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By now, perhaps you’ve learned that Las Vegas is Spanish for “the meadows.” This facility is set on the 180-acre site of the original springs that fed Las Vegas until it dried in the 1960s (told you that Hoover Dam comes in handy). These days, Las Vegas is an environmental nightmare, along with much of the rest of this planet, and this remarkable attraction educates visitors about the possibilities of reversing some of the damage.

Set amid nature and hiking trails, plus man-made wetlands (which is an interesting concept), the focal point is a large interpretive center that gives the history of Las Vegas from a land- and water-use perspective. The displays are creative and interactive, including a room with a reproduction flash flood that uses 5,000 gallons of water; and one with a simulation of the experience of working on Hoover Dam. The other buildings are all built according to standards that have the least environmental impact, using modern construction versions of adobe and other green concepts. Each building tackles an aspect of desert living and the environment, including one that instructs kids on the glories of recycling, complete with a compost tunnel to crawl through! Other displays focus on environmentally friendly kitchens and bathrooms, while the gardens demonstrate “green” gardening.

The outdoor kids’ play area is made from recycled materials, and has big fake animals to climb on and real live ones to look at, in case the kiddies have grown tired of learning responsible stuff. Given the care, knowledge, and urgency of the issues addressed, this is an extraordinary facility for any town, but particularly for this one.

Note: Admission includes entrance to the adjacent Nevada State Museum reviewed above.