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Desert Companion

Best of the City: Mind and body

BFF's | Eat and drink | Mind and body | Out and about | Shops and services Readers poll | Good better best | Bonus: Food and drink | Bonus: Mind and body Bonus: Out and about | Bonus: Shops and services

FEEL THE LEARN

Best Community Classes

REI classes, outings and events

From map-and-compass navigation and rock climbing basics to bike maintenance and tips for brewing the perfect cup of camp coffee, REI’s interactive classes are taught by people who have been there and hiked/cycled/climbed that. Many are free to the public; others are fee-based with discounts for members. Boca Park, 710 S. Rampart Blvd., 702-951-4488; The District, 2220 Village Walk Drive, #150, Henderson, 702-896-7111, rei.com JoAnna Haugen

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Best Place to Learn About Butchery

Echo & Rig

Not only can you dine on fine viands at Echo & Rig, you can learn how critters are transformed into cuts of meat. Monthly demonstrations by the eatery’s expert butchers explain the nuances of preparing cow, pig, lamb and chicken for the plate. It’s an enticing and mind-expanding show. 440 S. Rampart Blvd., 702-489-3525, echoandrig.com Greg Thilmont

Mormon FortBest Historic Exhibit

Old Las Vegas Mormon Fort

Oh, what poignant poetry is the ramshackle adobe house at the center of this historic park. Touted as the first permanent structure erected in Southern Nevada by non-natives, it harbored Mormon missionaries who diverted water from Las Vegas Creek to farm the area. See what they started? 500 E. Washington Ave., 702-486-3511, parks.nv.gov Heidi Kyser

 

HOW CAN I TURBO-BOOST MY FREE TIME?

Best Lecture Series

UNLV University Forum

This 18-installment free series kicks off with sex and porn in suburbia, and swings by Americanism and pluralism in TV’s horror genre before ending on some good, old-fashioned gender inequality (“Why Women Earn Less and What You Can Do About It”) — with a whole lot more art, history, literature, politics and science jammed in between. Marjorie Barrick Museum Auditorium, UNLV, 702-895-3381, liberalarts.unlv.edu/forum HK

 

Best Library

Sahara West

This library has it all: helpful staff, rotating exhibits in the art gallery, plenty of children’s programs and many quiet spots to relax with a good book. Plus, Sahara West is home to the International Languages Collection, which includes books, newspapers and other resources in 37 languages. Fantastico! 9600 W. Sahara Ave., 702-507-3630, lvccld.org Sarah Vernetti

Beg to differ! From its eye-catching five story building to its superabundant resources, UNLV’s Lied Library is a great place to brain up. library.unlv.edu SD

 

OOOHHH … AAHHH — NOW, SQUAT!

Best Spa on the Strip

Spa Bellagio

This haven tops our list of on-Strip spas thanks to two stunning features: its aqua treatments and its gym. Hit the Zen zone in the Watsu massage treatment, an aquatic session combining shiatsu and stretching in your own private pool. And for classes you can’t find anywhere else, a visit to Spa Bellagio’s fitness center will take you to the next level, literally — in TRX suspension training, you use gravity and your body’s weight to master different exercises. Bellagio, 702-693-7472, bellagio.com Jennifer Prosser

 

Best Off-Strip Spa

WELL Spa

This boutique does what we go to spas for better than any other spa in town — it delivers a purely indulgent, relaxing experience. We love that the massages not only make us fall asleep, but drool; in the relaxation room, the staff waits on you hand and foot while you lie beneath a warm blanket in dimly-lit nirvana. The Platinum, 211 E. Flamingo Road, 702-365-5000, theplatinumhotel.com JP

 

Best Couples Spa

Costa del Sur

Never have we found a spa environment where we’re more in tune with our significant other than at this southwest gem. Not only are there separate couples rooms, but a couples relaxation room and aquatic area, where we can nosh on snacks before warming up in the hot tub. In the couples treatment rooms, it’s easy to get romantic in a private bath before holding hands during side-by-side massages. The South Point, 702-797-8030, spacostadelsur.com JP

 

Best Therapeutic Massage

Integrative Massage Therapy of Nevada

You say you want a firm touch? With your permission, owner Logan Hung will apply “deep pressure” that feels like a Bruce Lee workover. Once the bruises heal, you’ll thank him. The technique, acquired through advanced manual therapy training, has earned him a spot as masseur to Cirque du Soleil performers. 6268 S. Rainbow Blvd. #105, 702-300-1658 HK

 

Best Gym

Orangetheory Fitness

At the start of my first Orangetheory Fitness session, things are going swimmingly on a rowing machine. Thirty minutes later, sweat is flying and my muscles are screaming as I do sumo squat reps to the sound of thumping music and an instructor’s uplifting admonitions. A player in the cross-training fitness trend, Orangetheory outfits its clientele with biometric monitors. You watch your stats on large monitors as you work out, from calories expended to breaths per minute. It’s hardcore stuff, and it gives results. Note: Orangetheory locations are small and lack the amenities of big gyms, such as pools, saunas and indoor tracks. 9326 W. Sahara Ave., 702-910-4445, orangetheoryfitness.com GT

 

300 DAYS OF SUN

Best Group Hike

Anniversary Narrows

Grab your friends for this hike at Lake Mead off North Shore Road. The hike follows an old dirt road for a few miles, then drops into a dramatic wash. These durable surfaces are perfect for groups. The trail ends at a narrow slot canyon about a quarter-mile mile long. Note: Technically the canyon is in the Muddy Mountains Wilderness Area, so group size should be limited to 12. AG

Beg to differ! Bristlecone Trail at Mount Charleston. Also following an old dirt road, it begins along Lee Canyon Road about a mile below the ski resort. Added bonus: This excellent loop hike ends at the ski resort — where some of the group can park in advance and drive the gang back to the trailhead. AG

 

Best Solitary Hike

Lake Las Vegas Overlook

It starts at Terrazza Park, which hooks up with the Clark County Wetlands Park trail system. In short order, the trail crosses Las Vegas Wash and climbs to the surrounding hilltops. The trails are well built and grossly underutilized. This hike culminates at a peak with views of Lake Las Vegas, Lake Mead and the Vegas Valley. AG

 

Best Walking Trail

Pittman Wash Trail

The sand of the Channel Trail crunches up around your hiking boots, the smell of creosote hangs in the air and the slight gurgle of a natural spring oscillates in and out of earshot as you wind your way between Green Valley Parkway and Valley Verde Drive, the section of the Pittman Wash most painstakingly preserved/restored by Project GREEN: Friends of Pittman Wash. Running between two residential developments, the wash has been the subject of much controversy — to pave or not to pave? — exactly because it is so beautiful and beloved. The interpretive plaques the Friends have placed there to educate wanderers on the area’s natural wonders make crossing Valley Verde toward Arroyo Grande and heading into the section where the city has begun installing concrete erosion-prevention channels all the more hideous and sad. Trailhead at 298 North Arroyo Grande Blvd., outsidelasvegas.org/trail/195 HK

 

Best Short-Distance Summer City Escape

Stand-up Paddleboarding at Lake Las Vegas

After a five-minute primer, we were off to explore Lake Las Vegas on a blistering summer day. On the stand-up paddleboard we explored the shoreline between cooling dives into the water. The balance-blessed floated past, doing yoga and other acrobatic maneuvers on their boards. Still, cruising Lake Las Vegas on a stand-up board, the city swelter was far, far away. 101 Montelago Blvd., 702-567-2187, suplv.com TL

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