Fun in the Sun: Great Family-Friendly Parks in the Valley
Friday, March 20, 2009
I love the winter-to-spring season in Las Vegas. Every year, I make a point of calling my friends back in Denver, preferably during one of their snowstorms, and letting them know that I’m lounging in the grass, sunbathing. With very little – if any – snow here, lots of sunshine, and plenty of outdoor space to explore, my family and I spend as much time as we can at our local parks, and we’re always on the lookout for new ones. Here are my family’s current top five favorite parks.
No. 5: Floyd Lamb State Park
This 2,040-acre state park sits north of the city and is one of the few parks in Las Vegas that has several (!) natural lakes. Biking and hiking trails wind through the property, and some of them are stroller-friendly. My kids love the wildlife (this is a popular spot for feeding ducks and geese). The trees at Floyd Lamb are tall and lush and provide lots of shade – unlike the short, thin, thirsty trees in town. The park reminds me how much I miss a big, tall tree! Tule Springs Ranch sits inside the park, and the old barns make a great picture. Sometimes there are horses in the stables for the kids to pet. Whenever I’m craving a nature walk, I hit Floyd Lamb Park.
No. 4: Children’s Park at Town Square
OK, I know this isn’t a traditional park, but my kids are crazy about the place! The play area sits in the middle of the newly built outdoor shopping area of Town Square, and the children’s park is completely gated, so I feel OK about taking my eyes off my kids for a moment. The place has a small water feature for hot days, and a hedge maze that is short enough for the grown-ups to see over. The child-friendly restrooms inside the play area make my job of “potty helper” to my 3-year-old easier. I love bringing the family here because I can leave the husband and the kids to play while I go shopping for an hour! The many restaurants within the mall make lunch a snap, too.
No. 3: Mission Hills Park
This park is technically in Henderson, and it’s a long drive for us, but it’s too good to leave off the list. The park sits in Henderson’s beautiful rolling hills and has the biggest splash pad in the Las Vegas Valley. Most of the time, we come just for the water feature! When the kids are ready to dry off, we can have lunch under one of the many covered picnic tables or play on one of the two playgrounds. A large grassy area invites you to spread out blankets or fly a kite. Highway 215 is less than a mile away for a quick trip home if there’s a potty accident or a temper tantrum.
No. 2: Nature Discovery Park
Nature Discovery Park is just over Highway 215 from Aliante Station and is the hub of the Aliante planned community in North Las Vegas. The “Dinosaur Park,” as it’s called by the locals, has a waterfall, a small pond with ducks to feed, and a large, gated playground. Inside the playground is an enormous climbing structure with impressively tall slides that only the bravest will go down. My kids’ favorite part is the spacious sandbox where, if they dig down far enough, they can find fake dinosaur bones built below the sand. There are plenty of benches around, which makes my visit much more relaxing, and I always seem to meet a new mom friend here while I’m watching the kids play.
No. 1: Centennial Hills Park
This park is my family’s favorite by far. It has everything we could possibly want in a park. Locals call it the “Butterfly Park” or “Bug Park” because of the bug-themed playgrounds and the giant shade butterflies and flowers scattered throughout its 120 acres. There are beautiful views of the surrounding mountains, and you can explore the whole property on a system of winding and rolling trails. I recently discovered the park has an outdoor amphitheater that can seat more than 3,000 people and is a venue for free, family-friendly movies. The park is well designed and convenient; there’s an easy-access restroom at every corner, and that makes a big difference to me. There’s nothing like a potty accident to ruin the day’s fun! We love to watch the soccer games that always seem to be going on at the nearby fields. With sand volleyball courts, covered picnic areas and a decent splash pad near one of the playgrounds, we could stay all day. If you’re looking for a park that’s fun – not just for the kids but for the whole family – this is the park for you.