I wish I had the willpower to ignore that frequently flung stale crust of a question that we Las Vegans have confronted countless times, perhaps launched from the lips of visiting relatives, out-of-town friends or parachuting journalists — How can you raise a family here? — but, no, can’t do it. Besides, this inaugural Desert Companion Family issue calls for a rallying cry, no? I won’t sugar-coat the realities facing families in Southern Nevada — we need better schools, more parks, stronger communities, maybe a dozen or so fewer billboards featuring strippers spilling bulbously out of lace contraptions — but, come on, we’re hardly the monstrous child-gnashing neon family death machine the perpetrators of the stereotype seem to wish true. Unscientific and purely anecdotal Exhibit A: me. Like many natives, I was raised amid the city’s flash and clangor without turning into a chain-smoking slot zombie, the product of an applied parenting philosophy that said: Keep the kids busy — with school activities, library visits, summer rec rooms, day trips and a perhaps overgenerous complement of yard work. Happily against type, Vegas produced a bookish, inquisitive kid (one who detested, and still unapologetically detests, yard work).
In the meantime, the city has only expanded its to-do list. That’s both the philosophical thrust and practical core of our Desert Companion Family special bonus issue. In the following pages, you’ll find not only loads of activities to keep you and the kids productively occupied over the spring, summer and beyond, but you’ll also find thinkier fare that addresses some of the other realities that face many modern parents, including addressing the challenges of blended families, navigating children through the digital landscape and reviving the lost art of the sofa-cushion fort. This special issue is divided into three sections. Get Out! focuses on exploring the city with your little ones, from its parks and museums to restaurants and specialized services — check out our “Big little world” feature on p. 22 for an exhaustive tour for families in every quadrant of the valley. Home Life showcases the places where we gather, work and play, with everything from kid-friendly kitchen projects to a handy overview of the valley’s educational options. The Balance section ties it all together with reflections on the many different incarnations that family can take, with a spotlight thrown on striking young talents in arts, sports and science — and tips on how these families created the perfect Petri dishes for fostering excellence. Throughout the issue, the profiles of families from across the valley reflect not just our city’s diversity, but offer definitive proof that making a family-friendly city isn’t just a top-down initiative, but one that’s taking place every day in our backyards, kitchens and living rooms.