Far from the land of the pilgrims and Plymouth Rock, who would dream Las Vegas would become the site for relatives to gather at Thanksgiving? While it's a very different kind of holiday get-together, it allows everyone the chance to kick back without the worry of cooking turkey, pies, and entertaining.

As we joined the queue at our hotel reception desk the day before Thanksgiving, the lines grew longer. Little children tripped over travel bags and family groups struggled to keep track of their entire party. But this was just the start.

Traveling on the holiday has typically been a gamble because of unpredictable weather and crowds at airports or on the roads. But on Thanksgiving Day, swarms of families arrived at McCarran airport in Vegas for the long weekend. The really surprising thing was that in this economy, there was no shortage of families checking in at upscale resorts.

With 36-degree temperatures, few people used hotel swimming pools, but they found ways to keep the kids busy. Eating seemed to be the most popular choice. Buffets lines wound around hotel corridors on Thanksgiving Day. It's reasonable that families would want to take advantage of all-you-can-eat buffets because of the savings but variety also played a part. Buffets offered something for everyone. Special menus for the holiday included everything you might normally prepare for a Thanksgiving feast at home, except the feast at your table probably doesn't include unlimited crab legs, shrimp cocktails, roast beef, and everything pumpkin – pies, cakes, cheesecakes, cookies, puddings and more. Las Vegas had no problems duplicating the flavors of home-cooked Thanksgiving dinners and a look around the hotel made it obvious that families weren't missing a thing. They were all together having lots of fun, with none of the responsibilities of Turkey day.

Vegas is a vacation destination and it never sleeps, not even on this holiday. Restaurants, shops, and entertainment venues all welcomed visitors. Public walkways were filled with parents and strollers.

While the town is without a doubt getting more expensive all the time with new gourmet shops and opulent hotels, there are still some inviting deals that appeal to families and anyone on a budget. Food courts, burger joints and buffets may balance out the cost of taking the entire family to Nevada.

Vegas probably offers more Cirque du Soleil shows than any other one city. Of course they also feature headliner, production, magic, comedy, adult, hypnosis and tribute shows. Ticket prices are not easily affordable, especially for entire families but you don't have to pay full price. There are many discounts available online and once you get to Vegas. Tix 4 Tonight booths are located all over the strip offering half price show tickets when you buy on the same day you attend. If you can be flexible, you will find decent seats at some excellent shows.

It wouldn't be America without Black Friday. The morning after Thanksgiving traffic filled the streets, cars leaving town and others going shopping. Some stores opened as early as 3 AM. From Donna Karen to Toys "R" Us, outlets offered shoppers extra discounts. It had to take special handling for tourists to get some of those bargains back home!

There's no doubt Las Vegas is dedicated to gambling but in some ways it has become a divided city. Like the performers at a Cirque show, it walks a fine line between high rollers and baby strollers. Bugsy Siegel, who built the first luxury casino/hotel in 1946 would be surprised at his gambling mecca today. With the Shark Reef Aquarium, Sky Zone Trampoline Park, the Mini Gran Prix and other daytime recreation, Bugsy would surely balk to see that families are inching their way into the Vegas culture, even on Thanksgiving.


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