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Flint Stephens
With water conservation as a theme, the preserve offers water play opportunities for children.

For families with young children visiting Las Vegas, finding appropriate family friendly activities and locations can be a challenge. The Springs Preserve makes the task much easier.

Springs Preserve is a 180-acre facility that includes museums, gardens, trails, galleries and more. Many of the exhibits and events are designed specifically for children. Located three miles west of downtown Las Vegas, springs at the site were the original source of water for the city.

There is an obvious hands-on emphasis for exhibits. Children can play on, climb on and touch. For example, the exploring trees feature that runs from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. until Sept. 5 allows visitors to jump into a giant bird's nest or to smell the aromas of an orchard.

A children’s playground area includes a giant replica of a peregrine falcon complete with nest and a hatchling. Children can climb on a wooly mammoth skeleton and a huge sidewinder snake. There is also a stationary train and an adjacent large sandbox. For cooling off, kids can utilize a hands-on water area.

The Nature Exchange fosters children’s natural tendency for collecting. Children can bring in samples of shells, rocks, bark, pine cones, etc., and exchange them for other available items.

Many live animal exhibits feature animals native to the Las Vegas desert area. Children can see many varieties of lizards, snakes, bats, rabbits, tortoises and more. Live animal shows highlight non-native performers like Burmese pythons, armadillos and wallaroos.

The preservation and conservation of water is a central theme for the facility. There are many educational exhibits to teach people how to use less water in their homes and yards. In an area where summer daytime temperatures can reach 115 degrees, the preserve provides both outdoor and indoor opportunities for children to experience and play in water.

The Springs Preserve has continued to grow and expand since its opening in 2007. However, the economic downturn has hit the Silver State especially hard, postponing plans for expansions to the preserve. These include the Nevada State Museum, which was scheduled to move to the preserve in 2010. A spokesman could not give an expected opening date, but exhibits are currently being moved from the old location. A Waterworks Museum also remains part of future plans for the preserve.

Children under 5 can visit free. For out-of-state adults, admission is $18.95 or $10.95 for children 5 to 17. On a recent visit, we were given the resident adult rate of $9.95 because we were accompanied by resident family members.

A complete listing of upcoming special events is available at the preserve’s website, www.springspreserve.org

Flint Stephens has a master's degree in communications from Brigham Young University. He has been an editor and journalist for newspapers in Utah and Illinois. He has also written and edited a number of financial newsletters and investment blogs.