When my husband and I first moved to Las Vegas in 1987, the city was mostly a mecca for adults, a land filled with aging hotels and casinos, specialty acts, and all-you-can-eat buffets. The 1990s brought about a change in Las Vegas—huge resorts opened, Broadway-style shows took over the stages, and restaurants focused on quality dining.  

The city itself grew, and quickly. For years, Las Vegas was the fastest growing metropolitan area in the United States with more than 6,000 residents moving in monthly. The population grew from a little more than half a million people in 1987 to 2.2 million people today.

As the population continues to grow, so do the offerings for residents and visitors alike.  Today, there is something for everyone in Las Vegas. Check out these activities the next time you head our way.

1.  The Neon Museum (aka The Boneyard)

What happens to those iconic neon signs once their lights permanently dim? They head to the Neon Museum, an organization that collects, preserves, and exhibits those signs because they are part of the history of Las Vegas. Like the buildings they once adorned, the signs are a view into the people who made them and made Las Vegas shine. The signs also present a look at how lighting technology has evolved since the 1930s. The Neon Museum recently debuted, Brilliant, a multi-media experience in which the signs come to life and take visitors on a tour of Vegas through the years.  For tickets and more information, go to http://www.neonmuseum.org/.

The Made Men exhibit at the Mob Museum ©The Mob Museum

2.  The Mob Museum

Las Vegas’s original U.S. Post Office and Federal Courthouse today serves as the National Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement, a.k.a. The Mob Museum.  The Mob Museum offers visitors an interactive journey through the history of the mob from its early years to today by visiting everything from a speakeasy to the Kefauver Hearings to a crime lab and more. The museum also hosts a “Wise Guy Speaker Series” and a number of other different events monthly. For tickets and more information, go to https://themobmuseum.org.

The desert & Spring Mountain range at Red Rock Canyon. © Chris Cutler

3.  Red Rock Canyon

Get away from the hustle and crowds of the Strip! Head to the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area just 12 miles west of Las Vegas Boulevard (via Charleston Avenue). Part of the Southern Nevada Conservancy, Red Rock offers hikes, environmental education programs, outreach programs, artist-in-residence programs and more to help visitors discover, understand, appreciate, and enjoy the area. The 195,000-acre park features 26 numbered hiking trails, a 13-mile scenic drive, an interpretive center, camping, and more.  Check it out at https://www.redrockcanyonlv.org.

4. Discovery Children’s Museum

If you happen to bring the kiddos with you to Southern Nevada, there’s a place just for them. The Discovery Children’s Museum includes nine themed exhibition halls that feature interactive exhibits and an exhibition gallery that hosts visiting exhibits from other museums. Permanent exhibits teach kids everything from the power of water to the benefits of an eco-friendly city to the challenges involved in creating video games.  One of the most popular exhibits is the Summit, a 70-foot tower that has 12 levels, which visitors experience both intellectually and physically. For more information, visit https://www.discoverykidslv.org.

Gila monster at the Springs Preserve; © Springs Preserve

5.   Springs Preserve

In addition to offering visitors an eight-acre outdoor botanical garden, the Springs Preserve is 180 acres of adventure set in the middle of Las Vegas.  Located near an artesian spring that dried up almost 60 years ago, the Preserve’s land has remained virtually untouched. Today, it offers visitors a look at native plants and wildlife. In addition to hiking and biking trails (bike rentals are available), visitors can also visit the Desert Tortoise Habitat, the Little Spring House, an archeological dig, and the Butterfly Habitat. Visit https://www.springspreserve.org for more information.