The Preserve is a set of facilities built around the site of the original Las Vegas Springs, which enticed settlers in the 19th century to set up camp here. Included are several interactive exhibits, walking trails, a desert demonstration garden, an outdoor amphitheater and a design showroom where the green-inclined can explore the world of sustainable home décor.
Unless Las Vegas' mob attorney-turned-mayor, Oscar Goodman, ever gets his Mob Museum (officially, the Las Vegas Museum of Law Enforcement and Organized Crime) off the ground, the Preserve’s Origen Experience offers the only worthwhile perspective on Las Vegas’ history in town.
Visitors are greeted by a short film called “Miracle in the Mojave,” narrated by Martin Sheen, who sounds by turns awestruck and concerned. There’s also a reenactment of the 1905 land auction that marked the debut of the Las Vegas town site, while a nicely done simulation of a flash flood climaxes with a raging waterfall charging through a replica of a desert canyon.
The overarching point here and throughout the Preserve is to illustrate just how unlikely it is that a metropolis of more than 2 million people should exist here at all. You must respect the desert. And at all costs, revere its water.
The one recognizable mote of Vegas glitz at the Preserve is the Springs Café, part of Wolfgang Puck’s syndicate which includes five or six other classy joints on the Strip. Puck’s offerings here are all organic, mostly sustainable and deliver a reliably tasty take on his casual fare. The patio view is scrumptious, too, overlooking the tranquil grounds and LEED-certified architecture of the Preserve with a far-away view of the Strip.
So, if you are overcome by an inexplicable urge to be just a little bit virtuous next time you’re in Vegas, head out to the Preserve for an afternoon. You might just have it all to yourself.>
Hours: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily
Tickets: $18.95 for adults; discounts for seniors, children and Nevada residents