The grassy, tree-filled Floyd Lamb Park offers a great respite from the desert. Several ponds in the park support a wealth of plant and animal life, including an abundance of birds. Fishing in the stocked ponds is allowed (with a license), although no swimming or wading. The grounds are full of critters, including peacocks, geese and ducksâ" who are used to people feeding them. Be careful if you have small children because the large birds can be persistent. Paths and picnic tables make the park an attractive choice for a day of walking, picnicking or watching wildlife. Horseback rides are also offered at an equestrian center on the grounds, although an appointment is required. Also within the park's boundaries is the historic Tule Springs Ranch, whose remaining buildings are on the National Register of Historic Places.
Recommended for Parks because: Once a divorce resort in a prior era, Floyd Lamb Park today is a verdant park with historic buildings, ponds and miles of trails.
Terrisa's expert tip: One of the entrance points into the new Tule Springs National Monument is a short drive from Floyd Lamb Park. Continue north on Durango past the park to where the road ends at Moccasin, and you'll see the badlands of the Monument.
Located just down the road from Red Rock Canyon National Recreation Area on Highway 159, Spring Mountain Ranch State Park is a small oasis in the dry Mojave Desert. Natural springs have attracted people from the early Native Americans through more modern times when pioneers and ranchers settled here. Historic buildings, some dating to the 1860s, are located throughout the ranch's acreage. Grassy meadows, trees from a former orchard, and hiking trails surround the main ranch house. Picnic areas offer visitors a place to enjoy lunch. The dramatic Wilson Cliffs offer a backdrop of vertical sandstone. A red one-story ranch house is the centerpiece of the park, and it has a history of famous owners, including Howard Hughes and Vera Krupp. The interior has been preserved, and also acts as a visitor center. Guided tours are available, and docents are on hand to answer questions.
Recommended for Parks because: The historic grounds at Spring Mountain Ranch State Park are a wonderful place to enjoy a picnic or a hike.
Terrisa's expert tip: The small town of Blue Diamond is few miles down the road from Spring Mountain Ranch, and it recently opened a new cafe, Cottonwood Station, where you can stop for coffee, a drink or a meal.
Located in the heart of Summerlin--an area that's home to many parks--the Gardens Park is in a great central location for the area and offers plenty of amenities for a picnic or family outing. The park has picnic areas, open fields, basketball courts, horseshoe pits, tennis courts and even a bocce court. If you didn't bring your lunch, don't worry. Nearby you'll find all kinds of restaurants and even grocery stores, as well as a convenience store within easy walking distance of the park. This area of Summerlin is filled with an abundance of parks, but Gardens Park is one of the easiest to access from major cross-streets, plus it offers lots of opportunities for family-friendly activities.
Recommended for Parks because: The well-maintained Gardens Park in Summerlin is filled with trees, sports courts, open places to play and picnic tables.
Terrisa's expert tip: On Tuesdays during summer, Gardens Park hosts the Las Vegas Farmers Market from 4 to 8 p.m. Local and regional vendors sell vegetables, fruits and food, plus entertainment is frequently offered.
More unforgettable experiences in Las Vegas
Located between Las Vegas and Lake Mead about one mile east of Boulder Highway and Tropicana Avenue, Clark County Wetlands Park is a 2,900-acre oasis in the Mojave Desert. Reclaimed water from the urban area of Las Vegas flows through the park, allowing a permanent wetlands plant community to thrive. The park is also home to 212 species of birds, including snowy egrets, burrowing owls, wood ducks and great blue herons with wingspans of 6-and-a-half feet, as well as more than 70 species of mammals and reptiles. In addition to its impressive wildlife, the park boasts 13 miles of hiking trails, including six miles within its Nature Preserve. The 210-acre Nature Preserve is the centerpiece of the park, featuring wildlife viewing blinds, educational signage and a flagstone outdoor amphitheater that is ADA accessible.
Recommended for Parks because: The watery habitat at the Clark County Wetlands Park gives visitors a chance to see the desert in a whole new way.
Terrisa's expert tip: Picnic areas are available at various areas throughout the park, including the Indoor Picnic Cafe. Here visitors can enjoy both a picnic and the comforts of climate control.
Located just three miles from the famed Las Vegas Strip, the Springs Preserve is an award-winning 180-acre family destination dedicated to exploring green-living, desert life and Las Vegas' vibrant history through botanical gardens, interactive science and nature exhibits, animal shows and trails. The Springs offers 110 acres of display gardens, natural gardens, wildlife habitat, walking and biking trails and educational resources. Their Botanical Gardens feature more than 1,200 species of native and desert-adapted plants housed in several themed areas. Indoor experiences include exhibition galleries dedicated to showcasing art and traveling exhibitions of local and national significance, Origen Museum and the Nevada State Museum.
Recommended for Parks because: The expansive Springs Preserve has museums, a botanical garden and butterfly habitat plus over three miles of trails.
Terrisa's expert tip: The Springs Preserve is one of Las Vegas' most family-friendly attractions, and the hands-on Origen Museum is especially fun for kids. Don't miss the flash flood exhibit--it's a rare opportunity to see this natural phenomenon recreated.
The Spring Mountains National Recreation Area is part of the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest. Better known to locals as Mount Charleston, it's just 30 minutes from downtown Las Vegas and encompasses more than 316,000 acres of remarkable beauty and surprising diversity. During the winter months, skiing is a top draw; when the weather warms, hiking trails become incredibly popular. Camping and picnicking are also prominent, and folks have been known to encounter wild horses and elk when they're taking advantage of the terrain's natural beauty. The area is actually home to more than 50 sensitive plants and animals, some of which are found nowhere else in the world. Other activities include horseback riding, mountain biking and rock climbing.
Recommended for Parks because: The mountain oasis of Mount Charleston is a cool alternative to Las Vegas, offering snow play in winter and a cool mountain retreat in summer.
Terrisa's expert tip: Be sure to stop in at the new Spring Mountains Visitor Center in Kyle Canyon. The 128-acre complex was built on a failed golf course and now offers trails, exhibits and a center that details the history of the area.
The crown jewel of Clark County's park system, Sunset Park has served the Las Vegas valley since 1967. Phased park expansions have developed 185 of the 323 total acres, making Sunset the largest and the most distinguished park in town. An oasis in the desert, it offers something for everyone including tennis, volleyball and basketball courts, softball fields, a disc golf course, dog park, playground, shaded picnic areas, lake--fish included--and plenty of open space. The most recent expansion includes the addition of walking trails meandering through natural mesquite and dunes areas. The park contains the last remaining natural dunes that once dominated the southern end of the Las Vegas valley. Sunset Park also hosts many special events open to the public, including the annual Age of Chivalry Renaissance Festival.
Recommended for Parks because: Playgrounds, picnic areas, walking trails, Frisbee golf, a dog park, fishing--the large Sunset Park has something for everyone.
Terrisa's expert tip: Fishing is allowed at Sunset Park with a fishing license. The park's website offers links to the Nevada Department of Wildlife, which sells licenses; a one-day non-resident license is $19.
Located four miles southeast of Boulder City, Lake Mead National Recreation Park Area provides relaxation and fun year-round. With 1.5 million acres, it's twice the size of Rhode Island and is America's largest man-made reservoir. Interestingly, three of America's four desert ecosystems--the Mojave, the Great Basin and the Sonoran deserts--are all connected by Lake Mead. With 50 miles of shoreline, the park offers multiple marinas, boating, fishing and water sports. It also caters to hikers, climbers, campers and car tours. Lakeshore Road and Northshore Road will take you around a large portion of the lake and both roads have multiple access points to the lake, although lowering water levels have closed or moved some places. Keep your eyes peeled for wildlife, as the area is home to thousands of desert plants and animals.
Recommended for Parks because: Lake Mead National Recreation Area provides an abundance of outdoor activities, including boating, hiking, fishing and camping.
Terrisa's expert tip: A favorite local activity at any of the Lake Mead marinas is feeding the fish. Bring your own popcorn or buy some at the marina store, then toss some popcorn in the water to watch the very well-fed fish at Lake Mead (mostly carp) go a little crazy.
This grand geological park, located 55 miles northeast of Las Vegas, is Nevada's oldest state park. Its brilliantly colored sandstone formations were generated from 150 million years of weathering in the Mojave Desert. In fact, the park's name comes from the vibrant appearance of sunlight on the red rocks. Evidence of ancient trees and early man are found throughout the park in areas of petrified wood and 3,000-year-old Native American petroglyphs. Popular activities include camping, hiking, picnicking and photography. A visitor center acquaints folks to the on-site attractions. Seventy-two campsites are available for an additional fee (first-come, first served) and come equipped with shaded tables, grills, water and restrooms.
Recommended for Parks because: Valley of Fire State Park is filled with spectacular, intensely colored rock formations, ancient art and wildlife.
Terrisa's expert tip: The St. Thomas ghost town is just outside of the Valley of Fire off Northshore Road. Once covered by Lake Mead, the receding waters exposed the town's ruins in the early 2000s.
Part of the Mojave Desert, Red Rock Canyon is an easy escape from the fast pace of the Glitter City, located just 17 miles from downtown Vegas. The area showcases spectacular scenery, complete with rugged red rock formations, desert vegetation and open vistas. The visitor center can help you orient yourself to the landscape, and a gift shop and exhibits are available. While many folks opt to bike, hike or rock-climb, others make the most of the 13-mile scenic loop, which lets you drive a picturesque circuit and offers stop-offs for photography. Still, others prefer to travel via horseback or simply enjoy a picnic at one of the picnic areas.
Recommended for Parks because: Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area is the home of majestic multi-colored cliffs, hidden springs and miles of hiking trails.
Terrisa's expert tip: The Red Rock Scenic Loop has become such a popular place to visit that the lines to get in can stretch far down the highway, and once the area reaches capacity it's closed. If the weather is temperate, be sure to arrive early in the day to ensure you can drive the Loop.