There’s nowhere cool to bring a kid under three. People will suggest Legoland or a Pixar movie or some grimy mall store where kids slide into giant pits of plastic balls that archeologists who are digging in the year 3,000 will be as confused about as I am now. And those archeologists who touch those balls will get colds.
All those places are bad ideas.
Most likely scenario: Your kid will cry at something scary that isn’t actually scary. Best case scenario: He’ll love it for five minutes and you’ll try to make him love it for two hours. Which he will not love.
Here’s what you do instead: Take him to Vegas.
When Laszlo was not yet two, we took him to The Cosmopolitan Hotel for New Year’s Eve. Many people thought we were being horrible parents. Some of those people were my wife.
Laszlo did not heed our suggestions to nap during the five-hour drive. So by the end of it he was way pissed off: tired, bored, aching from being straightjacketed in that child seat. But as soon as he saw the lights of Vegas in the distance his whining abruptly stopped. It was like Moses’ Jews finally entering Israel.
The hotel lobby pillars were made of monitors where virtual fish swam by and colors swirled. He needed to touch it. Women in shiny dresses were everywhere. He needed to touch them too.
In Vegas, you do not need to entertain your child. To us, Las Vegas is sensory overload; to children it’s an endless opportunity to learn. There are monitors and music everywhere. There are glass elevators to ride and crystal chandeliers to slap. Monorail rides between hotels. Escalators everywhere. Vegas is perfect for a two-year old because it was designed for people with attention spans of two-year olds.
As I carried Laszlo through the casino, he stared in awe, demanding to touch the slot machines. I shoved a dollar in one, put him on my lap and let him press the buttons. He only got to enjoy it for two spins before a security guard told me that babies aren’t allowed to gamble.
This is a ludicrous rule. You cannot fill a room with shiny objects – festooned with cartoon characters – that spin, light up and make noise… and then decide that babies can’t touch them. Slot machines are way more appropriate for babies than adults. It’s one of the very few things babies can do exactly as well anybody else. Babies are the one group who not only have no savings to lose, but a lifetime to make up for their losses. If anyone should be banned from slot machines, it’s old people.
But other than the insane slot machine rule, Vegas is perfect. There are pools everywhere. Ludicrously shaped furniture in the middle of nowhere asking to be jumped on. Sculptures of giant shoes. Dancing fountains. And no matter how picky an eater you have, you will find something your child will eat at the buffet.
You know those parts of Vegas that bum you out: Old people cashing social security checks to play slot machines; billboards for escorts? Two-year olds don’t notice that stuff. To a two-year old that grandma is playing a fun game! That lady is sparkly!
So go ahead, induct your kid into capitalism with Disney Dollars and try to teach them about Europe by walking through Sleeping Beauty’s castle. I showed Laszlo the veiny beating heart of capitalism and a perfect simulacrum of the Eifel Tower, Venice canals and New York City.
I can’t wait to show Laszlo the pretty red lights in Amsterdam.