Butterflies, chocolates and three more reasons to explore the Springs Preserve

Butterflies, chocolates and three more reasons to explore the Springs Preserve
The Butterfly Habitat at the Springs Preserve opens Saturday March 14 and will close May 31. (Springs Preserve)

Just west of the Strip sits the one of the places that helped Las Vegas evolve from frontier to city. The 180-acre

, onetime watering stop for the Union Pacific Railroad, is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Now it's home to museums, galleries, botanical gardens and a trail system through a wetland habitat.

Here's a look at five reasons to explore this historic site, that's part museum and part fun attraction for the entire family.

—Perhaps the prettiest reason to go is the Botanical Gardens, which include 110 acres of Mojave Desert cacti and succulents. The gardens feature 1,200 species of native and desert-adapted plants, including more than 400 mature trees and plants that are up to 20 years old.

—The Butterfly Habitat, with its collection of Mourning Cloaks, Red Admirals, Painted Ladies, American Ladies, Monarchs and Queens, will open for the season on Saturday, March 14. Hundreds of butterflies call this area of the Botanical Gardens home. But hurry, it only stays open until May 31, or as long as the hot temperatures of Las Vegas allow.

—Tour the grounds on one of the 20-minute narrated train rides that wander the 2.2-mile Exploration Loop Trail. The trackless train gives riders a view of the terrain at the preserves and a guide offers some historical perspective on the area. Bonus: You get to see a lot of the vegetation and plants along the way.

—The Nevada State Museum also calls the Springs Preserve home. Guests can wander through the 70,000-square-foot building, which includes a centerpiece 13,000-square-foot exhibit gallery where visitors can see an Ichthyosaur Shonisaurus popularis, Nevada's state fossil. The museum also has a stalactite cave, details of an atomic explosion and holograms depicting Nevada miners.

—Chocolate, and lots of it, is on display at a temporary exhibit that takes guests through the steps cacao goes through to become a sweet treat. Visit on Saturday, April 4, for a tour and private chocolate tasting.

Info: Springs Preserve, 333 S. Valley View Blvd.; (702) 822-7700