Get out of the house and into the garden while you can still stand the heat. While Vegas may be in the middle of the desert, it contains oases of lush gardens filled with native plants that create a visual feast. Here’s a look at the Haute 5 parks and gardens in Las Vegas. Be sure to bring along a bottle of water; it’s a desert out there.
Ethel M Botanical Cactus Garden
Take in two sweet treats at one location at the Ethel M Botanical Cactus Garden, one of the largest collections of its kind in the world. The gardens on four acres take their cue from an English landscape and serve as home to drought-tolerant ornamentals, cacti and other succulents. More than 300 species of plants speckle the grounds, composed of half cacti and succulents native to the American Southwest and desert trees and shrubs from the Southwestern United States, Australia and South America. Utah Bali Hai chocolate and Arizona moss rock from the Grand Canyon region landscape the gardens.
Afterward, save time for the Ethel M Chocolate Factory tour and watch as delicious treats are made before your eyes. The gardens and the factory tour are free, but both may leave you hungry for a nibble of chocolate at the end. Ethel M is open from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily.
Ethel M Factory Store and Botanical Cactus Garden, 2 Cactus Garden Dr., Henderson, 702.435.2655
Bellagio Conservatory & Botanical Gardens
The Bellagio’s Conservatory & Botanical Gardens are one of the best free exhibits in Las Vegas and help you escape the clang of the slot machines without leaving the air conditioning. For summer, the exhibit features large-scale bronze sculptural ants designed by American artist Susan P. Cochran. The seven giant ants will have you thinking you’re on the set of Honey, I Shrunk the Kids. The queen alone weighs an astounding 8,500 pounds. The gardens are filled with thousands of brightly colored lilies, sunflowers, azaleas and hydrangeas. Botanical snails, ladybugs and bumblebees keep the ants company. Ten potted olive trees, each more than 100 years old, get a trim and appear as oversized bonsai presentations. Colorful hot-air balloons overhead round out the exhibit.
The exhibit, open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, is in bloom through Sept. 9 when a fall garden will take its place.
We love this park. On the weekends you can catch events such as the Brews and Blues Festival on June 5, take in a class on cooking with herbs, buy some native plants or just meander the 1.8 miles of trails on 110 acres that show off the natural habitat of Las Vegas. Save some time for the Desert Living Center to escape the heat and check out the art gallery, interactive displays and library. Admission to the preserve is $18.95 for adults. The preserves are open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily.
Springs Preserve, 333 S. Valley View Blvd., 702.822.7700, www.springspreserve.org
Floyd Lamb Park at Tule Springs
This park used to be a home to those looking for a quick divorce. In 1916, Nevada only required six weeks residency in order to file. Now the dude ranch is just one of the attractions at Floyd Lamb Park at Tule Springs, home to fossil remains of extinct mammoths, bison, horses, camels, giant sloths and other animals. Four ponds on the 2,040 acres are stocked with fish. Admission to the park is $6 per car or $1 per person.
Floyd Lamb Park at Tule Springs, 9200 Tule Springs Rd., 702.229.8100
Henderson Bird Viewing Preserve
Grab your binoculars and field guide and head over to the Henderson Bird Viewing Preserve, home to an avian habitat for avid bird watchers. The nine ponds on 140 acres serve as a refuge for migratory waterfowl and native birds alike. Paved and soft-surface paths offer glimpses of the ponds where you can spy on birds in their natural habitat.
Henderson Bird Viewing Preserve, 2400 B Moser Dr., Henderson, 702.267.4180