Everyone looks for the great escape sometimes, and that includes folks in Las Vegas who want to get away from the bright lights to something a little more natural. There are a number of zoo and aquarium events in town. It just depends on whether you prefer lions and apes, tropical fish and mermaids, dolphins and tigers, sharks and rays or critters indigenous to the desert.
Las Vegas Zoo
The Southern Nevada Zoological Botanical Park
1775 N. Rancho Drive
Las Vegas, NV 89106
The Las Vegas Zoo is modest and supported by volunteers and donations, but it houses a remarkable variety of animals. You will find a lion, apes, a chimpanzee, ostriches, wallaby, flamingos, exotic reptiles and even fossas, Madagascar’s largest predator. Watching the wallaby interact with their feeder is a wonderful experience and there’s something eerie about visiting the dark reptile enclosure and looking for the different snakes. This is the perfect place to visit for a couple of hours on a pleasant morning or early afternoon.
Shark Reef and Aquarium at Mandalay Bay
3950 Las Vegas Blvd. S.
Las Vegas, NV 89119
Every resort should have its own exotic natural wonders. At the Shark Reef, you can see sawfish, endangered green sea turtles, piranha, giant rays, jellyfish and even the rare golden crocodile. There are over two thousand animals in 1.5 million gallons of water. One of the most unusual and spectacular events is dive with the sharks, available to Mandalay Bay guests who are certified divers who enjoy diving with more sharks than you would ever encounter in the wild. There are over 30 Sandtiger, White Tip Reef and Sandbar Sharks.
Siegfried and Roy’s Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat
The Mirage Hotel and Casino
3400 Las Vegas Blvd. S.
Las Vegas, NV 89109
Siegfried and Roy’s Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat is a magical world of exotic animals featuring white lions and tigers, panthers, leopards and a family of bottlenose dolphins. This is like an oasis in the desert and is a popular gathering place for guests and Las Vegas locals. A new attraction is “painting with the dolphins,” where you and the dolphin work together to create an original work of art. You must be eight years of age or older and only two participants are permitted during each time slot.
Silverton Hotel and Casino
3333 Blue Diamond Road
Las Vegas, NV 89139
This has to be one of the best free attractions in Las Vegas. Silverton’s Saltwater Aquarium is a huge, 117,000-gallon reef aquarium in the round that holds more than 4,000 tropical fish and three species of stingrays and sharks. Every afternoon at 1:30 p.m. and 4:30 p.m., you can enjoy the interactive feeding show, where guests can ask questions of the submerged staff marine biologist wearing a full-face communication mask. There’s also a live “mermaid” show on Thursdays from 2:15 p.m. to 8:45 p.m, Fridays and Saturdays from 2:15 p.m. to 9:45 p.m. and on Sundays from 11:30 a.m. to 6:45 p.m. Other attractions include 2,500-gallon jellyfish aquariums lit with LED lights and the freshwater aquariums at the Bass Pro Shop. The aquarium simulates Red Rock Canyon’s rock formations and is home to live Koi. You will also find trout, channel catfish, bass and carp at Bass Pro Shops, and a flowing canyon river with ducks, bluegills, sturgeon and turtles. It’s an attraction not to be missed.
333 S. Valley View Blvd.
Las Vegas, NV 89107
Spring preserves Natural Mojave Gallery houses animals indigenous to the extreme heat of the Mojave. The rare relict leopard frogs are housed here, as are various lizards, desert cottontail rabbits, gray fox, the pocket gopher, a desert tarantula and a desert hairy scorpion (good thing there are behind glass). The Origen also houses a harvester ant colony, gila monsters, sidewinders, recluse spiders and black widows. It’s a fascinating look at the animals we don’t often see in our daily life and a wonderful learning experience.
Sharon Damon is a preschool specialist, avid reader, passionate writer and creative baker/ cook. She has been a cooking instructor at a local Rec Center in Henderson, NV since 2011, and has written for Examiner and other publications since 2010. She knows her way around the keyboard and the kitchen! Sharon moved from a small city in Canada to Las Vegas 6 years ago, to marry the love of her life, and has since been swept up in the whirlwind known as Sin City. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.