West Valley Sightseeing

Nevada State Museum
700 Twin Lakes Dr.
(702) 486-5205

Ensconced in Lorenzi Park, an oasis in the urban glare, this museum contains graphic displays of southern Nevada’s ancient history. A Colombia mammoth graces the 35,000-square-foot complex that’s filled with archeological exhibits. Also on the premises is the Cahlan Library, which features an extensive collection of books, manuscripts, newspapers and maps–all about southern Nevada’s bygone days. Curator Frank Wright is an excellent source on local history. And bring your picnic basket along. You can you feed the ducks at Lorenzi Park’s lake, and the kids can frolic on the playground. Admission to the museum is $2 for adults. Children younger than 18 get in free. Daily hours are 9 AM to 5 PM (the library is closed on Saturdays and Sundays). The park is free.

Southern Nevada Zoological Park
1775 N. Rancho Dr.
(702) 648-5955

Just a few blocks northwest of downtown is Las Vegas’ only zoo–for animals, that is. But be aware that this is a much smaller venue than you’ll find in most large cities. There are no wild animal park or safari rides here. For families with young children, the petting area is more than sufficient entertainment. Admission is $5.95 for adults and $3.95 for kids 2 to 12 years old. The park is open daily from 9 AM to 5 PM.

Ultimate Balloon Adventure
2013 Clover Path St.
(702) 221-9199

Hot-air balloons are a great way to get a bird’s-eye view of the valley. This company offers hour-long rides for $115 per person, and the balloon baskets can comfortably accommodate groups of six. Peak season is October through February, though balloons will fly year-round. Early morning is the best time to fly because that’s when the thermal lift is best. The large and colorful balloons cruise between 500 and 1,000 feet. You don’t need any special clothing, but shutterbugs ought to bring along an extra roll of film (or two) and videocam shooters should carry spare batteries. Upon landing, riders are treated to champagne and finger food. Note: Hot-air balloons are registered aircraft, and pilots must have a license from the Federal Aviation Administration. If you decide to fly with one of the competing companies, you might want to check the credentials before leaving terra firma.