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Las Vegas Springs Preserve set to open

Times Staff Writer

Mother Nature meets Sin City.

A 180-acre park, with museums, galleries, gardens, hiking trails, a cafe, children's activities and an amphitheater will open Friday a few miles off the Las Vegas Strip, the nation's naughty neon playground.

Described by its director, Francis Béland, as the Central Park of Las Vegas, the $250-million Las Vegas Springs Preserve has been in the works for nearly a decade.

Like the rambling park in New York City, the Las Vegas acreage offers a smorgasbord of experiences, including two museums, called the Origen Experience and the Desert Living Center.

The Origen Experience has three galleries, including one for children, that teach the natural and cultural history of the preserve, listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The area's artesian springs fostered the valley's first human settlements nearly 5,000 years ago.

The Desert Living Center, a five-building complex, has exhibits on preserving the environment.

Visitors to the preserve can get an up-close look at a living bat cave, have a simulated brush with a flash flood, climb aboard a 50-foot-long replica of a rattlesnake and play educational video games, among other activities.

The Springs Amphitheater stages outdoor concerts, and the Springs Café, by celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck, serves light dinners and other food.

You can enter the preserve and enjoy many of its features, such as gardens and trails, for free. But the galleries charge admission: $18.95 for adults, $17.05 for students and seniors 65 and over and $10.95 for children ages 5 to 17. Children under 5 aren't charged. Nevada resident get discounts.

The preserve, at 333 S. Valley View Blvd., will be open 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily; hiking trails close at dusk. It will be closed on Thanksgiving and Christmas. Hours may be adjusted seasonally later.

For the opening weekend, singer Jewel will perform at 8 p.m. Saturday at the new 1,800-seat amphitheater.

For details, call (702) 822-8344, or visit

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