Circus Circus courts families under the big top

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LAS VEGAS -- Although some agents and their clients might question the concept of Las Vegas as a family destination, Circus Circus has carved out a real family-friendly niche.

And why not?

Despite the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority's reluctance to hang the "family destination" tag on the city, family travel to Las Vegas was up in 2001 from the previous year, even as overall visitors numbers declined for the first time since 1982.

Last year, guests under age 21 accounted for 12% of the city's 35 million visitors -- about 420,000 visitors who cannot even set foot on the casino floors.

"Hotels understand the financial logic of creating family-friendly attractions as more families vacation together," said a spokesman for Circus Circus.

How successful a family sell is the property?

Jack Richards, president and chief executive officer of American West Vacations in Phoenix, said that for the first six months of this year, his company booked 12,000 travelers to Circus Circus -- and most of that business was families -- with an average of three persons to each room.

"Circus Circus is a very easy sell for families because of the attractions," he said.

Chaos is the newest thrill ride at the Adventure Dome theme park at Circus Circus. Likely he means the Adventure Dome Theme Park that's at the heart of Circus Circus' following. The park has 21 rides and many attractions that appeal to all ages, including adults.

Although admission is free, prices for individual rides range from $5 for "premium rides" to $3 for "family and junior rides." All-day passes are available for $18.95, and junior passes (those under 36 inches) are $13.95.

Tots can ride minibumper cars, the Ferris wheel and carousel. For teens, there are roller coasters, laser tag and two IMAX ride films.

The park is open daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Mondays through Thursdays; to midnight on Fridays and Saturdays; and to 8 p.m. on Sundays.

The Midway Stage, free to guests, presents such classic circus acts as trapeze artists and jugglers, from 11 a.m. to midnight daily.

Circus Circus runs no special promotions for families, believing their prices and attractions are compelling enough, according to the spokesman.

Room rates are between $39 and $89 for a standard room; cots and rollaway beds are free. Commission is 10%.

All of the restaurants offer children's menus, and Circus Circus has a daily dinner buffet for $6.99.

Other family attractions in town range from youth centers and shark reefs to water parks to keep kids occupied and entertained.

Kaleel Sakakeeny covers family travel for Travel Weekly. He can be reached at [email protected].

The kids are all right

LAS VEGAS -- Several licensed baby-sitting agencies here offer the services of CPR-certified child providers. Some sitters will come to the hotel room. The following services are available 24 hours a day:

• A1 Babysitting Service
Rates:
$40 for the first four hours; $8 each additional hour.
Phone: (702) 382-0432.

• Around the Clock
Rates:
$48 for the first four hours; $10 each additional hour.
Phone: (702) 365-1040.

• Four Seasons Babysitting Services
Rates:
$30 to $40 for first four hours; $7 to $9 each additional hour.
Phone: (702) 384-5848.

• Grandma Thompson's Romp 'n' Play
Rates:
$5 per hour, minimum of five hours.
Phone: (702) 735-0176.

Book it: Circus Circus
Phone: (800) 634-3450
Web:www.circuscircus.com
Rates: $39 to $89 per night
Commission: 10%

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