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The Springs Preserve, with its vast array of things to see and do, easily offers a refreshing 4 hour jaunt or an all day excursion, either of which you can top off with lunch at their Divine Cafe.
This place is very often a surprise to those who visit Las Vegas since it’s so close by and yet so far removed from the Vegas they know.
From the Traveling Exhibits, Botanical Gardens, outdoor live animal section, Sustainability Gallery, Nevada State Museum and more, it offers something for everyone of all ages.
You'll experience culture in many forms, both modern and historic, ranging from local and regional to the national and international. It also covers a wide range of our natural world locally, regionally and nationally also.
Their Brews & Blues Festival, Ohana Festival, Mardi Gras Vegas, Ice Cream Festival, Grapes and Hops Festival and other events appeal to locals and visitors alike.
The grounds and structures are done with architectural and artistic flair all throughout. It has various outdoor stage areas, sustainable living models which includes a 2nd place international award winner, a little seasonal butterfly habitat as well as a host of other interesting features.
It truly has so much to offer every age group and though it's a natural for families, it has all kinds of interest for adults too - local or visitor.
Both the Springs Preserve areas and the Nevada State Museum, on the north part of the grounds, are all inclusive in your admission. Now, if you're wanting to see both, you'll want around 7 hours to take these in and not run around like there's a fire somewhere.
Although it's tempting, I think you'll be cheating yourself trying to do both in 5 hours or so since you'll have to rush around to see the various parts of each. You can try, but you'll be forced to skimp over so much good stuff.
What's the point in doing that? No matter what you choose, you want quality time with whatever your choice is and to enjoy your time ... not just visit to check something off a list.
What I recommend is to focus and spent most of your time seeing one of these, then using whatever time you may have left over to sample parts of the other for a next visit, something many decide on after their first visit.
The Springs Preserve is larger and has more features, so count on spending at the very least 4 hours there alone.
The time frames I mention here include about 30 minutes for lunch at their Cafe, which really adds to an enjoyable day out here.
The Nevada State Museum is smaller but you'll want at least 2 to 2.5 hours to take this in.
It tends to be more interesting for adults but has some cool things for kids too like the many animal and fossil displays, along with some historical exhibits.
If your kids are around 10 or so, they'll probably like the rest of it, which goes into the state and city history too.
If you get to Vegas more than once a year, I definitely recommend you get the yearly pass where you'll be able to really get the most out of both of these places.
The story of the Springs Preserve is the story of the oasis that gave rise to the city. That story begins with the merchants, trappers and traders who traveled the Old Spanish Trail.
The trail, from Santa Fe, NM to Los Angeles, CA, provided access to the burgeoning population and businesses of LA as well as its seaports.
Over the 20 or so years of its use, the routes varied some as better ways were found to avoid deep canyon areas and more water sources, but they always traveled near to the Vegas Valley areas.
In 1828 Raphael Rivera, a Mexican scout who first set foot in the Vegas Valley discovered its oasis and springs areas, and described the place as ‘las vegas’, which is spanish for 'the meadows'.
Once discovered, it became a vital stop along the trail after a long, dry and hot desert journey.
The spring fed oasis of meadows and small marshes is where they would replenish their water, which meant life or death traveling the desert back then, for the last part of their journey.
From those days of tradesmen and explorers, these springs would be the original source of transformations, one after another, into what you know today as the city of Las Vegas.
That's what put it on the National Registry of Historical Places. What better place to showcase that history than at the original oasis central to where it all happened ... and that's where the Springs Preserve is located.
As you walk into the Springs Preserve main entrance, you see signage for the Nevada State Museum to your left, and everything else to your right.
You'll wind around the walkway and then see the counter window where you pay the entrance fee, get info brochures on current happenings and a map of the Springs Preserve.
Although they have large display maps throughout the grounds, be sure to get a map to carry along with you ... you'll need it.
As you're coming in, you'll be surrounded by replicated little canyons that have little brooks running along their borders.
As you walk in further, you'll see a big building to your left which is the Origen Museum. The Origen houses a big array of features and it's the Springs Preserve main indoor exhibit focal point.
It has 75 permanent exhibits that are spread throughout, the 156 seat Big Springs Theater, spaces where they host their traveling exhibits and their main animal exhibits.
Walking into it's circular lobby area you'll notice it has clear panels in the flooring that lets you see a little brook flowing underneath it.
Not surprisingly, water is a main theme throughout many of the exhibits here.
As you walk into their main exhibit section, one of the first things you'll come across is a re-creation of the original spring mound.
All around it, you encounter all kinds of geological topics that cover the changes to this area from a billion years ago all the way up to the present day.
There's interactive video's that fill you in on various aspects of the changes, as well as hands-on exhibits illustrating how the geologic forces created the lands we all live upon today.
You’ll also learn that the original springs no longer ‘spring’. During its early growth period, too many people in the valley were punching holes in the ground to get their own wells started.
This resulted not only in a lowering of the water table but also changed the structure of the pressure needed for those springs to flow. Things of this nature weren't well understood back then, and it took some time before it was.
We've learned a lot more since then but as we all know, there are different problems facing us today that need better solutions.
That's one key reason why this place is great for kids. Some of them may get their first encounter to those situations here that could end up being a lifelong pursuit or career for them.
Towards that end, this Preserve features ecological and sustainability workshops and programs that help to broaden our understanding and learning on how to be better stewards of what we do have left.
That's the focus in their Sustainability Gallery and it covers all kinds of topics and models that deal with a number of current issues, challenges and ideas on sustainability.
A different popular exhibit is the one that re-creates what a flash flood would be like in a little slot canyon.
This cool little presentation teaches you about flash floods and what to look out for in the desert. It's a good lesson for desert awareness, and something I stress in my desert area recommendations page.
The Big Springs Theater has entertaining and educational short films on related theme's of nature that are currently on their calendar of events.
On certain dates during the evenings, they also host free full length films.
Beyond the mound area are more sections detailing our modern landscape and highlights of the animals in our desert areas and their adaptations for desert living.
A little further past this section is where you go outside to where they have live animal exhibits.
What's pretty cool about this area is that the replicated rocks housing the animals have little portals throughout that let you peek in to where they burrow, nest or sleep.
You'll see gila monsters, gophers, lizards, desert cottontails, snakes, tarantulas, scorpions and a frog once thought to be extinct - the Relict Leopard Frog.
One really beautiful animal here is the Grey Fox, which is much more colorful than its name.
I know some people hate seeing beautiful animals like this one penned up and a part of me feels the same, but a bigger part of me considers a few other factors.
It has a much bigger impact for kids to see these animals in person. It helps inspire them to help in the efforts to save these animals and the lands and habitats they depend on.
Although TV programs on them are great, people 'feel' something when they see them in person. There's that little extra wonder when you can experience them personally.
Another factor is knowing these animals are cared for by those who love these animals too.
It's a trade-off that I can't see being done any other way, and the pay-off can be large down the road with young minds and hearts. Some life long careers got their spark in places just like this.
The Springs Preserve also host a variety of live animal exhibitions.
A favorite is one where they handle and feed them while explaining the interesting aspects of that particular animal.
In another section here you'll see highlights of the land auction that established the city of Las Vegas, and features on the railroads with a mock train passenger car that you can walk through.
There's a section covering Hoover Dam and another on the Native Americans of this area. The living structures of these Indians are also replicated and featured in one of their outdoors areas.
My last time out to the Springs Preserve I got to see two really cool exhibits, and if what I saw is any indication on their eye for quality, you'll probably enjoy these no matter what the subject.
The first was a Dia de los Muertos exhibit and the other was Wicked Plants. After noticing I was feeling a bit ghoulish, I had a 'duh' moment when it hit me that both themes were macabre in nature.
The Dia de los Muertos, which is also observed internationally, is a noted one of Mexico where it originated thousands of years ago.
It translates to 'Day of the Dead' and it's a time to remember, honor and celebrate family and friends who have gone to the great beyond.
It begins on All Hallows Eve - October 31, followed by All Saints Day, then All Souls Day.
It's a very colorful tradition with skulls being the most prominent icon of its observation.
This exhibit runs for a while beyond those dates and include programs that let you compete to have your creation entered and featured among the dozens of items in their classic altar display.
Wicked Plants was just what it sounds like. It featured all kinds of deadly plants to humans as well as to other plants, trees or animals and was in the larger traveling exhibit area.
I recognized a few plants, both aquatic and land based, that have infested parts of Florida and the southeast in the section that had video features on a whole group of these.
Other sections had historical pieces where poisonous plants were central to the story.
I didn't think much on the subject at first but found myself really getting pulled in by this exhibit. The setting is a Victorian haunted house with numerous rooms laid out in differing display styles.
It was quite a twist subject-wise and it educated and entertained me a lot more than I would of ever expected, which was a very cool surprise.
Both of these exhibits were really fun to experience and are full of little nooks and crannies of details that one can easily miss if rushing around in order to get to the next exhibit.
The Botanical Gardens here are quite comprehensive in covering the range of desert flora.
You'll recognize a few of these plants, which have gained widespread water conserving landscape use. They're the natural alternative to previous landscape choices that were much more wasteful.
You'll see many though, that you probably have never seen before.
I love the desert and have always found it fascinating. The first thing that amazed me when I moved to Las Vegas, having arrived in the height of summer, was how anything could thrive in such harsh conditions.
What's great about the Botanical Gardens isn't just the incredible variety but the cleverness and power of nature in adapting and providing life in these arid lands.
In a few spots, the spread-out walkways of the cactus garden have a few little trails sneaking out the side leading you through different plants and trees into other themed areas.
All around you'll find touches of artistic accents along with all kinds of little quiet spaces where you can sit and take in the surroundings.
The serenity and simple solitude one can feel here is a refreshing contrast to our constant distractions and technological noise.
It still puzzles me to see some people in these gardens spend half the time with their face in their phones.
I don’t get it but ... do yourself a favor. Do absolutely nothing in these gardens but look, with intention, at the incredible work of Nature.
Look closely at the intricate spirals and symmetry of the many different kinds of cactus here. Notice their uniquely artful armor of barbs and spines ... the rows of them that column the huge Saguaro which can live 100 or so years.
Read the info cards on the desert flowers that bloom with the slightest of rainfall.
Discover the intriguing ways trees and shrubs have developed their own ways of surviving in this environment.
Look closely at the beefy smoothness of the succulents and how they've adapted their own methods. There is much to see and learn here if you slow down and take a little time out to enjoy the wonders of Nature.
Nearby the Botanical Gardens of the Springs Preserve you’ll find DesertSol, a 754 square ft. solar powered home built by the University of Nevada Las Vegas Solar Decathlon Team.
It was the top ranked entry in the US and placed second in the 2013 international competition.
It’s a one bedroom, one bath house that’s one of the best examples of sustainable living and well worth your time exploring the many features of it.
Also in this part of the grounds you'll find the seasonal Butterfly Habitat and nearby is the Activity Center. That's their little outdoor amphitheater where I saw Clint Carvalho's Extreme Parrots show.
Clint pulled everyone into his show early on by taking one of his favorite parrots up to us in our seats, so everyone could see this beautiful bird up close and even pet it.
These birds, which have been his life long love, do some pretty incredible stunts. He performs his professional show at Planet Hollywood and when it's cooler during Feb-May does his show at the Springs Preserve.
His experience rehabbing parrots made him aware of how little people know about these incredible birds, something he's on a mission to change. If it's playing while you're visiting here, it's a great little show to catch.
Part of a fun day here is getting breakfast or lunch at the Devine Cafe. It's on the second floor and you can get to it from the parking area or within the Springs Preserve grounds itself.
It's currently open Mon-Friday from 11 am to 3 pm. On the weekends it will open on 10 am until 4 pm, so plan your time accordingly for either a late breakfast, like I had last time, or lunch.
They have their menu online at their website. The pricing is good and I've always found their food to be very good here, whether it was a late breakfast or lunch.
The Springs Preserve host weddings, reunions and all kinds of other functions. For company affairs, seminars or special meetings they have spaces of varying sizes that accommodate these.
They also have a Gift Shop where you can get keepsakes of your visit and you should come across a little kiosk where you can crack open your own geode. Kids love that.
They have a little shuttle train ride, historical hiking trails, bike rentals, kids playground, nature exchange, libraries, and more, with a couple of these having an additional fee for them.
I focused on the main things you'll most likely want to see and know about and left those other things and a few other items for you to see on their website.
Had I tried to include everything, this webpage would be about 5 ft. long!
Be sure to get the various brochures when entering the Springs Preserve, especially the map.
It's a large complex with much to see so the map is crucial for you to get around and not waste time getting lost over and over.
You can also get their map online at their website, which I've linked at the bottom of this page, along with a link to my page on the Nevada State Museum.
When you explore their website, you'll see why I recommend at the very least 4 hours just for the Springs Preserve alone.
The address for the Springs Preserve is 333 South Valley View Boulevard, Las Vegas, NV 89107.
Getting here is easy because you just need to connect to Valley View, which runs north-south.
From the Strip, take either Flamingo, Sahara or Charleston Blvd west to Valley View Blvd, then turn right heading north. About 2 miles past Charleston Blvd., you'll see signs for the Springs Preserve which will be on your right, across the street from the Meadows Mall.
Take note that Valley View does not run between Tropicana and Flamingo, so you need to get to Flamingo if staying in the south Strip area.
Another option from the south Strip is to take I-15 then exit for Charleston Blvd. Head west on it, then turn right on Valley View. About 2 miles up you'll see signs for Springs Preserve on your right.
From Downtown, take 95 North/Reno (it heads west before turning north to Reno) then exit for Valley View. Turn left on it and about 2 blocks down you'll see signs for the Springs Preserve.
From most Strip locations, it’s basically a 20 minute drive in moderate traffic. From Downtown it's a 10 minute drive.
For info on everything here and more, visit the Springs Preserve website. That includes info on the Nevada State Museum too, since it's on the northern grounds at the Springs Preserve.
Click here for the Nevada State Museum to see my page on that if this your main interest for your visit.
The Springs Preserve is a refreshing change that's a great option whenever you're ready to spend your day in a whole different way before hitting the great nightlife on the Strip.