When folks think of our town, they think of the glitz and glamor of The Strip – the casinos, the fine dining, the gambling and the 24/7 lifestyle. What they don’t recognize is the natural beauty and wonder that lies such a short distance from Las Vegas. I work in an industry where I have constant contact with tourists. The first questions they ask are “How do you like it? What makes Las Vegas different than where you came from?” The first thing I think of is the pace of life. The second is the sheer beauty surrounding our little world.
Families can truly “get back to nature” in this area of the State! The following are some of our amazing attractions, most within a hour or so of town. So, take your children on a journey back in time and go explore any (or all) of the following scenic attractions:
Valley of Fire State Park
Words such as breath-taking, amazing and out-of-this-world are often associated with Valley of Fire. The colors, rock strata and prehistoric feel to the place all add to an awesome experience. When the sun shines (and really, when isn’t it shining?) the red sandstone appears to catch fire – hence the name. Beautiful – a perfect excursion to the wonders of nature for children and adults of all ages.
Imagine a lake in the midst of the desert and you have the oasis of Lake Mead. This is one of the most wondrous and picturesque sites, and, being just outside Boulder City, one of the most easily accessible to anyone who lives in Vegas. Boating, fishing, camping, hiking, cycling – you can do it all around the splendor of this man-made lake. The perfect place for a family vacation, even if just for the weekend.
Red Rock Canyon
Awe-inspiring and perfect for hiking and rock climbing. Set right in the heart of the Mojave Desert, this canyon offers truly stunning sheer red rocks and vistas. All I can say is “wow!” Pack up the kids and off you go!
Spring Mountain Ranch State Park
If it’s good enough for Howard Hughes, it’s good enough for me! This is a true bit of history set into the wilderness. The wash once acted as a road for wagon trains, horse thieves and bandits! The ranch is a piece of local legend – worth the tour, and the available guided excursion of the area is well worth the time! So turn back the clock and revisit the old west, Nevada-style.
Old Las Vegas Mormon State Historic Park
You don’t even have to leave town to see this one! Take a little trip to 500 E. Washington and see this bit of living history come alive! The fort has a visitor center, full-size reconstruction of the original site and the last remaining wall of the original fort! Re-opened in June of 2005, to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the fort, courtesy of descendants of the original Utah pioneers. This is the “birthplace of Las Vegas!”
Mount Charleston Wilderness
Snow in the desert! See the snow-capped big mountain in the distance? It’s probably Mount Charleston! Pack up the kids, get the chains ready for the tires, put on your winter gear and head out for a day of fun in the sun and snow! You can even get a bit of relief from the 120 degree summer heat by going up to the heights of the Mountain! What more could you ask for in contrast to our normal lives?
Moapa Valley National Wildlife Refuge
This is the newest offering on the list, still being restored, with a fragile ecosystem and habitats. It’s small, it’s real and it’s worth a trip! Only open weekends – Saturday and Sunday, from 9-3, Labor to Memorial Day. It’s a great way to see real-life efforts to save and maintain a natural area! For more information, please call 702-879-6110.
In Vegas, accessible to all, membership or entry fees required. A bit of nature in our town – see natural desert habitat, birds of all kinds, vegetation and wildlife that’s indigenous to the desert, a lot of greenery and some excellent programs for children and families. There’s botanical gardens, museums, a fine dining cafe, interpretive trails through a scenic wetland. Nature with all the amenities! Membership is inexpensive and allows you to visit the preserve any time, and also allows you to partake of the programs for half price, with discounts to workshops and classes! If this is as wild as you care to get, it’s the ultimate place for families.