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Desert Companion

Wet behind the ears

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Jerry Metellus

... and the arms, legs and everywhere else. Your kids will make a splash this summer with our guide to all things wet, watery and wild in Vegas

As the temperature begins to rise and the blazing Las Vegas sun beats down, there’s a good chance you’ll start daydreaming about California beaches and Wisconsin lakes. But don’t give up on Southern Nevada too quickly: The area has plenty of water-based adventures for families seeking a fun way to cool off.

Perhaps the best way to beat the heat during spring and summer is with a trip to one of the area’s water parks. Recently revived classic Wet ’n’ Wild (7055 S. Fort Apache Road, wetnwildlasvegas.com) is open on the weekends during April and May before launching into their full summer schedule in June. This season, the water park will introduce a new attraction called Slideboarding, which is like a waterslide/bobsled/video game combination. Wet ’n’ Wild is also home to old favorites like a large wave pool, several twisty water slides, and thrilling rides like Tornado and Hoover Half Pipe. Don’t leave before you’ve challenged the kids to a race down Desert Racers, a side-by-side slide that will determine who’s the fastest in your family.

In Henderson, Cowabunga Bay (900 Galleria Drive, cowabungabay.com/lasvegas) opened for the 2015 season on March 28. Highlights of this water park include the lazy river and the Surf-A-Rama wave pool. Families with younger kids will want to check out the Cowabunga Kids Cove, which includes small slides and water features that won’t overwhelm toddlers and hesitant swimmers. Meanwhile, thrill-seekers can try a new attraction, Wild Surf, which drops riders into a huge wave from a height of 60 feet. Another new ride for the 2015 season is Beach Blanket Bonzai, a fast-moving water slide that features sharp turns, dips, and drops.

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Too big-ticket for you? For a budget-friendly water-based break, visit one of Southern Nevada’s public pools. Clark County’s Desert Breeze Aquatic Facility (8275 W. Spring Mountain Road, 702-455-7798) has indoor and outdoor pools. The indoor pool is perfect for lap swimming or for family fun without the scorching sun. The outdoor pool features a shallow, beach entry area that is ideal for youngsters, plus two water slides and a play structure. The outdoor pool opens for the season on May 23.

The City of North Las Vegas’ Silver Mesa Recreation Center (4025 Allen Lane, 702-633-2550) is home to an outdoor pool, which features a water slide, lap-swimming lanes, and plenty of room for North Las Vegans to splash around. Meanwhile, Summerlin residents can visit the pleasant Willows Pool (2775 Desert Marigold Lane, summerlink.com/pools), which offers lots of seating in the shade, two water slides, and a shallow area that the little ones will love. The pool is only open to Summerlin residents and their guests, so now is the time to rekindle those friendships with your Summerlin acquaintances.

If the kids are looking to improve their swimming skills, consider signing them up for lessons. Water Wings Swim School (waterwingsswimschool.com) has several locations around the valley and offers both group and private lessons. Plus, swim students have the chance to participate in swim meets, and parents can drop off the kids for special night out events for the parents.

If you’re looking to include some playground time in your quest to keep cool, one of Las Vegas’ many splash pads will fit the bill. In the Northwest, families can visit the whimsical Centennial Hills Park (7101 N. Buffalo Drive, 702-229-6718), which offers two water play areas, in addition to a playground, sand volleyball courts, picnic areas, and a jogging path.

At Aliante Nature Discovery Park in North Las Vegas (2600 Nature Park Drive, 702-633-2418), kids can run through the water feature and then watch the ducks that hang out in the adjacent pond. Another popular park in North Las Vegas is Craig Ranch Regional Park (628 W. Craig Road, 702-633-1171), which features two playgrounds, four huge slides, a skate park, and a splash pad.

On the southwest side of town, families will want to visit Exploration Park (9275 S. Buffalo Drive, 702-898-5777), which features a unique, western-themed playground. The Wild West motif is carried over to the park’s splash pad, which is lined by shaded picnic tables, a perk for parents. If Fido wants to join the fun, take him to Heritage Park in Henderson (350 E. Racetrack Road, 702-267-4230), which is home to a splash pad that is specifically designed for dogs.

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Streams and screams: Wet ’n’ Wild’s Splash Island

Streams and screams: Wet ’n’ Wild’s Splash Island

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Mirage dolphin habitat

Mirage dolphin habitat

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Desert Breeze park

Desert Breeze park; Springs Preserve

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Springs Preserve

Springs Preserve

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Mandalay Bay’s Shark Reef

Mandalay Bay’s Shark Reef

If you’d rather glide across the top of the water than dive right in, head to Boulder City and embark on a Lake Mead Cruise (490 Horsepower Cove Road, lakemeadcruises.com). Sit on the boat’s upper deck and take in the views (and plenty of Vitamin D), or head inside and enjoy some shade and a snack. A tour guide narrates the 90-minute midday sightseeing cruise. Along the way, passengers will have plenty of opportunities to take photos of the infamous bathtub ring and historic Hoover Dam. The cruises leave from the Lake Mead Cruises landing, which is located minutes from Highway 93, inside the Lake Mead National Recreation Area.

Families with pre-teens and teens can visit Lake Las Vegas (lakelasvegas.com) and give stand-up paddle boarding a whirl. Rental paddle boards are available from Paddle to the Core (suplv.com), located at the Westin Lake Las Vegas (101 Montelago Blvd., westinlakelasvegas.com). Take your paddle board and explore on your own, or sign up for one of Paddle to the Core’s guided tours. If you’re in the mood to extend your Lake Las Vegas excursion, book a staycation at the family-friendly Westin for lake access, pool time, and on-site dining.

If your kids have been struck by Frozen fever, cool off during the warm months with a trip to the ice rink. The Fiesta Rancho SoBe Ice Arena (2400 N. Rancho Drive, fiestarancho.sclv.com) is open year-round. Skates are available to rent, or bring your own and show off your double axel. Sign up for group or private lessons if the kids are hoping to perfect their figure skating or hockey skills.

Shark Reef Aquarium at Mandalay Bay (3950 Las Vegas Blvd. S., sharkreef.com) offers families the chance to mellow out in the dimly lit tranquility of the ocean. Sea creatures both big and small glide by as visitors make their way through the aquarium’s lush interior. Check out the unique-looking sawfish and the numerous sharks that inhabit the aquarium’s massive Shipwreck Tank. Don’t forget to say hi to the Komodo Dragon and the endangered Green Sea Turtle, two highlights of the Shark Reef that the kids won’t want to miss.

For further animal-themed fun on the Strip, take the family to Siegfried and Roy’s Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat at the Mirage (3400 S. Las Vegas Blvd., mirage.com), where you can watch the dolphins swim and play. View them from your spot next to their pool or walk down the ramp and look through the windows for a fish-eye view of these beautiful creatures.

And then there’s the quintessential water-in-the-desert activity: a visit to Springs Preserve (333 S. Valley Blvd., springspreserve.org). Here, families can learn about the springs that once brought settlers to the area, experience the power of a flash flood, and find out how plants and animals survive in the parched Mojave Desert. Themed summer camps are available for children ages 6 to 12, where they will explore the preserve, learn about animals, make crafts, and enjoy weekly pool-time at the YMCA. Southern Nevada may be a desert, but there are plenty of aquatic activities — from educational to interactive — that are sure to “wet” their appetites this summer.

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