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Best of the City: Family & Leisure

Hoover Dam
Photo courtesy of the Hoover Dam

Best Educational Family Outing

Hoover Dam Tour

We’ve all become slaves to the mobile devices in our hands, so we tend to underappreciate the technological achievements of yesteryear that were far more astonishing (not to mention historically significant). Set aside a day this year to pile the family in the minivan, and tour the epic piece of industrial technology that is Hoover Dam. In learning about the dam’s creation and its critical function, the young ones just might change their opinion that the greatest phenomenon of all time is Candy Crush. (MJ)


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Best Place to Teach Kids Some History

National Atomic Testing Museum

If your kids react to losing a Wi-Fi connection as though it’s the end of the world, perhaps it’s time they see what the true end of the world nearly looked like. The National Atomic Testing Museum features 8,000 square feet of exhibits and rare artifacts that tell the backstory of our nation’s nuclear weapons testing program at the Nevada Test Site, and the role Nevada played in keeping our nation safe. 755 E. Flamingo Road, (MJ)


Best Family Dining Destination

Pizza Rock

Created by 12-time world pizza champion Tony Gemignani, the menu features Italian favorites designed to tantalize the taste buds of all ages, from his signature pies and meatball subs to his pastas, calzones, and Strombolis. Rivaling the food is the environment, highlighted by a sound system that’s always cranked to 11 (the “rock” in Pizza Rock). The upside: The kids can scream all they want, and nobody’s going to complain. Green Valley Ranch Resort, Downtown, (MJ)

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Best Park

Gardens Park

What do good parks and good bars have in common? Games. Lots of them. The Gardens Park in Summerlin is lush and tree-lined, with basketball, tennis, volleyball, bocce, horseshoes, and shuffleboard. There’s a playground, of course, and plenty of picnic tables means you don’t have to show up early to snag one. Plus, the community center hosts classes and activities for residents. 10401 Garden Park Drive, (KT)


Best Dog Park

Bark Park

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The Vegas Valley may have bigger dog parks (though not by much) than this 5-acre spread on the west side of Henderson, but I doubt it has one whose design responds better to the quirky needs of the canine nation. In addition to separate runs for different-sized dogs, shaded seating areas, and drinking stations — amenities that many other parks have — Bark Park also has an agility course, splash pad, and giant puppy sculpture for kids to climb on. The city hosts classes and programs there, and it’s available for other group events and shows. 915 Burkholder Blvd., Henderson, (HK)


Best Family Hike

White Domes at Valley of Fire

Photo by Christopher Smith.

Packed in to this short 1.1-mile loop you’ll find the best of what Valley of Fire has to offer. The trail ambles through a sandy wash, past an old movie set (The Professionals, 1966), squeezes through a tight slot canyon, and opens up to a wide vista featuring every shape and color of Aztec and Navajo sandstone. (AG)


Best Intermediate Hike

Pine Creek at Red Rock Canyon

Think of it as a choose-your-own-adventure novel, in hiking form. Right from the beginning, side trails lead to a historic homestead, a flowing creek (most months), and world-class climbing routes. The main trail ventures deep into the Spring Mountains, following a maze of interesting forks, which make this out-and-back hike as challenging or easy as you can handle. (AG)


Best Advanced Hike

Griffith Peak at Mt. Charleston

The Carpenter One Fire kept this popular trail closed for years. Now that it’s reopened, the landscape has taken on a stark new beauty. Hikers who climb the countless steep switchbacks to the peak are rewarded with unencumbered views of Mt. Charleston, Las Vegas, Lovell Canyon, and points far beyond. (AG)


Best Day Trip

Valley of Fire State Park

Nevada’s oldest state park, just an hour up I-15, is a trove of natural wonders such as whimsical Elephant Rock and the impressive White Domes. Get anthropological at Atlatl Rock and go historic at Mouse’s Tank. Pop culture nerds love the fact that Elvis, Arnie, and Shatner have all starred in movies filmed in the evocative, otherworldly landscape. Take Northshore Road back to town, through Lake Mead National Recreation Area, to see even more ruddy hoodoos at roadside Redstone Picnic Area and vast Bowl of Fire in the distance. (GT)


Best Lifestyle Classes

Pizza lessons at Metro Pizza

Las Vegas has become a real pizza town, from its award-winning pizzaioli helming restaurant ovens to the International Pizza Expo held every March. Now you can get in on the pie action during pizza-making lessons conducted by John Arena, proprietor of the beloved Metro Pizza. His three-hour private sessions cover pizza history, proper dough technique, and insights into quality ingredients. Plenty of slices and side dishes are served, of course, along with beverages to wash down all that delicious education — a deal at just $24.95 per person. 1395 E. Tropicana Ave. (GT)


Best Sports Venue

T-Mobile Arena

Here’s what the average fan wants from a 21st-century sports venue: comfortable seating, great sight lines, wide concourses, a multitude of food and drink options, state-of-the-art audio and video, free and fast Wi-Fi, and a raucous atmosphere. The well-heeled fan? He wants all of the above, along with plush suites and the full VIP treatment. T-Mobile Arena checks all these boxes, and then some (for instance, the adjacent Toshiba Plaza and The Park offer a great family-friendly pregame tailgate experience, minus the actual tailgates). Sure, parking is still a nightmare, and the beer prices are outrageous. But this being the 21st century, we fans have come to expect nothing less. (MJ)


Best Sports Outing

A Night with the Knights

Courtesy of Vegas Golden Knights.

If you’ve been to a Vegas Golden Knights game at T-Mobile Arena, feel free to nod in agreement with this selection and move along. If you’ve yet to lose your VGK virginity, here’s what you’re missing: Sixty minutes of fast-paced, edge-of-your-seat professional hockey played at the highest level; tremendous spirit, passion, and community pride not seen in these parts since (arguably) the Rebels’ championship heyday; explosive starts; thrilling finishes; a hoarse voice; and a lot of winning (we’re talking 15 victories in 18 home games in 2017 — utterly remarkable for an expansion franchise). You may walk into T-Mobile not knowing a puck from a duck, but you’ll walk out thinking, “I can’t wait to do that again!” (MJ)


Best Place for a Stroll

MonteLago Village at Lake Las Vegas

So many options here, from the serenity of Red Rock Canyon and Mount Charleston to the manicured trails of Summerlin and Green Valley to the zaniness of Las Vegas Boulevard. But when we need to clear our heads and get some light exercise, we prefer to saunter the cobblestone streets of MonteLago Village. With its striking architecture, boutique shops, and pristine lake, this little slice of Europe in the desert is a feast for the senses and the ideal spot to recharge life’s batteries. (MJ)


Best Staycation Spot

Green Valley Ranch Resort

It’s enormous and notably posh for being in the ’burbs. The Backyard Pool is one of the best watery amenities in the metro area, and offers a stunning view of the Strip and the Spring Mountains. Gourmet viands and swanky cocktails are served at Hank’s Fine Steaks; vibrant Bottiglia Cucina & Enoteca is a destination for Italian eats. Stroll the nearby District for more dining and shopping, plus outdoor movies in warm months. (GT)


Best Old-School Vegas Experience

Las Vegas Historical Radio

Many of the places that made Vegas Vegas are long gone — the Riviera, the Sands, the Green Shack. One can still get a steak at the Golden Steer or a drink at Champagne’s Cafe, but the best trips to the classic Strip happen in the imagination — and KIYQ 107.1 FM can provide the soundtrack. The local station’s playlist is full of denizens of the Congo Room, such as Eydie Gorme, Louis Prima, and Frank Sinatra, interspersed with gambling advice and short narratives about dealing baccarat at the Dunes or the connection between Jack Ruby and Benny Binion. The programming may be odd and the reception erratic, but who else is going to explain the pointlessness of three-card monte and then play you out with some Robert Goulet? (LTR)


Best Interactive/Hands-on Experience


It’s never boring in SkyZone — more like boing! This ultimate bounce house features padded arenas with trampoline floors. Dunk it like LeBron in the basketball section. Release your inner Jackie Chan on a ninja obstacle course. Or let it fly in an epic dodgeball throwdown. Boom. 7440 Dean Martin Drive, (GT)


Best Place for a Selfie

HOTO, in The Shops at Crystals

In Buddhist scripture, Hoto is a bejeweled treasure pagoda that floats midair to symbolize the importance of all life. In Las Vegas, it’s a shiny, bullet-shaped sculpture by Japanese artist Tatsuo Miyajima, dotted with thousands of LEDs — perfect for capturing the importance of your own life in a selfie. In CityCenter. (KT)


Readers' Poll

Best Nature Hike: Red Rock National Conservation Area

Best Day Trip: (tie) Mount Charleston, Valley of Fire

Best Local Twitter Account: Vegas Golden Knights

Best Place to Network: Eat


Desert Companion welcomed Heidi Kyser as staff writer in January 2014. In 2018, she was promoted to senior writer and producer, working for both DC and State of Nevada. She produced KNPR’s first podcast, the Edward R. Murrow Regional Award-winning Native Nevada, in 2020. The following year, she returned her focus full-time to Desert Companion, becoming Deputy Editor, which meant she was next in line to take over when longtime editor Andrew Kiraly left in July 2022.
Kristy Totten is a producer at KNPR's State of Nevada. Previously she was a staff writer at Las Vegas Weekly, and has covered technology, education and economic development for the Las Vegas Review-Journal. She's a graduate of the Missouri School of Journalism.