truly having fun!
We picked her up and she did not want to leave. She celebrated Elmos birthday. She’s obsessed with Elmo! She swam in the kiddie pool out back! When I asked about her behavior I was told she did great and if there were any issues with other kids being curious. My daughter is “nonverbal” so questions were asked about this, they simply took my daughter out of the situation to do something super fun while they explained things to the kiddo asking the questions and then brought everyone back together to play! I loved this! A very good way to make sure everyone was truly having a blast all day long and my daughter did not have to witness “the conversation”.
There are also several nannies to care for the kiddos. I’m assuming someone was most likely assigned to my daughter to make sure she had an extra set of eyes on her if she was really that well behaved.
My daughter is 7 years old and we did however place her in the 5 year old camp. My daughter still loves Sesame Street and personality-wise relates to toddler better, so we all agreed this was the route to take. So if you have a kiddo and would feel more comfy if they were placed in the younger camp, they welcome it! Actually, I think they were re leaved I made the suggestion at drop off! Makes their job easier I’m sure! Plus, it gave this mama peace of mind! I know she gets along with younger kids great!
My daughter went back for a second day and had just as much fun! She made cookies with Cookie Monster!! Total bragging rights there!! It was truly a dream come true for her to take part in something fun while my husband and I had just as much fun together spending one on one time together as well! Thank you Beaches Resorts for thinking about EVERYONE and making sure all inclusive really is for everyone!!! Literally a special needs family dream vacation!
Have you been to a Beaches Resort?
CourtneyLynne is former model turned mommy & wifey! When not blogging all things foodie, fashion, travel, mom life & straight up fabulousness to the masses, she can be found chasing her toddler around in 6in stilettos & laughing at her own jokes her glass of wine told her to tell.