FWD: Out and About in Las Vegas
FWD: From Dr. William James Smith, Jr., of the Department of Environmental Studies at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.
Welcome to Las Vegas! It is exciting to have the AAG visit. Although many visitors do not realize it, the surrounding area is a fascinating place to visit the great outdoors. Some opportunities are described below, and the time to travel is estimated from the Las Vegas Strip (rush hour can lengthen the trip by 30 minutes). Perhaps my personal favorite when the weather is cooler is Valley of Fire, especially the indigenous water hole that holds water even in the summer time. There are also many longer-range trips worth doing spanning southern Utah, northern Arizona, the Great Basin National Park, and southeast California.
Redrock Canyon National Conservation Area: About 20 minutes away. Great place for hiking, rock-scrambling and exploring, and watching or joining in rock-climbing.
Lake Mead National Recreation Area: 30-45 minutes away. This place offers a fascinating drive through, and it connects to the Valley of Fire. It has an extremely diverse, colorful landscape. The water is also great if you can stand the cold.
Mt. Charleston: A 45 minute drive up Kyle Canyon gives you great hikes, and a good meal at the cozy Mt. Charleston lodge. Expect it to be about 20 degrees cooler up there than in Las Vegas. There are elk!, mountain lion, deer, evergreen forests, skiing in the winter, and thanks to orographic lifting, booming thunderstorms in the summer. It is an ecological island in the desert rising up to around 10,000 feet.
Valley of Fire: About an hour away. This is a great place to go in March. Same weather as in Vegas, but clean air, and a really fun area to explore, with amazing, surreal red sandstone formations and fascinating petroglyphs. Also look for sheep and the native water hole.
Desert National Wildlife Refuge: About an hour away. Some good birding opportunities here. A nice, quiet spot with some big trees and spring-fed pools, and lush brush.
Kelso Dunes: 1 hr 45 minutes. These dunes are in the Mojave National Preserve. A great spring hike. Climb up the dunes and have fun running down. They make a neat sound when you step on them a certain way. The drive there through the Preserve is beautiful and includes passage through an amazing Joshua tree forest (better than any I've seen at Joshua Tree National Park). Feel free to pull over and explore.
China Ranch Date Farm and Tecopa Hot Springs: Not sure of the time. At China Ranch you can free sample the numerous varieties of dates grown there. Also, there's a really cool hike to a slot canyon, past the Amargosa River and through a lunar-like landscape. About 15 minutes from China Ranch you can enjoy your own private hot springs at various enterprises in Tecopa -- you can also rent rustic cabins there.
Black Canyon: 2 hours. This is the canyon you see from Hoover Dam. I've not been here yet, but I hear that it is fantastic. There are hiker and boater-accessible hot-springs down there too. For a price, you can boat this in a kayak, raft or canoe, through various local outfitters.
Mojave Desert: If nothing else, just drive out of the city, park somewhere and check out the Mojave Desert. It looks brown and boring (aside from the mountains etc.) at 60 miles per hour, but has its own serene beauty when you explore it on foot.
Impressive shows featuring water and family shows
Le Rev at the Wynn Hotel is my favorite acrobatics and water show https://boxoffice.wynnlasvegas.com/
O at the Bellagio is also great http://www.bellagio.com/o-cirque-du-soleil/o-cirque-du-soleil.aspx
Lance Burton's magic show http://www.lanceburton.com/
And a neat aquarium is at Mandalay bay http://www.mandalaybay.com/entertainment/sharkreef.aspx
A nice but far smaller aquarium at Caesar's Palace is next to the famous FAO kids toy store and a robotic Atlantis clash where the characters fight, shoot fire, etc.
The Venetian has a neat indoor and outdoor gondola ride and is pleasant to walk around
The Bellagio has an amazing 4 story tall fountain show at night set to music and free, and inside are some neat seasonal theatrical displays and fantastic blown glass
Our version of an Asian Town collection of restaurants is on Spring Mountain Blvd., so if you want an ethnic meal and want to save money, this is a short cab ride from the strip.