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LAS VEGAS MINI GRAN PRIX

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1401 N. Rainbow Blvd.

Las Vegas, NV 89108

702-259-7000

website

See Review

Mon-Fri 11am-9pm

Sat-Sun 10am-9pm

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AT A GLANCE

What is it?

An indoor/outdoor amusement park with go-kart racing, video games, and much more.

Where is it?

In the northwest part of town, about a 20 minute drive from The Strip (depending on traffic).

Is it worth the cost?

If you have kids or are a kid at heart then absolutely. This is one of the few things they'll actually enjoy doing in Las Vegas.

What else do I need to know?

Check out the pizza. Yum.

What's the bottom line?

Absolutely worth the drive for families.

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FULL REVIEW

I've been saying for a long time that Las Vegas is not the best place to bring kids. Since the main attractions - gambling, drinking, and most shows - are geared toward adults it leave precious little for children to remain interested, and of course if your kids are bored they're probably going to do their best to let you know it in one way or another.

But you can't leave the kids with Grandma every time so where will you go on your next Vegas vacation to ensure the little buggers don't drive you bonkers? Easy: The Las Vegas Mini Gran Prix. It will not only keep your kids entertained but it will most likely keep you smiling at the same time.

At the center of this family fun park is a large building with an indoor arcade filled with all of the latest video and carnival style games. Whether you want to blast an alien invasion, test your skills on the latest virtual reality machines, or go old school with a raucous game of skee-ball, this comfortable facility has got you covered. On the midway games the kids can earn tickets that can be redeemed for toys and other prizes, all of which will require you to spend a lot more than the prizes are actually worth but were generally of better quality and interest than what you see at most places like this.

But the main attractions are outdoors and include not one but four go-kart tracks, a miniature roller coaster, and a giant slide. The slide, coaster, and the smallest go-kart track are geared for children - if you're looking for serious thrills go hang off the side of the Stratosphere Tower. But the three other tracks offer challenges for both kids and adults.

The first is a road track - the longest of its kind in Las Vegas - where you can race against other drivers in small, motorized go-karts. Lots of twists and turns combine with long straight-aways for a challenge of both maneuverability and strategy, which you can take seriously if you have a hard time quelling that competitive streak or you can just let the kids go ahead and win.

There's also a high-banked oval with more powerful karts that lends itself nicely to that competitive nature. Just watch those people diving in from the outer edges to the inside of the turns - I nearly got sent spinning into the grass by one crazy driver, although my father will try to deny culpability.

The track I enjoyed the most was the timed course. The go-karts on this track are larger and even more powerful, requiring you to have a valid driver's license to operate. Here you get a green light to blast through a twisty road course one car at a time and are competing only against yourself, trying to improve your time with each successive run. This is a blast and the fact that they keep certain curves slightly wet allows you to throw your kart into a fishtailing turn for increased thrills. You're running the 24 Hours of Le Mans. You're Starsky and or Hutch in the red Gran Torino after a bad guy. Pick your fantasy, but you'll be grinning like an idiot as you get better with each run, knocking precious seconds off your time.

To cap it all off there's also a small restaurant serving sandwiches, pizza, salads, and other light fare, something that you'd normally want to avoid when visiting a place like this but at Las Vegas Mini Gran Prix is an absolute must visit. The pizzas are terrific, rivaling what you can find for three times the cost at your hotel's food court and while the sandwiches are basic they are hearty and quite large, warmed in a pizza oven for a special flavor. We recommend you come here for lunch and play to kill two itinerary birds with one stone, so to speak.

It's also a good value. You can buy individual tickets for $7 (for 1-4 tickets; $6.50 each for more than 5 at a time) and each of the major attractions (the go-karts, coaster, slide) requires anywhere from half to a full ticket to enjoy. You could also spend $20 and get a wrist-band that is good for all rides for one hour. The arcade area is token-based and you get four tokens for a dollar. Spend about $50 - less than what you'd pay for movie tickets and popcorn - and a family of four could have a full afternoon of enjoyment.

The one and only downside for most Vegas visitors is the location. Although it's only a 15-minute drive from The Strip, it will require you to either have a car at your disposal or to blow another $50 on a cab for a round trip. That may sound like a lot but if it's a choice between spending $50 and having a couple of bored teenagers making my life miserable because they have nothing to do, it seems like a no-brainer to me.

For more information on the facility, including directions and special events packages, you can visit their website above.

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