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Category Archives: Nevada

Kid-Friendly Activities in Las Vegas, PART 2

kid-friendly Las Vegas

One of the most-visited posts on this blog is my list of kid-friendly activities in Las Vegas. I’ve lived in Las Vegas long enough to have some new activities to add, so here it is: Kid-Friendly Vegas Activities, Part 2. Everybody loves a good sequel, right?

Henderson Bird Preserve: I’ll admit it. This place wasn’t really for us. But if you visit when the weather is nice, or if you are an avid bird-watcher, this might be an adventure you and your family will enjoy.

Natural History Museum: It isn’t exactly the Smithsonian, but that’s ok! This museum features several automated, gigantic dinosaurs, an exhibit on ancient Egypt, and much more. My daughter loved our visit.

Neon Museum: This one is best for older kids, since you can only visit the museum as part of a guided tour. The Neon Museum features many of the historic neon signs that once decorated the streets of Las Vegas. You might want to consider booking your tickets ahead of time for this attraction.

National Atomic Testing Museum: Like the Neon Museum, this activity is best-suited for older kids and teens. The museum focuses on the atomic testing that occurred in Nevada. For an extra fee, you can visit the Area 51 exhibit while you’re there.

Flamingo Habitat: Walk through this outdoor garden to see flamingos and other birds. It’s free and is located right on the Strip on the grounds of the Flamingo Hotel and Casino.

So, get out there and continue exploring beautiful Las Vegas! But before you go, check out my first list of kid-friendly Vegas activities. Or, if you’re in the mood to venture further afield, you can read my Vegas day trip ideas. Happy trails!

Free and Fun in Las Vegas: Flamingo Habitat


The Flamingo Habitat hadn’t been high on my list of priorities compared to other attractions on the Strip. However, on a smoldering Saturday afternoon, we decided to give this free and kid-friendly attraction a try.

Flamingo Habitat

The garden area is located near the pool, which means that it isn’t exactly tranquil. But there were several interesting things to see: an employee had several colorful birds that we could feed. A meandering stream held ducks, fish, and a few turtles. And of course, there were several flamingos, which have to be among the weirdest looking birds on the planet with their odd habit of standing on one spindly leg.

Should you drop what you’re doing and run out to the Flamingo Habitat today? Probably not. However, it’s worth a visit if you happen to be at the Flamingo Hotel and Casino or if your kid is particularly fond of birds. Plus, it would pair well with the other two animal-themed attractions on the Strip: the Shark Reef Aquarium at Mandalay Bay and the Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat at the Mirage.

Flamingo Habitat

More birds await indoors

Flamingo HabitatFlamingo Habitat

The Flamingo Hotel and Casino is located at:
3555 Las Vegas Blvd. South

Time to “Focus on Nevada”

Focus on Nevada at Alios Gallery

Take a look at this month’s issue of Desert Companion, and you’ll see the winners and finalists of the Focus on Nevada photo contest. The photos represent diverse views of Nevada, from the Strip to rural areas like Rhyolite and Echo Canyon. If there is one common theme among the photographs, it is that Nevada really is beautiful.

You can use this link to view the photos or you can pick up the June 2013 issue of Desert Companion when you’re out and about in Southern Nevada.

Two of my photos were chosen as honorable mentions in the smartphone category. (You can find them on page 67 of the digital version, but you really should take the time to peruse the professional and semi-professional categories first.) It was pretty cool seeing my photos in the magazine and on the gallery wall at Alios Gallery for the Focus on Nevada event. I’ve been inspired to re-install the Instagram app on my iPhone.

Don’t Forget the Nevada State Museum

Nevada State Museum, Las Vegas

We’ve been to Springs Preserve several times. Our routine is the same every time: head to the playground first, then take a stroll through the gardens, and once we can’t stand another minute in the blazing sun, we head into the Origen Museum to cool off, and then outdoors again to visit the desert animals exhibit before heading home.

However, before our last visit, I decided that we would start someplace else: the next-door Nevada State Museum.

Tickets to the museum are included in the general admission price for Springs Preserve. If my own experience is any indication, the museum is, unfortunately, an afterthought for most visitors to Springs Preserve. This is a shame because it really is a fascinating museum, and it managed to keep my six-year-old daughter and her two friends entertained for almost two hours.

As you enter the exhibit hall, the first thing you will notice is the gigantic woolly mammoth. Although this display is made of fiberglass and plaster, it’s an impressive demonstration of the size of these prehistoric animals. Visitors will also find all kinds of taxidermied and preserved desert animals, from pumas to bats to butterflies.

But the Nevada State Museum isn’t all about the animal kingdom. The museum also takes visitors on a journey through Nevada history, from the early pioneer days to modern life on the Las Vegas Strip. A glittering display of showgirl costumes is arranged on the back wall, a strange juxtaposition to the desert creatures who roamed closer to the museum’s entrance.

While the museum’s collection seems a bit disjointed in terms of continuity, it does an excellent job of engaging both children and adults. This is not a “children’s museum,” yet the displays are designed in a way that makes them accessible to kids.

Another plus is the friendly staff at the museum. Rather than lecturing us on behaving in the gallery, a staff member at the front desk greeted us with a smile. My daughter is well-versed in museum etiquette, so I’m always taken off guard when museum employees seem horrified at the prospect of my daughter wandering through their collection. However, we felt welcome at the Nevada State Museum, which helps put everyone at ease.

A visit to the Nevada State Museum is a great option for the almost-unbearable Vegas summers. And if you think you can handle the heat, perhaps stop by Springs Preserve after you’ve explored the museum.

Photo Friday: a bridge

The Mike O’Callaghan – Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge overlooks Hoover Dam and crosses the state line between Arizona and Nevada. The bridge honors two men: Mike O’Callaghan, who served as Governor of Nevada from 1971-1979, and Pat Tillman, an NFL player who joined the Army and was killed in Afghanistan in 2004.

View of Memorial Bridge from Hoover Dam.

The Mike O’Callaghan – Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge

Mike O'Callaghan - Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge

Hoover Dam as seen from the Mike O'Callaghan - Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge

The bridge provides a stunning view of Hoover Dam

These photos don’t do the bridge justice. Looking at it from Hoover Dam, the bridge soars to an impressive height of 880 feet above the river and 280 feet above the dam. It is beautiful in form, function, and significance.

No matter what your plans are this Memorial Day weekend, I hope you will take a few moments to think about those who have served our country.

To see photos from other travel bloggers, stop by Photo Friday.

Vegas Day Trip: Lost City Museum in Overton

Lost City Museum. Overton, NV

Last week was a mess at our house. Sleepless nights with a sick kid meant that by the time the weekend rolled around, I was determined to sit at home and do absolutely nothing.

As it turned out, we got bored with doing nothing pretty quickly. By Saturday afternoon I was getting antsy, and by that evening I had decided we’d be going on a short road trip the next day.

The Lost City Museum is located in Overton, Nevada, not too far from Valley of Fire. Normally my daughter wouldn’t be too excited about a small museum, but when I explained that the museum focused on the Anasazi, the same people who had made the petroglyphs at Valley of Fire long ago, she perked up. Valley of Fire is one of E.’s favorite places to visit, so the connection was enough to make her curious.

Reconstructed pueblos. Lost City Museum. Overton, NV

Although the museum focuses on the Anasazi people who used to live in the area (and in parts of Utah and northern Arizona), it also highlights the excavation process that took place on the site. Outside, visitors will find reconstructions of pueblos and a pithouse, one of the earliest types of structures that has been found in Southern Nevada.

All of this made for a good, educational outing. But the highlight of the visit for me was…

mummified giant sloth poop.

Yes, for some reason the Lost City Museum features a piece of mummified poop in its display of prehistoric fossils. Apparently giant sloths roamed the area around 11,000 years ago.

(And if you’re thinking, “Gee, hasn’t Sarah mentioned giant sloths before?” the answer is yes, yes I have.)

I’m slightly embarrassed to admit that I have a photo of the giant sloth poop. However, I’m not going to post it here. Oh, no. You just have to go to Overton and see it for yourself.

The Lost City Museum is located at:
721 S. Moapa Valley Blvd.
Overton, NV

NV road trip

Exploring the Historic Railroad Trail at Lake Mead

Historic Railroad Trail, Lake Mead

Thanks to a recommendation from Oh Mah Deehness!, I decided a recent spring Saturday would be the perfect time to try a hike at Lake Mead’s railroad trail.

I’ve heard there are several cool tunnels along the trail. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to even the first tunnel.

But that’s life with a strong-willed kid whose attention span is a mile long.

Even though we didn’t come close to completing the trail, there were plenty of things for us to see along the way.

Historic Railroad Trail, Lake Mead

Spring is a perfect time for this hike, not only because the weather is great, but also because the wildflowers are in bloom. We also enjoyed some great views of Lake Mead and got to see an interesting bit of history. Along the way, we saw a sign pointing out several concrete plugs that rested next to the trail that had once been used in the construction of Hoover Dam. That’s certainly not something you see every day!

Historic Railroad Trail, Lake Mead

So, you may be wondering why we didn’t make it to any tunnels despite the fact that we were having a great time. Well, five-year-old E. wanted to stop and examine everything. Every wildflower, every view of the lake, every interesting rock. She also wanted to record her findings in her journal. She made plenty of nice sketches of her surroundings: the flowers, the boats docked in the lake, the mountains. I was happy to let her take her time…although eventually we had to call it a day and start heading home.

Historic Railroad Trail, Lake Mead

historic railroad trail, lake mead

Be sure to read up on this hike and Lake Mead in general prior to your trip. Have fun!

Photo: Is this one of the most underappreciated places in Vegas?

Spring Mountain Ranch State Park

Taking the Overlook Trail at SMRSP

Is this one of the most underrated spots in Las Vegas? I think it might be.

Spring Mountain Ranch State Park is filled with both history (Howard Hughes was once an owner of the ranch) and nature. Yet even during beautiful winter and spring weekends, this park is much less crowded than its neighbor, the Red Rock Canyon scenic loop.

Spring Mountain Ranch was one of the first parks we visited after moving to Las Vegas, and it’s still one of our favorites.

Four Awesomely Fun Things

I really don’t like writing these kinds of posts. I’d rather let each of these adventures have the spotlight, and write four nicely-composed, detailed posts rather than lump these experiences into one entry.

But this is the way it goes when you’re busy. (I also hate saying that “I’m busy” as if that’s an excuse because, really, everyone is busy.)

Excuses aside, I know that if I don’t write about our four recent adventures, I will never write about them, so here they are: four awesomely fun things that we have done recently.

Charlie Parker’s Diner: Springfield, IL

Checking out the menu at Charlie Parker's Diner

While we were in St. Louis for the holidays, we took a side-trip to Springfield. Being fans of Guy Fieri’s Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives, we had to check out Charlie Parker’s, a breakfast and lunch place that is housed in a quonset hut. Famous for their “horseshoe” breakfast and lunch dishes, this diner serves classic American fare in a unique environment. And it’s definitely kid-friendly, so keep it in mind if you ever travel to Springfield.

Keepers of the Wild: Valentine, AZ

I have become obsessed with Groupon, which is always filled with interesting deals and discounts. I saw a “use it now” groupon for Keepers of the Wild, and we decided to give it a try. We love anything that has to do with animals. Keepers of the Wild is a non-profit that seeks to rescue exotic animals. During our visit, we saw lions, tigers, monkeys, and llamas, just to name a few. And of course we had to stop at Cracker Barrel when we drove through Kingman, AZ on the way. It’s a road trip staple! (My daughter is now better than I am at that triangular game with the pegs.)

Gondola at the Venetian: Las Vegas, NV

If you’ve ever researched a trip to Vegas, you’ve come across references to the gondola at the Venetian, I’m sure. Even though we’ve lived here for over a year, we didn’t take a ride on the cute little boats until recently. It’s not a cheap adventure, but it was fun. An added bonus was the fact that our gondolier sang for us and had an amazing voice.

Living Desert Camel Ride: Palm Desert, CA

Camel Ride

Of these four fun adventures, this is probably my favorite! We went to the Coachella Valley for a weekend and visited the Living Desert, a zoo that focuses on desert animals of the world. For an extra fee, visitors can ride a camel. At first, I thought my daughter would be riding alone, but at the last minute I decided I couldn’t resist joining her! (I’ll be writing more about our Palm Springs trip in future posts, so stay tuned.)

Writing about these latest excursions makes me think it’s time to plan a few more. Have any suggestions for us?

Day trips from Las Vegas

NV road trip

You don’t have to drive far to go from the flashing lights and gigantic video-boards of the Strip to the isolated roadways that cut through the Nevada desert. Located in the southern corner of a vast and mostly rural state, Las Vegas is a neighbor to northern Arizona and southern Utah, two places that seem equally remote and sprawling.

If you need a break from the happy chirping noises of the slot machines, hop in the car and head to one of these Las Vegas day-trip destinations:

Valley of Fire: A favorite in my family, Valley of Fire offers visitors rocks to climb, trails to hike, and petroglyphs to decipher in an other-worldly landscape. You can read about family-friendly places to visit within the park here.

Death Valley: Not for the faint of heart, Death Valley is like a minimalist’s dream come true. Dramatic vistas meet visitors who choose to walk up the short path to Zabriskie Point. The Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes and the Badwater Basin salt flats are other great stopping-off points within the park. Historians will want to drive north to Scotty’s Castle, a Spanish-style home from the 1920’s.

Ghost towns: Two ghost towns that are a reasonable drive from Las Vegas are Rhyolite (to the northwest, near Beatty) and Nelson (to the southeast, near Boulder City). Both sites offer a glimpse at Nevada’s mining history. Rhyolite boasts a house made of glass bottles in addition to other old buildings, and it is located adjacent to the Goldwell Open Air Museum. Meanwhile, Nelson offers an old-fashioned general store and lots of historic cars and signs.

Boulder City: If you have children who are train fanatics (the transportation method, not that awful band), you’ll want to visit Boulder City and take a ride on the Nevada Southern Railway. This is a great stop on your way to check out famous Hoover Dam.

Zion National Park: This is one of those destinations that would work better as a weekend getaway from Las Vegas, however a visit can be accomplished in only one day. Located in southern Utah, Zion National Park is filled with beautiful cliffs and winding roads. Opportunities for hiking abound.

No matter which Las Vegas day-trip you choose, remember to be prepared with plenty of drinking water (especially if you’re traveling in summer), food, and other essentials. Oh, and don’t forget to have fun!


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