Learning Can be Fun at Vegas Springs Preserve
Maybe you think this translates into “museum” or “cultural center.” OK then, it's both. But the preserve's indoor and outdoor attractions offer lots of fun for all ages.
My husband and I dropped by the preserve earlier this spring. The preserve is located on the site of the original springs where Las Vegas began—the words mean “the meadows” in Spanish. We both like history and found plenty to interest us, yet we could see where non history lovers—a.k.a., kids—can enjoy learning about Vegas' ancient and recent history, culture, and natural history through ingeniously designed displays and hands-on exhibits.
Take the children's playground, for instance. Little kids can crawl on a huge rattlesnake or play peek-a-boo inside the rib cage of a simulated dinosaur skeleton. Looming over a cave—itself the perfect a place to play a game of cops and robbers—is a really big peregrine falcon tending to her chick. Youngsters also can ride a small train and a dig in a sandbox.
Outside, you can peep into grass huts like those built by the Native Americans who first occupied the Las Vegas springs area. A small garden grows the kinds of foodstuffs the early people raised. In a pit house (a type of dwelling), photos of Natives from the 1800s make the interior seem more contemporary—you get a sense that real people lived here.
In the many galleries there are scores of interactive displays. The exhibit that gets the most attention from preteens is the simulated flash flood. Being somewhat vertically challenged—in other words, middle-school students tend to be taller than I am—I wormed my way to the front of the exhibit to see just how wet my feet would get as the water sloshed its way down fake cliffs. It wasn't wet enough for me, and the squealing kids around me seemed to agree.
Lunch at Wolfgang Puck's Springs Café was the topper to a great morning—I think we breathed garlic on every person within 15 feet for the rest of the day. We talked about returning to see the exhibits we missed and shopping at the Farmers Market, where you can buy European-style baked goods and locally grown produce every Thursday from 4 to 8 p.m.
And as history buffs, we're looking forward to the new Nevada State Museum building that will open at the preserve in 2009. —JOYCE HOLLISTER