Desert Companion

Best of the City: Family + Leisure


Candlelight wedding chapel
Courtesy Clark County Museum

Candlelight wedding chapel on Heritage Street at the Clark County Museum

Best Educational Family Outing

Springs Preserve

Special events such as the Black History Month Festival (February 16) and Día De Muertos (November 1-3) are community favorites. But opportunities to learn about local culture, history, and conservation resonate every day at the 180-acre regional treasure. Children, especially, are awed when 5,000 gallons of water roar in the Flash Flood Exhibit in the Origen Museum. 333 S. Valley View Blvd., (PS)


Best Place to Teach Kids Some History

Clark County Museum

Walking through meticulously restored homes from decades past reminds your kids just how good they have it today. Hear the creaky floors, see the cramped rooms, and imagine using the meager appliances in the collection of buildings on Heritage Street. The Anna Robert Parks Exhibit Hall traces the valley’s saga from the Ice Age to the Age of Entertainment, and you might even glimpse Pawn Stars contributor and museum administrator Mark Hall-Patton. 1830 S. Boulder Highway, Henderson, (PS)


Best Family Dining Destination

Metro Pizza

The Vegas-born Metro Pizza mini-empire is pie-high heaven for all ages. Multiple locations offer plenty of table seating for birthday parties and family outings, and gigantic baked wonders such as the Sicilian deep-dish 86th Street Square, topped with melty mozzarella and savory tomato sauce, fill tummies galore. Huge platters of leafy Italian salad, rich baked ziti, and chicken fingers round out pizzapaloozas. Tip: Take burgeoning foodies to the Centennial “Test Kitchen” location for next-level pies by award-winning pizzaiolo Chris Decker, who whips up experimental specials. (GT)

Support comes from

Best Sports Outing

Golden Knights

Amid the sophomore season’s growing urgency for another deep playoff run, fans themselves animate the details above the ice. Help showgirls distract the visitors during warm-ups; assist Carnell “Golden Pipes” Johnson in giving “proof through the ‘Knight’”; shout “shame” when a perp is sent to the box; finish the NVEnergy power play announcement; chant “Go Knights Go!” to the rafters. The team has invigorated a sense of community not experienced since the Runnin’ Rebels’ heyday. (PS)


T-MobileBest Sports Venue

T-Mobile Arena

The home of the Golden Knights, UFC, and other events has leavened expectations for the valley’s coming baseball and football venues. Exquisite to behold inside and out, T-Mobile gets the fan experience just right — steeply pitched, comfortable seating; wide, immaculate concourses; and an undeniable vitality that builds outside in Toshiba Plaza and doesn’t let up until the final horn sounds. (PS)


Best Way to Avoid Traffic and Parking Hassles at Golden Knights Games

The RTC’s Golden Knights Express

BusThis service is a godsend to those who abhor traffic and parking on game day. For $2 exact cash each way, double-decker buses whisk fans from four areas of the valley (with plentiful free parking) nonstop to a drop-off zone at Excalibur, an easy 10-minute walk to T-Mobile’s doors. More locals are discovering how easy it is. Ridership has increased this season, the RTC reports, averaging 600 passengers each game — just a dress rehearsal for Raider Sundays! (PS)


Best Family Sport

Disc Golf

This is why it’s a family sport: Even an achy-backed, wheezingly out-of-shape, middle-aged dude can fling a disc (don’t say Frisbee) with his grandkids. There’s no real skill required to have fun. Many parks have free disc-golf courses (recommendations: Sunset Park for the south valley, Mountain Crest Park for the north) and some traditional golf courses have added it. Even if you suck, you’re strolling through pleasant green surroundings together, talking. (SD)


Best Place for a Stroll

Boulder City

The opening of Interstate 11 in August has not fated Boulder City to become Radiator Springs. Those who are there want to be there, attracted by the community’s many delights. With nary a casino, eminently walkable historic and commercial districts mean serendipitous discoveries — independent cafés, bars, and dining rooms; vintage clothing and collectibles; crafts and jewelry; murals and sculptures. Strolling has rarely been so rewarding. (PS)


Best Day Trip

St. Thomas

Lake MeadHaving spent much of the last century 60 feet below the surface of Lake Mead, St. Thomas revealed itself in the drought and revels in the attention of history lovers. Mormon settlers founded the town in 1865, and its population peaked at 500 before it was abandoned and inundated with Hoover Dam’s construction and the Colorado River’s rising waters. The schoolhouse’s relatively intact front steps spur the imagination. Thoughtfully placed National Recreation Area signs do the rest. Rogers Spring and Valley of Fire State Park complete the drive. (PS)


Best Hike to Clear Your Head         

Clark County Wetlands Park

WetlandsThere’s something soothing about water. It’s almost magical in the way it can settle one’s soul and bring a serene peace. In Las Vegas, the best place to calmly amble amid duck-filled ponds, to stroll alongside gurgling creeks and a tumultuous wash, is the Clark County Wetlands Park. Start at the Nature Center and let the meandering paths lead you on a one-way trip to chillville. 7050 Wetlands Park Lane, (AG)


Best Place for a Selfie

The Chandelier, in The Cosmopolitan

Though chandeliers are often the focal point of a room, the glittering beaded curtains of light draped within the Boulevard Tower will provide an ornate backdrop for your next great selfie. Whether you’re inside or outside of The Chandelier (the three-level bar and lounge that the lustrous light fixture envelops), you’ll find yourself(ie) picture-perfect while basking in its fluorescent purple glow. (ST)


Best Place for Coffee and Board Games

Groundswell Legit Coffee and Board Games

Spacious cork tables. Soft ambient lighting. Aromatic hot beverages. All this along with a dizzying selection of board games and card games can be found at Groundswell. Sip a sweet latte while scheming to unmask your friends or family members in a spirited game of Werewolf. The fun here is year-round, whether it feels like 20 degrees or 120 outside. 9730 W. Tropicana Ave. #130, 702-901-8197 (VK)


Best Interactive/Hands-on Attraction

Springs Preserve

The immense and beautiful 180-acre Springs Preserve is one of Nevada’s educational gems, a place where environmental science and culture converge. The Origen Museum puts you safely up-close to a simulated flash flood. Take an old-timey mini-train to the impressive Boomtown 1905 streetscape, and stroll through re-created buildings that bring Las Vegas’ first urban footsteps to life. Inside the cavernous, nearly sci-fi WaterWorks mega-building, use your hands to learn how life-giving water is treated and delivered to this dry region’s residents. When the Mojave Desert weather warms up, be mesmerized inside Butterfly Habitat as lovely, iridescent lepidoptera flit around you. 333 S. Valley View Blvd., (GT)


Best Staycation Spot

Lake Las Vegas

At lovely Lake Las Vegas, leave the metro muddle behind. The manmade body of water borders jagged, moon-like mountains in Lake Mead National Recreation Area, making for a spellbinding view. The playground offers kayaks, canoes, and paddle boards; or shoot into the air with aqua-propelled jetpacks and flyboards. On shore, golfers swing for the greens at the Jack Nicklaus-designed Reflection Bay. For lodging, local families and adventure-lovers are drawn to the Moroccan-styled Westin Lake Las Vegas, with its huge, two-level Nuala Pool and adjacent sandy beach. Couples on romantic getaways prefer the quieter Hilton Lake Las Vegas and relaxing treatments at its Spa Ravella. Everybody converges in the Italianate pedestrian passages of   MonteLago Village to dine at restaurants like Mimi & Coco Bistro, Le Café du Lac, Luna Rossa, and Proof Tavern. The valley buzz seems so very far away. Lake Las Vegas Parkway, (GT)


Best Old-School Vegas Experience

Drive on State Route 159

Undulating alongside the gorgeously lofty, multihued sandstone walls of Red Rock Canyon, State Route 159 is a Las Vegas time machine. Start your throwback excursion with breakfast at historic, photo-filled Cottonwood Station in Blue Diamond. Next, it’s on to kitschy Bonnie Springs Ranch for a mini-train ride and a stroll through its Wild West-themed Old Town (do it soon; Bonnie Springs will close soon, as early as spring). Picnic in Spring Mountain RanchSpring Mountain Ranch State Park and tour its beautiful ranch home once owned by Howard Hughes. Then it’s on to the Red Rock visitor center to take in dioramas that illustrate the region’s prehistory, and also learn about the Southern Paiutes, Spanish scouts, and Mormon pioneers who were here long ago. For an extra-full day of old Vegas history, saddle up for a guided sunset horse-tour complete with a barbecue dinner at Cowboy Trail Rides. (GT)


Personal Best

Best Off-Traffic Place to Cycle

Wetlands Trail

Wetlands TrailBetween the southernmost tip of Sloan Lane, which is a block south of Sahara Avenue, and Terrazza Park at Lake Las Vegas runs my favorite stretch of bike path in Clark County. Punctuated by a few brisk climbs, the Wetlands Trail rolls through a desert landscape that smells like creosote and sounds like the absence of automobiles. It’s common to see coyotes, hawks, and roadrunners — as well as other cyclists, so keep your eyes peeled. And if you want to up the ante, head south toward Lake Mead Parkway and jump on the River Mountains Loop Trail for another 35 miles of fun!, search “wetlands," 702-455-7522 (Heidi Kyser)


Old vs. New

Old school

Sunset Park

Sunset ParkOn any given weekend morning in this 52-year-old greensward, you’ll see variety in action: people playing cricket, baseball and softball, basketball, tennis, disc golf, sand volleyball, and more. Dog park? Check. Pond? Check. Miles of walking paths? If that’s your thing, you can do it here. People-watching? Obviously. If you’re not feeling ambitious — probably the best time to visit a park — you can simply chill amid the hundreds of acres of grass and trees and let the world move on for a while. 2610 E. Sunset Road (SD)


New school

Craig Ranch Regional Park

Craig RanchAmong the newest of the Valley’s many enviable parks is the 170-acre Craig Ranch Regional Park. Amenities on the former golf course include The Amp performance venue, a 65,000-square-foot skate park; four plazas; eight ramadas; three dog parks; two lighted baseball fields; tennis, volleyball, and basketball courts; a community garden; and multiple playgrounds. Among many high-profile events planned this year is the 24 Hours of Country Festival in May (with a preview party on February 23). 628 W. Craig Road (PS)

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Adobe house in Blue Diamond
KNPR's State of Nevada